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World > Denmark > Copenhagen
City Guide Copenhagen
General Information
Copenhagen has a long and colourful history, and the now-famous capital began as a small and little-known fishing village. The area where the city stands was settled as early as 6,000 years ago, but the first city records date from 1043 AD. The name Copenhagen comes from the Danish word for harbour, havn. The rural settlement there eventually developed into the dazzling capital of the Danish Empire, and is now one of the most famous cities in the world. The largest city in all of Scandanavia, Copenhagen is the seat of Danish government and the home of the royal family. It maintains its provincial origins in some respects, however, and some of the most charming aspects of the town are its gabled houses, narrow winding streets, and quaint church spires. The location and surroundings of Copenhagen are strikingly beautiful, with its buildings set against a backdrop of lakes, canals and the sea. Copenhagen is also one of the biggest Baltic ports. The city is very environmentally conscious with many green spaces, and bikes outnumber cars, especially in the centre. Many areas are reserved for pedestrians only, and the city is generally extremely well cared for. The recent construction of the Æresund Bridge has caused the city to expand by connecting it to Malmö, Sweden over the Æresund Strait. The bridge is currently the longest bridge in Europe that is built for both cars and trains.
Copenhagen has a temperate yet maritime climate, and the weather varies greatly from one time of the year to another. The winters tend to be quite cold and cloudy, while the summers are warm with a good deal of sun. Snow falls readily between the months of January and March. The most rainfall occcurs in the fall, between the months of August and October.
The language of Denmark is Danish, known as Dansk. The tongue is closely related to the other Scandanavian languages, particularly Swedish, and uses some unusual vowels and glottal stops. Most Danes speak at least some English, however, and those who are often involved with tourists usually speak perfect English and very good German as well.
The most common religion in Denmark is Lutheranism, and Lutherans make up over 92% of the country’s religious people. The remaining 8% includes other Christian denominations as well as a small number of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews. Denmark is actually of the world’s most secular countries, and has the third highest proportion of athiests and agnostics, estimated to be at least 50% of the overall population.
The currency used in Denmark is the krone, the plural form of which is kroner. There are 100 øre in a krone, and coins come in values of 25 øre, 50 øre, and 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 kroner. Banknotes are issues in values of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 kroner.
Restaurant, hotels and taxis automatically add service charges to their bills, so in a sense further tipping is not required. Small tips are often expected, however, and if you never tip while you are in Denmark chances are you will raise some eyebrows. In an average restaurant, a tip of 20-30 kroner is normal. Certainly you should feel no obligation to tip if the service has been unsatisfactory. If service has been exceptionally good, however, it is common to tip a bit more. If a taxi driver or porter helps you with bags a small tip should also be given, and you can figure around 5 kroner per bag. It is also appropriate to tip restroom atendants a couple of kroner.
If you come from a country outside of the EU or Scandanavia, you may be entitled to a tax refund on leaving the country. The minium amount you must spend in one shop to qualify for a refund is DKK 300 (about € 40). In these cases, the shop will give you a form that you can present at the airport before you leave to claim your refund. The amount refunded will be between 13 - 19% of the total purchase.
The country code of Denamrk is 45. To call Denmark from abroad, dial +45 (or 011 45 from the US), followed by the 8 digit local number. There are telephone boxes all over Copenhagen, about half of which accept only telecards. Others accept coins, both Danish kroner and Euros, and at some phones you can pay with a credit card. You can purchase Danish telecards at train stations, post offices, newsstands and petrol stations. The cards are sold in values of DKK 30, 50 and 100.
There are several internet cafés spread out through Copenhagen, most of which are located in the centre. Many internet cafés include free coffee in their rates, which are quite reasonable compared with other European countries, usually between 10 - 30 kr per hour. Some internet cafés also include video game stations, and all usually have printing and fax services.
Emergency Numbers
All basic emergencies (police, fire, ambulance): 112 Doctor: 70130041 Dentist: 35380251 Car emergencies: 880025
Opening Times
Opening times in Copenhagen naturally vary from shop to shop, but in general they are open Mon- Fri from 9.30 or 10 am - 6 or 7 pm, and Sat from 9 am - 3 or 4 pm. Some shops are open on Sundays, such as bakeries, florists and touristy stores. There are rules in place about when shops can open, and they limit the amount of days businesses can open on Sundays. Generally, shops are allowed to be open on 23 Sundays out of the year if they choose. Office hours and banking hours in Copenhagen are typically weekdays from 9 am- 4 or 4.30 pm.
Public Holidays
On the following days, most shops will be closed, as well as banks and post offices. Public transportation may also be more limited. 1 January, New Years Day (Nytårsdag) Maundy Thursday (Skætersdag) Good Friday (Langfredag) Easter (Påske søndag) Easter Monday (Påskedag) April (date varies) Day of Prayer (Store Bededag) May (date varies) Ascension Day (Kristi Himmelfartsdag) May (date varies) Whit Sunday (Pinse søndag) May (date varies) Whit Monday (2. Pinsedag) 5 June, Constitution Day (Grundlovsdag) 24 - 26 December, Christmas (Jul)
Copenhagen is generally a safe city, and you can expect to have a crime-free visit. However, like anywhere, you should observe some basic safety precautions, especially since foreigners are at higher risk for petty crimes. Make sure to carry your wallet and other valuables in a very secure place where pickpockets cannot reach them, and do not leave your bags out of your reach in restaurants or other public places. Crimes against women are particularly low in Denmark, but it is still advisable not to walk alone late at night, especially in rougher neighbourhoods.
Discovering Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a very beautiful city with lots of water. The centre is surrounded by a number of lakes to the northwest and the harbour to the southeast. The heart of the city is mostly for pedestrians only, filled with narrow streets, old gabled houses, and charming shops and cafés. Most of the pedestrian streets branch out from the large Rådhuspladsen or Town Hall Square at the western edge of the centre. These streets extend quite a ways, as far as the King’s New Square, Kongens Nytorv. Northeast of this square in the seaman’s district are found some of the most famous old buildings of the city, the castles of Rosenborg and Amalienborg. In addition to its old, traditional architecture, Copenhagen also has an avant-garde side. The city has become well-known for its contemporary design, and there are some stunning modern buildings such as the waterside addition to the Royal Library, known as the “Black Diamond.” If you want to explore a bit outside of the city, you can visit Slotsholmen Island which lies to the southwest of Copenhagen. The island was settled in the 17th century, when king Christian IV encouraged shipbuilders, merchants and other tradesmen to make their homes there. Now you can visit the many scenic historic buildings and get a different perspective on the city.
Amalienborg Palace
The Amalienborg Palace is made up of four elaborate rococo mansions situated around a large octagonal square. The palace has been the main residence of the Danish royal family since 1794. At the centre of the square is a statue of King Frederick V on horseback, who was king from 1746-1766 and helped to plan and build Amalienborg in the 1750s. Inside the palace, you can visit a number of different royal residences. Within King Christian VIII’s palace, built around 1760, there is a museum of private royal appartments from Danish kings between the years of 1863 - 1947. You can see Christian IX’s private study, Queen Louise’s drawing room, Frederik VIII’s study, and more. Most of the original furnishings are still in place, as well as many of the monarchs’ actual belongings. During certain times of the year, Christian VII’s palace is also open. This 1754 palace has recently been renovated. The changing of the guard ceremony takes place daily at 11:45 am whenever Queen Margrethe II is in residence. The guards wear elaborate traditional dress and bearskin hats.
Rosenborg Castle
This castle was built between 1606-1634 as a summer residence for King Christian IV. The king designed the castle himself in the Dutch Renaissance style, and once it was completed he lived there until he died in 1648. When it was built, the castle was located outside of the ramparts of Copenhagen, and had expansive kitchen and flower gardens. A collection of royal crown jewels is kept in the cellars. The royal family ceased using this castle as a summer home in the 19th century, and it has been as musuem since 1838.
Rådhus (Town Hall) and World C
Copenhagen’s town hall was built in 1905, and is located on a famous square in the centre of the city. In front of the hall are statues of Hans Christian Andersen and Niels Bohr, a nobel-prize winning physicist. The famous World Clock, designed by Jens Olsen is located on the same square in a tall tower. The clock is remarkable because it is so exact, and it is accurate to within half a second for 300 years. The clock was set by Frederik IX on December 15, 1955 and it has been going ever since. You can climb the tower’s 300 steps for a wonderful view out over the city. Guided tours given: Mon - Fri 3 pm, Sat 10 am and 11 am Tower tours: Oct - May Mon- Sat 12 pm; June - Sept Mon - Fri 10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm, Sat 12 pm Entrance prices: Rådhus 30 kr; clock 10 kr for adults, 5 kr for children
Christiansborg Palace
This palace houses the Danish Parliament and is constructed on a site with a long history. Two previous castles stood on the exact same ground, the first built more than 800 years ago by Bishop Absalon. The ruins of this ancient structure, built in 1167 can still be seen in certain places. The modern Christiansborg Palace was built between 1907 - 1928. In addition to the rooms for the Danish Parliament (Folketing), Christiansborg also includes the Royal Reception Rooms and the Great Hall, used for important diplomatic events and banquets. Everything is very elegant and there is a beautiful parquet floor through much of the building. Visitors are provided with slippers to wear over there shoes when visiting these areas, to protect the floors. The north wing of the castle contains the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister’s office. On the grounds, there is a Royal stables and a theatre museum.
The Round Tower
This tower was built during the reign of King Christian IV, a monarch who commissioned a good deal of construction. The king laid down the first stone of the tower himself in 1637, and it was completed in 1642 as an observatory. The tower stands 36 metres tall and is connected to the Trinitatis church right in the centre of the city. To get to the top, you climb up a 210 metre long spiral staircase and are rewarded by a stunning view of Copenhagen. The church to which the tower is attached was built in 1731 and has interesting features such as an ornate Baroque pulpit and a crypt where many famous people are buried. Opening times: Daily, all year
Tivoli Gardens is perhaps the best-known attraction in Scandanavia, and is one of the best amusement parks in the world. Tivoli was founded in 1843 by Georg Carstensen, and the oldest buildings, such as the Pantomime Theatre, date from 1874. There are entertainments here of almost every sort, for both children and adults. In addition to rides, castles, pirate ships and performances, the park has beautiful scenery and thousands of flowers to delight visitors. The fountain in front of the concert hall is surrounded by flower arrangements, and there are many garden areas full of tulips, roses, chrysanthemums, and more, artistically arranged and cultivated. There are also brilliant displays of lights, in the trees and along the buildings. Late-night fireworks provide a dramatic end to each day’s festivities. Opening times: April - September 11 am- 12 am
Nyhavn means “New Port,” and is a canal that was constructed in the late 17th century as a gateway to the sea. Scenic historic houses line the canal, all of them more than 300 years old. There is also a famous anchor monument on the canal, commemorating the Danish soldiers who died during World War II. The canal is now filled with old wooden ships, in the style of vessels from 1780 - 1810. In the late eighteenth century, Nyhavn was the main centre of sea trade in Copenhagen. Hans Christian Andersen lived at Nyhavn 20 from 1834 – 1838, and wrote his first well-known stories there. He later moved to the other side of the canal (the sunny side), from 1845 - 1864.
Denmark''s Aquarium
This aquarium was opened in 1939 and is one of the most extensive in Europe. It is located a bit north of Copenhagen in Charlottenlund on the Øresund coast. There are hundreds of species of fish here, both freshwater and exotic saltwater species, as well as sea turtles, porpoises, mollusks and more. Opening times: May - Aug daily 10 am- 6 pm, Feb - Apr daily 10 am - 5 pm, Nov- Jan 10 am - 4 pm Entrance prices: Adults 70 kr, children 35 kr
Frederikskirke (the Marble Chu
This church is over 200 years old and is one of the largest in the world. Perhaps the most impressive church in Copenhagen, it is only a short walk from Amalienborg Palace. It has a distinctive copper dome and rich interior decoration. Construction on the church began in the 1750s, but it was only fully completed in 1894. The style of the architecture is Roman baroque, with lavish ornamentation and intricate detailwork. Opening times of church: Mon - Thurs 10 am - 5 pm, Fri - Sun 12 pm - 5 pm Tours of dome: June 15- Aug 31 daily at 1 pm and 3 pm, Sept- June 14 Sat and Sun at 1 pm and 3 pm Entrance prices: Entry to church free, Entry to dome 20 kr for adults and 10 kr for children
Holmens Kirke
The Holmens Kirke was completed in 1619 as a royal chapel and naval church, though the nave had been constructed earlier as an anchor forge. The church was adapted again in 1641, renovated and redecorated in the Dutch Renaissance style. Inside, there are many items of interest such as the grand baroque altar of natural oak, the carved pulpit by Abel Schrøder the Younger, and the burial chamber, where many important naval figures are entombed. The distinctive “royal doorway” is the church’s most recent addition, brought from Roskilde Cathedral in the 19th century. Opening times: Mon - Fri 9 am - 2 pm, Sat 9 am - 12 pm
Vor Frue Kirke (Copenhagen Cat
A stately church in the Greek Renaissance style, the Vor Frue Kirke was built in the early 19th century and is located right by the Copenhagen University. Also known as the Copenhagen Cathedral, it has long been one of the city’s most famous churches. The funeral of Hans Christian Andersen was held here in 1875 and that of Søren Kierkegaard in 1855. The interior has some impressive white marble sculptures by Bertel Thorvaldsen, depicting Christ and his apostles. Opening times: Mon - Fri 9 am - 5 pm
Vor Frelsers Kirken
This unique church is built in the Baroque style and was completed in 1696. The external tower staircase was the finishing touch, and according to legend, these quirky stairs were a mistake on the part of the architect. The story goes that once the stairs were constructed, the architect climbed to the top and realized that they curved the wrong way. He then killed himself by jumping off the tower. The tower is distinctively coloured with green and gold, and dominates the skyline of Copenhagen. If you climb the 400 steps to the top, you will see the gilt statue of Christ standing on a globe as well as a wonderful panorama of the city. The interior of the church is also worth seeing and includes the original organ in an ornately carved case, a decorative Baroque altar and a beautiful font. Opening times: Apr - Aug: Mon - Sat 11 am - 4.30 pm, Sun 12 pm - 4.30 pm, Sept - Oct: Mon - Sat 11 am - 3.30 pm, Sun 12 pm - 3.30 pm, Nov - Mar: Daily 11 am - 3.30 pm Entrance prices: Free admission to church, tower is 20 kr for adults and 10 kr for children
Assistens Cemetary
This is the largest cemetary in Copenhagen and was established in 1711. Many famous people are buried here, including Søren Kierkegaard, Hans Christian Andersen and Martin Andersen Nexø, a well-known novelist. The cemetary is not used for burials any longer, and has been turned into a public park. It has nice gravel paths and many trees and is a very peaceful place to walk. Opening times: Jan - Feb: 8 am - 5 pm, Mar - Apr: 8 am - 6 pm, May - Aug: 8 am - 8 pm, Sept - Oct: 8 am - 6 pm, Nov - Dec: 8 am - 4 pm
Botanical Gardens (Botanisk Ha
The Botanical Gardens of Copenhagen are located on a placid lake that used ot be part of the city’s defensive moat. The gardens are right across from the Rosenborg Castle and were planted between 1871 - 1874. There are both outdoor plants to see as well as several greenhouses with more exotic tropical and subtropical flora. Some of the most interesting greenhouses are the cactus house and the palm house. There is also a special alpine garden that contains some rare mountain plants from all over the world. Admission to the gardens is free. Opening times: May - Sept: Daily 8.30 am - 6 pm, Oct - Apr: Tues - Sun 8.30 am - 4 pm