Denmark

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Although we were going to Copenhagen mainly to visit Tivoli Gardens, we still had a long list of other things we wanted to see and do while we were there, so we woke up on our first day in Copenhagen ready to hit the ground running. The weather, on the other hand, had a completely different idea. Rain, below freezing temps, and surprisingly powerful wind was what we had to look forward to all day long. We made the best of it, though. We saw everything we wanted to see; we just didn’t linger at each place as long as we normally would have. The look on Lexie’s face in one of the photos below tells it all. We learned our lesson, and the next day wore an extra layer, but for our first day, we endured one very freaking cold walking tour of Copenhagen.

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid

We started the day off at one of the most beloved symbols of Copenhagen – The Little Mermaid. This statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s famous mermaid has been resting on the shore of Copenhagen’s harbor since 1913, and is visited by no less than three million people every day. That only sounds like an exaggeration on paper (computer screen?). When you’re there, it feels like exactly that. We arrived just as a tour bus did and then more people continued to arrive even after that and I felt as if we’d never get a chance to photograph her without legions of people blocking the way with a steady stream of selfie shots. Still, visiting The Little Mermaid on your first visit to Copenhagen is sort of like a right of passage. It just has to be done.

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Kastellet Park

Almost right next to The Little Mermaid is Kastellet Park, a public park and historic fortress constructed by King Christian IV. It was a welcome relief to walk around in here where far less people are jockeying for the best spots for their photos. In fact, there weren’t many people here at all except for runners making laps around the lake and just a handful of other tourists. My favorite parts of this park were the paths lined with bird feeders where scores of birds, far prettier than the pigeons we’re used to in London, were eating their breakfast. I used to hate birds, but in my old age, I’ve actually become quite fond of them. No bird-watching trips on the horizon just yet, though.

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Gefion Fountain

Within Kastellet, or at least very close to it, is the Gefion Fountain by St. Alban’s Church. This fountain is the largest monument in Copenhagen and, I suppose when it’s not negative degrees outside and the water is actually flowing, it’s also a wishing well. At the top, Norse goddess, Gefjun, guides a chariot pulled by oxen, and beneath her, spread out over multiple levels, human and animal forms deliver water into the fountain. Even in its current state of drought when we visited, it’s a pretty magnificent thing to see.

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Amalienborg Palace

A bit further in distance than the previous sights had been from each other, our next stop was Amalienborg Palace. This palace is the winter home of the Danish royal family, and is made up of four palaces surrounding a courtyard in front of Frederick’s Church (the building with the green dome that you can see from all over the city). We arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard, which goes on for what feels like forever because they change in like six or so different places. For a fee, visitors can go inside the Amalienborg Museum and the Royal Chambers, but as we didn’t stop in for a visit, I can’t tell you whether it’s worth going inside or not!

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Nyhavn

Our next stop was Nyhavn, where the previous night we had watched 200 brightly lit kayaks enter the canal for a Saint Lucia Day celebration. What was beautiful at night is even prettier in the daytime. I love this little stretch of waterfront with its colorful houses and old boats just oozing with nautical character. Like Hans Christian Andersen, this is where I’d want to live if I were a Copenhagen resident (and a gazillionaire). Besides the many ancient wooden ships docked here, there’s also the Memorial Anchor to see, honoring the Danish Naval officers and sailors who died during WWII. The anchor is from the Frigate Fyn, and I had no idea that anchors were that big, even on warships. Pretty cool.

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Christiansborg Palace

After Nyhavn, we walked over to Christiansborg Palace. (There are a surprising number of palaces and castles in Copenhagen, considering its small size!) Christiansborg Palace is a pretty important place. Besides being used by the Danish royal family from time to time, it’s also the only building in the world that houses all three of the country’s branches of government in the same place – Danish Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Prime Minister all take care of business here. This was also the only one of the three palaces we saw that we decided to come back to so we could check out the inside. If you’ve got the time, at least stop in to go to the top of the tower. It’s free, and the views are amazing!

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Børsen

Across from Christiansborg Palace is the Børsen, the old stock exchange building built by Christian IV. (You will hear his name nearly everywhere of historical value in Copenhagen. Only name we heard as often was Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg Brewery fame.) Anyway, one of the things this building is famous for is the steeple on top, formed by the tails of four dragons twisting together. Legend has it that under the protection of these dragons, the Børsen will never burn, which sounds like hogswash until you learn that Christiansborg, across the street, has burned many times, as well as other neighboring buildings, but what hasn’t? That’s right, the Børsen.

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Strøget

While you’re in the area, you might as well take a stroll down Strøget, (almost) the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe. Many of the roads leading off of Strøget are also major shopping streets, so if you’re the materialistic type (I kid!) you could easily spend all day here, at least until the stores started declining your card. The shops are a mixture of high end international brands like Louis Vuitton and Burberry with the occasional budget clothing store thrown in for good measure. It’s not really my cup of tea, but it did look awfully pretty during the holidays!

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Rundetårn

After we gladly removed ourselves from the holiday shopping crowds, we wandered over to the Rundetårn (Round Tower), another of Christian IV’s creations. (I told you this guy gets around.) Attached to the Trinitatis Church (originally a university chapel), the Rundetårn was added to the complex for the purpose of having an astronomical observatory for scholars to use. Today, for a small fee, visitors can climb the spiral ramp on the inside and enjoy the view from the top and, on certain days of the week, use the observatory for a little late-night stargazing.

The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

Rosenborg Castle

And finally, our last stop on our walking tour of Copenhagen – Rosenborg Castle. The Rosenborg was another of Christian IV’s projects, ultimately for use as his summer home. I believe there is a museum inside the castle now, but since we max out at one castle/palace per trip, we didn’t go inside. Christian IV also designed the adjoining castle gardens, known as The King’s Garden, which were beautiful even in the dead of winter. Besides the lovely flower garden growing next to the castle, the King’s Garden also encompasses a 30-acre green space surrounding the castle. While not quite as pretty as Kastellet Park, in my opinion, this one does win the award for oldest in Copenhagen which is pretty cool.

By the time we finished our walking tour of Copenhagen, the day was pretty much over (seeing as the sun sets at 3pm in December). Thankfully, our hotel was only steps from Rosenborg Park. I have never been so eager to get back to a hotel before. My body was aching, not because of the distance – this walk was only a little over 4 miles (7 km) – but because I’d been bracing myself against the cold wind for almost five hours. After we finished at the park, we went straight back to the hotel and proceeded to spend the rest of the evening watching show after show on TLC while we ate Thai takeout in bed. Ha! This day absolutely wore me out, but I was so proud of us for sticking it out and seeing more of Copenhagen than just the usual Little Mermaid and Nyhavn duo – it was definitely worth it!

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The Ultimate Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Copenhagen

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Lizzie @ Wanderful World
    February 6, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    I think I did exactly the same walk as you when I was there! What did you think of the Mermaid? I was completely disappointed… I could see it appearing (tiny small) in the distance and I was like, “oh”. But I think walking around Copenhagen is one of the best things to do – it’s such a small city with loads of cool stuff within a small perimeter. I loved Nyhavn and the castles, but I would definitely wear more layers next time, too!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 7, 2015 at 11:16 AM

      You know, because everyone had mentioned to me before we went how small the Little Mermaid was, I really wasn’t all that disappointed. I thought she was beautiful! The only thing I’d change is how many people were there. That was madness! I was afraid someone was going to push me into the water!

  • Reply
    Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    February 6, 2015 at 12:36 PM

    Looks super chilly :) Copenhagen really looks like a wonderful place to visit and I just love the guards tall, fuzzy hats….I want one!!

  • Reply
    Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    February 6, 2015 at 12:55 PM

    Looks beautiful, although freezing! Not sure I could have lasted as long as you!! =)

  • Reply
    Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    February 6, 2015 at 7:16 PM

    Cold & rain can be such dampeners, but to see The Little Mermaid…!

  • Reply
    Zainab R
    February 6, 2015 at 2:51 PM

    Love the pictures! I did not get to see the mermaid :(
    I did love the cream & icecream at Tivoli though…& that tall swing..

  • Reply
    topchelseagirl
    February 6, 2015 at 5:47 PM

    Well done for persevering, what is the point of visiting somewhere if you don’t see as much as possible?! I was half expecting to see Rapunzel at one of the windows of the Rundetårn!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 7, 2015 at 11:23 AM

      That is exactly how I feel! I’d have been disappointed in myself if I let the cold ruin our plans. LOL at the Rapunzel comment – I think she’d feel right at home here!

  • Reply
    Amanda Kendle
    February 8, 2015 at 11:56 AM

    I haven’t been to Copenhagen since I was nine years old, and fortunately then the Little Mermaid was an exciting attraction to me, and I adored the Tivoli Gardens. But I do want to get back one day (with lots of layers on by the sounds of it!).

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 8, 2015 at 5:57 PM

      Tivoli is just as fun as an adult, I can assure you! :) I’ve got a post set to to publish tomorrow about our day there, actually. One of the best I’ve had traveling yet!

  • Reply
    Katrin
    February 8, 2015 at 3:51 PM

    That clearly does not sound like my kind of weather at all. I would have frozen to death I guess. I can imagine how happy you were when you got back to the hotel. I would not have lasted that long. :) How come you hated birds? I like the legend that says that the Børsen will never burn under the protection of the dragons. Seems like the dragons are doing a great job. I love legends like that!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 8, 2015 at 6:02 PM

      It’s actually kind of a funny story. Growing up, I lived with my grandparents off and on. My cousins were always over at their house, too. Because a lot of us grandkids liked playing basketball, my grandfather poured a cement court in his backyard for us to play games on. The thing was, it was right next to two gigantic bird houses, so every time we went out to play, the birds felt threatened and would dive at us until we gave up. Eventually we got too scared to go play, but because we didn’t want my grandfather to think we didn’t appreciate his gift, we would force ourselves to go anyway, even with the birds attacking. So I think at my young age, I was just a little traumatized. It wasn’t until my mid 20’s when we started raising chickens that I was able to get over my fear of birds! :)

      • Reply
        Katrin
        February 8, 2015 at 6:15 PM

        Oh wow, that really sounds traumatizing! I totally understand that you were scared but did not want to disappoint your grandfather. I mean, that was very nice of him! And I never thought that birds actually start to attack you but one time I went for a hike and came by a bird’s nest and the mama bird would not leave me alone either until I was far away from the nest. That was pretty intimidating! But glad the chickens made you start liking birds again!

  • Reply
    Miwa
    February 8, 2015 at 11:02 PM

    Looks freezing but you got some amazing shots! What a beautiful city. I really love how Europe is full of history, everywhere you go. Japan has lots of history too, but big cities like Tokyo have become so modern… It’s cool but also such a shame.

    PS Lexie looks taller every time I see a picture of her!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 9, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      I haven’t been to Tokyo, but I have been to other countries in Asia and know what you mean about the big cities becoming so modernized. It can be a shock going from the more traditional, smaller towns to that. It’s almost like you’re not even in the same country anymore! (Although, when Cory was in Tokyo, he mentioned how he never once forgot he was in Japan. As opposed to Singapore where English is more visually prevalent – walking through parts of that city sometimes made us feel like we were in NYC!)

  • Reply
    Melanie Fontaine
    February 9, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    Your pictures have taken me straight back to Copenhagen! I pretty much went on exactly the same walk on the one day that I spent in Denmark, but I started at the Rosenborg Palace and ended at the Little Mermaid. :) But wow, 3 Million visitors a day? That really does sound insane, especially considering that it’s kind of an underwhelming sight…

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      February 9, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      Haha! I was totally kidding! That was an exaggeration on my part because of how busy it was when we visited! :) How funny that we took the same route! I guess it just makes sense since it covers just about everything in the city!

  • Reply
    Jo
    February 10, 2015 at 9:40 AM

    Oh my word Lexi looks so cold in the picture! Shame!

  • Reply
    Sammy @ Days Like This
    February 10, 2015 at 10:58 PM

    There is nothing worse than being outside freezing your arse off. I just spent a week in Berlin, Munich and Prague and I couldn’t believe how much the cold wore me out!!

  • Reply
    rorybore
    February 12, 2015 at 2:50 AM

    the Little Mermaid is so beautiful. I would definitely brave the crowds to get a shot of her. Again I say, I think I could really enjoy walking around this city. Maybe the bracing cold won’t even bother me. it would be pretty much like being home. ha.
    so many castles. how many castles do Royals really need to live in? or did I misread?

  • Reply
    Jennifer @This Off Script Life
    February 12, 2015 at 10:53 AM

    Copenhagen looks beautiful, even in the winter. I’m hoping to visit this year (trying to see as many European cities as I can while I’m on this side of the pond), but I think I’ll wait until the weather improves. I’m not sure I’d be able to brave the cold :)

  • Reply
    Emmymom
    February 13, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    Your pictures make me just want to go somewhere to just take pictures of everything!

  • Reply
    Lena Ameri
    December 9, 2017 at 7:24 PM

    Super helpful for my upcoming trip, thank you! Pinned it for later.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      December 9, 2017 at 11:33 PM

      I’m so happy I could help! Enjoy your time in Copenhagen! It’s so lovely this time of year!

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