Copenhagen for Families

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Copenhagen for Families
Family is an immensely important part of the Danish culture and lifestyle. As a result, Copenhagen is an extremely safe city that is easy to explore and has a wide assortment of family-friendly options.
By Alex Berger, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Alex Berger
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    Urban Nature
    While lions, leopards, and elephants aren't the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Scandinavia, the Copenhagen Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Europe. (It has been renovated.) The zoo invests heavily in the welfare of the animals and has an excellent design, which also includes a heavy educational component and an entire wing with a children's zoo dedicated to less exotic animals. Copenhagen is also home to the Blue Planet Aquarium (the largest in northern Europe), which offers inspiring insights into the world's watery depths.
    Photo by Alex Berger
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    Danish Beaches
    Summer in Copenhagen is all about spending time outside, soaking up the sun, and enjoying the presence of friends and strangers alike. Even for those who aren't inclined to get in the water, a trip to a Danish beach is a must. The two most popular beaches are Islands Brygge, which lacks sand but boasts an excellent location in the heart of Copenhagen's crystal clear inner harbor, and the more conventional Amager Beach Park, located just off the metro line. Prepare for barbecues, delicious ice cream, and sunbathing between June and September. All beaches are family friendly, but conservative visitors should be aware that topless sunbathing is quite common.
    Photo by Alex Berger
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    Viking History
    The Danes are understandably famous for their Viking past. A visit to Copenhagen offers the opportunity to get hands-on with Viking history. Start with a tour of the beautifully assembled exhibits at the National Museum (free admission). If you have time, follow up with a trip to nearby Roskilde (30 minutes by train) and its Viking Ship Museum. This living history museum houses several original Viking vessels recovered from the Roskilde Fjord and has an authentic workshop where Viking ships are built to original specifications. Take one of the family-themed tours and consider a quick trip out into the fjord on one of the museum's hand-crafted Viking vessels.
    Photo by Alex Berger
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    Copenhagen's Canals
    With more than 400 islands in Denmark, the Danes have always had a close relationship with the water. One of the best ways to explore Copenhagen is by canal tour. These tours are excellent value and offer a great overview of otherwise difficult-to-reach parts of the city. For a more hands-on experience, consider renting a kayak and touring through the city's canals on your own. (Children must be at least 10 years old; no experience necessary.) Copenhagen also operates several water taxis. These are part of the normal transit system and run the length of Copenhagen Harbor; they cover more of the harbor than the small, organized boat tours, and are an interesting trip in their own right.
    Photo by Alex Berger
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    Experiential Learning
    For those eager to have an active learning experience, check out Frilandsmuseet (the Copenhagen Open Air Museum). This fun (and free) facility offers the chance to walk through and experience Danish life and history. It covers 86 acres, is one of the oldest museums in the world, and has more than 50 structures which were built between 1650 and 1940. For a more state-of-the-art experience, head to Experimentarium City. The center provides a large space that focuses on bringing science to life through hands-on exhibits and highly interactive experiences.
    Photo courtesy of Ty Stange/Visit Copenhagen
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    Relax in a Park
    Copenhagen has done an excellent job of protecting its green spaces. The city is crisscrossed by a network of beautifully maintained parks, lakes, and ponds. In spring, when the flowers are in bloom, take time to walk through the city's centrally located botanical gardens, or explore the nearby Rosenborg Castle gardens. A trip to nearby Jægersborg Dyrehavn (the deer park) is a must. Home to the world's oldest amusement park, Dyrehavn also houses 2,000 very approachable, but still wild, deer. The sprawling park is an excellent spot for a picnic and a relaxing afternoon with the family.
    Photo by Alex Berger
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    Historic Amusement Parks
    Denmark has the two oldest amusement parks in the world and they allegedly served as inspiration for later, much more famous creations. The eldest is Dyrehavsbakken, which first opened in 1583 and still offers plentiful entertainment for all ages. Bakken's (much) younger sibling, Tivoli Gardens, is situated right in the heart of Copenhagen. Despite its unusual location, the park is modern, packed with rides, and an absolute thrill to visit. Admission is affordable and the park is a great place to walk around, even if you're not interested in trying the rides. As an added bonus, Tivoli is always changing and redecorates every few months to match the season.
    Photo courtesy of Ty Stange/Visit Copenhagen
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    Sweeping Views
    Denmark is famous for being flat and Copenhagen is no exception. Factor in the rigorous housing codes, and Copenhagen's skyline is largely unobstructed—which makes the view from the city's church towers well worth checking out. Located in various parts of the city, three favorites are the Marble Church (with two organized tours a day and a view over Amalienborg Palace), Rundetårn (located in the heart of the city, with an unusual design and an astronomical observatory), and Vor Frelsers Kirke (with views of Copenhagen's wind turbines and Christianshavn's canals). Vor Frelsers Kirke (Our Saviour's Church) has a distinct external spire that slowly winds into nothingness; you can climb it and enjoy a highly unusual experience to match the view.
    Photo courtesy of Thomas Rousing/Visit Copenhagen
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    The Royal Routine
    Danes have a deep love for their queen—Denmark is the oldest continuous monarchy in the world—and intense pride in their flag, which is the oldest still in use in the world. Visitors can experience part of this rich history by touring the royal residence at Amalienborg Palace, viewing the royal jewels at Rosenborg Castle, and then watching the changing of the guard. The changing of the guard begins every day at 11:30 a.m. at Rosenborg Castle. From the castle the guards march through the city center to Amalienborg Palace, where they relieve their colleagues. If the Queen is in residence, the guards will also be accompanied by the royal marching band.
    Photo by Alex Berger
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    Bike Copenhagen
    In Copenhagen it is neither pedestrians nor cars that have right of way. That right belongs exclusively to bikes. With more than 50 percent of the city's inhabitants commuting daily by bicycle, it is nearly impossible to overstate the central role bikes play in Copenhagen culture. It is also the best way to explore the city. Most hotels offer bikes to guests but you could also consider renting a bike from one of the city's many rental shops. Rentals are affordable and come in many shapes and forms. Check out the local Christiania Bike, which is a three-wheel bicycle with a large box between the two front wheels that is often used to transport children, friends, or pets. Biking in Copenhagen is a safe, fun, and cultural experience.
    Photo courtesy of Nicolai Perjesi/Visit Copenhagen