What To Do: Day Two In Copenhagen

Now it’s time to dig into the rest of Copenhagen: Christiania, the Black Diamond, and the Opera House.

29 Sankt Annæ Gade
You can see the black and gold spiral steeple of the Church of our Saviour, or Vor Frelsers Kirke, all over Copenhagen. It’s not until you are standing beneath it you realize that golden spiral is actually a staircase—on the outside. If you are among the brave, you can climb the stairs all the way to the top of the steeple, for a view over the lively Christianshavn neighbourhood of Copenhagen. If (like me) you are afraid of heights, you can admire the church from below and muster your courage... for next time.
2300 Copenhagen, Denmark
Design geeks must take the train from Copenhagen‘s city center to Orestad. The neighborhood is like a futuristic city with its innovative architecture, much of which looks like it’s straight out of the Jetsons. Bjarke Ingels is arguably one of the world’s most influential young architects and urban developers. His No. 8 building (above) was voted Best Residential Building 2011 at the World Architecture Festival and is a glimpse at the future of sustainable city living. Walk the grounds and be sure to check out the green roof.
Amagergade, København, Denmark
For a taste of traditional Danish architecture, the tiny street of Amagergade on Christianshavn is a must-see. Featured in an old Danish TV series, this street is lined with beautifully painted old buildings that convey all of Copenhagen‘s historic charm. The street is short and only takes about 5 minutes to check out, but is well worth pausing at.
12 Frederiksholms Kanal
Frederiksholms Canal is a small canal that is connected to Copenhagen Harbor and which surrounds and creates the small island of Slotsholmen. Slotsholmen is significant because it serves as home to Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish Parliament, as well as museums, and the Royal Danish Library. More than just a glorified moat, the canal has a number of historical boats moored along its banks and serves as a lovely spot to enjoy the Danish weather. For a quirky surprise look into the canal’s depths just off of Højbro bridge for an other-worldly piece of submerged art.
Bådsmandsstræde 43, 1407 København K, Denmark
In 1971, squatters moved into the barracks on an abandoned military base and established Freetown Christiania, an autonomous district in the middle of the city. Later, many dwellers built their own homes on the 86-acre property. Although the Danish Supreme Court ruled this year that the state owns the land, the area’s nearly 1,000 residents have yet to be evicted. Today, visitors can bike along tree-lined paths and check out the handmade structures before they disappear. christiania.org. This appeared in the July/August 2011 issue.
Sortedam Dossering 9, st, th, 2200 København N, Denmark
This group of more than 30 cafés across Denmark are open early, so they’re great for breakfast. The tea, coffee, and sandwiches are all very nice, but what really sets Lagkagehuset apart is the quality of the cakes. It would take an iron will to resist one of their strawberry tarts or a slice of Christianshavnerkage, a hazelnut torte topped with strawberry-vanilla cream and berries. The café in Copenhagen overlooks the lakes, and when the water glitters on a sunny day, there are few places more pleasant for an impromptu afternoon tea.
Prins Jørgens Gård 1, 1218 København, Denmark
I absolutely love the interior courtyard of Christiansborg Palace. It is the type of place that seems straight out of a Disney fairy tale. Stand in the courtyard and close your eyes, imagining carriages, lanterns, and a steady stream of affluent Danes attending a grand ball—it’s a magical place. Started in 1733, the palace was completed in its present form in 1928. Over the years various stages were added and expanded in response to fire damage, periods of prosperity, and the latest design trends. The Palace currently serves as the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Supreme Court, The Royal Reception Rooms, and the Royal Stables which are the reason that the middle of the inner courtyard is a large dirt space (still used as part of the Royal Stables). You can access the ruins from the previous castle through the Christiansborg Palace museum.
Situated right next to Christiansborg Palace, the old stock exchange “Børsen” dates back to 1640 and was commissioned by Christian IV as part of his massive series of infrastructure projects. While no longer an active stock exchange, the building is famous for its gorgeous visual style and unusual spire which features the tail of four dragons which wrap around each other to form the tower.
Dronningensgade 34, 1420 København, Denmark
Copenhagen in August is amazing. Hundreds of thousands of folks chilling on the canals, soaking up the vitamin D.
Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 København V, Denmark
A fairy-tale town deserves a magical funfair. Tivoli Gardens is one of the country’s most popular attractions, drawing more than four million visitors a year (in a country with a population of around 5.5 million). Youngsters will enjoy the rides, while their parents will appreciate the nostalgic charm and the wide range of dining options, from hot dogs and churros to “New Nordic” gastronomy.
Prins Jørgens Gård 1, 1218 København, Denmark
The success of the TV drama Borgen has piqued international interest in the building that houses the Danish government. Christiansborg Palace (from which Borgen takes its name) is also the tallest tower in the city center, and it’s free to visit though you will have to go through airport-style security to get in. There’s a viewing platform or, better yet, go to the casual restaurant in the tower. One of the most unusual and memorable places to dine in Copenhagen, the belfry-like eatery has a Harry Potter–like charm, with casts of sculptures left over from the time the space was used as a storage room.
I’d like to believe that had my public library been as stunning as the Black Diamond in Copenhagen, I would have spent more time studying at the library and less time doing whatever one does when one is supposed to be doing their reading. But the reality is that I probably would have spent most of the time staring out at the water and at the handsome people who wander through its naturally lit halls. The Black Diamond is the newer annex to The Danish Royal Library. It gets its name from the black granite, tinted windows and trapezoidal design (isosceles I think; perhaps I would be more sure had I worked harder on that geometry homework). When you turn the corner, it peers out like a large warship: dark, massive, and slightly foreboding. But the people and bicycles scattered about near the library’s entrance bely the need for concern. At the library’s entrance there is a cafe perfect for you to steady yourself with coffee, pastries, and more people watching. The library holds an art exhibit, concerts, The National Museum of Photography, The Museum of Danish Cartoon Art, as well as its own collection. But the pièce de résistance is the atrium that overlooks the harbor. Take the escalator up a few floors and turn and seize the view. But don’t gasp too loudly: there are people probably trying to do their geometry homework.
Nørregade 8, 1165 København, Denmark
This cathedral is Denmark’s National cathedral and was designated as such in 1924. There has been a church on this spot in central Copenhagen going back nearly 900 years. However, the most recent version of the church (previous ones fell victims to fires, bombardment, and disasters) dates back predominantly to the early1800s.
Nørregade 10, 1165 København, Denmark
Founded in 1479 (yup, that pre-dates Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas) the University of Copenhagen is the oldest University in Denmark and one of, if not the-oldest in Scandinavia. It is also consistently ranked as one of the top 50 Universities in the world. The University’s old central campus sits on Frue Plads and is flanked by the nearby Round Tower and Vor Frue Kirke. While the building currently predominantly houses administrative staff and the old ceremonial hall, it has an impressive front-facing structural entrance and is still in active use by the University.
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