Everyone loves a warm welcome, and if you travel into Copenhagen by train, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Take a few steps outside the central station, and the first sounds you’ll hear are joyous laughter and roller coaster screams from visitors to Tivoli Gardens, which is directly across the street.
Copenhagen has many unique characteristics, and this 170 year-old fun park (smack in the center of town) is at the top of the list.
Like most European capitals, Copenhagen has a long history. Preservation is important, and the city is dotted with 18th and 19th Century churches, palaces, monuments, and statues. The Danes respect the past, but don’t dwell on it. Denmark is famous as one of the design capitals of the world, and its modern architecture, furniture, and household items are known internationally. This juxtaposition of old and new is another characteristic that makes Copenhagen captivating.
Terri and I have visited Copenhagen twice before, once on our whirlwind, Eurail pass trip years ago. And when we lived in London, we were here on business. Embarrassingly, our memories of the city are pretty much a blur. This trip is changing that.
Copenhagen was home to the Godfather of Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen – author of The Little Mermaid. This prolific fantasy heavyweight also wrote: The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling, and The Emperor’s New Clothes. Predictably, the tourist business leans quite heavily on ol’ Hans. There are HCA tours, books, T-shirts, and impersonators wandering the streets. But on the less-entrepreneurial side, there’s a lovely (distinctly non-Disney) sculpture of The Little Mermaid overlooking the sea.
Another unique facet of the city, which is also obvious after a few steps outside the train station, are bikes – thousands and thousands of bikes. Depending on which survey you prefer, Copenhagen is the #1 or #2 most bike-friendly city in the WORLD. As a cyclist, I can tell you that it’s a bike utopia. According to Travel & Leisure magazine:
“In Denmark’s capital city, 36 percent of people going to work or school
on an average day are on a bicycle, according to government statistics.”
A population of roughly 1 million, makes the math easy. Each day there are 360,000 bikes on the streets! It’s fascinating and encouraging to be in a city that places so much emphasis on cycling, but it takes a bit of wariness for two newbie pedestrians. On our walk from the station to our hotel we learned that if you accidentally stepped off the sidewalk into the street, the good news was that you weren’t going to be hit by a car. But the bad news is that if you step off the sidewalk into the bike lane, there’s a really good chance of being nailed by a cyclist … right after you hear ching-ching-ching.