Denmark is the oldest kingdom in the world and Copenhagen, its beguiling capital, is filled with fairytale charms. This is Scandinavia's largest city. It manages to be stylish and cosmopolitan and, at the same time, beguiling. Many cruises begin or end here, allowing time for out-of-town excursions. With special services for cruise ship passengers and an airport that is considered Europe's best, Copenhagen extends a warm welcome to cruisers. The city is pedestrian-friendly and easy to explore on your own. .
NOT TO BE MISSED: Tivoli: These gardens, filled with gorgeous flowers and thousands of twinkling lights, have been entertaining residents and visitors since 1843. The Tivoli grounds contain more than three dozen restaurants, 26 rides and plenty of free shows, from circuses to concerts.
Stroget: The pedestrian-only street filled with shops and cafes.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek: Highlights are the large collections of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Etruscan art and the new wing housing the French collection, which includes some fine works from the Barbizon School and the Impressionists. Free admission on Wednesdays and Sundays.
TOP SIGHTS: Amalienborg Palace: Tour several rooms at the Royal Residence.
Rosenborg Palace: See the Danish Crown Jewels in this elegant 17th-century Dutch Renaissance castle.
Christianborg Palace: Visit the elaborate Royal Reception Rooms, then, underneath the palace, check out the remains of Christianborg's 1167 predecessor, Absalon's Castle.
The Little Mermaid, the statue inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale.
Nyhavn: A colorful canal filled with lively cafes and boats.
For an overview of Danish design, visit the new Danish Design Center. It has exhibits, with interactive installations, a shop and cafe. It's near City Hall Square and Tivoli at H.C.Andersens Boulevard 27. Telephone 45 33 69 33 69.
Out of Town: If you are here overnight before, during or after your cruise, consider visiting Louisiana, the seaside modern art museum in Humlebk; or Karen Blixen's house in Rungstedlund. Or make a quick run to Sweden on the new 10 1/2-mile tunnel and bridge complex across Oresund.
SHIPS TO SIGHTS: Nothing is very far away in Copenhagen. It's only 1.5 miles from the pier, a five-minute cab ride, to the center of the shopping area, just a bit further to the Radhuspladsen (City Hall Square). Figure on approximately DKK 100 (about $12) taxi fare from the pier to Tivoli.
GETTING AROUND: The basic cab fare is DKK 22 (about $2.60), then DKK 7.70 (about 90 cents) per kilometer--more on nights and weekends.
The Copenhagen Card (see details below) includes unlimited travel by bus and rail throughout the metropolitan region.
The City of Copenhagen provides 2,500 free bicycles for visitors and residents. Just find one of the 125 City Bike Parking places dotted around the city, deposit a DKK coin (about $3) and take off! You'll get your DKK deposit back when the bike is returned to any rack.
ON YOUR OWN: Since Copenhagen is so compact, it's a cinch to explore the city on your own. And the city has provided special services for cruise passengers.
Start out at the Cruise Information Center on the cruise pier, where an English-speaking staff provides sightseeing information, currency exchange and fax services. You can also buy stamps, phone cards and the "Copenhagen Card," a great value for independent sightseeing.
The Copenhagen Card provides admission to more than 60 museums and attractions (including Tivoli, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and the other top sights on our list); unlimited bus and train travel in the greater Copenhagen area; and discounts, such as 20% off on the canal cruises. A 24-hour card is DKK 155 (about $18); a 48-hour card is DKK 255 ($30).
It's easy to duplicate some of the ship's shore excursions. Granted, you won't be picked up dockside, but the starting points are not that far from the pier and the savings are considerable.
Fifty-minute canal tours depart every half-hour from Nyhavn or Gammel Strand (by the statue of the old fisher-woman); DKK 42 (under $6). Ships charge $21.The ships charge around $54 for a combination motor coach and canal boat tour. You can join one of these daily tours from City Hall Square at 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The cost is DKK175 (under $25).
Bike tours of historical Copenhagen depart daily in June, July and August at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; the two-hour tour costs DKK150 (about $18), including bikes. These "City Safaris" start right behind the Central Station.
Need to rest for a while, have a snack, make dinner reservations or store all your loot from the shopping spree on Stroget? Visit the Cruise Lounge in the Royal Copenhagen building at Amagertorv, in the middle of Stroget.
BEST DONE ON A SHORE EXCURSION: For those with difficulty walking, the lines offer motor coach tours of the city highlights.
Crystal and Royal Caribbean offer an eight-hour trip to Odense, the home of Hans Christian Andersen.
SAMPLE SHORE EXCURSIONS: Two-and-a-half to three-hour walking tours, $32 to $49, depending upon the line and route.
Crystal expands the standard canal tour into a three-hour trip, including a glass of champagne onboard and a motor coach excursion to Dragor, a picturesque fishing village.
All cruise lines offer excursions to the outlying castles. Princess, for example, has half- day excursions to Frederiksborg a charming castle, often considered to be Denmark's most beautiful; and to Kronborg, the setting for Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Each excursion is $39. Crystal, Silversea and Norwegian Cruise Line combine visits to these two castles into a seven-hour excursion, including lunch ($100+). See the "On Your Own Section" for making this trip at considerable savings.
DINING: For smorrebrod, those delicious open-faced sandwiches:
Cafes range from simple to swanky and are ideal breaks from shopping and sightseeing.
SHOPPING: You can see Copenhagen's best on one street--Stroget, a pedestrian-only shopping street filled with boutiques, department stores and cafes. The more upscale shops are at the Kongens Nytorv end of Stroget. Shop here for Royal Copenhagen porcelain, Georg Jensen silver, classic Danish furniture, Holmegaard glassware. The area close to Radhuspladsen features young fashions and chain stores.
Shops are generally open from 9:30/10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, closing at 7 p.m. on Fridays, at 4 p.m. (or earlier) on Saturdays. A few of the larger shops are open Sunday afternoons.
On Stroget, Magasin is Scandinavia's oldest and largest department store, and Illums Bolighus features four floors of Scandinavian design. Watch the artisans paint china at Royal Copenhagen. Collectors will want to browse at Royal Copenhagen Antiques. For the latest designs in sound systems, go to Bang & Olufsen. Illum has an antique market on the third floor.
Just off Stroget is Rosenthal Studio Haus, filled with distinctively-designed fine china and glassware, Orrefors crystal and the irresistible ceramic works of Danish artist Bjorn Winblad. Frederiksberggade 21.
Other Shopping Areas:
Gronnegade, a quick detour off Stroget. Narrow streets with boutiques, designer shops and trendy cafes.
Kronprinsensgade, near the north end of Stroget. Up-and-coming Danish fashion designers and the venerable Perch's Teashop, where tea is weighed on old scales.
Larsbjornsstraede. Copenhagen's equivalent of Paris' Latin Quarter, a mix of cheap, expensive, second-hand and hip.
Straedet. Antique shops and cafes in a lovely setting.
Fiolstraede for antiquarian bookshops.
Flea Markets: Gammel Strand on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Norrebrogade along Assistnes Kirekgard on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
INSIDER TIPS: If you have an overnight in Copenhagen, catch Tivoli's fireworks display at 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday and Saturday.
If you want to eat smorrebrod in the proper Danish order, one that makes the most of the flavors, begin with the seafood, then the meat, finally, the cheese.
RECOMMENDED GUIDEBOOKS: Insight Compact Guide, Copenhagen: The starred attractions appear on page 2; the map on the inside cover works in tandem with the suggested sights and walking tours. There's information on sightseeing tours that cost less than those sold onboard. And the whole thing tucks into a pocket. What more could you want from a guidebook?
Fodor's Scandinavia is an excellent comprehensive guide that covers the main Scandinavian ports. Fodor's always has good walking tours, with the top sights starred, and those for Helsinki, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and Bergen are no exception. It won't tuck in your pocket, but it does have more information on dining than the smaller Insight Compact Guide.
Frommer's Scandinavia describes different neighborhoods in the main cities, giving one the "feel" of each. Handy for cruisers, there are one-day itineraries (plus two and three- day ones).
USEFUL PUBLICATIONS: Pick up a copy of "Copenhagen This Week" at the tourist information booth on the cruise ship pier.
INFORMATION: Danish Tourist Board, 655 Third Avenue, 18th Floor New York, N.Y.10017 Tel: 212-8859700 Fax: 212-8859726 E-mail: email@example.com
The Tourist Information Office, Bernstorffsgade 1, is in the center of Copenhagen close to the City Hall Square, next to Tivoli and just across the street from the Central Railway Station. It, too, sells the Copenhagen Card and various excursion tickets.