Work travel is not always conveniently timed, so after spending a week in Canada in January, I felt fortunate to be in Denmark in June of 2014. I decided to delay my flight by a day, pay the extra costs myself, and enjoy at least one day in Copenhagen. A coworker had to get home so he could start vacation over the weekend, so I was on my own for much of the day. His flight was not until 11 am so Friday night we decided to meet at 4:30 am so we could be downtown by sunrise. We not only beat the sun that way, we were ahead of all the crowds too. We started by parking near the ancient fortress of Kastellet, a very well preserved 17th century “star fortress”, that is still in use today, but is open to the public to walk through and around the bastions surrounding the fortress. At 5 am the fortress was closed to the public so we walked around the outside to explore. We parked near St Alban’s Anglican Church.
The morning light was still very dim and there were very few people out and about. As we walked around the church and toward Kastellet, we passed the Gefion Fountain.
The fountain had a healthy flow of water, and is quite detailed. There are several animals incorporated into the fountain including this large snake coiled along the outer wall.
The moat around Kastellet was on our left as we continued past the fountain. We could see the southern entrance.
As we looked north we could see more of the moat and some storm clouds reflecting in the water.
We had already heard thunder in the distance, and we were hoping we would be able to get some exploring in and find a coffee shop before any rain came. We decided to continue around the Kastellet so we could see the “Little Mermaid” bronze statue on the north side of the fortress. There were several other monuments along our walk, but the mermaid was our goal.
Since there was no one else around I decided to join her down by the water. This little statue is pretty popular, with bus loads of tourists coming every day, so it was nice to have her all to ourselves!
There is a very nice marina just north of the Little Mermaid on the north side of the Kastellet. I would love to take a sailboat out into the sound some day. Maybe sail between Denmark, Sweden, and Norway!
We continued our trek around Kastellet passing the north entrance…
and then looping around the east side until we come to an area of very old apartments when we got back to the south side of the fortress.
My best guess, at the time we were there, was these were former Naval Barracks due to there location and apparent age. It took a bit of searching, but I confirmed this is a very old Naval Barracks area called Nyboder. We walked through this area and back toward the water. Our goal was to check out Nyhavn and get a coffee, the thunder was continuing, but still no rain. Nyhavn is a very old harbor area with tons of history. It is now a place to catch harbor tours, have dinner, and take pictures.
On the way to Nyhavn we walked through a large deserted cobblestone square.
There was no one around that we could see. It was still only about 6:30 AM, but after hearing a tone we did notice some movement at several locations around the square. It turned out to be guards walking their posts!
We had stumbled into the center of Amalienborg, the winter palace for the Danish royal family. It’s a pretty cool place, especially when almost no one is there. As we approached the center of the open area, we got a good view of Marmorkirken, The Marble Church, by looking to the west.
Up to this point, our little walk around Copenhagen had mainly been about the differences in architecture and length of history between Copenhagen and the United States. Cultural differences would become more evident as we continued. As we got to Nyhavn the storm came closer. We started looking for a place to get coffee but nothing was open. As we approached the west end of the street the clouds opened up and the rain came down. Although nothing was open there were some benches under large square umbrellas. We took a seat and were joined by some young folks obviously just finishing up a night of fun. One of the guys offered us a beer. We said it was a bit too late for beer, we were looking for coffee. He said it was too early for coffee, that we would have trouble finding an open coffee shop before 8 AM. This is definitely different! My favorite coffee shop, Peet’s Coffee and Tea opens at 5 AM every morning, including weekends. It was around 7:30 when we got to the bench and rained pretty hard until about 7:50, we chatted a little with the you party goers. Once it stopped raining we were treated to a rainbow and a funny pose.
They headed toward King’s New Square to skip around the square, take pictures, and enjoy the morning. We headed toward the closest coffee shop. The doors were open, but the young lady let us know that she would not be open until 8! So we waited in the doorway for 10 minutes. After our coffees we decided to walk toward the shopping district of Strøget before heading back toward the car.
None of the shops were open, but Strøget is a pretty area. There are some very old buildings in this area, this building is the flagship store for the Royal Copenhagen company, and was marked with the date 1616…
After passing a few blocks of closed stores we decided to start heading in the direction of our car. This took us through an area of very old churches and through part of the University of Copenhagen.
We also noticed another major cultural difference. In San Diego we have bike to work day one day a year. In Copenhagen, it looked like every day (at least in the summer) was bike to work day. The city is serious about biking. On major roads one whole lane is elevated just for bikes – no cars allowed. All the metro stations had major bike racks surrounding them.
As we continued on our walk back toward our car, we decided to walk through a garden area. We saw this sign just inside the gates.
We noticed the name of the gardens, and the map but we didn’t take the time to look closely at the sign or map. We knew which way we needed to head to the car and we were just “out for a walk”. The gardens were very well maintained…
with gorgeous flowers lining the paths.
As I snapped this picture I noticed the spires in the background…
so we did a little “smartphone research”, to figure out where we were. No wonder it was so well maintained. Kogens Have is the gardens for Rosenborg Castle. The castle was what we were seeing beyond the benches. Although it was the wrong direction, we still had plenty of time so we decided to check out the castle and the rest of the gardens. As we walked toward Rosenborg Castle I noticed some very large/fat pigeons on the ground. If I hadn’t seen one of them on a very challenged tree branch I would have thought they were too big to even fly!
The castle is impressive. I like this picture taken across the still water that is on 3 sides of the castle.
The gardens are also impressive. This large tree was one of a set on opposite sides of a wide path as you walk away from the castle through the gardens.
I had to get in one picture with the castle.
There were also two long tree lined paths running perpendicular through the gardens. Very shady paths that would be great on a hot sunny day.
We passed this very cool monument on the way out of the garden. The raised tree on the side of the monument caught my eye first then I was surprised by the very laid back and confident pose that Viggo Hørup is striking for the bronze on top of the monument. Not your normal bronze statue pose!
We got a bit more serious about heading back to the car after leaving Kogens Have. After we got to the car, I drove my coworker back to the Airport, turned in the rental car, and decided to take the train back to the hotel for a nap. It would limit what I would be able to do… probably have to skip a tour of Rosenborg Castle, but after a long week of work in Denmark and the very early morning, the idea of a nap won out.
I’ve done a second post for the rest of my day in Copenhagen (post nap):One Day in Copenhagen – Part 2