“My life is the greatest fairy tale of all, “ says the tall man in a black coat. He doffs his hat and bows down courteously and with a twinkle in his eye, he smiles and gives a long introduction. “I should have been a shoemaker but I decided to become an actor. But then I failed as an actor, a singer and as a ballet dancer, and then I started writing for fairy tales and the rest of course is history. I am Hans Christian Andersen and it’s a pleasure to meet you.” It’s a nippy morning and I am in Copenhagen, standing in front of the City Hall, one of Copenhagen tourist attractions, as another fantasy land unfolds in front of me. The Danish capital is one of my favourite cities and its story is like a leaf out of the many fairy tales penned by this charming author. And the guide, Richard who is an actor and a musician has been donning the role of the legendary author for years now.My 48 hours in Copenhagen starts with this intriguing man with a penchant for storytelling. The Hans Christian Andersen tour is one of the must do in Copenhagen and is rated as one of the top ten things to do in Copenhagen.
Copenhagen’s story started eight centuries ago as a fishing hamlet and it was gifted to Bishop Absalom by King Valdemar the Great. It soon morphed into a walled city with palaces and citadels. Walking around, I stumble upon castles and churches, amusement parks and breweries as I explore the city by bike and boat.
The grey skies are just waiting to explode. But perched atop the Richs Building is the Weather Girl on her bicycle indicating that it is a great day to be outdoors. The moment it rains, she will apparently be walking her dog with an umbrella.There is no dearth for stories here.
But my favourite is the tale of the Lur Blowers that fascinate me. Walking along the main square, I can see a couple of formidable Vikings standing on a tower and blowing the lurs, an ancient wind instrument. In a different era they were considered to be the watch keepers of the city who warned whenever an enemy threatened to knock at their doors. But there is another story as well. The Vikings apparently played the instrument whenever a virgin crossed their paths. But our Hans Christian Andersen says with a laugh, “Believe me, it has not been heard even once since 1914 when it was erected.”
Copenhagen is a city where you need to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds but if you are looking for recommendations for some of the Copenhagen tourist attractions and top things to do in Copenhagen, then here are my suggestions.
The Hans Christian Andersen tour
Your 48 hours in Copenhagen starts on a fairy tale note. There are several ways to experience Copenhagen, but nothing is more intriguing than a city tour from the fairytale man himself. Richard, the guide, has been donning the garb of the author, the Danish city’s famous resident, and he shares snippets of his life while taking us around the city. We start our trail at the Copenhagen City Hall and head to the Gammeltorv (the oldest square in the city), followed by other landmarks, listening to various tales amidst chuckles.
Say hello to The Little Mermaid.
The forlorn mythical maid is a symbol of the city and one of the Copenhagen tourist attractions as she is often besieged by every tourist visiting the city. Perhaps that is why she is looking away into the ocean, wanting to escape the attention. The story goes that the little statue of the mythical mermaid has been stolen quite a few times and had to be replaced. While Hans Christian Andersen may have made her immortal, she owes her presence here to Carl Jacobsen, the man behind Carlsberg. Apparently he was so infatuated by the ballet dancer who played the role of the Little Mermaid. He immediately commissioned a statue which was later gifted to the city.
Explore Nyhavn in a boat
The heart of Copenhagen lies in its canals . You can either take one of the charming Grand Canal Tours on the ferries or be the captain of our boat and cruise away in the solar powered Go Boat. Soak in the atmosphere, pass by the colourful monuments , sail past the boats, gaze at awe at the Charlottenburg Palace, see the stately parliament and many more sights. This is one of the top things to do in Copenhagen and should not be missed.
Discover Copenhagen by Bike
Biking is a national pastime of the Danes, jokes my guide Christian as he takes us on a biking tour of the city. Bike on your own or pedal your way on one of the several cycling tours. Some of them take you to the city centre, as you explore along the canals to Christiansborg and Nyhavn and towards Frederiksstaden, the area developed by by King Frederik V in the 18th century. Watch the change of the royal guards at the Amalienborg, the royal palace named after the Queen Sophie Amalie. Stop by to gaze at the dome of the Marble Church and bike around the old squares in the city centre and say hello to the Little Mermaid. You can also, like us, explore neighbourhoods such as Norrebro and Vesterbro. If you love biking then this is one of the must do in Copenhagen.
Amuse yourself at Tivoli Gardens
The moment you step into Tivoli Gardens, you are taken on a roller coaster ride into the past. It is the second oldest amusement park that opened in 1843 and it oozes with charm and the main attraction is the wooden roller coaster which is one of the oldest in the world. I let the child in me take centre stage when I went on the Hans Christian Anderson ride. But there are many other adrenalin-pumping rides as well. The Copenhagen amusement park is one of the top things to do in Copenhagen with kids.
The spirit of Carlsberg
There is more to Carlsberg than just beer. There are four large carvings of elephants that greet you on the gate which introduce you to the legacy that Jakobsen and his son Carl left behind in this brewery. There is an element of old world charm as you take a carriage tour of the brewery. museum of beer bottles adds to the atmosphere. Copenhagen’s story is linked to the history of Carlsberg, and you can see a replica of the Little Mermaid here. And of course you end the tour with beer. A visit to Carlsberg is recommended in an itinerary for 48 hours in Copenhagen.
Lose yourself in the sea of yellow at Dragor
It is the sea of yellow that greets me in this little fishing village where time literally stands still. I am mesmerised by the pretty houses, over 350 of them that belonged to the families of ancient mariners who lived here centuries ago. Dragor, tucked away in the outskirts of Copenhagen is barely 12 kms away and is just a bus or a bike ride away and should not be missed. It is one of the best day trips from Copenhagen and is easily accessible.
Meet the ghost at Hamlet’s Castle
If you are like me a fan of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, then you must visit his home at Kronborg Castle. And narrating his story to the world is his noble friend, Horatio who takes you on a tour. Shakespeare’s tale was set in Kronborg Castle, located in Helsingor or Elsinore , which is one of the day trips from Copenhagen. Personally if your 48 hours in Copenhagen allows you to explore such one of the Copenhagen tourist attractions away from the city centre, then this is one of the must do in Copenhagen.
Sail like a Viking to Roskilde
A 45 minute train journey takes you to the Viking town of Roskilde , one of the oldest capitals of Denmark. While you must stop at the Viking Ship Museum, you can also attempt to sail like a Viking in one of these wooden boats built in the boatyard here .This charming windswept town is home to the first brick Gothic Cathedral in the country and this is where over 30 Viking kings are buried. And one of them , nicknamed Bluetooth, inspired the name for the technology as he apparently brought warring factions together. A visit to Roskilde is one of the top things to do in Copenhagen but 48 hours in Copenhagen may not suffice to include this destination.
Be it souvenirs or getting a taste of Danish design products, a trip to this city is not complete if you don’t go to Stroget, the longest pedestrian street here. A maze of streets tempts you with signature stores, such as Royal Copenhagen or Hay House, or you can sit in a café and people-watch. If you have just 48 hours in Copenhagen then you can lose yourself in these streets. Its also one of the Copenhagen tourist attractions and things to do in Copenhagen with kids.
Night life at Vesterbro
Copenhagen’s changing ethos is best captured in the meatpacking district, where old slaughter houses, markets and meatpacking warehouses have been converted into upscale restaurants, bars and galleries. Located in Vesterbro, one of the coolest neighbourhoods here, this is where you must be to feel the rhythm of the city. It is one of the places that features high on Copenhagen nightlife
There are so many neighbourhoods in Copenhagen which are also far from the tourist circuit but 48 hours in Copenhagen is not enough to explore the Danish capital. There are several castles and palaces which are Copenhagen tourist attractions and are must do in the city. What are your recommendations for 48 hours in Copenhagen ?