Welcome to Copenhagen! What a perfect place to meet – under the clock in the middle of the central station hall – a popular rendezvous spot. Come, let’s take a city walk together.
During one single hour, I will make you familiar with Copenhagen by turning you into a living street plan. Imagine that the central station is placed on top of your head and your feet are wading in the water of the picturesque Nyhavn harbour. What is in between, I shall link with the rest of your body to help you remember the position of things.
You should immediately learn two Danish words: a street is called “gade” and a square is usually called “torv”. Off we go, through the exit behind the clock. We follow the railway pit until reaching the tall white obelisk up front, a peasant freedom monument. This is the street of Vesterbrogade. After turning right, we’re going to move straight forward the whole time, only interrupted by short side trips.
If your brain is hungry for tourist information, then let’s drop in at Wonderful Copenhagen, on the right in the first cross street, Bernstorffsgade. You could always use a street map and the practical hints of “This Week in Copenhagen”. We resume our walking direction, keeping our eyes open, especially the right one, for that’s where Tivoli is, the world-famous amusement park. Tivoli might also appeal to other parts of your body, depending on where you keep your wallet.
We’re approaching the City Hall Square which you automatically associate with your neck, for you have to move your head in all directions not to miss anything, just like Hans Christian Andersen is doing on his plinth in the corner to the right, while anticipating his own 200th anniversary. The tower clock high above strikes every fifteen minutes. Copenhagen is actually a city of slender towers, and if you feel like climbing one, be here at twelve o’clock. The black bus terminal opposite is a monument to the local politicians’ misbegotten planning; it ruins the overall view.
You may have to pull your shoulders together, now that we’re entering the backbone of Copenhagen; the narrow, one kilometer long pedestrian street Stroget, bearing several street names on its way. Mind you, it’s not a perfectly straight backbone. The last cars were banned more than forty years ago, so Stroget is for strolling and shopping, for showing oneself off and taking a look at others. Full of impressions, at times a bit claustrophobic.
Stretch out your left arm at the first side street, Kattesundet, and let it guide us into the so-called Latin Quarter, stretching away towards the University. The atmosphere is quieter here and the boutiques are cosier. After returning to Stroget, we presently come to a large square, in fact two adjoining squares, the Old and the New Market squares, on the body map corresponding to the left and right side of your chest. If your heart is beginning to feel romantic, it’s probably because you heard of a royal wedding in the Copenhagen Cathedral up to the left; the Crown Prince marrying his Mary. Hopefully, they will never meet in the temple-like building down on the right, the Courthouse with its huge columns.
The centre of Copenhagen originates from the Middle Ages and was once surrounded by walls with city gates. Several devastating fires have done their best to erase the medieval traces. Nevertheless, today’s buildings exude an old-world elegance. Let’s move forward between the rows of houses. This is the middle section of Stroget, a long slim waist whose lower part is moving elegantly from side to side. Another side trip now, up Valkendorfsgade just before the next church on the left, through the dark passage of Kringlegangen.
There we are, in an intimate cobbled square, Graabrodretorv, the Greyfriars’ Square, with colourful, well-preserved buildings containing cafes and restaurants, their tables and chairs lining the square. A true summer oasis. As soon as we’re back on Stroget, the street widens into a different square, Amagertorv, where we can freely swing our hips without bumping into others. Under the Stork Fountain, a flight of steps with shining brass banisters lead down to the city’s most elegant public toilets.
Your left hip points to the street of Kobmagergade, part of the pedestrian precinct and with another possibility of climbing: the Round Tower. Your right hip shows the way to a canal, a stone’s throw away, where Bishop Absalon on his rearing horse is celebrating his own foundation of Copenhagen in 1167. The canal imitates the curve of a hip, underlined by harmonious houses in a row. The grey colour of Christiansborg Castle in the background could be a reference to its contents; it’s the home of the Danish Parliament, Folketinget. Livelier is the spectacular yellow building to the right, the sculptor Thorvaldsen’s museum.
At long last, we’re going to stretch our legs on the final part of our walk. We pass two leading department stores, Illum on the left and shortly after Magasin, opposite of it. On we go, soon finding ourselves in the tour’s very last square, Kongens Nytorv, the King’s New Square, so spacious that no one should step on our toes here. The façade of Magasin turns this way, and in front of it, you might descend into the infamously unpunctual Metro, if you’re not picking the Royal Theatre or the fashionable Hotel d’Angleterre instead.
Just a few steps further and then we can dip our feet. The houses across the square, in bright colours, actually mark the beginning of the Nyhavn harbour, literally meaning new harbour, although it was built more than 300 years ago. The manmade canal is still crowded with proud old ships, but the beer joints have long since been replaced by trendy cafes and restaurants. Even the prostitutes and the cars are gone. The cheapest place to eat is at the hot-dog stand on the corner.
As I promised you, one hour was sufficient for a city walk. Naturally, the body map doesn’t include all the blessings of Copenhagen, so do allow yourself an out-of-body experience once in a while. Canal tour boats are waiting for you, and so are free city bikes, cycle rickshaws and public transport. Your own feet, however, will take you to most sights, even to the Little Mermaid. On the way, you may wave at another somewhat taller lady, Queen Margrethe, when passing Amalienborg Castle. Simply follow the waterfront. Have fun!