Finished with Hygge - 1 - The inner city
Copenhagen's inner city is constrained by the line of the old fortifications. Even within this area the 1658 map splits the city into "Old Copenhagen" and "New Copenhagen", with the line of Gothersgade marking the divide. A quick look at a modern map will show a higgledy-piggledy street layout in the "Old" and a well ordered grid layout in the "New".
This walking tour will take in the best of "Old Copenhagen" and a strip of "New Copenhagen" from the harbour to The King's Garden and Rosenborg. It will take in the best of the sights, as well as hidden squares and passages, and the most historic streets and lanes. Churches, colourful timber-framed buildings and more shops, cafe's and restaurants than you can shake a stick at.
The remainder of "New Copenhagen" including the Marble Church, Amalienborg and the Castle will be covered in another chapter.
Note: The map (above) and photographs can be enlarged by clicking on them (opens in a new browser tab). On the map north is 30° clockwise, i.e. at 01:00 on an old school analogue clock.
There are two Metro stations on this tour "Gammel Strand" on the M3 and M4 lines and "Kongens Nytorv" on all four metro lines. Either one could be used as a startpoint and obviously the tour can be done clockwise or anti-clockwise. On the whole I think anti-clockwise is better and Gammel Strand is in the heart of "Old Copenhagen". We will start at Gammel Strand Station (Metro M3 or M4 line) (GPS 55.67776 12.57935).
Coming out of the Metro station you are immediately in the middle of a dramatic city panorama. A fine row of buildings line Gammel Strand looking out over the Slotsholm canal. Across the canal the Christiansborg Chapel and Thorvaldsens Museum display a classical form. Behind the mass of Christiansborg Palace with its xxxxxx tower looms large. Left again is seen the spiral spire of the Stock Exchange. Then more elegant facades lining the canal and Højbro Place, with the statue of Bishop Absalon astride his horse looking out over his dominion.
1 Turn your back on Christiansborg (for now, we will be returning that way), and turn left past the Bishop's statue onto Højbro Place. This tree-lined boulevard soon opens out onto Amagertorv, the heart of Copenhagens shopping experience. The Stork Fountain sits in the midst of the tessellated tile pavement (GPS 55.67885 12.57958). This is the junction of the major shopping streets Strøget and Købmagergade, hence the crowds. For now we will skip the shopping and concentrate on the sights, so take the small side street (Store Kirkestræde) to the right of the old art-deco Cafe Norden.
This quickly leads to Nikolaj Place and the Nikolaj Church which now serves as a contemporary art gallery. The building is better appreciated from the south side of the square. Continue along Lille Kongensgade to the junction with the main road Bremerholm (GPS 55.67929 12.58269).
Across the junction is a tree-lined outdoor cafe. Turn left past this cafe and then immediately right onto Strøget. After just 30m look for an arched entrance on the left with a sign above pointing to Pistolstræde (GPS 55.67989 12.58309).
2 The inner city is full of little yards and alleyways and Pistolstræde is a fine example. Duck through the arch and continue ahead until you reach a courtyard with a striking collection of timber-framed buildings. Take the alleyway on the right to emerge onto Ny Østergade (GPS 55.68085 12.58306).
Turn left and at the junction with Grønnegade is another fine timber-framed building. Turn right down Grønnegade and take the first street on the right (Ny Adelgade) (GPS 55.68142 12.58328). As is true of much of the inner city take time to look up and look in (the shops), to see the different styles and ages of the buildings and what they now contain. Also where take note of entrances that lead to inner courtyards.
3 The east end of Ny Adelgade suddenly bursts out into Kongens Nytorv (GPS 55.68100 12.58485). At the centre of the square is the elliptical garden (Krinsen) surrounding the statue of Christian V whose decision it was to lay out the square. Several notable buildings surround the square, including the Royal Danish Theatre, the Charlottenburg Palace, the Magasin du Nord department store and the upmarket Hotel D'Angleterre.
Our route will leave Kongens Nytorv to the east (left) of the domed Royal Theatre down August Bournonvilles Passage. There are pedestrian crossings to the left or right if you wish to visit the garden in the centre. Otherwise turn right from Ny Adelgade and pass in front of the Hotel D'Angleterre. The next block contains the entrance to the Metro (Kongens Nytorv station serves all 4 metro lines) (GPS 55.68008 12.58502).
4 Just after the metro station cross the main road between the Magasin du Nord department store and the Royal Theatre, and pass in front of the theatre, then turn right down August Bournonvilles Passage (GPS 55.67989 12.58645). Ahead of you is the Art Deco curiosity that is the Stærrekassen (Starling Nest Box). This was used as an additional theatre space until the new Playhouse was opened on the harbourfront (which we will pass later). Pass through the tunnel and admire the mosaic ceiling with figures from the arts and science.
5 Nyhavn (New harbour) today is a lively, cosmopolitan, touristy, gash of a waterway, surrounded by colourful townhouses, but it wasn't always thus. Of course it was built as a harbour in the 17th century as a gateway into the inner city, but as ships got larger it slowly fell out of use. Between 1960 and 1980 the area was improved by creating a verteran ship collection and pedestrianising the north side. Many bars and restaurants now occupy this spot and zillions of images of Nyhavn fill the internet.
Turn left and continue to the end of the harbour, where the canal tour boats dock, and where the Memorial Anchor commemorates the sacrifices of World War II (GPS 55.68060 12.58772). Cross to the other side of the harbour and walk along the waterfront, past all the bars and restaurants. Continue all the way to where the main harbour opens out at the harbour bus stop, with fine views across to Christianshavn (GPS 55.67913 12.59395).
6 Here there is a harbour bus stop, and to the left the modern Royal Theatre Playhouse. Take the wooden walkway that leads out in front of the Theatre for the fine views north past the modern Opera house to the open sea. Continue around the theatre to a large open area, Ofelia Plads, (GPS 55.68067 12.59502). This is used as a cultural venue for concerts, exhibitions and so on.
Sankt Annæ Plads:
Our route now heads north-east along the tree-lined boulevard of Sankt Annæ Plads. This is lined with elegant 18th and 19th century buildings. The Garrison Church (Garnisonskirken) is passed on the left. This Baroque church was originally intended for military personnel stationed in the City.
Where Sankt Annæ Plads meets Bredgade is a statue of Christian X astride a horse. During the danish occupation of World War II the King would ride daily through the streets of Copenhagen as a display of Danish sovereignty.
7 From the statue cross Bredgade to the far side and turn left. Just 20m along Bredgade is an passage way with an elaborate arched sign Sgt. Annæ Passage (GPS 55.68208 12.58839). Take this passageway that winds between early 20th century buildings. It emerges onto Store Kongensgade opposite the tree-lined street of Landgreven (GPS 55.68289 12.58650).
The King's Garden:
Dronningens Tværgade used to connect the Queen's and King's gardens, but the Queen's garden was swallowed up by later 18th century developments. The street now passes through the Dronningegården estate. This is the modernist red brick residential complex. The inner space, with its geometric trees, is somewhat spoilt by its use as a car park.
8 Continue along Dronningens Tværgade to where it joins Kronprinsessegade. On the opposite side are the petite gatehouses guarding the entrance to the King's garden. Go through the gates and into the park.
It would not be a surprise to know that the King's Garden was established as the private grounds of King Christian IV's Rosenborg Castle. The public were given access in the 18th century, and it has been exceedingly popular ever since. If you have time this is a great place to rest your feet, or to explore the gardens. We, however, are on a mission and will only skip through the gardens.
Head towards the Castle and after 50m, at the first avenue of lime trees turn left down this avenue (Damegangen) (GPS 55.68523 12.58110). Continue with elegance all the way to the gated entrance to the park on Gothersgade (GPS 55.68337 12.57851).
The Round Tower:
Cross Gothersgade and go straight ahead onto Landemærket. Ahead the tops of the Round Tower and Cathedral attract; we will return to those later, but first a short diversion. Take the first right onto Abenrå, and first left into Hauser Plads (GPS 55.68308 12.57592).
9 A playground fills most of Hauser Plads, so continue past the less than attractive concrete office block, to the neighbouring square Kultorvet. This is a lively square lined with cafe's and shops. On the south side of the square is the pedestrianised shopping street of Købmagergade (GPS 55.68225 12.57449).
10 Head down Købmagergade and you will soon be greeted with the spectacle of the Round Tower and Trinitatis Church. The Round Tower was built as an astronomical observatory in the 18th century and access to the roof is by a spiral ramp, rather than stairs, which enabled horses to be used to move books to the library and astronomical instruments to the observatory.
Stay on Købmagergade for a further 50m to where Skindergade joins on the right (GPS 55.68106 12.57643). Proceed down Skindergade to the first turning on the left (Niels Hemmingsens Gade) (GPS 55.68048 12.57561). Then 50m down Niels Hemmingsens Gade the square of Gråbrødretorv (Greyfriars) opens up.
11 Gråbrødretorv is perhaps one of the nicest squares in Copenhagen, although it has had a chequered history. The fire of 1728 and the bombardment of 1807 resulted in significant rebuilding. The prominent sculpture is a water feature by Søren Georg Jensen (GPS 55.67978 12.57583).
Vor Frue Kirke:
Cross Gråbrødretorv and leave it bu its south-west corner (Gråbrødrestræde - there's a mouthful of danish vowels to chew over), and turn right on Klosterstræde. This leads back onto Skindergade. A further 60m leads to where Fiolstræde opens up on the right (opposite Jorcks Passage) (GPS 55.67912 12.57393).
12 Fiolstræde quickly leads to the circular apse of Copenhagens cathedral (Vor Frue Kirke). There has been a church on this site for 800 years, but the present neo-classical iteration was instigated after the 1807 bombardment. To the north of the cathedral lies the main buildings of the University of Copenhagen, and the area inbetween is Frue Plads. Frue Plads is lined with busts of important people, but a more interesting monument is on the corner with Fiolstræde which celebrates the seismologist Inge Lehmann who discovered that the Earth had a solid and not a liquid core (GPS 55.67993 12.57327).
Stroll along Frue Plads to where it meets Nørregade (GPS 55.67950 12.57184). Turn left in front of the porticoed entrance of Vor Frue Kirke. Opposite is a small square (Bispetorvet) containing the Reformation Memorial which commemorates the conversion of Denmark from a Catholic to a Lutherian faith in 1536-37.
13 Continue south on Nørregade and you soon come to Gammeltorv (Old Market). This is the oldest square in Copenhagen, although that maybe not apparent from the newish buildings framing it. Gammeltorv is now part of the Srøget pedestrian zone. The southern segment of this open space is called Nytorv with the Neoclassical facade of the Copenhagen Court House.
Proceed to the south-east corner of Nytorv and turn left onto Brolæggestræde (GPS 55.67726 12.57380). Take the first right onto Knabrostræde (GPS 55.67763 12.57469), and go straight across the crossroads with Kompagnistræde.
14 Ahead can be seen the outbuildings of Christiansborg across the Slotsholm Canal, but before we get there (turn next right) we will divert down Magstræde (GPS 55.67672 12.57611), This is a seriously old street with buildings surviving from the 17th century.
At the west end of Magstræde turn left onto Frederiksholms Kanal (GPS 55.67616 12.57482), Go straight across the junction with Stormgade with the Canal on your left and the National Museum on your right. At the next junction turn left to cross the Canal on Marmor Bridge (GPS 55.67480 12.57649).
15 This is on the main axis of the Christiansborg palace, and its tower looms ahead. Cross the bridge and go through the entrance to the palace grounds. The curved stable wings stretch either side to encompass the riding track. These survive from the original baroque 18th century palace.
Turn to the right and follow the arches to the corner of the south wing of Christiansborg Palace, passing the Royal Stables and the Theatre Museum. Take the white archway in the corner that leads to steps down to the inner courtyard (Rigsdagsgården). This is a very special spot as the steps up on the left mark the main entrance to the Danish Parliament (Borgen) (GPS 55.67541 12.58065).
16 To the right is an entrance that leads to the sheltered gardens of the Royal Library. Pedestrian passages in the white linking building ahead lead out onto the Christiansborg Palace Square, with Holmens Church straight ahead across the canal (GPS 55.67581 12.58157). Turn left along the front of Christansborg Palace to the corner where the white neo-classical Palace Chapel sits.
Cross the road and go over the canal bridge (Højbro) to find us back at our starting point at Gammel Strand metro station. (GPS 55.67776 12.57935).
Notes on the 1807 bombardment of Copenhagen:
The last major act of destruction suffered by Copenhagen was during the bombardment of 1807. The British Navy wanted to seize the Danish fleet in case it was turned against them in the Napoleonic war, and to protect their access to the Baltic Sea. When the neutral Danes refused to hand over their navy the British bombarded Copenhagen, causing fires which destroyed many buildings and killed many civilians.