Finished with Hygge - 5 - Vesterbro and Frederiksberg
In the mid 19th Century the City walls came tumbling down and people burst from its crowded innards to set up home in the suburbs, with Vesterbro and Frederiksberg leading the charge. Prior to this only the Palace of Frederiksberg made any significant dent on the surrounding countryside. The two districts have very different atmospheres - Vesterbro feels busy and vibrant while Frederiksberg feels affluent and laid back. Vesterbro has undergone a marked hipsterification and is a great place to eat, drink or shop. Fashionable Frederiskberg has a high proportion of detached properties with gardens, as can be seen from aerial images.
The following tour takes it all in, including the highest point in the City (31m above sea level), elephants frozen in stone and elephants wandering the zoo.
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.
So begin at Enghave Plads Station (Metro M3 line) (GPS 55.66718 12.54606).
The main stairs from the metro station lead up into a paved pedestrian square. Ahead is a tree-lined area with a toilet and skate park. Across the road is the Christchurch with its impressive copper-pointed tower. This is the beating heart of the Vesterbro lifestyle. The surrounding streets are filled with apartments in cooperative housing blocks, where people may have to sit for years on a waiting list to get their foot in the door.
Go through the trees and cross Enghavevej (at an island) to the gated entrance of Enghave Park (GPS 55.66680 12.54371). This is a fairly unremarkable park, there are much better to come, so head straight through the park to the west end and the exit onto Ejderstedgade (GPS 55.66754 12.54074). Turn right and proceed to the T-junction with Lyrskovgade (GPS 55.66829 12.54113) and turn left here.
1 A swift 50m jaunt brings you to a larger road (Vesterfælledvej) with an attractive row of brick, terraced houses on the other side. This is the edge of Humleby. Cross this road at the island and ahead is a narrow street (Küchlersgade) guarded by two large trees, that leads into Humleby (GPS 55.66826 12.54005).
This leads into the Humleby (Hops Town) estate built between 1885 and 1891, to provide healthy homes, not for the workers of the brewery, but for workers at the Burmeister & Wain engineering company. The quality of the facades and the brickwork show that these were aspirational dwellings.
Walk up Küchlersgade admiring the brickwork of the houses and the community feel of the side streets, where the terraced houses face off against each other almost in touching distance. At the crossroads with Jerichausgade (with a brick mini-roundabout) turn left (GPS 55.66772 12.53769).
At the end of Jerichausgade you come face to face with the extensive new developments of the old Carlsberg Brewery site. Turn right up Ny Carlsberg Vej (GPS 55.66667 12.53761).
2 Continuing up Ny Carlsberg Vej for 300m, passing some uninspiring new buildings, you come to the "double gate" or Dipylon, which served as the eastern entrance to the New Carlsberg Brewery site. Go through the Dipylon and onto the Elephant Gate, completed in 1901. The elephants are happily kicking balls around, unfortunately they are adorned with symbols that since ancient times had been associated with good fortune, but since the 1930's have been forever tainted.
Take this opportunity to look up at the old buildings as they are richly decorated. Much of the Carlsberg site, south of Ny Carlsberg Vej, is being redeveloped wth modern residential blocks, but some of the original brewery buildings and a visitor centre survive. Continue up the hill to the junction with Valby Langgade (GPS 55.66770 12.53005). Cross the road and turn right. An entrance to the park of Søndermarken is a mere 20m away.
3 Take the path through the trees and emerge onto the gravel path that encircles the park. You can now either explore the park as you wish, and meet back on the gravel directly opposite Frederiksberg Palace on Roskildevej (GPS 55.67122 12.52506), Or you can be guided along the following itinerary.
OK still here. Then turn left and amble along the path, through the trees, for 300m to where the Bjælkehuset restaurant lies. Immediately after take the right-hand fork at the junction (GPS 55.66722 12.52497). In no time the trees part and a dramatic vista opens up. An avenue of lime trees frames the view up to Frederiksberg Palace.
Across the grass a small "nyboder" yellow house is home to public toilets. Cross the tree-lined avenue onto the continuation path, as if heading for the toilets, but when you come to a fork after 50m (GPS 55.66771 12.52313), take the left-hand branch through the trees. Stay on this path (straight over the first x-junction) for 300m to where it opens out again at the bottom of the hill.
At this x-junction (GPS 55.66882 12.51929), the path on the left leads out of the park. But we will take the path to the right across the open space to where a y-junction can be seen. Take the left branch of this y-junction and shortly you will come upon the "Kildegrotte" or "Spring Grotto" (GPS 55.66956 12.51932).
4 The grotto was built to be part of the Romantic 18th Century garden on the site of a natural spring. Originally the interior of the grotto was decorated with ore and crystals that added to the air of mystery.
Continue to the left, past the grotto, heading uphill. At the next t-junction (GPS 55.67014 12.51947), we will be turning right, but before you do so a set of steps on the left leads to a viewing platform which gives a sneak peek into a part of Copnehagen Zoo. This area, known as The Savannah, allows some, not so dangerous, animals to wander freely.
From the right turn at the t-junction, a 100m stroll brings you to a crossroads (GPS 55.66972 12.52077). Turn left to walk along the side of the zoo. After 200m the trees part and the facade of Frederiksberg Palace comes into view. Continue to where the path meets the trunk road of Roskildevej (GPS 55.67122 12.52506).
5 Looking south, back into the park, reveals a wide avenue of trees with a fountain flanked by two glass pyramids. These are the entrances to the "Cisternerne", an art gallery which occupies the space of a disused, subterranean reservoir. The reservoir supplied drinking water to Copenhagen from the mid 19th Century, to alleviate cholera epidemics, until the 1930's.
The tour continues on the north side of this busy road (Roskildevej), so for safety's sake use the crossing 100m west, opposite the zoo entrance (and the prominent black tower).
Frederiksberg Palace occupies a commanding place on top of Valby hill. It was built in the early 18th Century as a royal palace but fell into disuse in the mid 19th Century, when it was transferred to the Royal Danish Military Academy. The building is only open to the public one day a month.
6 Walk round the right side (east) of the palace (through the gate) to where a viewpoint gives a fine view over the City (GPS 55.67219 12.52657). The gardens are open during daylight hours every day. You can now either explore the gardens as you wish, and meet back at the gated entrance at Frederiksberg Runddel, directly opposite Frederiksberg Allé (GPS 55.67485 12.53146). Or you can be guided along the following itinerary.
OK still here. Stroll along the promenade in front of the Palace to the terrace overlooking the gardens. Enjoy the view down to the lake, fountain and beyond. Continuing in the same line along the terrace you reach the fence of the zoo. Turn right and then immediately left (GPS 55.67249 12.52433). This path winds along the edge of the zoo, but you soon find yourself passing an ancient Romanesque temple, the Apis Temple. Six columns support the porch, topped by a pediment with a relief of one angry looking bull.
Continue along this path to a junction (GPS 55.67406 12.52283). Straight ahead is a mound with a modern dolmen on top, known as the wishing hill.
7 To the left, a hop and a skip, brings you to the observation platform overlooking the zoo's elephant enclosure and elephant house. Interestingly the zoo's human visitors are just as much a part of the show as the elephants.
Return to the previous junction by the wishing hill and turn left and then left again. At the next fork in the path (GPS 55.67467 12.52267). take the right brach. The path snakes around following the canal. At the next crossroads turn right (GPS 55.67641 12.52360), which leads over the canal. At the next junction turn left, along an avenue of very knarled trees, to reach a wooden platform jutting out into the canal.
8 A rope ferry operates in late summer to give access to an island containing a heron colony. In spring and early summer this island hosts herons who nest in the trees and give the place an extraordinary, prehistoric, lost world, feel. Looking the other way the trees part to reveal the distant fountain and palace beyond.
Continue alongside the canal for just 20m to another fork in the path (GPS 55.67652 12.52730). The right fork leads to the Chinese Pavilion. This was erected in 1799 as a royal tea house when the gardens were converted from a formal layout to the landscape style of the day. It again operates as a tea house, but has limited hours only in summer. But if that is your moment then grab the opportunity.
Take the left fork over the bridge and continue along this path, ignoring side turnings until you reach a junction with a yellow building (toilets) appears on the left with a children's playground behind (GPS 55.67600 12.52964).
9 Turn right and soon you will reach a statue of Frederik VI and to the left the gated entrance to the gardens opposite the boulevard of Frederiksberg Allé (GPS 55.67485 12.53146). Go through the gates to the open space of Frederiksberg Runddel.
The tree-lined avenue of Frederiksberg Allé beckons ahead, but we will ignore it for now and come back to it later. Turn left along the busy road of Allegade. Very soon a path on the left becomes available that allows for a more peaceful promenade between the trees, rather than alongside the road. The houses along this stretch are of historical importance due to the proximity of Frederiksberg Palace, that is once the Dutch farmers had been "persuaded" to leave their farms.
The gardens, either side of Frederik VI's Allé (GPS 55.67674 12.53247), are known as Poets' Grove (Digterlunden), and contain busts and a statue of four poets with associations to Frederiksberg. The statue is of Holger Drachmann a bone fide bohemian poet who certainly lived up to that moniker. Continuing in the same line the next tree-lined oval is called Georg Carstensens Plads, after the founder of the Tivoli amusement gardens.
10 Crossing Frederiksberg Bredegade brings you to the cobbled plaza in front of the impressive, red-brick, Frederiksberg town hall, with its equally impressive clock tower (GPS 55.67809 12.53283). It was inaugurated in 1952 and the building and tower is open to the public one day per month. We will go back down Allegade a little way so cross the road at the traffic lights and turn right (GPS 55.67807 12.53347).
Continue down Allegade to almost opposite the statue of Holger Drachmann, where a drive on the left leads between two yellow buildings (GPS 55.67689 12.53309). This is the entrance to the Rose Garden. Walk through the Rose Garden and turn left (GPS 55.67673 12.53469) past the childrens kindergarten, to exit onto Hortensiavej (GPS 55.67718 12.53482). This street of (expensive) villas is typical of Frederiksberg.
Frederiksberg is an independent municipality, with its own council and major, completely surrounded by the municipality of Copenhagen. Three hundred years ago it was simply farmland, and it was only in the late 19th Century that the suburbs of Copenhagen started to envelop Frederiksberg.
Walk east down Hortensiavej to the junction with Edisonsvej (GPS 55.67688 12.53708), and turn right. Immediately on the right is the Edison building, originally built as an electricity works, but now houses a theatre stage. At the end of Edisonsvej turn left onto Hollændervej (GPS 55.67612 12.53674). At the end of Hollændervej we return to the villa lined street of Amicisvej (GPS 55.67598 12.53827).
11 Turn right and you soon pop out onto Frederiksberg Allé where the atmosphere instantly changes to a Parisian boulevard (GPS 55.67438 12.53750). Don your beret, and turning left stroll down the boulevard. You may want to do this more than once, hugging the pavement, breezing between the trees and the same on the other side.
After 200m, at the junction with Madvigs Allé (GPS 55.67407 12.54043). the Metro station for Frederiksberg Allé (Metro M3 line) appears on the other side of the road. If your legs have had enough then this is a convenient jumping off point. However if you want more then the tour will return you to your starting place at Enghave Plads.
12 Continue down Frederiksberg Allé at a gentle pace for another 400m where you come upon the circular space of St. Thomas Place (GPS 55.67329 12.54696). Two wells with columns adorned with statues face each other across the street. The one to the north represents a Dutch woman, in recognition of the Dutch settlers who moved here from Amager in the 17th century. The other represents a falconer, in recognition of the Royal Falconry which existed nearby.
Cross St. Thomas Place and continue to the end of Frederiksberg Allé. Here you meet the main road of Vesterbrogade (GPS 55.67264 12.54993). Vesterbrogade is the historic route to Roskilde which you have already crossed at Frederiksberg Palace. Before you cross Vesterbrogade you may wish to check out Værnedamsvej which reveals itself on the left. It is known for its restaurants and foodie shops.
Cross over Vesterbrogade at the pedestrian crossing and turn right (west), along Vesterbrogade. Take the third turn on the left (after 100m) (GPS 55.67221 12.54830) into Valdemarsgade, down which a church tower can be seen in the distance. Valdemarsgade has a mix of old and new buildings. Continue down the road, past St. Matthews Church, which is the oldest and largest church in the Vesterbro district.
13 The next major junction is with Istedgade (GPS 55.66793 12.54909). To the left Istedgade runs like an arrow straight to the Central Rail Station. To say Istedgade is diverse would be an uderstatement, you can experience it all, the low life and the high life. But our route takes us away from the bright lights.
Turn right down Istedgade and you will soon find yourself back at your starting point at Enghave Plads (GPS 55.66718 12.54606).
Notes on Carlsberg:
Carlsberg was founded by J. C. Jacobsen (1811-1887) who was a philanthropist and brewer. Carl was his son. Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914) was a patron of art and founded the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen to house his collection. It includes a fine selection of French Impressionist art.