Video by Kristen Boatright | Copenhagen, Denmark
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7 Top Things to Do in Copenhagen

by Donna Heiderstadt | November 30, 2016

From the colorful 17th-century houses of Nyhavn to the rococo splendor of Amalienborg Palace, the capital of Denmark is a city many cruisers fall in love with before they even step foot off the ship. Copenhagen has charm to spare, including the iconic statue of a lady cast in bronze who sits on a rock in the harbor. Add in a world-renowned food scene and an amusement park like no other and this Scandinavian port can end up on your top 10 list in a heartbeat. Here are the 7 best things to do in Copenhagen.

1. Stroll Nyhavn.
Meaning “new harbor," Nyhavn was built almost 350 years ago as a commercial port for fishermen. Today Nyhavn is lined with restaurants and bars and is an ideal spot to enjoy a stroll or people watch on a sunny afternoon while sipping a local pilsner. You’ll also find carts selling smoky, spicy pølse, the Danish version of the hot dog.

2. Cruise the canals.
To get the best perspective on the city and its range of architectural styles, hop aboard a canal boat (enter at Nyhavn or Holmens Church) for a 60-minute tour. Have the camera on your smartphone ready as you motor into Christianshavn and the landmark serpentine steeple of the 17th-century Church of Our Saviour comes into view.

3. Be entertained at Tivoli Gardens.
It is said that Walt Disney was inspired to create his theme park empire in part by a visit to this centrally located Copenhagen landmark, an open-air amusement emporium extraordinaire. By day, Tivoli charms with nostalgic Victorian-era structures and vibrant landscaping, and by night it stuns with canopies of twinkling lights. And while it may be retro — it dates to 1843 — there are plenty of modern thrill rides, too.

4. Visit the Little Mermaid.
You may be surprised when you arrive at Langelinie Pier (a half-mile walk from the cruise terminal) that The Little Mermaid is indeed little. Commissioned in 1913 by beer magnate Carl Jacobson as a gift to the city and sculpted by Edvard Eriksen (who used his wife Eline as a model), the four-foot-tall statue is an homage to Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about a mermaid who falls in love with a prince.

5. Get a taste of why this city is a foodie favorite.
From Michelin-starred “new Nordic” eateries such as Noma (closing at the end of 2016), Studio, and Geranium to traditional local dishes such as smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches topped with herring, beef, egg, or shrimp), Copenhagen’s culinary chops make it a must-visit on any foodie’s world tour. If you have a sweet tooth, bakeries along the Strøget, the city’s main pedestrian shopping street, will sell you a snegl (a swirled cinnamon bun) or tebirkes (flaky poppy seed pastry, some with marzipan filling) that will leave you wanting more.  

6. Explore the National Gallery of Denmark. 
Known locally as the SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst), the National Gallery of Denmark is a great place to pass a few hours on a rainy or blustery day. Its permanent collection spans eight centuries of European art and includes a number of works by French artist Henri Matisse.

7. Witness the changing of the guard. 
Every day, Denmark’s Royal Life Guards (known as Den Kongelige Livgarde) march from their barracks near Rosenborg Castle (which houses the crown jewels and is worth a tour) through the streets to Amalienborg, a complex of four identical classical palaces. Here, there’s a ceremonial changing of the guard, typically at noon, but it varies in grandeur depending on whether or not the royals are in residence.

Donna Heiderstadt

Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.

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