By Jeff and Virginia Orenstein
Copenhagen is a delightful destination for a European vacation.
It is an endlessly fascinating coastal city that is filled with striking architecture, both new and old, and an almost-endless panorama of attractions. It also boasts excellent cuisine, a lively jazz scene and picturesque canals that rival those in Amsterdam.
Located on two coastal islands, Denmark’s capital city is so close to Sweden that the impressive Oresund Bridge routinely carries rail and highway traffic the 15 miles to Malmö, Sweden.
A compact city with a population of about 600,000, Copenhagen is a city that loves and accommodates its bicycles. About half of its workers commute by bicycle year-round and trains accommodate bikes for longer trips. Pedestrians need to be alert to bike traffic on the ubiquitous bike paths.
The city is known for its designer goods and upscale shopping. The Strøget pedestrian shopping street is a must-see and so is Pilestræde and the many side streets.
Food wise, Copenhageners love their gourmet hot dogs, smørrebrød open-faced sandwiches, cafes and upscale New Nordic restaurants. The area around Nyhavn is filled with restaurants and cafes and is a good place to watch the canal boats and for people watching.
Copenhagen’s walkable historic center is a great place to take in the city’s glorious past. Frederiksstaden, dating from the 18th century, is where you will find the Danish royal family’s Amalienborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace and Rosenborg Castle, surrounded by beautiful gardens and statuary.
Since Copenhagen can be expensive, we recommend getting a Copenhagen Card. It will give you museum access and transportation around the city and region.
Before You Go, Check Out:
Getting There and Getting Around:
Copenhagen can be reached by highway, air, cruise ship or train.
By air, Copenhagen Airport, Kalstrup (CPH) is only 8 miles from the center of Copenhagen and 15 miles from Malmö.
By car, Copenhagen’s freeways are connected to northern Europe but are congested. Due to heavy traffic, driving for tourism is not recommended in Copenhagen. Car-free supercykelstier (bicycle super highways) are being expanded.
By train, Copenhagen Central Station is in the heart of the city. It offers frequent service to the airport (15 minutes away) and is part of the extensive European train network.
By cruise ship and ferry, there are three main terminals in and around the city. All are linked to central Copenhagen by bus, metro or train.
Must-Sees for A Short Trip:
Among the museums, galleries and attractions that you should take in are:
The National Gallery of Denmark
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum
The National Museum
The flower and ride-filled Tivoli Gardens amusement park close to the Central Station and the famous Little Mermaid statue at the waterfront
The Little Mermaid at Langelinje Pier
The Christiansborg Palace, located on the island of Slot- sholmen, which contains the Danish Parliament Folketinget, the Supreme Court and the Ministry of State.
The freetown Christiania in the district of Christianshavn
The Botanical Garden
The Round Tower, the 17th century tower and observatory Rundetaarn
A combined narrated hop-on-hop-off bus tour and canal boat tour of the city
If You Have Several Days:
Visit the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. It is Denmark’s national museum for ships, seafaring and boatbuilding in the prehistoric and medieval period.
Take a train across the Oresund Bridge to Malmö, Sweden.
Visit Kronberg Castle in Elsinore, made famous by Shakespeare in Hamlet, a 40-minute train ride from Copenhagen.
See the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 25 miles north.
Ginny O’s Tips For Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way For Denmark:
Copenhagen is fairly casual, especially since so many Danes cycle to work. Bright colors are not fashionable. Since the weather is unpredictable, carry an umbrella or wrap.
This Destination at a Glance:
Over 50 Advantage: Superb museums, castles and parks, excellent shopping and dining
Mobility Level: Low to moderate. The city is flat and mostly accessible.
When to Go: Because Copenhagen is in northern Europe, winter days are short and summer days are long. The best time to visit is from March to September.
Where to Stay: You will find a wide variety of lodging across the price spectrum. Staying near the Central Train Station is convenient.
Special Travel Interests: Danish history, Danish modern design, urban cycling.
Danish Jews ARE a tiny minority of the nation’s 5.5 million people but have played a significant role in the country’s history.
The officially recognized religious community of Jews numbers about 1,800, but most estimates put the total number of Jews at about 8,000. Most of them live in or near Copenhagen and are integrated into Danish society.
The first resident Jews came to Scandinavia in 1622 when Denmark’s King Christian V invited Sephardic Jews in Amsterdam and Hamburg to settle there in a developing area. They continued to come, be tolerated and developed a flourishing community. By the late 19th century, they were given full civic equality.
There was some anti-Semitism in the early 19th century but, by and large, they did well in Denmark through the 19th and early 20th centuries, with Jews integrated into all aspects of Danish life including such luminaries as Edward Brandes, the nation’s finance minister, and Niels Bohr, the physicist.
The rise of Nazism saw an influx of about 4,500 Jews in Denmark escaping Nazi occupation in Eastern Europe. In 1940, Denmark was occupied by the Germans, putting an end to Jewish immigration.
As part of the Danish resistance against the Nazis, King Christian X supported Danish Jews despite the occupation and they were largely unmolested by Danes. In 1943, the Nazis took over the government and planned to export the country’s Jews. The underground resistance responded by protecting Jews and smuggling about 7,500 out of the country to Sweden and elsewhere. Only about 400 Danish Jews were ultimately captured by the Nazis.
After the war, Jewish life in Denmark returned to normal. There have been some anti-Semitic acts, but most are attributed to Muslim immigrants rather than native Danes.
The official Danish Jewish community is run by a council of elected delegates. They run the Jewish House in Copenhagen, which serves as a Jewish Community Center. Many Jewish organizations have Danish chapters and educational and senior services are provided within the community. Kosher food is available, and there are two Jewish cemeteries in Copenhagen.
Copenhagen has several synagogues. The Great Synagogue is home to the chief rabbi of Denmark. There is also a Reform and an unaffiliated congregation and a Progressive Jewish congregation in the Öresund region adjacent to Copenhagen and a Chabad congregation in Frederiksberg.
A tour of Jewish life in Copenhagen is available, which includes historical highlights, architecture and the Jewish Museum. See visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/jewish- copenhagen-gdk410212.
Jeffrey and Virginia Orenstein are travel writers from Sarasota, Fla.