Copenhagen hop-on hop-off Guide
Exploring Denmark's beautiful capital city in a day or two...
Although Copenhagen is another "city of canals", it is very different from any city you’ve experienced in Europe. Denmark's lovely capital is Scandinavian, which is a whole new ballgame – we’re talking clean and safe and easy to get around. We’re talking one of the world's most livable cities, with an excellent standard of living. We’re also talking some of the most exquisite food, fashion and design you’ll find anywhere. And, in contrast, exquisite history, cobbled squares and copper spires…
Cafés are abound, and offer delicious freshly baked goods to enjoy with your coffee. The canals are widespread, the shops modern and full of fascinating finds and the sights varied and exciting… After all, Copenhagen is the country’s cultural, financial and political centre, and it takes that role seriously. Yet it somehow manages to maintain the charm of a small village, despite being internationally renowned.
Take your time getting to know Copenhagen – it’s worth it. Hop onto a sightseeing bus and explore each of the routes separately, or combine one, two or all three of the routes for a more comprehensive look at the city’s charms. Wherever you go, whatever you do, adopt the resident’s laid back pace. Slowly, slowly, you’ll find its charm is grabbing hold of you. So much so, that when you leave, you’ll feel that pull to return. Sooner rather than later.
How much does it cost?
At the time of writing, a 24-hour ticket that combines all the three routes costs US$ 35.5 for an adult and US$ 17.5 for a child (5-15), or a senior.
All routes start from the same point, Tivoli and the Radisson Royal Hotel.
Red Line (Mermaid tour) departs from 10am. Duration: 1 hour
Yellow Line (Carlsberg & Zoo) departs from 10.15am. Duration: 30 minutes
Purple line (Christiana tour) departs from 11.15am. Duration: 45 minutes.
Places to see and things to do along the route
A) The "Mermaid Tour" (Red route):
1. As already mentioned, all three of the routes start off at the same point, Tivoli and Radisson Royal Hotel. This enables you to explore the city’s famous Tivoli Gardens at some stage. A combination of a pleasure park and a beautiful garden, it’s a great place to explore. First created in 1843, it’s a wonderland for kids and adults alike, with thousands of blooms, a merry-go-round, lots of activities and a fabulous Ferris Wheel adorned with hot air balloons. The largest rollercoaster in the country can be found here – The Demon reaches a top speed of 80km per hour! There’s also an Arabian-style palace, lots of restaurants, and a little lake where boats, ducks and swans float along. Come back in the evening to enjoy a pantomime at the famous Pantomime Theatre.
2. Hop off at the next stop to explore Rosenborg Castle, the National Gallery and the Botanical Gardens. Copenhagen’s exquisite 17th Century Dutch-Renaissance Palace boasts a number of beautiful rooms filled with decorative treasures, including art from the Royal collection and the Crown Jewels, on display in the basement. The city’s magnificent Botanical Gardens, created at the end of the 19th Century, are located on a lake that was once part of the Rosenborg Palace’s moat. Amongst the green houses here is the exotic Palm House, which is well worth a visit.
Just across the street is the Danish National Gallery, with displays of 700 years of Western art and cultural history. You will be able to see works by Rubens, Rembrandt and many other famous artists including more modern masters like Henri Matisse and Edvard Munch.
3, 4 and 5. The next three stops along this hop-on hop-off bus tour are all at Copenhagen's cruise terminal, at Langelinie Pier (Langeliniekajen) which is located about a mile from the city centre and boasts a beautiful seafront promenade and a park, as well as some lovely shops and cafés. This is where cruise ships from all over the world come to dock, which is why it’s also called The Cruise Pier of Copehnagen.
There is also a tourist information desk here, for those who wish to get more info.
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6. The Little Mermaid, Denmark's best known icon, is at your next hop off point. This statue is one of the city’s trademarks and probably the most photographed sight in the country. The statue was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's famous fairytale, The Little Mermaid. It was sculpted by Edvard Eriksen in 1913 and it sits on the rocks right off Copenhagen’s harbour, close to the Langelinie and Castellet cruise terminals.
7. Hop off at your next point to explore Gefion Fountain, the Resistance Museum, St Albans Church and the Kastellet. The Gefion Fountain was sculpted by Anders Bundgaard and depicts the Scandinavian goddess Gefjun (Gefion) who transformed her sons into oxen. The Museum of Danish Resistance (Frihedsmuseet) is dedicated to those who fought in the Danish Resistance during Nazi occupation in the country from 1940 to 1945. Inaugurated in 1995, it contains a number of fascinating displays, including letters from doomed members of the Resistance before they lost their lives, prison uniforms from various Nazi concentration camps, and equipment belonging to an illegal telegraphist.
St. Alban's Church was built by the city’s English congregation in the late 1800s and is a fascinating place to explore. Also in the vicinity is Kastellet, one of the best preserved star-shaped fortresses in Northern Europe , which was built in the 1660s by King Frederick the Third. The fortress was used for defence until the 18th Century, and as it is currently used by the Danish military, you can only explore the beautiful grounds surrounding it, but you won’t be able to visit the 18th Century barracks and chapel. There is a small lifeguards museum at the southern gate, and on the rampart itself you’ll find a historic windmill and enjoy a lovely view of the harbour and the Little Mermaid statue.
8. The next hop off point along the route is at Amalienborg Royal Palace where the queen, Margrethe the Second, sometimes lives. The palace, which has been home to the Danish Royal family since 1794, is made up of four 18th Century mansions that open onto a beautiful square. Try to visit around noon so that you can see the spectacular Changing of the Guard. You can also explore some of the palace’s rooms, including the study belonging to King Christian the Ninth and Queen Louise’s drawing room. Part of the Christian VIII's Palace is now occupied by a particularly beautiful museum that features private royal apartments and displays works of art and pieces of jewellery belonging to the Royal family. There’s also a costume gallery worth visiting.
9. Last stop on the Red Line is at Kongens Nytorv (King's New Square) and Nyhavn (New Harbour). The quayside at Nyhavn Canal is full of outdoor cafes where you can enjoy foaming beer and herring buffets – the author Hans Christian Andersen lived in numbers 18, 20 and 67 of the brightly coloured gabled houses along the quay, for most of his life. Nearby you’ll find Kongens Nytory, which was built in 1670 and is full of historic buildings, including the Charlottenborg Palace, a colossal Baroque-style town mansion which was built in the 1670s and is the oldest building on the square, Thotts Palace, which was built three years later (and is currently housing the French embassy) and the Harsdoffske Mansion, built in 1748.
There’s an equestrian statue of King Christian V in the square, which was created by the French sculptor Abraham-César Lamoureux in 1688 and is the oldest equestrian statue in Scandinavia. Copenhagen's students attend graduation ceremonies under the statue. Other fascinating buildings around Kongens Nytorv square include the pillared Det Kongelige Teater (Royal Danish Theatre), established in 1748, which is still used for ballet performances, and the century-old kiosk, built in Baroque Revival style with a copper-clad roof and hand-carved ornamentation.
B) The "Carlsberg & Zoo Tour" (Yellow):
Starts from 10.15am Duration: 30 minutes.
As already mentioned, this tour also starts from Tivoli and Radisson Royal Hotel. For more information on charming Tivoli Gardens, see details included in point 1 of the Red Line, above.
2 (10). First stop along the hop-on hop-off Yellow Line is at the Copenhagen Zoo, in Frederiksberg, west of the city centre. Over 3,300 animals and 264 species of birds are found here, including some from Greenland, and others from the plains of Kenya in Africa. You can see lions, elephants, reindeer and polar bears. The zoo is very popular, particularly on weekends.
3 (11). Next hop off point is at Carlsberg Brewery, one of the largest breweries in the world, founded in 1801 by Christian Jacobsen. The company boomed and donated millions to Danish museums and foundations. The renovated Visitors Centre takes guests on an entertaining tour of how beer is made and tells the story of Carlsberg’s global success.
4 (12). Hop off at the next stop to visit the Frederiksberg Garden, a huge park located in the suburb of Frederiksberg with English-style gardens, lots of pathways, lakes and canals. These are the gardens of the beautiful Frederiksberg Slot, a grand 18th Century summer palace. Also here is a fascinating museum of glass which is located underground in a former water cistern.
5 (13). Your last hop off point on the Yellow Line is at the area of Vesterbro, which is close to Istedgade Street and Halmtorvet Square, where you can enjoy plenty of chic cafés, bars and restaurants, modern fashion and design stores and interesting shops selling Pakistani, Turkish, Afghan and Middle Eastern food and goods. Also in the vicinity is the Museum of Copenhagen, where you can find out all about the city’s history through photographs, works of art, interiors and models.
C) The "Christiana Tour" (Purple):
Starts from 11.15am Duration: 45 minutes.
This tour also starts from Tivoli and Radisson Royal Hotel. For more information on charming Tivoli Gardens, see details included in point 1 of the Red Line, above.
1 (14). The first hop off point along the Purple Line is at the Copenhagen Mariott Hotel, which is convenient for those who are staying in an hotel around this area.
2 (15). Next stop along the route is at the Christiansborg Palace and the Tøjhusmuseet (Royal Danish Arsenal Museum). These and a number of other historical sites are all located on Slotsholmen, a small island separated from the city centre by a moat-like canal. A selection of short bridges link the island to the rest of the city.
The centerpiece of Slotsholmen Island is the huge Christiansborg Slot, which is home to the Danish parliament, the Supreme Court, Prime Minister’s offices and Royal Reception Rooms. The palace’s main courtyard was used as a Royal riding ground. It contains a statue of Christian the Ninth on a horseback, as well as the stables and the carriage buildings, built around 1730, which you will be able to explore. You’ll see riders exercising the Royal horses and interesting coaches used by the Royal Family since 1778. In the palace you can explore the Throne Room, Banqueting Hall and Queen’s Library, as well as the domed church, Christiansborg Slotskirke.
Also on the island is the Royal Danish Arsenal Museum (Tøjhusmuseet) which boasts guns and weapons used by the army and the navy. It’s located in the old Arsenal which was built by King Christian the Fourth to store canons and other weapons. The 156-meter-long Arsenal Hall is worth taking a look at – it’s the longest arched Renaissance hall in Europe, and you’ll see old Danish canons and more recent types on display here, while in the Armoury Hall you’ll see a number of small arms and edged weapons, some dating back as far as 1300.
Other places-of-interest on Slotsholmen Island include the Theatre Museum, which details the history of the Dane theatre, and Thorvaldsen's Museum, which houses many of the creations of Bertel Thorvaldsen, an 18th century Danish-Icelandic sculptor of international fame (Both museums are within the Christiansborg Slot compound), as well as the Danish Jewish Museum, which tells the story of Denmark's Jewish community in the last 400 years and memorializes the story of Danish Jews who were saved from Nazi persecution by their fellow Danes in October 1943.
3 (16). Hop off the bus at the next stop to explore Christianshavn and the Church of Our Saviour. Located on Christianshavn Island, Church of Our Saviour (Vor Frelsers Kirke) is one of the most famous churches in Denmark, as one can climb the 400 steps including 150 golden stairs outside, to the top of its magnificent spire, for an unparalleled view of the city. The magnificent church is named after King Christian the Fifth, first monarch on the Danish throne to have absolute power. Inside the church you can see the chains of the Order of the Elephant and the Order of Dannebrogen on the ceiling, and an exquisite organ supported by a relief of two elephants. Christianshavn itself is the city’s charming bohemian-style canal quarter, first established in the early 17th Century. It’s filled with a network of canals lined with a combination of public housing complexes and period warehouses, home to an interesting mixture of residents.
4 (17). Hop off the bus to explore Freetown Christiania in Christianshavn. This alternative society was started in 1971 by a group of hippies. These days it’s a semi-legal community with its own rules, flag and currency. You can enter Freetown Christiania through one of two entrances, and enjoy a taste of freedom, Copenhagen-style.
5 (18). Next stop is at Copenhagen Opera House, located on the harbour. Designed by the architect Henning Larsen in 2004, it’s an unusual building that resembles a flying saucer with its white floating roof. The luxurious opera house seats 1,700 people and is home to the Royal Danish Opera. It’s been created out of precious stones and metals, including over 100,000 sheets of gold leaf.
6 (19). Next stop along the route is at the Naval Base on the islet of Nyholm, which was built in 1745. Here you will find the historic Nyholm Central Guardhouse that guarded the passage between the Custom House and Nyholm. This was where important guests to the naval base were received. Built in the Baroque style, it has a large ridge turret that holds a clock given to Frederick the Fifth. The furniture inside the guardhouse belonged to a former Royal ship, called Slesvig.
7 (20). If you’re in the mood for some entertainment, hop off at the Casino Copenhagen, not far from the city centre. The casino is part of an international hotel, Radisson SAS Scandinavia, which also boasts a number of bars, restaurants and a fitness centres.
8 (21). Your final stop on the Purple Line is at the hop-on, hop-off point for all three routes on the Copenhagen tour, next to Tivoli Gardens. This enables you to explore the city’s famous Tivoli Gardens at some stage, or embark on one of the other two routes – the Red Line or the Yellow Line.
And here is something that is well worth knowing about: Taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is one the best ways to explore any large city, as it saves you lots of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY to those places you really want to visit... (Not to mention the great views you can enjoy from the open top...).
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