Travelling with older children in Europe is all about negotiation and compromise. In other words, trading off the galleries, museums, cafes and shopping with kid friendly activities. Copenhagen is a great city for that.
With everything within reasonable walking distance, the central core has lots to entertain adults and kids and is packed with European charm and Danish style. Almost right beside each other, near the downtown train station is the famous Tivoli Gardens beside the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum. Those two by themselves are easily a full day.
Start with the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek which primarily features antique Mediterranean sculpture. It equally noted, however, for its modern sculptures including what is viewed as the most important collection of Rodin outside of France. For paintings, the visitor can view French impressionists, post-impressionists and Danish Golden Age Painting. www.glyptoteket.dk for hours and admission prices. The collection was initially amassed by Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of the Carlsberg breweries. It has a pleasant café where you can get a bite of lunch or snack before heading next door for the kids. To Tivoli!
Tivoli welcomed almost four million visitors through its gates last year and it’s easy to see why. Opened in August of 1843, Tivoli’s fifteen acres of flower gardens, grassy lawns and water features include a variety of amusement park rides, concert hall, theatres, restaurants, midway games, and music concerts in the summer. Check out www.tivoli.dk for hours (usually opens at 11am), performance schedules and prices. On a nice day it would be fun to arrive in the afternoon and stay into the evening so you can enjoy some shows as well as the rides.
For a second day, Copenhagen is a fabulous showcase for Danish design, Scandanavian style and European elan. Across the street from Tivoli, starting at the Town Hall Square, is the eastern end of “Stroget”…a pedestrian-zoned shopping street that is a kilometer long and apparently Europe’s longest. Although always busy, it is family friendly, especially for younger children since there isn’t car traffic to worry about. Facing the Radhus Pladsen (town square) is a “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” museum with dynamic displays, interactive games and lots of interesting “facts”…believe it or not? It has a Hans Christian Anderson exhibit attached to it which showcases many of the Danish author’s classic children’s stories. Perhaps a bit cheesy, but the kids will be happy. Continue down the street, taking in the less expensive of Stroget’s shops, enjoying the street performers and sampling some snacks from vendors’ carts. Peek down some of the side streets as there are hidden delights like the National Museum.
It works well if you can aim to be halfway down “Stroget” by lunchtime because then you have two options with kids (that is if you make it past “Lego’s” flagship store). One option is to hang out around the Amagertorv Square which hosts performances by acrobats, magicians and musicians. Which is good for the kids. One parent can hang out with the kids while the other checks out some paragons of Scandinavian design: the Georg Jensen, Royal Copenhagen Danish Porcelain and Ilums Bolighus stores. A delightful place for an afternoon snack or lunch is the Royal Café, which is nestled in a courtyard between the Royal Copenhagen and Georg Jensen stores. You can nibble homemade and healthy options off your Royal Copenhagen china and take in the local scene. Or…if your kids will not do lunch Danish-healthy style, then head up Kobmagergade to the “Round Tower”. Or more precisely to an organic and healthy take on Copenhagen’s traditional mobile hot dog stand…” Den Økologiske Pølsemand”. You can choose between a range of dressings for your hot dog with a potato and parsnip mash on the side. While you’re there, pay a modest fee to walk (or run) off your hotdog and go up the Round Tower’s unique spiral ramp to enjoy the 360 degree views over the city. Enroute back towards the Amagertorv Square is the Post Office which has a nice museum on the third floor and interactive activities for little kids.
Even though the international brand shopping really begins in this section of the street and continues west up to the striking Kongens Nytorv Square which has the Royal Danish Theatre and the colourful Nyhavn canal district, Stroget is not just about shopping. On the side streets are dozens of churches, museums, palaces and galleries. Another day could easily be spent enjoying sights such as the Church of Our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke), (where the Danish crown prince was married), behind Gammeltorv Square, the court house at Nytorv Square, the Stork Fountain (Storkespringvandet) at Amagertorv Square and Nikolaj Church. Balance that with the “Guiness Book of World Records” museum near the western end of Stroget and your kids will be as happy with culture and shopping as mine were.
For a final and more active day downtown, you can walk or rent bikes to explore the canal streets and fishing heritage of Chistianshavin. After lunching at the well known “Lagkagehuset” bakery, continue along Havnegade, stopping for some trampoline jumping and ice cream along Havenegade’s waterfront. Continue through Nyhavn’s pubs and restaurants, and walk past Amalienborg Palace (residence of the Danish Royal Family) to see the changing of the palace guard and even further to see “The Little Mermaid” statue of Hans Christian Anderson fame. Somewhere in there sampling danish pastry is an absolute “must”. There are many good reasons why it’s called “danish”. They’re good at it!
A day trip from Copenhagen offers the perfect kid/adult compromise all in one stop. Taking the train to Helsinore is an easy one hour experience from the central train station. Once there a short walk along the water takes you to Kronborg castle which was immortalized as “Elsinore” in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the castle began in 1420 and the magnificent structure that exists today was mostly completed by 1640. Today the rooms are realistically portrayed so that visitors can get a sense of what life was like in the Danish Court at that time. In summer, if you time your visit well, there will be activities and plays for kids to be a part of. The adjacent small town of Helsinore is a nice place to explore while you’re waiting for your train back to Copenhagen. http://www.ses.dk/da/SlotteOgHaver/Slotte/Kronborg for hours, admission prices and special events.
Copenhagen can been seen in a couple of days, but to do it more justice and see some of the surrounding area, four or five days would be best.