Copenhagen, Day 2: Castles & Coasters!

We spent Easter weekend in Copenhagen, and B did a post on our first day there back in the spring which you can read about here: https://witzaboutus.com/2015/04/14/copenhagen-canal-tour/

We packed a lot into that weekend, so here’s day 2!

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Friday was the best day of the entire weekend, and I think one of the most memorable days we’ve had all year. We did both the Rosenberg and Amalienborg castles in the morning, walked around the city a lot more, and spent all evening at Tivoli Gardens with some friends.

First, Rosenberg Slot, or Rosenberg Castle. It’s a short walk from the Norregade metro station to Gothersgade, and the castle is in the center of the Kongens Have (or The King’s Garden) park. It was built in 1606 by Christian IV, and used as a summer residence for the royal family, and then only for the next century. Quite a bit larger than most of the summerhus you see around Denmark!

We did the Crown Jewels and treasure vaults first, as B and I knew those would keep the boys’ interest for longer. Like all other kids their age, they are obsessed with Minecraft (I taught them well!), and so anything to do with gems and gold and all that glitters is sure to excite their imaginations.

The treasure vaults did not disappoint – room after room of lavishly gilded weaponry and armor, exquisitely carved ivory, and fabulous royal Danish bling. It took us about an hour to thread our way through the rooms, gawking at all of the detail and wealth. The lowest and most heavily guarded area of the vaults contained the Crown Jewels and collections of massive gems, so the boys liked those the best. M wanted to know if there were enough diamonds in the entire building to make at least one diamond pickaxe.

Afterwards, we toured through the rest of the castle and living quarters. Most of the furniture and tapestries in the rooms were still intact and on display. Big difference from the candlelit white walls and whitewashed wood ceilings that characterize modern Danish homes. Can rooms this cavernous and decor this opulent still be considered hygge?

It was difficult to really picture what life would have been like in the castle – were all of these rooms actually used as living spaces? They felt so huge and impersonal. Was the family constantly entertaining visitors and guests? Were they just hanging out and playing parlor games? And after all of the money spent on the lavish interiors, couldn’t the King have sprung for a better toilet cover than just a hole in a wooden plank?

After the castle tours, we wandered up through the Kongens Have and found a delightful playground on the north side of the gardens, with a variety of unique balance beams, pylons, and notched posts for the kids to clamber across. I’ve noticed that Danish playgrounds offer much richer and organic play options than the traditional ones we are used to back home – they feel part of their surrounding environment, and the structures and elements invite play in more than one way.

Although our next stop was Amalienborg Palace (the current royal family’s winter residence), there were very few lunch options open because of the holiday. (There just aren’t a lot of cafes in that area anyway.) So we doubled back down towards Nyhavn, which was absolutely slammed with fellow tourists. Lots of sidewalk cafes and restaurants there, but no empty tables. Luckily, we found a small homey cafe with a few open spots. We split a few dishes (sorry, can’t even remember what we had!) and enjoyed a quiet, sunny hour away from the cold and crowds. E fell asleep on the bench and missed out on lunch altogether, but woke up in time for ice cream afterwards. It’s never too cold for ice cream!

Then we circled back around towards Amalienborg, just in time to see the changing of the guards in the massive plaza. There are four palaces here, originally built for four different noble families, but the royal family have resided in them since the late 1700s. Today, Crown Princess Margrethe and Prince Henrik stay in one of the palaces during the winter months.

We got to tour inside the palace that belonged to Christian IX and Queen Louise, and after the tour through Rosenborg in the morning, it was much easier to imagine life inside these rooms. Well, kind of. They are now overstuffed with photos and paintings and furniture and collections that show off he family’s various hobbies and interests, but you can still tell that people have spent time and enjoyed themselves and their guests here.

The kids were toured out after that, but they knew that they had a big treat planned for the evening – we were going to meet our friends from Billund at Tivoli Gardens to spend all night on rollercoasters and rides!

Tivoli is one of the most famous destinations in Copenhagen, and rightly so, as it’s also one of the most beautiful amusement parks we’ve ever seen. It’s the second-oldest amusement park in the world, and even though it’s regularly been updated since its opening in 1843, it still feels like it’s from another century. You know the nostalgia you feel when you walk through some of the older, original, and largely untouched areas of Disneyland? It’s like that, except with a wondrous Victorian feel throughout instead of Main Street, Frontierland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, etc. No surprise that Walt Disney was so inspired by Tivoli that he wanted to ensure that his guests at Disneyland would enjoy the same wondrous atmosphere.

There are some exotic elements and sights throughout Tivoli – a pagoda and Japanese gardens, an Indian palace topped with domes and minarets – but the overall aesthetic is somewhere between turn-of-the-century World’s Fair and 1960s pop-art. Geometric patterns and splashes of color, both verdant and architectural, catch your eye and ignite your senses, and then when the sun sets, the park erupts in twinkling light.

One of the most amazing things about Tivoli is that it’s in the center of the city, so when you get a grand view of the entire park, like from atop a coaster or the ferris wheel, you’re also taking in all of Copenhagen as well. Truly special, and something you don’t get at many amusement parks anywhere in the world.

Two worlds

Two worlds

And best of all, the park wasn’t that busy – especially for a Friday night! We were able to run through the lines to get on the same rides over and over again. The large majority of the rides were also fine for the boys, so we had a blast doing coasters and the ferris wheel and bumper cars and underground minecart tours complete with singing moles. M wanted to keep doing the Odin Coaster so we must have done it 5 times. We ended the night with cotton candy (or candy floss) for the kids, and left when the park closed before midnight, tired and happy from a very full day.

One last thought before closing out this (epic) post: found this in a store window and I think it captures our year in Denmark quite well!

IMG_3279

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