Apart from being a very pleasant morning boat ride around the waterways of Copenhagen, our canal boat tour set the direction for our afternoon bike ride. After exiting the boat, we headed straight down Frederiksholms Kanal and turned left along the harbour on the way to our first stop of the afternoon, the Amalienborg Palace precinct. We crossed over the canal entry point to Nyhavn without stopping, knowing that we were coming back this way later in the afternoon and could have a good look at this famous area then. On our arrival outside the palace area, our first priority was to get a coffee from the stand just before the entry path. The female proprietor was a friendly local who immediately recognised our accent wasn’t from ‘around here’. She had spent time in Australia and was on for a good chat about Australia and how much fun she had had there…the coffee addicts behind us in the line didn’t appreciate the slow-down in service.
There appears to be quite a few palaces scattered around Copenhagen but Amalienborg appears to be the Buckingham Palace equivalent; it is the home of the Danish royal family but other similarities with the English Royal’s home are few; except perhaps for the changing of the guard process. While Buckingham Palace is one huge building, this Danish Palace consists of four separate buildings built around an octagonal courtyard with the obligatory equestrian statue in the centre of Frederick V (1723-1766). This palace was originally built for local nobility in the mid 18th century but the Danish Royal Family were forced out of their home when Christianborg Palace was burnt down in 1794 and so purchased this estate.
The four palace buildings are the homes for different members of the Danish Royal family. As Australian tourists, some of our party were interested in where Crown Princess Mary was living and whether she would be interested in a visit from some unknown AustralianS dropping by for an early afternoon cup of tea. (For those interested, her home is in the Brockdorff Palace, the north-eastern building, on the right as visitors enter the court-yard.)
With no pre-planning on our part, we had arrived at the Amalienborg Palace complex just before the changing of the guard. There were large numbers of tourists in the courtyard at the time ready to photograph the pageant. I was surprised to see the ‘guards’ themselves had a number of local police guarding the guards from these inquisitive visitors. The church on the right in the photo above is called Frederik’s Church or the Marble Church. It is not part of the Amelienberg precinct and is in fact not made with marble but limestone blocks. It is a public church and is in high demand by young bridal couples in Copenhagen
After a slow inspection of the grounds of Amelienborg, we returned to our bikes and continued along the waterfront to a curious building that we had noted on our way past earlier that day; Vestindisk Pakhus or, translated, the West India Warehouse. It was built in the 1780s as a trade warehouse but today it houses the Royal Cast Collection, thus the presence of a cast replica outside the building on the foreshore of Michelangelo’s David. Unfortunately when we arrived here, we discovered that the building was closed and it was best to make a booking to see the contents.
One of the most interesting features of Copenhagen as a city is how much its last 400 years of defending itself from neighbours such as Sweden and Great Britain has determined the layout of the city. The map on the left below is from 1728 and is a good depiction of the results of the building of these military defences. The city at this time was largely surrounded by Bastions pointing in all directions to protect it from attack by land and sea. It also shows how the harbour was sealed off at night to protect it from invasion in the dark.
Our destination for the afternoon was the Kastellet, the citadel that was built beside the mouth of the harbour in 1648 by Christian IV. It is considered one of the best preserved fortresses in Northern Europe. It was part of the continuum of bastion ramparts the encircled Copenhagen at the time. The citadel was called St Anne’s redoubt. The Swedes carried out a siege of Copenhagen over 1658-1660 and as a result the Kastellet was rebuilt and extended.
After our failed attempt to check out the Royal Cast Collection, we made our way along Esplanaden and then took a right turn into the parkland around the Kastellet. It is still surrounded by moats and we gained entry to the ageing fortress by a long wooden bridge over water with lots of waterlilies that hadn’t been disturbed by war since the 1940s. German troops landed in the harbour in 1940 and took over this citadel without much opposition.
We entered the citadel and decided to go up on the walls and get a good view of the fortress and the surrounding area. In the first photo below, St Alban’s Church (the ‘English Church’), built 1885-7, can be seen on the bank of the waters that surround the Kastellet. The next photo looks back towards the harbour and shows a very impressive fountain that we missed inspecting up close. It is a large installation showing a group of oxen pulling a plow, driven by the Norse Goddess, Gefjon.
The Citadel of Copenhagen was a large fortress that required many hours of exploration to do it justice. Unfortunately we didn’t have that time in our afternoon so we had to keep moving towards our next destination, the Rosenborg Castle. We left by the wooden bridge over the canal and made our way up Bredgade which led us past the back of the marble Church and, I presume, the back entrance into the Amelienborg precinct.
We were riding on one of the main streets towards the Rosenborg Castle Gardens when a curious incident occurred that I am sure would not happen in other world cities. As I was riding, I came to an intersection with the red light against me. A bus pulled up beside me and the driver leaned out and calmly pointed out to me that I was on the wrong section of the road and I should move across in front of the bus next to the footpath. His politeness, helpfulness and recognition that I was a tourist I found very commendable.
We were happy to arrive at the Rosenborg Gardens (‘Kongens Have’ in Danish, translated as the ‘Kings Garden) for many reasons, the primary one being there was a café here where we able to get a coffee and a bite to eat. The map to the right was the map at the gateway to these gardens and the knife and fork emblem on the right-hand side indicates where our café was. The large lawn area in front of us was very crowded with what appeared to be University-age students playing all sorts of park games in cheerful groups. We had no idea if it was a special games day at the start of the semester but they certainly were enjoying themselves. Some groups were playing a version of Fiska that for some mysterious reason we had adopted at home in Australia as a park game for family picnics
After we had finished our late lunch, it was time to skirt around the Uni students playing picnic games and head in the direction of the castle, which is marked on the map as the #1 site in the garden on the opposite side of the park from our café. We took the diagonal path across the park, past the very dramatic statue in a fountain (#11 on the map) of the ‘Boy on the Swan’. It was created in 1837 by the sculptor, Hermann Ernst Freund.
From here it was a direct walk down an avenue towards the amazing Rosenborg Castle. It is described as a Dutch Renaissance Style Castle begun in 1606 under the direction of Christian IV and was completed in 1624. It was originally designed as a ‘summerhouse’ but only used as residence for ‘Regents’ up until 1710 and then only rarely by the Royal Family. One emergency use as a royal palace was after Christiansborg Palace was burnt down in 1794.
The castle is open for booked tours and houses a museum of royal collections and artifacts from the late 16th century and later. Of most significance is a treasury containing the Crown jewels and other Danish Crown Regalia. However, for us it was a very interesting stroll along the front of the castle, admiring the extravagant height of the castle and its gorgeous design. On our way back to where our bikes were parked, we passed our second statue of Hans Christian Andersen from our visit to Copenhagen (See photo as part of Scandinavia Menu… #10 on park map!)
By checking the map of our bike tour at the start of this blog, you will note the dashed lines that indicate our very straightforward path back to our hotel.
Our homeward route took us directly away from the Rosenborg Gardens straight down the main artery, Gothersgade, which eventually runs both sides of the canal in the Nyhavn area. Before reaching Nyhavn, Gothersgade runs past the largest public square in Copenhagen, Kongens Nytov (“Kings New Square”). It was part of Christian V’s plan to develop the city’s defences in connection with all the other work his predecessor had done with the citadel just down the road. Christian V’s equestrian statue is the centrepiece of this Square.
Immediately after the Kings New Square, we arrived at Nyhavn (“New Harbour”), a district centred around the canal that was constructed by Christian V from 1670 to 1675. It was apparently dug out by Swedish prisoners of War, with the aim of connecting the new square with the harbour. Despite its regal origins, the area for its first few centuries was not the most up market area given its high seafaring traffic of sailors looking for a good time after long periods at sea. Today its an upmarket area of bars, restaurants and lots of colourful houses and boats along the canal. It is also a key place in the Hans Christian Andersen trail as the great writer spent over 20 years living in houses next to the Nyhavn canal.
Our trail home to our hotel was very direct from here but we decided to complicate matters by riding along the harbourside to the next bridge (Knippels Bridge) and turning left so we could ride home along the other side of the main canal. The views were great but the cobblestones were not appreciated by our bikes so when we came to the next bridge over the canal, we turned back over the canal and had to be satisfied with a smooth ride without the excitement of new scenery.