Five Awesome Attractions You Must See when in Copenhagen, Denmark

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“Why did you come to Copenhagen?” asks a character in Michael Frayn’s play, Copenhagen. Well, why wouldn’t you? It’s a glorious, sophisticated city, a good introduction to Scandinavia, and a destination that is well worth your time. The wealth of culture and entertainment options in the city is overwhelming, but here are five attractions that should be first on the agenda.

5 Freetown Christiana

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Freetown Christiana might be described as an experiment in collaborative living, a hippie commune, a colony of artists and free thinkers, or an outlier in the middle of Copenhagen. None of these descriptions really articulate what this community — an “independent” entity in the heart of the city — is like. When you pass under the wooden painted gate that marks the entrance to Christiana, you really do feel as if you’ve left Copenhagen. You can count on seeing brilliant murals on walls, brightly painted and curiously decorated houses, restaurants serving organic, vegan friendly food, and little shops and vendors selling truly unique clothing and crafts. And yes, if you’ve ever wanted to see a marketplace where marijuana is out in bins like produce, you can visit Pusher Street and do that too, but it’s one small facet of Christiana — and one that is technically illegal, and an ongoing point of contention with the Copenhagen police.

4 Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

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This stunning 1880s museum was built to house the personal art collection of Carl Jacobsen, namesake of Carlsberg Brewery. While the collection focuses on sculpture, it does not do so exclusively, and the museum has impressive holdings of Danish, French, ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek art. There are large collections of bronzes by Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas, in particular. Even if you’ve overdosed on art already, you might want to visit Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek just to relax in the winter garden. Wandering through the lush indoor space, replete with fountains and greenery, is a special treat in the middle of a snowy, gray Copenhagen winter.

3 Amalienborg

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Amalienborg is one of the Danish royal family’s official residences; four separate palaces; one cobblestone square. The Danish Royal Guards — whose uniforms might remind you of those of the Buckingham Palace Guards in London, but have a slightly different color scheme — are always on patrol. If you’ve ever wanted to see a changing of the guard ceremony, Amalienborg is the place to do it: patrols switch out several times a day.

2 Tivoli Gardens

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This beloved amusement park has been open since the 19th century, and there’s a reason why: it’s fabulous. From the ornate entrance arches to the 1914 vintage roller coaster, history abounds at Tivoli, but the park also offers some fierce newer rides. Tivoli also has several performance venues, a special Halloween season, and a charming Christmas market.

1 Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid) statue

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The title character of Hans Christen Andersen’s fairy tale just can’t win. In the original story she dies. In the Disney version, she’s surrounded by singing fish. Her sculpture in Copenhagen, which sits on a rock just off the shore in Langelinie, easily qualifies as the most consistently mutilated statue in Europe. The poor girl has been splashed with paint, her head has been cut off several times, she’s been blasted off her rock perch, she’s been dressed in various outfits by pranksters and protesters alike, and every day she has to contend with tourists who navigate rocks and shallow water to stand with her for photo ops. What’s sad is that beyond all the levity, this is a haunting, poignant, very well rendered depiction of a tragic heroine. You’ll want to take a photo with her, but you’ll also want to grab some images of her alone as she stares sadly out to sea.

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