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November in Copenhagen, Part 2: Art, Architecture, Ballet, and More

If you read my last post, you’ll know that my brother Andrew visited me in Copenhagen over Thanksgiving break. We had a great time on Thursday and Friday, having dinner with my visiting host family and spending some time at the botanical gardens and an art museum. Saturday, though, was Andrew’s last day in Copenhagen, so we had a very busy day planned. You won’t believe how much we fit in!

First stop was Freetown Christiania, a fascinating, unconventional community in the Christianshavn neighborhood, which is pretty close to my apartment. Going to Christiania really does feel like entering a different country; everything looks different from the rest of Copenhagen, and there are different rules to follow. We walked around a bit, saw one of Thomas Dambo’s giant sculptures, and visited a cool warehouse-like store. Taking pictures isn’t allowed inside Christiania, but we took a few just outside the entrance to commemorate our visit.

We hadn’t planned on visiting Christianshavn’s beautiful Vor Frelsers Kirke (Our Savior’s Church), but when our route took us past it, we couldn’t resist buying tickets to climb the iconic tower. I’m so glad we ended up doing this; I admire the tower all the time from near my Kollegium, but I had never gone up to the top. The golden staircase winds around the outside of the tower, so it was a little scary up there! Plus, the staircase doesn’t lead to any kind of a balcony; it just narrows and narrows and then ends! It was really fun, though.

Seeing Copenhagen from above really changed the way I looked at the city. From the tower, I could see inside lots of the little courtyards between buildings, and it made me realize that a huge part of the life of the city happens in these semi-private spaces. Plus, the view made me appreciate Copenhagen’s colors even more than I usually do; the city looks especially beautiful from above because most of its buildings are yellow or red, with red, green, or black roofs.

After that, we biked over to Rådhuspladsen to see Copenhagen’s beautiful city hall. I love this building. It’s covered with incredible, handmade details in stone, plaster, and tile, and each time you think you’ve found a completely repeating pattern, it changes slightly in its next iteration. I could spend hours there, examining and drawing all of the details, but we didn’t have too much time to spend there that day.

Next, we walked over to Nørreport Station to catch a bus. The next stop was a special request from Andrew; he had seen photos of Grundtvigs Kirke online and really wanted to visit. I was hesitant to add this to the agenda since it was a bit farther away from the center of the city, but I’m so glad we went. The church was designed by Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint and built in the 1920s. It’s an architectural masterpiece, built in a combination of Expressionist and Gothic styles and made almost entirely out of yellow bricks. We walked around admiring the architecture and listening to the organist practice, and then we spent some time sitting and drawing. I’m so grateful to have a brother who likes bringing his sketchbook to new places as much as I do!

On the way back to the center of the city, we stopped briefly at Assistens Kirkegård, Copenhagen’s most famous cemetery, to see the graves of Hans Christian Andersen and Niels Bohr. The cemetery itself is a beautiful place, with a central walkway lined by enormously tall trees, which always make me feel very small.

Niels Bohr’s grave at Assistens Kirkegård.

We hurried back to the city’s center to visit the Glyptotek before it closed. Glyptoteket is an art museum near Rådhuspladsen, and it’s one of my favorite places in Copenhagen. We didn’t get to spend that much time there, but we got to at least get a glimpse of the Danish and French painting collections as well as a lot of the ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian statues. Personally, my favorite part of the Glyptotek is the beautiful domed atrium in the middle of the building, which is filled with palm trees and feels fresh and tropical even during November.

When the Glyptotek closed, we took a walk along Strøget and went to a toy store to buy Andrew’s early birthday present from our parents: a LEGO set of his choosing! He picked out an awesome winter cottage set, which we were both very excited about. Here’s Andrew with his new LEGO set in his bike basket:

We biked back to my apartment for dinner and a short rest. Then it was time to head to Tivoli! I had seen a while back that they were going to put on “The Nutcracker” at Tivoli’s concert hall, and I knew that we had to go. The cool thing about this show was that the costumes and set were actually designed by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe, who is an artist as well as Denmark’s monarch!

We got to Tivoli just in time and were settling into our seats when everyone around us started standing up. We joined them, a bit confused, and then realized that everyone was standing up out of respect for Queen Margrethe, who had come to watch the ballet along with her son (Crown Prince Frederik), his wife (Crown Prince Mary), two of their kids (Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine), and Queen Sonja of Norway!!! What a celebrity sighting! They sat in the front row, part of the audience like everyone else, and we all settled down to watch the ballet.

Getting ready to watch the show!

The show was a delight, with excellent dancing and lovely music. I especially enjoyed the fact that the set featured silhouettes of some of Copenhagen’s most distinctive buildings, making this version of the ballet feel distinctly Danish. There were also a lot of very talented little kids in the ballet, and they were adorable and added great energy to the show! Overall, we had a great time at the ballet.

At the end of the show, Queen Margrethe even got up onstage to bow with the cast. She was part of the crew, after all! She seemed so sweet and genuinely excited to be there, and I could see why she is so well-loved by the Danish people.

Posing with a giant nutcracker!

When the show was over, we still had a little time to spend at Tivoli, so we went on a ride! It wasn’t quite the big scary ride we wanted to go on at first (that one had already closed), but we ended up getting our tickets for free since their machines were broken, and the ride was awesome anyways! I’ve always loved these swing merry-go-rounds.

Clearly, Andrew was very excited to go on this ride!

And with that, our day of adventures in Copenhagen was officially over. Andrew’s flight was pretty early the next morning, so he had to pack. I couldn’t believe how many activities we had fit into one day! It was great to get to see Copenhagen through someone else’s eyes for a few days; it definitely got me feeling a lot of appreciation for where I live, and ready to explore some more on my own. What a wonderful city!

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