Tivoli is Copenhagen's Pride and Joy
Tivoli is the pride and joy of Copenhagen. For over 250 years tourists have been flocking here to visit and enjoy the various amusement rides and
games. Children will be delighted with the merry-go-round where Viking ships take the place of the standard horses and other animals. No matter what day of the week, there always seems to be some sort of musical event taking place at the Tivoli whether
it's a rock concert or a parade. The Arabian-style fantasy palace houses numerous
restaurants in addition to a beer garden. The opulent gardens are bursting with color as tulips are everywhere one looks. During the evening hours the scenery is just as amazing with over 100,000 Chinese colored lanterns lighting up the Chinese pagoda and main fountain. On many evenings brilliant fireworks light up the sky. Copenhagen is also renowned for its many fine dining and shopping establishments. After a delicious Danish meal, tourists can head out to any of the numerous jazz clubs or opt to dance the night away under the stars at any of the
city's happening night spots.
It’s official: Denmark
is the world’s most contented country. The diminutive nation tops most
happiness studies with Scandinavian reliability. It’s easy to see why:
standards of living are sky-high. Transport runs on time; summer houses on
the beach are the norm (there’s an abundance of sandy shores); cycle
paths thread through the cities, forests, dales and wetlands; restaurants
in Denmark serve up some of world’s best (and freshest) grub.
Cafe-cruise in laid-back Copenhagen,
has been named the best restaurant in the world. Book
your table at Noma. canoe the fjords of North
Jutland or hire a bike to tackle the 11 national cycle routes, and
find out what they’re smiling about.
June to August boasts good weather and many open-air festivals;
Roskilde (www.roskilde-festival.dk), the biggest, is in early July.
Copenhagen s Tivoli Gardens -- an amusement park, restaurant Mecca, and cultural hot spot all tied up together in one package -- is the city's marquee attraction. And for good reason.
The 160-plus-year-old park is not only an icon of history but also the place that inspired local -- and equally legendary -- writer
Hans Christian Andersen to write "The Nightingale." It also inspired an even more significant revolutionary: It is said that Walt Disney got the idea to build Disneyland, his first amusement park, after visiting Tivoli Gardens.
Tivoli opened in 1843, the brainchild of Georg Carstensen who at that time was required by law to request permission from Denmark's King Christian VII to build his "romantic amusement park." His mission wasn't entirely for the greater good; according to lore, he told the king that when people were amused they were far less likely to engage in political revolt. From the beginning his concept was to create a place where local folks could enjoy music, alehouses, restaurants and amusements. That concept lives on today.
The park is located in what was originally Denmark s countryside, just outside the fortified walls of Copenhagen (which no longer exist) and along the city's moat (part of which was used to create a lake in Copenhagen Tivoli). But by the 1880's, Copenhagen had outgrown its own walls and Tivoli became part of the city.
Today, Tivoli is location -- right in the heart of the city, between the central rail station and city hall -- is one of its charms. After all, how many amusement parks are located in the center of an urban metropolis, even if it wasn't planned that way?
Beyond its storied history, there are many more relevant reasons for today's travelers to experience Tivoli -- and on my series of visits in August it was apparent that Danes of all ages, from families with young kids to couples in love, also consider Tivoli a worthy hangout. By day (or, at least on weekdays), Tivoli is a mellow place. By night it becomes magically transformed.
So much so that some cruise lines have incorporated late-night stays (and even overnights) in Copenhagen into cruise itineraries so passengers will have the opportunity to experience Tivoli. Ship-sponsored "tours" (generally just a shuttle service between the park and ship) are usually available, but plenty of taxis are also on hand, and park staffers speak English, so it's easy enough to explore independently.
A couple of tips:
During the summer, Tivoli typically opens at 11 a.m. and closes at midnight (later on weekends). Most of the entertainment -- concerts, Tivoli pantomime performances, etc. -- are held at night. Once you know your travel dates, you can check for more specifics about entertainment on
Tivoli's Web site.
Tickets cost 85 Danish Kroner for adults, about $18 U.S. or 9.5 GBP at press time; check www.xe.net for the most recent currency exchange information. Kids under 12 get in for about half that. This price includes entrance for a full day and night and admission to regular entertainment, such as the pantomime or various music performances (but not special concerts).
What is not included? Rides require between one and four tickets (about $2.25 apiece). Also a la carte are meals, symphonic performances in the Tivoli Concert Hall Copenhagen, arcades and gambling.
Cruise lines calling in Copenhagen on a daily visit will offer tours to Tivoli that basically include transportation (a motorcoach shuttle) and the basic admission fee (Celebrity's is priced at $20 per person, for example; Holland America charges $29). But Tivoli is fairly easy to reach independently, and is a pleasant walk from downtown. From the ship's dock, it's a 10-minute taxi ride (and taxis are plentiful to return you to the pier).
As a result of spending a day, a night, and then another day (I'm mesmerized), plus a return visit in summer 2008 in Tivoli Gardens, here are 10 reasons why you simply must visit.
1. Feel Like A Kid Again
One of the first things you'll see when you enter the park is the historic, 19th-century Pantomime Theater, whimsically decorated in an Oriental style (when the park was designed, Oriental themes were wildly popular in Copenhagen). You'll walk down sandy pathways toward funky fountains (in one there's a bubbling water-in-tubes display) and lush gardens of wild roses along with much flora and fauna. There are twinkling lights (even during the day) and sidewalk cafes -- and puppeteers performing and dancers twirling. I suddenly felt as free and deliriously energetic as I had at the age of 6 -- and all before I even got to the arcade and amusement park rides!
Despite its lofty reputation and central location, you could walk by the outside of the park and never know this it's there! I'll grant that it doesn't look too enticing from the outside, surrounded as it is by urban mini-skyscrapers of sorts and stubby hotels (not to mention the quite unromantic Hard Rock Café, which sits on a corner of the property). But don't let that dissuade you. And once you walk through the gates -- you're transported to another world.
3. The Demon and Other Rides
The park may be historic – and indeed features rides, like the merry-go-round, that are odes to tradition – but the Demon (Daemonen in Danish) is purely contemporary. Let's put it this way: Speeds register as fast as 80 kilometers as the cars shoot through three loops on a Denmark's highest full-circuit roller coaster. It's floorless so there is no brace for your feet. And you will be flipped upside down at least twice. Intrigued? It's not the only ride (and we paraphrase from Tivoli's Web site) that "will turn you upside down, throw you around, or drop you from a great height." Thrill seekers should also check out The Golden Tower (Det Gyldne Tarn); it's 63 meters high and exerts minus 1G-force as it descends from the golden cupola at the top to the ground below (and then rises again, in a series of bungee jumping-like moves).
Most of the people who got off after a ride on Dragon (Dragen), which swings you vertically, horizontally and flips you upside down, seemed exhilarated by the experience -- but a couple of women collapsed into the arms of friends, weeping in terror. Consider yourself warned.
For young kids, there are plenty of options as well; the Nautilus, new in 2008, is a virtual reality ride that takes travelers below sea level; there's also a classic Ferris wheel, dragon boats and more. And the park has even maintained its traditional roller coaster, a wooden ride that requires workers to sit in the last car to actively brake when it goes too fast.
4. The Romance
On my visits I spotted not a few smooching couples. Sure, this is a great date place for teens, but these folks were in their 40's and beyond! Best spots? By the lakeside or on the Ferris wheel.
5. The Pantomime Theater
Spectacular! Every day there are at least two scheduled performances of various pantomime productions, and it's worth arriving early as seats are limited (though you can also stand and watch). Pantomime is the art of "not speaking" -- at least verbally -- and as it's played here, the performances include over-the-topic makeup and fabulous music (there's even an orchestra pit below the stage complete with orchestra). On my visit, "Harlequin's Triumph" was accompanied by tunes from Strauss, Mozart and Gounod. Admission is free.
5. The Restaurant Scene
One big surprise on my first visit was that the park houses one of Copenhagen's many Michelin-starred restaurants -- and it is worth a visit to Tivoli for the culinary experience alone. The Paul, helmed by a British chef who married a Danish girl and brought her home, features Scandinavian classics with a lighthearted and contemporary touch. The restaurant, located in a big old conservatory, has an ambience like a summer getaway all on its own. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and boasts a superb wine list. Plan to splurge, though; Copenhagen's prices aren't thrifty to begin with!
Otherwise, there are plenty of options from fast food vendors selling stand-up snacks to coffee bars. But what's intriguing about Tivoli is that, beyond The Paul, there are a number of very nice restaurants, perfect for a long lazy meal. I've tested out the tasty stone oven pizzas at La Vecchia Signora (there's an outpost in the city, too). You can also dine on Pasta and risotto here. Cafe Ketchup offers a Scandinavian buffet. Hard Rock Cafe has nothing whatsoever to do with Copenhagen -- but there's one here, anyway, if all-American fare fits the bill.
And there's one more: A newcomer to the scene is Nimb, an over-the-top, beautifully restored Moorish-style building on the edge of Tivoli, home of the park's first onsite hotel (13 gorgeous suites), wine bar, dairy, chocolate factory, gourmet shop and fine-dining restaurant called Herman's. ( one of the many famous
Michelin star restaurants in Copenhagen ). My favorite nosh there, though, is Restaurant Nimb where you literally sit in the kitchen as chefs prepare your food. Try the chicken salad -- best ever. There's a nice wine list. And, if you're lucky, try to snare a table on the adjacent patio; it looks over the Tivoli Gardens and the Pantomime Theater. On my recent visit I got to watch a pantomime rehearsal as I sipped a glass of summery rose.
6. Gardens and Pathways
The 16-acre park has numerous gardens and pathways, not to mention Tivoli garden s Lake , that emerged from the original moat that was here (though, seriously, Tivoli should clean 'em up). The Tivoli park offers a daily guided tour among the some 110,000 blooms, for a charge, that's led by staffers. The English tour is available at 3 p.m.
At night, with all lit up, the park is at its most magical -- and if you can keep eyes prised until midnight, there's an evening fireworks display.
8. Cultural Arts
The Tivoli Concert Hall is the hub of the park's cultural scene and offers a huge range of options, depending on the timing of your visit (try to secure tickets in advance). In 2008, it served as a summer home to the New York City Ballet, hosted the annual international piano competition, welcomed soloists ranging from vocalists to pianists, and offered chamber music concerts.
The structure itself, built in 1956, is oddly gaudy from the front, with varied-colored panels. It's a strange look but you can't miss it! A refurbishment in 2005 incorporated an aquarium into a new foyer; to tour it requires a separate fee (and you don't have to stay for a concert!).
While by no means would we suggest bypassing Stroget, Stockholm s mercantile hubbub, to browse at Tivoli, there are still some nice boutiques at the park selling touristy but fun souvenirs, like Scandinavian giftware and teddy bears. However, one boutique that is simply not to be missed is Illums Bolighus. The Denmark design chain (it has bigger stores in other locations in Copenhagen) offers representative wares from all the fantastic Scandinavian and Nordic designers, including Finland's Iittala, Sweden's Orrefors, Denmark's Minima -- and many more!
10. Christmas Market
Though Tivoli is best known as a summer playground, it's also open at Christmastime, and is even more festive during December. It's ablaze in lights all day, seasonal decorations abound and a full-fledged Christmas market sells all manner of tchotchkes. Interestingly, in the past few years, cruise lines like the U.K.'s P&O and Cunard have been offering a handful of seasonal cruises to Scandinavian market cities in December.
Ultimately, we're not saying that you should bypass Copenhagen's fine historic attractions to while away the day at Tivoli (or are we?) -- it's just that I can't think of a more delightful way to spend a day or evening.
And here's a tip: If you are embarking or debarking your cruise in Copenhagen, it's a great place to pass a few quiet hours (the city's central rail station, which not only has a quick train to the airport but also will store luggage for a fee, happens to be right across the street!).
What do you love best about Tivoli? Or, if you haven't been, why can't you wait to go? Tell me at
The short story about Tivoli Copenhagen DenmarkFrom the very start, Tivoli included a variety of attractions: buildings in the exotic style of an imaginary Orient: a theatre, band stands, restaurants and cafés, flower gardens, and mechanical amusement rides such as a merry-go-round and a primitive scenic railway. After dark, colored lamps illuminated the gardens. On certain evenings, specially designed fireworks could be seen reflected in Tivoli's lake.
Composer Hans Christian Lumbye (b. 1810 - d. 1874) was Tivoli 's musical director from 1843 to 1872. Lumbye was inspired by Viennese waltz composers like the Strauss family (Johann Strauss I and his sons), and became known as the "Strauss of the North." Many of his compositions are specifically inspired by the Tivoli gardens, including "Salute to the Ticket Holders of Tivoli , "Carnival Joys" and "A Festive Night at Tivoli ". The Tivoli Symphony Orchestra still performs many of his works.
In 1874, Chinese style Pantomimeteatret (The Tivoli Pantomime Theatre) took the place of an older smaller theater. The audience stands in the open, the stage being inside the building. The Tivoli theatre's "curtain" is a mechanical peacock's tail. From the very beginning, the Theater was the home of Italian pantomimes, introduced in Denmark by the Italian Giuseppe Casorti. This tradition, which is dependent on the Italian Commedia dell'Arte has been kept alive, including the characters Cassander (the old father), Columbine (his beautiful daughter), Harlequin (her lover), and, especially popular with the youngest spectators, the stupid servant Pierrot. The absence of spoken dialogue is an advantage, as Tivoli is now an international tourist attraction.
In 1943, Nazi sympathizers attempted to break the Danish people's spirit by burning many of Tivoli's buildings, including the concert hall, to the ground. Undaunted, the Danes built temporary buildings, and the park was back in operation after a few weeks.
Tivoli is always evolving without abandoning its original charm or traditions. As Georg Carstensen said in 1844, "Tivoli will never, so to speak, be finished," a sentiment echoed just over a century later when Walt Disney said of his own Tivoli-inspired theme park, "Disneyland will never be finished as long as there is imagination left in the world."
Did you know that there are just as many adventures to be had in Tivoli when it is raining as when the sun is shining? And that as a Tivoli guest you can get a discount in Q-Park’s parking facilities?