Copenhagen's city hall was inaugurated in 1905, designed by architect Martin Nyrup and inspired by the city hall of Siena, Italy. (The previous city hall had been located in the old court house building, 'Domhuset'). While its red brick facade is imposing it's nowhere near as memorable as its Italian inspiration; to make the most out of a visit, take a walk up the tower - one of the highest in the city - and check out Jens Olsen's Verdensur, an elaborate mechanical astronomical clock containing 14,000 parts that took 20 years to make, being completed after clockmaker Olsen's death. The City Hall is a popular spot for weddings and its square (when not overtaken by the current construction site for the new Metro line) a popular meeting spot, particularly for New Year's Eve celebrations. As well as ringing in the New Year, the clock can be heard every day at noon on national radio DR.
Medieval Sankt Petri Kirke, a German Lutheran church in Copenhagen's Latin Quarter, is Copenhagen's oldest surviving church and was built as a single-nave church in the mid 1400s; its noticeable spire was added in the 17th-century, when it was also substantially expanded to serve its rapidly growing congregation. Like much of inner Copenhagen the church suffered in the great fire of 1728, but survived: It was less than successful keeping its support during the Schleswig War of the 1800s, tense times between Denmark and Germany. Since 1994, the church has been under the care of the state-run Palaces and Properties Agency and completely restored, though it is still used by Copenhagen's German-speaking congregation. A school, Sankt Petri Skole, is also attached to the church.
Located on Slotsholmen's embankments, Copenhagen's old stock exchange is one of the city's finest examples of renaissance architecture. Its placing was intended to impress foreign merchants arriving in Copenhagen by sea, as an example of the city's new-found wealth and power. Along with the Round Tower and Rosenborg Slot, it was built during the reign of King Christian 4 (1577-1648) and was home to the Danish stock exchange until 1974; in its glory days, however, it would have appeared as a real market place, with merchants selling grain and other wares from its exchange hall (added in 1858) - today used occasionally as a venue for banquets and conferences. The building's twisting spire rises almost 200 feet above the Copenhagen skyline, and is made up of four dragons, their tails twisting upwards, culminating in a spear and three crowns to represent the Kalmar Union.
Carlsberg Visitor Centre is basically a 90-minute self-guided tour through two centuries of brewing history in 10,000 sq.m of former production halls and includes a visit to the stables--though the dray horses only pull the brewery carts for show these days--as well as to the peaceful Jacobsen's Garden, with its collection of sculptures. It ends on the first floor of the Jacobsen brewhouse in the centre's bar, where you can exchange the vouchers handed to you at the beginning of the tour for a beer or soft drink of your choice. Worth visiting even if you're not interested in beer, simply to learn more about fascinating arts patron and entrepreneur Carl Jacobsen. With the exception of the small Jacobsen brewhouse, brewing no longer takes place on the premises, and instead Carlsberg Byen is being developed as a cultural quarter. Children are welcome when accompanied by an adult.
A masterpiece of elaborate baroque architecture, Frederiksborg Slot was built in the early 1600s on the orders of King Christian 4. The castle - located near Hillerød north of Copenhagen - has been home to Denmark's National Museum of Natural History since 1878, and the lavish oil paintings of Danish kings, queens and other nobility merge wonderfully with the ornate grandeur of the palace setting. With its fairytale turrets, Frederiksborg Slot is made all the more wondrous by its lake and gardens, a kind of 'Nordic Versailles' with elaborate, box- tree monograms and fountain. Both the Romantic and Baroque Gardens - 'Frederiksborg Slotshave' - are located on the other side of the lake north of the castle.
One of the best preserved renaissance castles in northern Europe, Kronborg Slot in Elsinore, north of Copenhagen is visited every year by thousands of tourists who want to see inside the real-life location of Shakespeare's fictional tragic prince, Hamlet. To Danes, this 16th-century castle is equally famous for the life-size statue of Holger the Dane that sits on his throne in the castle casemates. Should Denmark ever need him, so the legend goes, Holger the Dane will rise and come to his countrymen's aid. The castle's strategic importance in the 1500s and 1600s was immense, as it was built on the narrowest part of the sound between Denmark and Sweden, where the Danish kings became rich on 'Sound Dues' paid by all vessels that passed through. More than 200 feet long, Kronborg's banqueting hall is the largest in northern Europe and has been wonderfully restored, its walls rich in 17th-century paintings.
Amalienborg is actually a group of four Rococo palaces built around an octagonal square by royal architect Nicolai Eigtved in the 1750s. Of these, Queen Margrethe lives in Christian IV's palace with her husband, Prince Consort Henrik while Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary have lived in Frederik VIII's Palace since 2010, together with their children. Part of Christian VIII's Palace is open to the public as a museum (Amalienborg Museum). In the center of the square is the imposing statue of Frederik V on horseback, a costly commssion by French artist Jacques Saly. The public are free to walk around the square, though respect is expected; no sitting on the palace steps, for example. Changing of the guards takes place daily at noon.
The Rundetaarn dates back to 1642 and is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. Built on the orders of Christian IV, it forms one-third of the scholarly Trinitatis Complex, the other two being the university library and church, Trinitatis. As well as providing its visitors with a great view over the old city from its top, the tower possesses one unique feature: its spiral walkway. This lack of stairs provides the backdrop for one of Copenhagen's most well-known stories; in 1716, Catherine the Great was said to have ridden to the top of the tower in a horse-drawn carriage with her husband leading on horseback. There is a small admission charge for visiting the tower; whilst here, take a breather in the museum cafe and look at the changing exhibitions located the former university library. The Round Tower makes a great venue for wintertime star-gazing as well as chamber music concerts.
There aren't many castles that actually look like the trademark Disney one, with fairytale turrets raised high over Copenhagen's other rooftops, but Rosenborg does, and stone lions guarding the entrance, too. This castle was built as the summer residence of 'builder king' Christian IV in the 1600s, back when this part of the city was still considered countryside. The last king to live here was Christian IV's successor Frederik IV; instead, it has acted as a museum since 1838, making it one of the world's earliest. Its most viewed exhibits are the crown jewels, located in the basement, but don't miss out on other attractions, including the splendidly Baroque Marble Hall, a celebration of the era of Absolute Monarchy began in 1660. Surrounding Rosenborg is stately Kongens Have (King's Gardens), one of Copenhagen's most attractive parks.
Christiansborg Palace dominates Slotsholmen, where it all started back in the 12th century when Bishop Absalon built a castle in the midst of bogland and herring fishermen. Christiansborg is shared equally by the Danish state and its monarchy and is the seat of Denmark's Parliament, Folketing. Within its walls are the remains of four other castles: two were destroyed by fire in 1794 and 1884 respectively; the present Christiansborg dates from 1907-28. In the vaults, the ruins have now been completely excavated and are open to the public. For those more interested in recent history, it's possible to take guided tours of Folketing as well as the Royal Reception Rooms. Surrounding Christiansborg are a number of other museums, including the Royal Arsenal, Danish-Jewish Museum and the Royal Carriages.