Canals, palaces and a lovelorn mermaid await Copenhagen's romantic visitors

From its lovesick mascot, Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid, to the fairytale turrets of Rosenborg Palace, Copenhagen invites its romantic visitors with warmth and intimacy, with a charming mix of Scandinavian reserve and a clear lack of inhibitions. It offers starry-eyed couples hidden, secret places in the very heart of the city, in parks, gardens, and museums.

Take a walk up the unique spiral pathway of the Round Tower and see the red-roofed capital much as it would have seemed in the Renaissance. One of history's greatest lovers, Catherine the Great, made the trip by horse-drawn carriage! During summer or Christmas season, share the playfulness and wonder of Tivoli Gardens with a loved one, or hide out in the tropical Palm House of the Botanical Gardens.

Cupid awaits with bow and arrow at Thorvaldsens Museum, amongst many other impressive busts and statues; another of Copenhagen's art museums with a beautiful and romantic decor is Glyptoteket, where the greenery of the winter gardens is topped only by the delicious cakes in the museum's cafe. The Glyptotek was founded by the Carlsberg brewery magnate Carl Jacobsen, whose private gardens, J.C. Jacobsens Have, have only recently been opened to the public.

Take a boat trip on the city's canals, or take a paddle boat out onto the boating lake in Frederiksberg Have. During the summer, you could also visit the sumptuous gardens of Frederiksborg Slot - built in the English romantic style in the 18th-century - by boat across the lake. If the weather isn't on your side, go catch a movie--several of Copenhagen's cinemas still have old-fashioned "love seats" perfect for smooching on the back row.


Frederiksborg Slot
Photo courtesy of Palaces and Properties Agency

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.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Both gardens and castle have been wonderfully preserved as superb examples of the opulence of renaissance architecture.

Jane's expert tip: From mid-May to mid-Sept, it's possible to approach the castle by boat across the lake.

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Thorvaldsens Museum, a striking, classically columned building overlooking the canals across from Gammel Strand, is the oldest museum in Denmark, and houses the collection of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1884), who lived most of his life in Italy where he acheived great recognition for his classically-styled busts and figures. The museum opened in 1848, presenting not only Thorvaldsen's works but also his collection of 19th-century art and from Roman, Greek and Egyptian antiquity. The lavish building, the work of the celebrated Danish architect Bindesbøll, hardly seems Scandinavian, and a walk down the fantastically decorated corridors of the museum, with its strong colors and sharp light framing the sculptures on display, is quite an experience.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Thorvaldsens Museum is a fantastic example of 19th-century architecture, and houses some pretty awe-inspiring busts and sculptures.

Jane's expert tip: Don't miss Throvaldsen's famed sculpture, the romantic "Cupid and Psyche."

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One of Copenhagen's smallest parks, the private garden of brewery magnate J.C. Jacobsen is located in the Carlsberg Byen complex, the site of the old Carlsberg brewery, and is also sometimes called 'Akademihaven' or the Academy Garden, as the gardens were for many years part of the Carlsberg Academy; in fact, it's only relatively recently that J.C. Jacobsens Have has been opened to the public. The garden was designed in the English romantic style by the 19th century landscape gardener Rudolf Rothe, with much influence from Jacobsen himself, who collected many rare trees and plants on his frequent trips abroad. The entrance is found on the left-hand side of DANSEhallerne.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Beautiful and tranquil J.C. Jacobsen's Have is one of Copenhagen's more secret oases.

Jane's expert tip: Not to be confused with another garden in Carlsberg Byen, the Sculpture Garden.

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A canal boat is a great way to get around Copenhagen as well as the perfect means to take in some sightseeing. Two companies offers boat tours in Copenhagen, Canal Tours Copenhagen and the blue Netto Boats. The sightseeing boats of Canal Tours Copenhagen depart at regular intervals from a number of stops, most notably Nyhavn, and offer both self-guided tours and ones with onboard tour guide (languages offered include Danish, English, Italian, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish). While the shortest tours take you around the city's harbor, a longer trip takes you out to the island of Trekroner Fort, part of Copenhagen's 19th-century defensive ramparts. Cultural collaborations are also offered, with jazz tours and opera tours during Copenhagen's numerous summertime cultural festivals.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: See Copenhagen from a quite different perspective with a sightseeing tour by water.

Jane's expert tip: A hop-on, hop-off canal tour enables you to visit a number of sights around canals and harbor, all on the same ticket.

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Frederiksberg Have
Photo courtesy of Jakob Botter

Definitely one of Copenhagen's best parks as well as its largest, the romantic landscaped gardens of Frederiksberg Have date from the late 18th century and were built in the English style popular at the time. The long lawns and avenues of trees lead up to the royal Frederiksborg slot (now an academy for Danish military officers and not open to the public), and are hugely popular during summer for picnics and ball games. Paddle boats can be hired for fun on the park lake in season, and there is a large children's playground on one side of the park (restrooms can be found nearby). Other attractions include the Chinese pagoda and Apis Temple of 1802. A wilder expanse of public park, Søndermarken, extends southward from Frederiksberg Have, as well as the local zoo.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Frederiksberg Have is one of Copenhagen's largest and most varied parks.

Jane's expert tip: Try hiring a paddle boat or bringing a picnic to enjoy on the expansive lawn.

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Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Photo courtesy of Kim Nilsson

Arguably Copenhagen's most beautiful museum, the stunning building of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, situated at the back side of Tivoli Gardens, was built at the end of the 19th century by Dahlerup to house the growing collection of brewery magnate and art collector Carl Jacobsen, who named it 'glyptotek' after the Greek word for a repository for sculpture. With its leafy winter Garden as an indoor oasis, the Glyptotek is the ideal rainy day destination. In addition to the changing exhibitions, collection of 19th century Danish art and rooms upon rooms of Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, the Glyptotek's collection of French impressionist works, including important Gauguin paintings and sculptures by Degas and Rodin, is world class.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: With its stunning architecture and leafy winter garden, the Glyptotek is quite simply Copenhagen's most beautiful museum.

Jane's expert tip: The Glyptotek is free on Sundays.

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Nansensgade Quarter
Botanisk Have
Photo courtesy of Ty Stange / Copenhagen Media Center

A part of the University of Copenhagen's Natural History Museum, Copenhagen's botanical garden may be a place of scientific research and conservation value to the academics who nurture it, but to visitors, it is a vibrant, blossoming oasis in downtown Copenhagen. With trees, flowerbeds, a lake and a cafe, visitors are welcome to relax in the garden's natural ambience at no charge; however, as a research facility, there are strict rules about behavior: No running, cycling, climbing trees or picking flowers is allowed. If you can handle that however, enjoy the peace and if it's cold or raining, take cover in the garden's tropical areas.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: The Botanical Gardens are a quiet and verdant oasis in downtown Copenhagen that are open all year round.

Jane's expert tip: Don't miss the 19th-century Palm House - a wonderfully romantic refuge with a distinctly tropical climate.

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City Centre
Rosenborg Slot
Photo courtesy of

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.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: A fairytale castle in lavish parkland in the heart of Copenhagen, Rosenborg has everything you could wish for in a palace - including the crown jewels.

Jane's expert tip: Check out the ingenious speaking tubes in the Winter Room.

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The raucous cries that emanate from Tivoli Pleasure Gardens can be heard a few blocks away, and the fact that Copenhagen can support such a centrally-located funfair kind of sums up its resident's take on the work-play balance. Tivoli wasn't always in the middle of the city, however; when it first opened in 1843 it was situated just outside the city walls. With such a lengthy tradition behind it, it is hardly surprising that Tivoli has a refined dignity about it rarely found at any other funfairs around the world; it has always been a favorite with royalty and proved inspirational to Walt Disney when he visited with his wife. With some of its rides now almost a century old, Tivoli keeps up with the times with modern concert venues, gourmet restaurants and a recent focus on events, particularly its free Friday night rock concerts. Note that rides cost extra; you may want to buy a tour pass for the rides (worn as a bracelet) with your entrance ticket.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Even the most cynical lover couldn't fail to warm up to Tivoli's magic and its delightful mix of thrills and nostalgia.

Jane's expert tip: More than a funfair, Tivoli boasts some of Copenhagen's best dining and concert experiences.

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Rundetaarn (The Round Tower)
Photo courtesy of Morten Jerichau

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.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Enjoy climbing the unique walkway with your loved one and sharing the glorious view at the top.

Jane's expert tip: Visitors on Valentine's night can book a very special arrangement that includes refreshments.

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Meet Jane Graham

After touring most of Europe in her twenties, Jane was charmed by Copenhagen's relaxed tempo and moved there from her native northern England in 1999. Four young children at home has meant...  More About Jane