Our moms were having a great time on our Europe trip and so were Stephanie and I. Copenhagen is a beautiful city. It is no surprise that Denmark is the 2nd happiest country in the world. Despite it being a rainy and gloomy Copenhagen morning, we had a great time on our early morning canal tour. Our busy morning was to continue with Sandeman New Europe free copenhagen walking tour. Free walking tours are another great, low budget, way to get to know a new city. Every free walking tour I have been on has been led by a knowledgeable tour guide that knew enough about the city to lead a more traditional tour. So we made our way to City Hall Square for our free walking tour.
Generally free walking tours request that book the tour ahead of time. While there is no charge for reservations, they do this so they can get a general idea as far as number of people who will be on the tour. This allows them to send more tour guides if necessary, to ensure a decent guide to tourist ratio. However, even if you forget to make reservations, you likely will not be turned away. I have never seen a free tour turn away a last minute walk up. There are two companies that run free walking tours in Copenhagen New Europe and Copenhagen Free Tours; I booked with the latter but we accidentally joined the wrong group (they both start from City Hall Square), but we did not come to regret it.
The first tour of the day starts at 10am, but there are also tours that leave at 11am, 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm. Tours are offered in both English and Spanish. Keep in mind that the tour guides on free tours make their money through tips. From what I have seen from free tours generally people tip close to the equivalent of $10 USD.
Copenhagen Walking Tour
Free walking tours are very popular. Even in February there were a good 20-25 people in our tour group. Our tour guide was born and raised in Copenhagen, and very much loves the city and the country as a whole. She told us how Denmark is the 2nd happiest country in the world and her goal for the tour was to show us why this is the case. Ultimately, her goal was to make us fall in love the country, and she was damn good at it. I have never seen someone so patriotic. She truly loved her country, her government, and everything that they provide to their citizens. She even was happy about the 55% income tax rate because of all of the benefits Denmark provides its citizens. It honestly left bewildered, I don’t think I have ever seen that much governmental support even from the most patriotic Americans.
Copenhagen’s History (*Spoiler Alert* it always burns down)
One great thing about our tour guide (I wish I could remember her name) is that she really knew her stuff. It is really that way with all New Europe Guides. New Europe ensures that its guides pass a test about the city and are trained before giving their own tours. Past, present, and maybe even future they tend to know it all. Throughout our walking tour started at the founding of Copenhagen in the 11th century. But we didn’t get into the real nitty gritty of Copenhagen until we got to King Christian the IV. Under his reign he significantly expanded the City of Copenhagen and built one of its most notable landmarks, Rosenborg Slot (Castle). Christian IV grew Copenhagen to the point where it became the primary city of Denmark and one of the major ports of its time.
Then the 1700s happened. If you are ever asked a questions about Denmark at trivia night…. the answer has to be it burned down. Denmark has a long proud history of burning down. At no time Denmark’s prowess at burning down on more desplay than the 1700s. Between 1728-1807 Copenhagen suffered 3 significant fires. All of the three fires destroyed significant portions of the city. Though they rebuilt after each fire some buildings ended up getting destroyed multiple times (especially if you include the Napoleonic Wars).
Of course there is good that came out of this destruction. As Denmark rebuilt they rebuilt they city to last. They implemented laws limiting the amount of wood allowed in buildings, but most importantly the rebuilt in the bright beautiful colors that denmark is now known for.
During our Copenhagen Walking Tour, our guide was adamant that Copenhagen was the best place to live in the world. Between healthcare, education, and quality of life, she believed that copenhagen had it all, and she was doing a great job convincing us. But when it comes down to it, the Danish People are happy because Denmark really has its shit together. In 2018 Denmark rated as the least corrupt country in the world and the fifth safest. They also have universal health care, progressive environmental policies, and free higher education. On top of all of this the Queen of Denmark illustrated the Danish translation of the Lord of the Rings.
We learned there are lots of reasons to love Denmark, but one of the most fascinating is hygge. Hygge is a Danish word made to describe the Danish lifestyle. While this word roughly translates to cozy in Engish, the Danish have made it a way of life. Hygge is the warm cozy contentment and well-being you gain through the simple things in life. Through our tour guide we really got a good grasp on hygge. It really isn’t something that Americans who place a high value on status and money can easily grasp. Most Danish people only care about feeling fulfilled by what they do. They don’t care about how much money they make, about having power, they just enjoy life. Whether it is the many beautiful parks, going for a bike ride, or spending some causal time in with your friends or family.
It is really about enjoying the beauty and intimacy of the little things. It truly makes denmark one of the most fascinating western cultures.
We did actually go on a Copenhagen Walking Tour
With all I am talking about how fascinating Copenhagen and Denmark are, you might forget that this post is actually about a tour. I promise you the tour did happen. I just wanted convey how much knowledge and passion our wonderful tour guide provided us. The tour started at City Hall next to the dragon fountain and continued through the heart of Copenhagen. You will walk past Christiansborg Palace and Chapel, the Royal Danish Theater, the famous Nyhavn waterfront, the Marble Church, and the Amalienborg Palace.
Agnete and the merman
All of these sites were absolutely fantastic, but the coolest things you see on this tour are those you likely wouldn’t see on your own. Like Agnete and the Merman. Agnete and the Merman are underwater bronze statues. These statues can be found underwater in the Canal next to the Højbro Bridge. Placed here in 1992 this work of art depicts one of Denmark’s most well known fairy tales (well other than the little mermaid). As the story goes Agente was walking by the Sea when a Merman emerges from the water and asks Agnete to marry her. Obviously when a merman asks you to marry him you can’t say no. She accepts marries him and has seven sons (Mer-sons?).
Seven or eight years later she hears the Church bells ringing and asks to be able to go above water to see her family. Her husband let her go above ground provided that she did not look in a mirror, did not talk to her family, and most importantly did not pray at church. Agnete, of course, does all three of these and because of this she cannot go back to live with her family underwater. According to our tour guide, the statue depicts her seven sons reaching up towards the land longing for their mother.
While writing this I looked up the story online. As these type of folk tales go, they are different depending who you hear it from. I read 5 different versions of this tale online, and some of them say she chose not to go back. While others say she could not go back. Regardless this is a rather haunting tale and an often overlooked site in Copenhagen.
Our Copenhagen Walking Tour was one of the best tours I have ever been on. It was highly informative, our guide was fantastic. You cannot help but fall in love with Copenhagen after a tour like this.