Denmark is located between continental Europe and the rest of Scandinavia. The country is made up of over 400 islands, the largest being Zealand. Geographically, Denmark is green and flat, but you are never far from the sea. At one time, the Danish ruled most of Scandinavia, and the Viking culture strongly influenced the area. In fact, when we visited Oslo, we found that many of the historical buildings there had been constructed under the auspices of the "builder king" of Denmark, Christian IV.
I never realized how close Denmark was to Sweden until we sailed to Copenhagen from Oslo. At the closest point, the two countries are separated by only a couple of miles. Since the straits between Sweden and Denmark are so narrow, cruising into Copenhagen was quite scenic. Copenhagen is one of Europe's most dynamic, interesting cities. It is the largest city in Scandinavia, with over 1.5 million residents.
The spirited city of Copenhagen is ideal for exploring. The city is a favorite for cruisers, and is easy to navigate on foot, with interesting shops or historical buildings around every corner. The main shopping area, called Strøget, is a series of charming streets leading to designer shops and inviting cafes. One thing that Copenhagen doesn't have is a lot of skyscrapers, so numerous church spires punctuate the skyline. A half-day tour of Copenhagen will usually include a narrated bus tour of the city, photo stops at a couple of scenic areas of the city, a boat ride around the harbor and canals of Copenhagen, and stops at the two castles described below.
This castle houses the Danish Parliament. Although the castle is also a royal palace, Queen Margrethe II and her family use Christiansborg for receptions and galas, not as the royal residence.
Queen Margrethe II and her family live at this castle. We did not get to go inside, but enjoyed looking at the 4 identical buildings that make up Amaliensborg. We also found the guards' attire interesting and reminiscent of the guards at Buckingham palace in London.
Our guide was excellent, and we all enjoyed the stories about Danish history and the monarchy. The Danish monarchy is related to many of the other royal families throughout Europe, and the true-life "soap operas" about the royals had us all enthralled.
Strøget is a huge pedestrian shopping area in the center city. In addition to the shopping at Strøget, cruisers have another more convenient shopping area at the cruise ship pier in Langelinie. The old promenade building on the wharf was converted to a number of small shops and a tourist information center. You won't have to carry your purchases far!
Copenhagen is very popular with cruise ships, with many spending the night at the dock in order to give passengers time to enjoy the city at night. Other cruise ships use Copenhagen as an embarkation point for cruises to the Baltic and the rest of Scandinavia.
If you are spending the night in Copenhagen, you should take the short taxi ride from the pier to Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen's most popular tourist area. This wonderful amusement park becomes a magical fairyland at night, when all of the lanterns give the park a wonderful glow. The gardens and park were opened in 1843, and Tivoli was on the outside of Copenhagen. Now it seems to be almost at the city center. The gardens are filled with flowers, and the amusement park is filled with rides and games. There is a small admission charge, but we thoroughly enjoyed wandering around Tivoli, stopping at the outdoor shows, and watching the people. There are numerous taxis outside the entrance so returning to the ship late at night is easy.
Scandinavia is one of the most expensive areas of Europe to visit, so a cruise really helps keep the cost down since your "hotel" and meals are included. If you are planning a cruise to the Baltic and Scandinavia, be sure to go ashore in Copenhagen and see the sights!