Set right at the beating heart of Copenhagen is one of it’s best known, and most loved, attractions: Tivoli Gardens.
It holds the claim to being the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world (the oldest, Bakken, is actually just a short train ride outside Copenhagen). Tivoli manages to be beautiful, enchanting, wonderful fun, and not the slightest bit cheesy (Disney take note).
Whilst there are rides a-plenty – from the gut-churning variety like the one where you sit in a replica of a tiny plane and are hurled in a 360 degree arc at terrifying speed and then spun around a bit for good measure, to toddler-pleasers like the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang type cars that trundle around a small track at 4 miles per hour – for us Tivoli is just as much about escaping from the city for an hour or two without actually going anywhere.
Of course, we are lucky enough to be able to visit when we like (with season tickets) and so can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the beautifully landscaped gardens and the lake. It is so expansive, and so well-designed, that you can almost forget you are right in the centre of Copenhagen (except when you catch a glimpse of the red brick Rådhus looming above the fence behind the kids playground).
As I mentioned already, Tivoli has something for everyone. So, for determined thrill-seekers, grab a ticket that includes all the rides, and go for it, you’ll have an amazing day. For those with younger kids (or those for whom a Virtual Reality rollercoaster really has no appeal!) then get a regular entry ticket, and then if you want to try out one of the more sedate rides, you can buy multiples of the single tickets at the machines dotted around the park (be warned though, the basic rides require only one ticket (25kr at the time of writing) but others require 2 or 3, and costs can quickly mount up – we usually limit our kids to one or two of the smaller rides each, but even that gets pricy, so think about what you want to get out of your visit and how long you will stay).
The childrens’ playground at the back of the park is excellent, and our kids can happily while away at least an hour in there if not more. There’s a convenient cafe kiosk inside the playpark, and underneath is the Rasmus Klump pancake house for hangry kiddos. Right next door is a well-equipped family restroom/baby change. If you time it right you can then catch one of the family-friendly shows at Rasmus Klump’s little house adjacent to the playpark. Rasmus Klump is a cartoon character beloved of Danish children, but not really known outside of Denmark. That said, the 10 minute vignettes are really sweet and can still be enjoyed even without understanding what the characters are talking about.
Dotted around the park are several options for eating out, from casual to higher end restaurants, but given the high costs of eating out in Copenhagen we usually either bring a picnic or limit ourselves to an ice-cream (maybe a beer or a glogg for the adults, depending on the season).
Speaking of seasons, much of the appeal for both tourists and regulars alike is the way that Tivoli changes its appearance (and to a certain extent, the entertainments on offer) according to the time of year.
In the run up to Christmas, it is bedecked with twinkling lights everywhere you look, there is a Christmas market, and plenty of stalls dispensing glogg (mulled wine) and hot chocolate. This February, to celebrate 175 years since it first opened, Tivoli also had an additional few weeks of winter opening, with an ice rink and an indoor ‘sledging’ and play area for the kids.
Easter marks the beginning of the main season, and the park is decorated with chicks, eggs and spring flowers. In the height of summer, there are free concerts in the main open Plaenen area, with smaller bands appearing on Thursdays (little Friday!) and more well-known bands playing on Friday evenings (last summer I was lucky enough to see Erykah Badu and Brian Wilson, amongst others – this year I am beyond excited that a-ha will be playing at the end on July. Swoon.)
Halloween brings still more seasonal dressing up, last year included an interactive zombie station where you could take a selfie with a CGI zombie by downloading the Tivoli app.
There is also the newly-opened Tivoli Food Hall (opposite the central train station) – accessible from inside the park and from the street, which has options catering to all tastes and budgets.
All in all, a quintessential Copenhagen experience not to be missed.
Happy 175th birthday Tivoli…I am quite sure you’ll still be delighting visitors in another 175 years…