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Denmark is well known as being the birthplace of H. C. Andersen, children’s most beloved fairy tale author. Even though he was born in Odense, H. C. Andersen actually spent the majority of his life in Copenhagen. In fact there are several Copenhagen landmarks that played a strong impact on his life or appear in his stories, which can be visited today. Plus several landmarks were enacted posthumously to commemorate him.
In this article I’ll share with you a walking itinerary for the landmarks and places that have a connection to H. C. Andersen. If you are in good shape and used to walking, this itinerary can easily be completed in one day.
Start your day by the Little Mermaid, or den lille Havfrue, as she’s known in Denmark. Based on Andersen’s fairy tale by the same name, this little statue has been waiting on a rock at Langelinie since 1913.
First published in 1837, the story follows a young mermaid who’s willing to give up her life at sea for a human prince she fell in love with. She sacrificed her life as a mermaid to become human, however the prince did not love her and married someone else. The statue depicts the sad mermaid sitting on the rock waiting for her prince.
Carl Jacobsen, the son of the Carlsberg founder, commissioned the statue in 1909 after seeing the Little Mermaid ballet at Copenhagen’s Royal Theatre. He had the ballerina model for the head of the statue, however she would not pose nude, so the sculptor’s wife posed for the body.
During Expo 2010, the city agreed to move the statue to Shanghai and showcase it at the Danish pavilion. This was the first and only time the Little Mermaid left its place since its installation in 1913.
Having said that, the statue is very small, only 1.25 meters tall and alway surrounded by tourists. Thus it’s best you visit it as early in the morning as possible, which is why I suggest you start your H. A. Andersen itinerary here.
Once you’ve seen the Little Mermaid, make your way down to Nyhavn. Only a 10 minute walk away, this canal dates back to the 17th century when King Christian V wanted to create a gateway from the sea to the inner city. At the time Nyhavn was a commercial port populated with international ships and sailors visiting pubs. Today, it is a tranquil place with expensive restaurants and many tourists. And for this reason I suggest you visit Nyhavn early in the day to avoid the afternoon crowds.
When it comes to H. C. Andersen’s connection to Nyhavn, you may be surprised to learn that he lived on this canal not once, not twice, but three times! The first time, he lived at number 20 between 1834 and 1838. He later returned to Nyhavn and lived at number 67 between 1845 and 1864. Then, five years later in 1871 he returned to Nyhavn for one final time. This time he lived at number 18 until shortly before his death in 1875. Today, you can find a memorial plaque at number 20 and 67, while number 18 hosts an H. C. Andersen-dedicated souvenir shop.
Once you’ve explored Nyhavn, walk towards Kongens Nytorv Square and go to Kongelige Teater, or The Royal Danish Theatre. Dating back to 1748, the building was enacted in Baroque style with painted ceilings and opulent decor. While it used to be the only theatre venue back in the day, nowadays the Royal Theatre is one of three venues and it’s mainly used for ballet performances. Tickets are subsidized by the government and very affordable, so if you’re in town I highly encourage you attend a show.
Back in 1820, it was here where 14 year old Hans Christian Andersen took a job with Royal Danish Opera Chorus soon after moving to Copenhagen. In addition to being a choir singer, Andersen also worked as an extra in various plays. But sadly, his voice changed shortly afterwards and he was dismissed from Kongelige Teater in 1822. When that happened, a colleague at the theatre told him to take up writing, while the theatre’s director, Jonas Collin, helped him obtain a scholarship to study at a school in the town of Slagelse.
However that was not the end of Andersen’s connection to the Theatre and its director Jonas Collin. Collin and Andersen remained in touch, and Collin’s son, Edward, later became Andersen’s editor and the beneficiary of his entire inheritance. Some have even suggested that Andersen was in love with Edward, however he did not reciprocate Andersen’s feelings.
Throughout his time living in Copenhagen, H. C. Andersen would attend the theatre almost every night. Since early childhood he had an immense love for the theatre and during his time living in Copenhagen, Andersen always stayed within walking distance to Kongelige Teater.
Across the street from the Royal Theatre you will find Hotel d’Angleterre. Dating back to 1755, this is one of the first luxury hotels in the world. Sadly the original building was destroyed in the fire of 1795, but the hotel has been rebuilt. Since the 1870s, they have renovated and expanded the hotel several times.
Later in Andersen’s life, when he was more established financially, he spent some time here. He lived in various rooms for some time upon his return from international voyages in 1860. It was also at Hotel d’Angleterre where Andersen celebrated his 50th anniversary of arriving in Copenhagen.
Today the hotel is open to guests and features Marchal, a 1-star Michelin restaurant, in addition to other amenities. During Christmas season, the hotel is beautifully decorated, so make sure to stop by and check it out if you’re in town. However, staying at this hotel is very expensive. In fact, Hotel d’Angleterre is the most expensive hotel in Copenhagen by far.
Also at Kongens Nytorv Square, right beside Hotel d’Angleterre is Magasin du Nord, a popular department store which occupies the entire building. However, back in the day, the building was known as Hotel du Nord. It was on the third floor of this building in December 1838 that Hans Christian Andersen moved to after leaving Nyhavn 20 due to poor conditions. He stayed here in a humble suite until 1845 when he moved to Nyhavn 67.
Interestingly, a few years later in 1870, Magasin du Nord came down from Aarhus and opened a store in the rooms H. C. Andersen had previously rented. The store quickly expanded and took over the entire hotel.
That being said, Andersen’s presence has not been erased. On the third floor of the department sore, there is a small museum. Here you can see Andersen’s old room where he wrote some of his fairy tales. You can also see artefacts related to the store’s history, as well as olympic team uniforms from the 20th century. The museum is located on the third floor, it is open Thursdays through Sundays and entry is free.
From Magasin du Nord keep walking down Strøget until you reach the Stork Fountain at Amagertorv Square. The fountain was commissioned in 1888 to commemorate the 1894 silver wedding anniversary between Crown Prince Frederik VIII and Crown Princess Louise. The fountain was unveiled to the public in 1894.
There is a large stone basin at the bottom of the fountain which collects water from three small cascades on the sides and from the bronze bowl at the top. Inside the fountain there are water-spewing frogs, the pedestal is embossed with aquatic plants, and most notably, towards the top there are three storks ready to take flight in different directions.
Although the inspiration behind the fountain is unknown, there are similarities with Andersen’s story The Storks. In the story, the author mentions “the pond is where all the human children lie till the stork comes and fetches them to their parents.” And you can see that in this fountain with the large pond at the bottom and the storks above it. However, they could both be inspired by folklore as the stork has long been a symbol for happiness and fruitfulness waters. If a stork makes a nest on your roof, you can expect good luck in the future.
Fun fact: since the 1950s, it has become a tradition for midwives to dance around this fountain on their graduation day.
From here, walk towards Rundetårn, or the Round Tower. Built nearly 200 years prior to Andersen’s birth, the Round Tower was an important astronomical observatory at the time. The cylindrical tower was built around a spiral ramp, which allows the transportation of heavy objects to the top of the observatory.
However in the 19th century Rundetårn became outdated as new instruments were too large to be accommodated, and light pollution from the city affected the accuracy of observations. Thus a new observatory was inaugurated in 1861.
During his time in Copenhagen, H. C. Andersen visited the library at Rundetårn frequently. The Hall used to contain the entire book collection of the university which Andersen would draw inspiration from. In fact, this tower was so significant to him, he mentioned it in three of his works:
Unlike the previous attractions, you will need a ticket to enter Rundetårn. However, it’s quite affordable at around 5 USD, depending on the exchange rate. But, entry is free if you purchase the Copenhagen Card. I’ll tell you more about that at the end of the article.
Now make your way to the King’s Garden. This is the oldest royal garden in all of Denmark, and a very popular spot with the locals. People love to sit on benches, have a picnic on the grass, stroll along and admire the flowers, or have a bite to eat at the bistro. The best part of King’s Garden is that despite being such as popular place, it never feels too busy.
Here, on the north side of the garden, you will find a statue of H. C. Andersen. This is one of the two statues of the author in Copenhagen. In late 1874 a design competition was launched to create a statue in commemoration of Andersen’s 70th birthday on April 2nd 1875. A total of 10 designers participated in the competition and the statue was unveiled in 1880, nearly 5 years after Andersen’s death.
The sculpture depicts him sitting with a book, as of he’s about to read a story. The bronze statue is atop a terracotta plinth with bronze reliefs illustrating elements from Andersen’s fairytales. So make sure to walk around the sculpture and get a complete view of all reliefs.
Now make your way across the Dronning Louises Bridge to the lively district of Nørrebro. Here you will find Assistens Cemetery, the final resting place of Hans Christian Andersen. He is buried at P no. 32 and everyone can go and pay their respects.
In Denmark, cemeteries are seen more like public parks compared to other countries. You will often see people strolling around, jogging, sitting on a bench, or chatting to a friend. Cemeteries are also well maintained, with a lot of greenery and flowers. Thus they feel quite tranquil and welcoming, not morbid like the cemeteries in other countries.
From the King’s Garden it will take you 15-20 minutes to walk over to Assistens Cemetery, depending on your walking pace. Then you will have another 15-20 minute walk back to the city center. Therefore if mobility is an issue for you, this stop is optional in the Hans Christian Andersen Copenhagen itinerary. There is no special structure at the spot.
Next, make your way towards the city center and stop by a narrow street called Vestergade. When Hans Christian Andersen first arrived in Copenhagen at the age of 14 he stayed here at an inn called Gardergården. He rented the smallest room he could and spent about a week at Vestergade 18 until his money ran out.
The Gardergården inn no longer exists and the building houses a restaurant and some businesses. While you cannot go inside and see Andersen’s former room, I’d say it’s worth walking past the building given that it’s on your way to the next stop.
Now keep on walking and make your way to Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, where you will find an interactive Hans Christian Andersen Experience. Here you can learn more about his childhood, his travels, and the inspiration behind some of his stories. You can also watch his stories come to life through interactive displays. The museum is quite small and will only take you about 1 hour to make your way across it.
Entry to the Hans Christian Andersen Experience also requires a ticket. However entry is free with the Copenhagen Card. More on that later.
Steps away from the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum is the Hans Christian Andersen Statue at City Hall. Located on the busy H.C. Andersen Boulevard in front of City Hall the statue dates back to 1965. Not only is it the youngest of the two H.C. Andersen statues in Copenhagen, it is also the largest.
Similar to the one at King’s Garden, this statue features the author sitting down with a book. Only this time he’s not looking straight ahead. His head is turned to the side, looking towards Tivoli Gardens, a place he loved to visit.
Once you’ve seen the statue, make your way across the street and end the day on a positive note at Tivoli Gardens. Dating back to 1843, this is the second oldest amusement park in that world that’s still operating. The oldest being Bakken, which is just outside of Copenhagen.
H.C. Andersen used to visit Tivoli frequently as he found the grounds helped him creatively. In fact, he drew inspiration from the decor and structures of the park when he wrote The Little Nightingale. The story takes place in China, a country Andersen never visited, and follows the friendship between an emperor and a nightingale.
In addition to H.C. Andersen visiting Tivoli, Walt Disney enjoyed his time here too. So much so that he based his Disney Parks on Tivoli.
If you’re feeling hungry by this point, there are plenty of places to eat once you’re inside Tivoli. From sit down restaurants, to fast food, there’s something for every taste and budget.
I always recommend everyone to visit Tivoli Gardens in the afternoon. That way you can see it once when you enter in the daylight and a second time after the sun sets and all the lights come on.
From all the attractions I mentioned in this article, entry to Tivoli Gardens is the most expensive. It is around 22 USD per person, however you can get in for free with the Copenhagen Card.
Now I mentioned the Copenhagen Card a few times, so you may be wondering what is it? It is a card that you buy online, which gives you access to multiple attractions and transportation. There are two options:
All the attractions in this itinerary which require tickets are free to enter with either one of the two Copenhagen Cards.
Whichever card you choose depends on how many museums and other attractions you wish to visits, as well as how you plan on getting around the city. Public transit is fast and reliable, but hop-on hop-off buses come with audio guides.
Since the tour starts at the Little Mermaid statue, the best area to stay is near Nyhavn. I particularly like the Wakeup Copenhagen Hotel on Borgergade. It was affordable for the area, and a stone’s throw away from Nyhavn and other attractions.
This has been my Hans Christian Andersen Copenhagen itinerary. I estimate the tour will take you one day to complete assuming you get around on foot. I budgeted half a day for Tivoli Gardens, and half a day for everything else.
Have fun and safe travels.