Spend a day like a modern royal in Copenhagen
Written by Laura Hall
Denmark’s royal family is refreshingly down to earth. The modern monarchy bicycle around the city, walk their dogs in public spaces, eat out in the city’s restaurants, and shop in its independent boutiques. You could say that they’re just like us, except of course, they have some quite different responsibilities to uphold as well. If you fancy yourself as a modern day prince or princess, why not take a walk in their footsteps around the city?
Early morning at the palace
The royal family wakes up in the heart of Copenhagen at Amalienborg. This square of four 18th century palaces on a cobbled square is close to the water and the old town, and is a renowned feature of the city. In fact, the buildings are one of the best examples of Rococo architecture in Europe.
The Queen lives in one of the palaces, the Crown Prince and his family live in another, the third palace is used for guests and events, and the last is an intimate museum packed with details showcasing day to day life, where you really can experience what it is like to live as a royal. Walking around this house-like palace with its carpets, normal lighting and comfortable rooms offer a unique insight into royal life - it’s not all chandeliers, lavish receptions and grand ballrooms.
Take a walk along the water in the morning as Queen Margrethe sometimes does with her beloved dachshund Tilia. If it’s raining, you could wear a bright raincoat to cheer yourself up, like her. While the Queen and Crown Princess Mary are regularly photographed in sky high stilettos on Copenhagen’s cobbles, we’d advise flat shoes as wearing high heels on the bumpy, lumpy and downright historic streets of the old town can give you a royal pain in the foot.
This area of the city is highly approachable - like the royal family itself - and you can walk almost right up to every palace. Of course, there are also guards stationed by the royal residences, in decorated red pillboxes wearing beautiful uniforms and a bearskin hat.
A royal morning in the Old Town
Spend the morning on royal business in the Old Town. Cycle - or walk - over to Tordenskjoldsgade, home of dressmaker Lasse Spangenberg. The Danish designer is one of the local designers who dresses Crown Princess Mary, and his collection of bridal, cocktail and evening wear, romantic and modern at the same time, are certainly fit for a future queen. Hotel Sanders, across the road, is a charming place for a morning coffee and is run by a former dancer from the Royal Danish Ballet.
Along the water from here you’ll find Holmens Kirke, where Queen Margrethe was married in 1967. Her father was a member of the Royal Danish Navy, and this church has significance for seafarers and the navy. It is open for visitors most days of the week, so you can take a walk down the aisle, if you like, or just breathe in and get a sense for how meaningful it is, in a city built on seagoing, that its queen chose this location for her wedding.
From here, it’s a short stroll across the bridge to Christiansborg Palace, a place where great affairs of state have been decided by Denmark’s royal family and parliament for hundreds of years. This historic establishment houses historical museums about the royal family, the royal stables, the Danish Parliament, and a series of grand rooms for banquets and events that you can visit when they’re not in use. Stroll the beautiful hallways and marvel at the art; enjoy the history of Denmark as told in Bjørn Nørgaard’s multicoloured tapestries, and eat in the Tower Restaurant, with fantastic views of the city.
Christiansborg is a working palace today: Queen Margrethe and the Crown Prince and his family spend time greeting dignitaries, hosting receptions and working right here. If, on your visit, you find some rooms are cordoned off or unavailable to visitors, it may well be because they are being used for official royal business.
Royal traditions at midday
At this point, you might hear some cheerful music floating on the air. If you’re in the centre of Copenhagen around Strøget, follow it, like a child following the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The music comes from the marching band that accompanies the changing of the guard as the Royal Guards walk from their barracks at Rosenborg Castle to Amalienborg in a delightful daily ceremony, The Changing of the Royal Guards.
Back in the centre of the city, it’s time to rest your feet and have a drink. A C Perch, just off Købmagergade in the main shopping area, supplies tea to the Danish court, so while you sit in its traditional tearoom, you can imagine the queen drinking just the same tea a few streets away. The teashop makes a special blend just for her. If you’re looking for souvenirs fit for royalty, you could pick up a tin of it, buy a beautiful mug from nearby Royal Copenhagen, which makes dinnerware used by the royal family, and perhaps drop into Illums Bolighus, another court supplier, for interior design inspiration and a design-related gift.
An afternoon of culture
Let’s get back to some royal duties. If you walk from the main shopping area to Kongens Nytorv (‘King’s New Square’) you’ll also be following in the footsteps of Danish kings and queens of the past. Nytorv is home to the Royal Danish Theatre’s Old Stage, a historic venue used for ballet performances. It’s a special place for our multi-talented Queen Margrethe who has a lifelong love of the theatre and has regularly practised ballet. A creative force, she also works as a costume and set designer across this and other institutions in the city. Maybe you’ll see her on the way to a fitting or ideas meeting while you’re there?
Photo:Det kongelige teater
While you’re in Kongens Nytorv, if you get hungry, we’ve got just the royal snack for you. Buy a hot dog from the Steff Houlberg street vendor on Nyhavn. We don’t have word on whether the royal family prefers raw or crispy onions, or gherkins and remoulade, but we do know that this brand is another court supplier.
Sporting activities fit for a prince
You might know that Crown Prince Fredrik, the next in line to the throne, is a very fit individual. A member of the International Olympic Committee, he is the first royal to ever complete an IronMan, and is a passionate runner. In 2018 he created an annual race in Denmark, the Royal Run, to get the nation moving.
If you feel like getting your own royal run on, one of the city’s most popular places to run is around the Lakes in Østerbro. Join local people pounding the paths, and watch out for the strollers! If running isn’t your thing, you could rent a bike and explore the city that way. Crown Princess Mary has been pictured taking her kids to school in a cargo bike, so believe us when we say this simple form of transport is more than fit for a modern royal. Plus, it’s usually the quickest way to get around Copenhagen.
So, after a day walking in the footsteps of our royals, how do you feel? Perhaps you’re walking with a more stately bearing, or maybe you have decided to change your name to Margrethe, Frederik or Christian (Danish monarchs are usually only called one of these three names). Either way, we hope you’ve enjoyed a day in the life of Denmark’s modern royals and will do it again soon!