We’ve felt that we haven’t done the best things with our time in the last ports. Today we decided to put that behind us – back to our strategy of “doing one thing and doing it well”. I remembered that I’d read about free walking tours of the city centre and we decided to try that. Of course, I wasn’t entirely certain where and when the tours started, but I had a feeling it was from the town hall square, at about 10:30. So we made sure we were on the first shuttle bus this morning in order to get there early.
The berth at Langelinie, a kilometre or so to the north of the city centre, is one of the most awkward we’ve encountered. There’s no terminal, just a two-lane road running along the back of the berth. All of the coaches for excursions and the shuttle buses have to line up along the road. The road itself is in public use, so a coach at the back of the line that’s ready to go has to wait until it can see clearly to the front of the line before it pulls out.
But we were on the first shuttle bus away at about 09:20, and we were getting off 15 minutes later.
This, too, wasn’t the best spot – alongside Sint Petri Kirke, on another narrow road with just a narrow pavement on which to sort yourself out when you’d got out of the bus. But we managed, got the local guide to indicate on our map exactly where we were, and walked about 10 minutes from there to the town hall square. Here we asked one of the security guards if he knew anything about the walking tours, and he confirmed that this was the place and that we should look for a guy with a red umbrella sometime after 10 o’clock. So sat on a bench for a while and at 10:15 someone turned up with a yellow umbrella with the words ‘Free Walking Tour’ on them – close enough, we reckoned. After registering we were told that the tour would start at 11 o’clock and would last three hours. We filled in the time until then by finding a coffee shop on one side of the Town Hall square, and then using the excellent facilities on the northern side of the square.
At 11 o’clock the tour started. More than sixty people had registered, but there were three guides so we were split up into three groups. Our guide was Jarod, from Australia; the other two guides were Ben (Canadian) and Simon (English). All three are Copenhagen residents and, in the way of visitors, have become very knowledgeable about their adopted city. Incidentally, they do the tours as full-time jobs, and make their living from the tips. There are walking tours every morning, and also, I gathered, some afternoon and evening tours, and even pub-crawls at weekends.
Then we just walked. Jarod was very interesting and amusing, and told lots of jokes as he shepherded us around the city centre. We saw the outside of a lot of the major buildings of the city, and he often had stories about them. He also had a fund of stories about living in Denmark, and about the fun the Danes have with the Swedes (and vice-versa).
There was a break at 12:35 or so for about 25 minutes, which we took in a coffee shop – 10% reduction if you said you were with the walking tour. We had a bottle of water and a bun each. Then it resumed just after 1 o’clock until a couple of minutes after 2 o’clock. That last hour was mainly spent looking briefly at Nyhavn and the Amelianborg palace (from the outside). We finished at the fountain beside the harbour near Amelianborg.
I suppose if I’m being hyper-critical I could say that we didn’t learn a huge amount amount of the detailed history of the buildings, but that wasn’t the purpose of the tour, I think – it was to impart an overview of the city, how its inhabitants live, and some of their little quirks. There were lots of practical points – how to eat a Danish hot-dog, for instance (carefully, and leaning forward with your legs apart, so that when the inevitable cascade of sauces out of the bottom of the dog happens, none of it lands on you). We really enjoyed it – Jarod was an excellent tour guide – and we felt we had a good day. We gave him a good tip. Then we had a small beer from an expensive cafe on the harbour front, and finished off by walking all along the ‘Walking Street’ (Ströget) to get back to the shuttle bus.
Practicalities: I’ve mentioned the hassles at Langelinie. We also think that the port information sheet is wrong – there’s a reference in there to a terminal building, which there certainly isn’t at Langelinie. We got cash from an ATM on one side of the Town Hall square. Prices are certainly high here: we paid 39DKK each (£4.50) for a cappucino, and lunch (two bottles of water and two plain scones) was about 160DKK (£17.50). Finally, another couple of tips from Jarod: obey the Green/Red Man when crossing the road – the fine for jaywalking is 1000DKK; and when walking, keep out of the bike lanes – those peaceful Danes revert to full-on Viking mode when they mount a bicycle. Do not get in their way……
Finally, Copenhagen struck as an attractive but busy city. It’s also the case that there’s a lot of construction taking place at various locations right across the city centre for a new metro line. And it was very hot again today – high 20s. I loved it, but some people around town looked very uncomfortable. Jarod said it was possibly the hottest day he could remember in four years living in Copenhagen.