A Walking Tour of Copenhagen' Statues
January 1, 1970
by Horizon Hunter
Copenhagen is an amazingly vibrant city, with so much to offer for travellers. Between strolling down the rainbow street of Nyhavn, relaxing on the grass with locals in the Kings Garden, and eating freshly caught fish, you really can’t go wrong. One, perhaps underrated, feature of this gorgeous city, though, is that it is home to some truly incredible statues! You can’t turn a corner in Copenhagen without finding yourself in front of a cool statue, and I wanted to share a few of the ones that became my favorites as I explored the city.
A great aspect of Copenhagen is that it is a very walkable city. In the spirit of that, I am going to take you on a walking tour of some of the best statues I found in my time there.
Agnete and the Merman
Our tour starts right off one of the main shopping plazas, on Hojbro Bridge. If you happen to stop on this bridge and look down into the canal, you will be greeted by eight statues reaching up at you from under that water. This piece of art was inspired by Danish folklore, which spoke of a human woman, Agnete, who met a merman and went with him to live underwater. They got married and had seven children, but one day, Agnete went to visit her old life on land and never returned. These statues depict Agnetes underwater family longingly reaching up to the surface for her. This piece of art is beautiful, but also very easy to miss if you are just casually walking along Hojbro Bridge on your way to other destinations, so be sure to make a point to stop. Though I didn’t get to see it myself, some locals mentioned that in the winter when the water freezes, people will go out on the ice and put hats and gloves on the parts of the statues that break the surface to keep them warm. Oh, and if you only spot seven statues, here’s a hint… one of them is holding a baby!
Next, we are going to take a short stroll along the canal, towards the very large building with an intricate spire (trust me, you will see it). This building used to be the stock exchange and it boasts a very interesting focal point. The spire of this building consists of four animals with their tails spiralling up to the sky. There is some debate as to what these animals actually are- dragons, dogs, etc.- but the super informative guy I met at my hostel said they were actually crocodiles. Apparently, when the building was commissioned, the architect was told to put four crocodiles on the top of the building, but since crocodiles aren’t typically native to this region and this was pre-internet, the architect had never actually seen a crocodile. But he gave it his best shot! The result is a very cool, if not particularly accurate, crocodile spire.
Church of our Saviour
Keep walking straight down the street, cross two bridges, then turn left, and you will see the Church of our Saviour. This beautiful building features an outdoor spiral staircase leading up to a statue of Christ Triumphant. I am kind of cheating with this one because the real head-turner here is not the statue. Besides the architecture of this building, featuring the golden spiral staircase, there is also an amazing panoramic view of the city from the top. Also very noteworthy are the bells within the church, which go off on the hour and produce a gorgeous symphony. Because this is a post about statues though, I will share with you a little tidbit that the aforementioned “hostel guy” told me. Back in the days when Denmark and England didn’t get along, English sailors would use this church as cannon target practice, with the Christ Triumphant statue being “bulls-eye”. He was full of fun facts.
The Royal Cast Collection
After we circle our way up to the top of the Church of our Saviour, snap a few photos, circle our way back down, then take a short break to make the world stop spinning… we continue on to our next stop. Back over our two bridges, we stroll north along the water for a bit, taking in the scenery until we happen upon a little piece of Italy- the Statue of David. Though not the original Statue of David by Michelangelo, this casting of the sculpture provides a preview of what you would find if you entered the building behind it. The Royal Cast Collection is a museum containing thousands of castings of some of the most famous sculptures from around the world. This collection is an amazing way of taking in culture from around the world, all under one roof. And since we have been walking for a while at this point, now is a good time to get indoors, dry off from Copenhagens notorious rain, and enjoy some of the worlds finest art.
A short walk north, just outside of Kastellet, lives the Gefion Fountain. This powerful, imposing fountain is full of smaller sculptures, but the star here is, of course, Gefion herself. Gefion is a Norse Goddess, who, legend has it, pulled the island that is now Copenhagen out of the water using her chariot and four oxen. Though the front view with the oxen is very powerful, be sure to circle around the back of this fountain, because there you will see waves erupting to the side of Gefion and land emerging behind her chariot. Bonus fact: Gefion didn’t just get any old oxen to get the job done. Instead, she turned her four sons into oxen.
The Little Mermaid
Last, but certainly not least on our walking statue tour, we come to what is undoubtedly the most famous statue in Copenhagen. The Little Mermaid. Visitors come from all over the world to see this bronze statue of a mermaid sitting on the rocks, and if you are in Copenhagen, it is a must-see. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name, which was later adapted into the Disney film, this statue has become a symbol of Copenhagen, and it is an excellent last stop on our tour.
It was wonderful to share this lovely walk and some random statue facts with you today. And while these are my top picks for Copenhagen statues, the city is full of fascinating, beautiful, and historic pieces, so I urge you to go explore a bit more to find your favorites!