5th August 2019
A Walk Through the Open Spaces of Østerbro in Copenhagen
Østerbro lies on the perimeter of the inner city of Copenhagen. It developed around the medieval fortifications of the town as the population grew and spilled over its city walls.
Renowned as a highly desirable residential area with exclusive Danish design stores and trendy restaurants along Østerbrogade, its main street, Østerbro also features some delightful and often historical open spaces. These include Fælledparken the largest park in Copenhagen providing a multitude of outdoor activities. The Copenhagen Lakes are also a popular attraction in this sleepy suburb.
Østre Anlæg Lake Part of the Moat that Fortified Copenhagen, Denmark
The Copenhagen Lakes in Østerbro in Copenhagen
The Copenhagen Lakes also known as the Inner Lakes or simply the lakes are formed by a string of five large reservoirs outside the old ramparts of the old city. The three lakes, Sortedam, Peblinge and St. Jørgen’s stretch for three kilometres from Østerbro to Nørrebro, Frederiksberg and Vesterbro. Promenades, wide grassy slopes line and cycling track encircle the three lakes. The first lake, Sortedam Lake, in the centre of Østerbro is popular with inhabitants and visitors alike as a lovely place to walk or while away some time over a coffee or leisurely lunch. Søpromenaden café in particular is a great place to try the traditional Danish Smørrebrød or open sandwich.
Copenhagen Lakes in Østerbro, Copenhagen in Denmark
Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art in Østerbro, Copenhagen
Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art opposite Østerport station is housed in an unusual building with gold topped red columns and a gold relief of Pegasus above them. It was built in 1898 by artists (and it still owned by artists) to exhibit the latest in contemporary art. These artists were motivated by what they perceived to be censorship of art at the Charlottenborg also in Copenhagen. Den Frie is still an important contemporary art space hosting temporary exhibitions. Its relaxed atmosphere makes it a popular meeting place for artists and art lovers. The café here, Oslo Plads, is a good venue for light meals and a good coffee. Next door to the art gallery is the Østre Anlæg Park.
Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art in Østerbro, Copenhagen
Østre Anlæg Park in Østerbro, Copenhagen
Østre Anlæg Park occupies an area that once formed part of the old fortifications, ramparts and moats, that surrounded the Medieval town. This park was designed by the Danish landscape architect H.A Flindt. He also designed Ørstedsparken another park incorporating the old fortifications and the Copenhagen Botanical Garden. The latter is just across the road from the far end of the Østre Anlæg Park and a walk by its lake, shaded by trees is a very pleasant approach to this lovely botanic garden. The paths through the park are peppered with statues and monuments including the impressive Denmark Monument – well, I was impressed. This monument was created to celebrate the golden wedding of Christian IX and Queen Louise and was originally located in front of the National Gallery. However, it was not popular with the people and now lurks amongst the trees by Østre Anlæg Lake. The park is also home to a museum housing the Hirschsprung Collection.
Denmark Memorial in Østre Anlæg Park in Østerbro, Copenhagen
The Hirschsprung Collection in Østre Anlæg Park in Østerbro, Copenhagen
Heinrich Hirschsprung was a prosperous tobacco manufacturer who built up a large collection of art. By 1888 his collection of Danish paintings was so extensive he agreed it should be exhibited at Charlottenborg. It was a significant collection as he had gathered together the work of the most important Danish artists since the Danish Golden Age. This exhibition was so successful Hirschsprung decided he would keep adding to his collection and intention of donating it to the public. In 1911 the collection was transferred to public ownership and the Hirschsprung Collection is now on display in the museum in Østre Anlæg Park – a delightful setting for such a great collection of Danish Art. This small museum is not far from the SMK Art Gallery on the city-side of the park.
Museum Housing the Hirschsprung Collection in Østerbro, Copenhagen
SMK Art Gallery in Copenhagen
The SMK Art Gallery, is Denmark’s national art gallery and officially entitled the Statens Museum for Kunst. It goes back to the sixteenth century when Danish kings began collecting works of art in vast quantities. Successive kings retained exclusive possession of this collection until 1849 and the introduction of democracy in Denmark. The collections were transferred to the state and today they belong to the people of Denmark. The original Italian Renaissance style museum building goes back to the 1890s. A large modern extension was added in 1998 to house the large collections of modern art. It overlooks the Østre Anlæg Park. These two buildings are connected by a glass panelled Street of Sculptures walkway. This great space is devoted to works by some of the greatest painters in the history of art as well as a range of special exhibitions, events, guided tours, lectures, concerts, workshops and much more. Visitors can enjoy a break in the Kaferieria which has its own bakery and is well-known for its delicious homemade cakes. Before entering the Østre Anlæg Park my curiosity had been peaked by the sight of several single-storey, very yellow buildings a short distance along the main road – I walked back through the park, by the lake, to investigate.
SMK Art Gallery in Copenhagen
Nyboder in Østre Anlæg Park in Østerbro, Copenhagen
Nyboder is a small, separate district in Copenhagen recognisable by long terraces of distinctive yellow buildings. It could be the backcloth to a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. But, in fact, they were built by King Christian IV in 1631 to house members of his Danish Navy and their families. Since it was originally developed Nyboder has been a privileged area to reside in. Initially it had its own private hospital, schools and police force. In return for these privileges every male resident had to perform military duties. And today it remains the same today, as it residents are still connected with the armed forces. The exteriors are still painted the famous Nyboder yellow but the interiors have been modernised and this is reflected by the drop in population from six thousand in the mid-eighteenth century to just over two thousand today. These houses are unique because it is unusual for private residences to survive for several centuries. 24, Sankt Pauls Gade is one of the first of these houses to be built and the Nyboder Mindestuer (Memorial Rooms) are inside it. They are open to the public on Sundays between 11am and 2pm. In these rooms visitors can see how a Nyboder-family would have lived at the beginning of the 20th century. The armed services theme is continued in the Citadel on the opposite side of the road from Nyboder.
Nyboder Houses in Østerbro, Copenhagen
The Citadel in Østerbro, Copenhagen
The Citadel or Kastellet soon became my favourite place in Copenhagen. There was something magical about the glittering waters of the moat that surrounds it and the high, grassy mounds that enclosed it to the exclusion of all but the rooftops of the buildings inside. It was also founded by Christian IV and is situated in Østerbro on the border of inner Copenhagen. To access the Citadel visitors can walk through a park that surrounds the moat of the citadel and then cross one of the two bridges over the moat and enter the citadel through the original gatehouses. Entrance to the citadel is free.
Norway Gate at the Citadel in Østre Anlæg Park in Østerbro, Copenhagen
Once inside visitors can wander at will along the top of the ramparts that enclose the buildings enjoyed the views across the water towards the city beyond. The buildings inside are still used as military barracks and offices and include the Commander’s House, the Rows (two-storey barracks) a Baroque church and a windmill. The present windmill was built in 1847 replacing one that was built in 1718 but destroyed by a storm. As self-sufficiency was essential for a fortified city there were once sixteen windmills on the ramparts of Copenhagen. Today just this one working mill remains. I discovered the Citadel it on my way to see the Little Mermaid in the Langelinje Harbour a short walk beyond it.
The Windmill in the Citadel in Østerbro, Copenhagen
The Little Mermaid near Østerbro in Copenhagen
The Little Mermaid at Langelinje Pier is probably the most popular attraction in Copenhagen and convoys of coaches descend on Langelinje Pier every day. Staying in Østerbro it was a short walk to the harbour and I could time my visit before the crowds started arriving. This sculpture, inspired by the fairy tale by
Hans Christian Anderson was gifted to the City of Copenhagen by the Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen. The sculpture was inspired by ballerina Ellen Price, who in 1909 danced the lead role in the ballet The Little Mermaid at the Royal Theatre. However, Ellen Price would not model in the nude for sculptor who was Edvard Eriksen. So his wife, Eline Eriksen, posed for him instead.
The Little Mermaid on Langelinje Pier in Copenhagen
Langelinje Pier is a pier, a promenade and a park. It was built in 1894 as part of the expansion of Copenhagen harbour to facilitate the docking of large ocean-going cruise ships. This lovely area is sprinkled with statuary (like all the parks I visited) and very romantic with cruise ships moored in the background and beautiful flowers of formal gardens in the foreground. Probably the most striking sculptor is the Ivar Huitfeldt Column. It was built in 1886 to commemorate the death of Admiral Ivar Huitfeldt and his men in a naval battle off Stevns during the Great Northern War 1700-1721.
Ivar Huitfeldt Column inLangelinje Park in Østerbro, Copenhagen
Where to Stay in Østerbro in Copenhagen
Although I knew the Hotel Østerport was close to Østerport station it was quite a shock to see just how close it was. This three-storied building, with one-hundred-and seventy rooms, stretches alongside the tracks across the road from the station building. This was our first experience of the cycle tracks that line the main roads and the manic cyclists that speed along them stopping for nothing and no-one and particularly pedestrians crossing on a green light! We soon learned to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Hotel Østerport in Østerbro, Copenhagen
My initial fears of nights disturbed by trains rumbling by proved to be unfounded and I slept as well here as I have done anywhere else in the world. The rooms were compact but well-designed and although I would have happily swapped the huge, flat-screened television for more storage space my room was very comfortable. Breakfast was very good and included a large buffet of cereals, fresh fruit, hot and cold food and lovely fresh bread still warm from the bakers. The staff were cheerful and very good at removing used plates and re-filling the dishes. The real plus of this hotel was its position in relation to public transport and some of the main sights in Copenhagen within walking distance including the Copenhagen Botanical Garden.
Victorian Glasshouses at the Copenhagen Botanic Garden in Copenhagen
How to get to Østerport in Copenhagen
This article was based on the personal experience of Valery, an ExperiencedTraveller.