When I was a little girl, my grandad would take me to Tivoli and I could run around and enjoy myself – do all the rides I wanted and eat ice cream all day long. When I got my own kids I simply couldn’t wait to show them what the Tivoli Gardens were about. One thing for sure: they were not disappointed!
What is it all about?
Tivoli is one of the worlds oldest amusement parks in the world – I think I read somewhere it is the second oldest actually. Georg Carstensen, the founder, was granted permission by King Christian VIII and opened the gardens in August 1843. People were enchanted by the place – among the visitors that day was a certain H.C. Andersen, probably our most famous Dane, who was inspired that day to write his renowned The Nightingale.
Today, the Tivoli Gardens are still as lovely and as much a national icon as always. There is something for everyone: amusements and rides for kids (small and big alike), restaurants and cafes to settle the parents, candy and ice cream shops, games of all sorts, almost daily concerts in summer, the Tivoli Guard and of course a park to stroll in and enjoy. There are many traditional rides but also new ones – this year for instance a virtual twist was added to one of the roller coasters, the Demon. One of the oldest rides in the park is another roller coaster and it opened in 1914. It is one of the oldest, wooden roller coasters in the world still in operation and operated by a brake man on each train. It is my favourite ride and I took kiddos 1 on to try, she couldn’t stop laughing. And fireworks, I have to mention the fireworks: spectacular fireworks every Saturday night at 23:45 this year till the end of the season.
This is what makes Tivoli so special – everyone from 3 to 99 can find something to like – this is no Disney World or Universal Studios, the ambiance is something really unique – a place where traditions meet innovation, an inspiring and just beautiful spot. The amusement park is actually so noteworthy that Walt Disney himself started visiting Tivoli in 1951, 4 years before the opening of the original Disneyland. He was keen to get the same atmosphere for his own park.
There is one more thing, in my eyes that makes it such a special place: Tivoli is located in the middle of the city of Copenhagen. That means that when you are in the rides that go high you look out over the city and it is just an amazing sight!
Where to eat
There are dozens of cafés, beer stands, posh restaurants and hot dog stands. Something for everyone and every budget and time. This time we had lunch Brøderne Price – a typical Danish lunch with smørrebrød, tap beer and Aquavit. Smørrebrød is our traditional open sandwiches: rye or white bread served with smoked salmon, chicken salad, herrings or just ham! Beer in Danish restaurant usual comes from Tuborg or Carlsberg, our 2 biggest beer beers (though there are many smaller and micro breweries in Denmark too). Aquavit or Akvavit is our local (understand Scandinavia) spirit. It has been around for centuries and is just one of these things we drink. It is a neutral spirit distilled from grain or potato (like vodka) and flavoured with caraway or other herbs like dill for example. served as shots – ice cold or just room temperature depending on families. It is strong and you’ll need a few glasses before you’ll like it! but after you’ll be fine.
There are many other very well know and established restaurants in Tivoli: Grøften, opened in 1874, Fru Nimb (where we had dinner): the terrace gives directly on the concert area of Tivoli so great to listen to some music and have a snack or Færgekroen, a traditional Danish restaurant (and brewery) located on the lakes in the park (this was my favourite as a child – I specially loved one of their dishes: skipperlabskovs – a traditional fishermen’s dish, funny enough made on meat and potatoes).
The Tivoli Guard
The founder was always interested in introducing new entertainment to the park. In 1844, so the year after the opening, he had the idea of the the Tivoli Youth Guard. It is a music guard, they march through the gardens, mostly on weekends and at holiday times. It was originally a boys band, but today the Tivoli Youth Guard is accepting both girls and boys. You can read more about the Guard and their appearances on Tivoli’s home page, here.
Pantomimes have always had a part in Tivoli, since it’s beginning. The scene above dates back from 1874 – and it is one of the oldest original building in the park – it is therefore protected by law (not that I think anybody would dare to take it down!)
Tivoli used to be only open once a year for the summer season only, more or less from end of May (for the gardens), end of June (for the rides) to mid September. Nowadays, the park is open 4 times a year: summer, obviously, but also winter (3 weeks in February), Halloween (3 weeks in October) and Christmas of course (from mid November till late December). I don’t really know how the rides are open during the cold period, but in the summer time the park opens around 11am and closes at midnight.
One daily entrance to the gardens (and concerts) is 120DKK (USD19), one child under 8 comes in free with paying adult. You can extend your ticket for the consecutive day for 35DKK. Then you need to pay the rides: unlimited access to all rides (except one) is 230DKK (USD36) – doesn’t matter if you are old or young! – but it is really worth it if you do more than a couple of rides as some of the rides are 75DKK or even more if paying by single tickets. You can also buy yearly entrance tickets. There are many variants to the tickets but you can get all that information on their website, here.
Here are a few pictures of a Christmas in Tivoli (Pics are from November 2008). The main alley of the gardens are transformed into a Christmas market. We even had a bit of snow that year.
You can not visit Copenhagen and not visit Tivoli. You know, there is all this hype about ‘hygge’, what it means, what you do to ‘hygge’. Well for me it is not something you plan, it is something there simply is: a moment in time becomes ‘hyggeligt’: a meal with friends, a stroll in the park, a feeling you get when you look at a picture, a day at Tivoli gardens with your kids.