It’s well known that Walt Disney visited Tivoli Gardens several times before he opened Disneyland in 1955, but the amusement park’s history begins more than a century earlier. Tivoli opened its doors in Copenhagen in 1843, after the gardens’ founder, Georg Carstensen, obtained a royal charter for the park’s creation by convincing the King, Christian VIII, that it would help keep him secure on the throne. “When the people are amusing themselves,” he is supposed to have argued, “they do not think about politics” – a cynical governing principle that stretches back to the days of the Romans, with their bread and circuses.
Whatever the reasons for their creation, the gardens were an instant hit. In the first few years, there was only one rollercoaster offering a seven-second “thrill” ride to guests, but the bandstands, pavilions, flower gardens and melodic music impressed the locals, who kept coming back.
New attractions were added as the years went on, including various theatres and, in 1914, the iconic Rutschebanen – the oldest wooden rollercoaster still in operation to this day. “Tivoli will never, so to speak, be finished,” Carstensen is supposed to have said, anticipating the addition of further attractions that continues to this day.
Tivoli Gardens is located just two minutes’ walk from Copenhagen Central Station, on Vesterbrogade 3. If you’re roaming around the city centre, you can get the S-train from Nørreport Station (Lines A, B, C, E, H) or the bus 1A from Kongens Nytorv.
Copenhagen is famously a cycle-friendly city, and getting to the park by bike is also very easy. It’s approximately 2km (1.2mi), and a lovely scenic route, from the city centre.
The famous amusement park is not open year-round. There aren’t many people willing to ride its high rollercoasters when the temperature dips below zero degrees Celsius (32F), and the snow that frequently blankets Copenhagen in winter can make operations tricky. Luckily, the park is open over the spring and summer periods, starting at the beginning of April and lasting until the end of September. It’s open for approximately three weeks during Halloween and, of course, over Christmas when the place sparkles with thousands of twinkling lights.
The entrance fee for adults and children over eight years old is DKK120 (£13.65) every day, except Fridays after 7pm when it is DKK160 (£18.20). Every ride has a different price, unless you get the unlimited ride ticket that costs DKK230 (£26).
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Tivoli Gardens inspired Hans Christian Andersen to write one of his fairytales, Nightingale – take even the briefest of strolls round the park and you’ll get a sense of what makes this place special. Enjoy the scents of hundreds of blossoming summer flowers and perennials at the Concert Halls Gardens, or relax with the view of the park’s fountains at the Pergola Gardens.
To soak up some sun while grabbing a bite, head towards the Hanging Gardens. Even though it is just behind HC Andersens Boulevard, it feels like a world away from the city centre. If you’re with children, makes sure you take them to Petzi’s World, an area with 40 activities aimed specifically at little ones.
For those who want to get an adrenaline rush, the 4G-force rides and speedy rollercoasters will do the job. For a virtual reality ride, jump on the 50-mile-per-hour (80-kilometre-per-hour) rollercoaster, The Demon – the cars whisk you up to 90 feet (28 metres) in height, while dragons chase you.
You can enjoy an excellent view of the whole of Copenhagen from the 63-metre-high (207-foot-high) Golden Tower before it takes you back to the ground. Alternatively, get on Vertigo where 5G forces will turn you 360 degrees at 100 kilometres per hour (62mph).
Tivoli Gardens offers many more relaxed rides for the little ones and for those who don’t want to lose their stomachs. Watch fairytale scenes as you never have before in the Flying Trunk, or climb on the back of an elephant at The Classic Carousel. For a unique view of the city, without the fear of Golden Tower’s speed, take a ride on the Ferris Wheel. Budding racing drivers will love the Vintage Cars ride.
Open seven days a week, Grøften is one of the oldest restaurants in Tivoli, serving sandwiches as well as local cuisine. Taste a typical smørrebrød or other Danish delicacies, with a view of Tivoli’s lakes at Færgekroens Bryghus. If you’re lucky enough – as it only happens some days in the week – a piano player will entertain you while you’re dining.
For a quick bite between your rides, grab a tasty organic sausage covered in ketchup, mustard and the Danish remoulade at Hotdog Corner or a fresh green salad at I LOV IT FOOD. Finally, for a hot cup of coffee or a super-chilled beer, Søcaféen is the place.
For a frozen cocktail, head to Nimb Bar, an elegant bar with stylish decor housed within the stunning Moorish-palace-inspired Hotel Nimb. High-class drinks and a deluxe brunch are served all year round. If you prefer a glass of first-class wine, Nimb Vinotek is your place. With more than 1,000 labels, this spot will keep even the most demanding wine lover satisfied. With its staff dressed in lederhosen and dirndls and its long wooden tables, Biergarten brings a bit of Austrian flavour to the gardens. Needless to say, they sell beer. Ølgrotten, which is situated in the heart of the old rollercoaster mountain, is another great place to grab a cold one.
Over the summer, Tivoli Gardens hosts a whole series of unique concerts with nationally and internationally renowned artists and orchestras, as well as ballet performances.
The Pantomime Theatre stages approximately 300 performances in various dance genres, including classical, fairytale and pantomime.
Prices start from approximately DKK200 (£23) and can go up to DKK800 (£91) depending on the show.