“I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody!”
A redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
If you haven’t read Dickens’ classic Christmas story then I’ve just ruined the book for you. Then again, there are few unfamiliar with the tale of the self-centred, miserly Scrooge and his redemption during the festive season. First published in 1843, it remains one of the most popular Christmas-themed books of all time, never out of print and widely adapted in other media.
1843 also saw the opening of the Tivoli Gardens in the centre of Copenhagen. Founded by Georg Carstensen, it is currently the second oldest amusement park in the world with three distinct seasons: summer runs from April to September, Halloween is mid October to the start of November; Christmas is mid November to the first week in January. However, some of the park’s restaurants are open all year round.
Longevity isn’t the park’s only claim to fame as Walt Disney drew much inspiration for Disneyland from his visits to Tivoli. My visit to Tivoli coincided with the Christmas season and the family whom I stayed with advised to visit the park at night. They rented a room to an electrician employed full-time as part of a team at Tivoli. I took the family’s advice but was also of the opinion that if Tivoli employs a team of full-time electricians then the park would look best lit-up, reflecting their skills. My thinking was spot on. As it transpires, over 120,000 lights are used to illuminate the park at night. That’s a lot of electricians!
I waited until darkness descended before entering the main gates located on Vesterbrogade, the street adjacent to Central Station. One will not miss this entrance: a 19th Century colonial-style arch connected to adjacent buildings by Baroque-style colonnades. Once inside the gate I was transported to a magical winter wonderland which captivated me at every sensory level. The first object to catch my eye was a series of ice-sculptures near the Oriental-style Pantomime Theatre.
The varying style of architecture continues throughout the park with the Chinese Tower and with the Nimb Hotel, a 5-star hotel built in Moorish style with a hint of the Taj Mahal.
There are few streetlights in the park with the decorations doing most of the illumination. Everything that can be decorated with lights is decorated including the pirate ship in the lake.
Tivoli has a practical side with a selection of shops located in quaint, traditional-style buildings decorated according to the prevailing season with snack stalls selling corresponding fare adding to the sensory experience.
If you’re looking for amusements and rides that travel at break-neck speeds then Tivoli may not meet your expectations. But if people-watching, nostalgic fun, visual enthralment, escapism in a charming atmospheric garden park is your idea of a good evening’s entertainment then Tivoli is a must.
Tivoli is also one of the most romantic public places I’ve visited and perfect for a relaxed evening stroll, contrasting sharply with the consumerism-obsessed Machiavellian obstacle course that pre-Christmas socialising and shopping in Ireland has become. The Tivoli Gardens Christmas experience will please everyone.
Every square inch of Tivoli entertains and is a credit to the craftspeople that design, build and maintain the park’s attractions. Outside on the adjacent HC Andersens Boulevard a statue of the master fairytale creator glances towards the Tivoli Gardens whilst its patrons experience a real-life fairytale…me included. Like the redeemed Scrooge I was as light as a feather, as happy as an angel, as merry as a schoolgirl, as giddy as a drunk upon leaving Tivoli. So a merry Christmas to everybody!
GETTING TO COPENHAGEN
I flew with Norwegian Airlines from Dublin to Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport. The city is well connected to other European countries by air and to a number of non-European destinations including USA, Canada, Qatar, Pakistan and China.
There are excellent road and rail connections between Copenhagen and Germany. Several trains a day travel between Hamburg and Copenhagen. The colossal Oresund Bridge connects Copenhagen to the Swedish city of Malmo by road and rail. Fans of the TV programme, The Bridge, will be familiar with this construct.
Copenhagen is a popular stop for cruise ships and has excellent sea connections to neighbouring countries.
GETTING AROUND COPENHAGEN
Copenhagen is consistently voted one of the most liveable cities in the world and its extensive public transport network plays a large role in this. Kastrup Airport is located to the south of Copenhagen and is connected to the city centre by bus 5A and the yellow metro line (Line 2). Mainline trains connect Copenhagen Central Station to the airport.
Bicycles are ubiquitous in Copenhagen and the city’s flat topography is ideal for cycling. Bycyklen is the public bike scheme in Copenhagen but there are a number of private bike rental companies dotted around the city.