Discovering the museums of Copenhagen

Discovering the museums of Copenhagen

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Copenhagen is a city to suit all, with colourful houses lining the seafront, a completely unique cuisine and a thriving contemporary art scene. 

For those interested in art and history, a Baltic cruise offers many appealing stops, from the historic city of Tallinn to the fjords of Norway. However, Copenhagen’s welcoming, laid-back feel draws visitors time and time again. Art enthusiasts, history buffs and Viking fanatics - read on to discover the museums of Copenhagen.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Highlight: The sculpture garden overlooking the Oresund coast

Situated 35km north of Copenhagen (but easily accessible via train) the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art has a worldwide reputation for its unique collection of Danish art and pop art, as well as its beautiful sculpture park overlooking the Oresund coast. For anyone interested in contemporary art and modernist classics, the museum offers a fascinating collection in a truly breath-taking space.

“The Louisiana is an incredible museum and definitely one of the things I always recommend to people visiting Copenhagen.”

Macca Sherifi runs an award-winning travel blog, An Adventurous World, documenting his journeys across the globe, including Copenhagen. “I am always happiest when I’m on the road, the destination is unknown and I am always on the lookout for the next adventure,” said Macca.

“I first went to Copenhagen to visit a friend in 2011, and I’ve been back a fair few times since then. It’s genuinely one of my favourite cities in the world and I love everything from the architecture, to the café culture, to fine dining and to the laid-back atmosphere everywhere. Copenhagen is a city that has it all, but it’s really easy to get around too, which I like. I felt very comfortable there, which is rare for a new city. I guess I find it very inclusive!

The Louisiana is an incredible museum and definitely one of the things I always recommend to people visiting Copenhagen. What I love about Louisiana is all the art is very conceptual and visual – often sculptures are larger than life and there is a load of interactive exhibitions dotted all over the place, so you really get to immerse yourself in the art.

“Louisiana is a little way out of Copenhagen, about a 30-minute train ride. The thing is, you feel like you’re in a completely different part of the country, and I love how the museum beautifully blends in with the surrounding. As you walk outside you see all these different sculptures with a backdrop of blue skies and water, it’s just so peaceful there. Also, like with a lot of museums in Copenhagen, the café and food are top notch, so it’s worth visiting for that in itself. Louisiana really is worth visiting on any trip to Copenhagen!”

Viking Ship Museum

Highlight: Replica Viking ship tours on the fjord

Roughly 25 minutes from Copenhagen in the historic neighbourhood of Roskilde, travellers can step back in time with the Vikings. More than 1,000 years ago, the North was ruled by the Vikings and cruised the seas in magnificent wooden ships, taking over land as they went. At the Viking Ship Museum, you can journey through history and discover how the Vikings lived and worked. You can even cruise on the Roskilde fjord on an amazing reconstruction of the original ships. Crafty travellers can try their hand at wood cutting and willow weaving.

Ordrupgaard Museum

Highlight: The futuristic new exhibition space

The Ordrupgaard Museum contains one of the finest collections of 19th and 20th century French and Danish art in Northern Europe. Showcasing works by Monet, Gauguin and Matisse, among many others, the state-owned museum was founded in 1916-1918 by art collector Wilhelm Hansen and his wife Henny Hansen.

Wilhelm established his collection of Danish art between 1892 and 1916, including artists such as Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg and Christen Kobke. His fascination with contemporary art and ultimately his broad collection is what makes the Ordrupgaard Museum exhibitions so unique. In 2005, prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid extended the museum, doubling its exhibition space.

Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art

Highlight: See the very latest contemporary art from Denmark

Founded by artists in 1868, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art is one of the oldest venues for contemporary art in Denmark. Its sole aim is to showcase the very best and latest in contemporary art, hosting national and international artists and covering a broad spectrum of themes and subjects. The centre has a relaxed atmosphere, with aspiring artists using the space to discuss the exhibited works and their own projects. The building itself is also spectacular, made of wood and designed by artist J.F Willumsen.

The National Museum of Denmark

Highlight: See historical artefacts that can’t be found anywhere else in the world

History buffs cruising to the Baltics won’t want to miss out on a visit to the National Museum of Denmark. Some of the most famous historical finds from ancient times are housed at Denmark’s most important and largest historical museum. Discover the prehistoric Sun Chariot, the only one of its kind in the world, as well as an original hash sales stall from Christiania and an array of Viking relics.

“The National Museum of Denmark is a must-see for every visitor to the city of Copenhagen,” said museum curator Tine Bonde Christensen. “As Denmark’s largest cultural and historical museum, it is a time machine with unique destinations such as Vikings, Egyptian mummies and Japanese samurais.

“Some of the most famous historical finds from ancient times can be found in the National Museum like the prehistoric golden horns and the Sun Chariot – the only objects of their kind – worldwide. It is also home to the famous Egtved girl, Viking treasures and a huge ethnographic exhibition.

“The National Museum will introduce visitors to the rich and changeable world through history. Here you will find unique objects like detailed lacquerware from China and a wide range of art from the Middle Age and the Renaissance.”

National Gallery of Denmark

Highlight: Collection of Danish Golden Age art

In the heart of Copenhagen, the National Gallery of Denmark: SMK has a remarkable collection of Danish and international art dating from the 14th century to the present day. As the country’s largest art museum, you can easily while away a day here.

“The National Gallery of Denmark is an example of a place that embraces you with such an experience that will fill you with inspirational thoughts”

We spoke to the team at the National Gallery of Denmark to find out more: “Here you can explore Danish and international art spanning more than 700 years, right from the early Renaissance to cutting-edge contemporary art. In addition to the great collections, SMK also presents a wide range of special exhibitions, events, performances, concerts, guided tours and workshops for children. The SMK is located in the heart of Copenhagen between three historic parks – The King’s Garden, The Botanical Garden and Østre Anlœg.

“At the moment we have 10 highlights from our collection that we are very proud of, which contains pieces of work by Lucas Cranach, Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, Christen Købke, L.A. Ring, Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann, Vilhelm Hammershoi, Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Per Kirkeby and Danh Vo.”

We asked the team why art and history enthusiasts should visit Copenhagen: “Copenhagen is a living art museum and a historical hub that invites you into a world where old and new meets every day. When you walk the streets of the city you are constantly surrounded by historical buildings and sculptures, contemporary designs and architecture as well as an innovative and creative buzz from the people around you.

“The National Gallery of Denmark is an example of a place that embraces you with such an experience that will fill you with inspirational thoughts, whether you sit in a park admiring the building or visit the art. So, if you appreciate the way in which art, architecture, design, culture, history, people and nature are connected, you have come the right way.”

Thorvaldsens Museum

Highlight: See Beterel Thorvaldsen’s lesser-known paintings and drawings

Marvel at the works of Danish sculptor Beterel Thorvaldsen at this opulent museum. Thorvaldsen spent much of his life in Italy and became an internationally-renowned sculptor. He worked in a neoclassicist style, creating works inspired by Greek mythology. Thorvaldsen also designed works of important figures such as Pope Pius VII, which can be found in the Vatican. In Copenhagen, this dedicated museum displays many of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s finest sculptures, as well as his paintings and drawings. The Thorvaldsen Museum is in the heart of Copenhagen and easily reached from the cruise port.

Natural History Museum of Denmark

Highlight: The beautiful Botanical gardens

Comprising the Botanical Garden, Zoological Museum and Geological Museum, there’s plenty to see at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Journey through the ages and across the globe through unusual plants, the story of the giant mammoth and Denmark’s once native giant deer, and remarkable geological artefacts.

The museum offers an all-encompassing educational experience with interactive exhibitions and serene Botanical Gardens. The gardens are the perfect place to get close to nature, with more than 13,000 species of plants from all over the world and a beautiful butterfly house. Its traditional glasshouses are truly spectacular and are best enjoyed over a coffee and cake at the museum café.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket

Highlight: See the works of French post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin

Image: Kim Nilsson

Experience a unique blend of classic and modern art at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Founded by brewer Carl Jacobsen in 1888, the museum has two main departments of varying styles, bursting with artworks and artefacts.

To find out more about the museum, we spoke to communications assistant Martha Kragh Arnesen: “Our world-class art collection of art and antiquities continues to offer new perspectives on human existence, culture and civilisation as seen through 6,000 years of art. At the same time, Glyptoteket is also an Oasis. The museum’s richly varied architecture with the Winter Garden as a fertile point of rotation gives every visitor a chance to disengage from the day-to-day, making the visit a pleasure without any sense of obligation.

“Our collection of ancient sculpture includes an extensive collection of Ancient Greek and Roman portrait heads. Also, our modern part of the collection includes French sculpture from the 19th century – featuring a significant selection of works by Auguste Rodin – and French paintings from 1800 to 1950, with impressionism and Paul Gaugin as the absolute stars, plus a collection of Danish Golden Age art.”

Design Museum

Highlight: The works of famous Danish designers Arne Jacobsen, Kaare Klint and Poul Henningsen

Copenhagen’s Design Museum hosts an eclectic collection of arts, crafts and industrial designs through the ages. Exhibits displayed in unique and thoughtful layout guides visitors through a journey of the history of design, with internationally-acclaimed Danish designers contributing to the collection.

“It’s a quirky and fascinating space that captures the modern history of the city through design”

Travelling with her partner Justin, Lauren Yakiwchuk documents her adventures on her blog, Justin Plus Lauren. However, Lauren explored Copenhagen on a solo trip, seeking to experience the design and architecture first-hand. “My trip to Copenhagen was a spur of the moment decision,” said Lauren. “I’d always wanted to visit because I was drawn to the brightly coloured buildings of Nyhavn, its history and design, the coffee culture, and the fact that it’s a vegan-friendly city. I found a cheap flight to Copenhagen and found myself with a few days off around a holiday, so I flew there on my own. It was my first solo adventure to Europe and certainly won’t be my last!

“I was very impressed with the Design Museum! Although it isn’t a huge museum, it’s a wonderful point of interest where you can spend a couple of hours. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical elements, especially the interesting pieces of furniture. The Japanese design elements were an intriguing space in the museum too.

“I’d definitely recommend it to other travellers. It’s a quirky and fascinating space that captures the modern history of the city through design. The museum is easy to walk to along your journeys around the city, making it the perfect addition to your travel itinerary.”

Tempted to book a Baltic cruise getaway? We have a selection of cruises available and are looking forward to welcoming you on board for a journey through history.

Image Credits: Ordrupgaard Museum – Adam Mork, Den Frie – Mahlum, Thorvaldsen Museum, Maria Eklind, Louisiana – Bjarke Ørsted, Nick, NY Carlsberg Glyptoteket

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