by Abigail Blasi, The Daily Telegraph, May 8, 2017
Established in 1843, Tivoli is one of the world’s oldest and prettiest amusement parks, a fairylit jumble of pagodas, village-style lanes and Arabian palaces. Its richly hued aesthetic evokes the candy colours of St Petersburg’s churches, and what’s more, it’s slap bang in central Copenhagen - you can combine a theme park trip with a city break without swapping hotels.
The park was the brainchild of cosmopolitan army officer Georg Carstensen, inspired by places he had seen abroad. Its landscaped gardens and twinkling lights moved Hans Christian Andersen to write his story the Nightingale, and after the Second World War, a guy named Walt Disney visited on the hunt for ideas.
Of course Tivoli has bags of style - it’s Danish - and the park has been worked on by a bevy of home-grown designers, who have let their imaginations run wild with domes and gilt. In 1903, architect Knud Arne-Petersen designed Nimb, the Moorish palace (think Brighton Pavilion, with sparkles), which now contains a sumptuous 14-room boutique hotel and several restaurants. Later, legendary lighting designer Poul Henningsen created lamps for the park, as well as its Glassalen glass house. New for this year, Olafur Eliasson’s 33 sculptural solar lights glow in the trees.
The oldest original building, dating from 1874, is the oriental-styled Peacock Theatre, used for the park’s regular outdoor ballet performances, while this season Tivoli unveiled its new Orangery, a vintage-looking conservatory hosting jazz and classical concerts. During summer there are fireworks every Wednesday, and Friday Rock, with gigs featuring Danish bands as well as international stars (this year including Nile Rogers and Brian Wilson).
So, the park has bags of atmosphere, but how about the rides? Excited-verging-on-terror screams echo across the city centre, though hardened adrenaline-seekers will find Tivoli’s range limited compared with somewhere like Alton Towers or PortAventura. However, on the Demon rollercoaster you experience space-shuttle-strength G force, speeds of 48mph, three loops and a 65-foot drop, plus you can add a virtual reality tour of fire-breathing dragons, demons and fireworks (new for 2017). Vertigo whisks visitors 130ft above the park on its graceful arms while turning them 17 times per minute. In all, there are four really hair-raising rides, plus plenty more that are fun but don’t require nerves of steel.
How about for littler kids? Tivoli will definitely keep them from existential angst, with height-restriction-free highlights including the gilded Carousel, the Magical Trunk that rolls past 32 Hans Christian Andersen story tableaux, vintage cars, and the Dragon Boat lake. The stately Ferris Wheel allows anyone over 1.2m, and takes you high above the city in mock hot-air balloons.
The park opens from April to September, starting with spring-themed events and sheep to pet. It later reopens for Halloween, followed by Christmas at Tivoli. As lights and lanterns spangle the park from December, Tivoli feels like the epicentre of this most hygge of seasons. The twinkle factor is turned up, with white peacocks, nightly fireworks, and a Christmas market selling mulled wine, sheepskins and thousands of pointy-hatted gnomes (nisse, traditional Christmas fairytale characters).
Tivoli queues are not too time-consuming, but during weekends, peak holiday periods, and particularly the Christmas season it’s better to go in the morning as by the afternoons it gets extremely busy and crowds feel overwhelming.
Tickets for those aged eight and up are priced from £12.50; children under eight get in free ( tivoligardens.com )
Tivoli's top five attractions
Soak up the enchanting atmosphere, gardens and lanterns in this Scandi-chic meets amusement playground - this is a park for wanderers
The Tivoli rollercoaster
The world’s oldest, this coaster has been whisking visitors through a stage-set alpine landscape for over a century
At night, the old-fashioned pleasure of taking a lamp-lit small boat on the lake is a classic Tivoli experience
The Japanese Tower
Dating from 1900, this now houses an offshoot of Henrik Yde-Andersen’s Michelin-starred Thai restaurant Kiin Kiin in Nørrebro: Kiin Kiin Piin To serves pan-Asian fusion (including a kids’ menu) in Thai bintoo boxes, and has a cocktail bar with garden views.
Nowhere is better for a cosy and thrilling advent.
The best things to do in Copenhagen with children
The Aquarium - Copenhagen’s vast “Blue Planet” is designed to make visitors feel they’re underwater, and is home to Hammerhead sharks and the Amazonas area, with butterflies and birds ( denblaaplanet.dk )
Cycle - Copenhagen is perfect for biking: there’s comparatively little motor traffic, wide cycle lanes (you can circle around the entire harbour), and there are regular or Christiania (child-transporting) bikes for hire ( visitcopenhagen.com )
Experimentarium - to the north of Copenhagen in Hellerup is a huge newly opened science museum, with superb hands-on exhibitions exploring areas such as physics, the senses, and water ( experimentarium.dk/en/ )
The Experimentarium is wonderfully hands-on
Copenhagen’s Children’s Museum - kids aged four to 12 can dress up as a 19th-century schoolchildren or board a Viking boat at this dedicated part of the National Museum ( en.natmus.dk )