In 1583, natural springs were discovered in a forest 10 kilometers north of Copenhagen. Because of poor water quality in the city, the site drew many visitors and along with them, entertainers. After being converted to a Royal hunting grounds for almost a century, the area was reopened, bringing visitors and entertainers back to the original site. Over time, additional artists, clowns and rides were added, resulting in the creation of Bakken, the first amusement park in the world.
In 1843, Georg Carsten requested that the king of Denmark provided him with a five year lease of land outside the west gate (Vesterport) of Copenhagen to develop an entertainment park. Carsten’s selling point was that individuals who are entertained do not think about politics. Recognizing the wisdom of his words, the king granted his request, resulting in the formation of Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world. Today, Tivoli and Bakken remain a fixture in Copenhagen life, their opening a sign of impending spring. Over the next few blogs, I thought I would post on both Tivoli and Bakken.
By global standards, Tivoli does not have the biggest or scariest rides. At 21 acres, it is a fraction of the size of today’s mega amusement parks. What it lacks in size, however, it more than makes up for in charm and character. Street vendors are interspersed with high-end restaurants. Classical music venues rival rock concerts. Fountains and flower-beds intermingle with amusement rides. In short, entertainment is for everyone, young or old alike.
A key landmark and popular venue for children and adults is the Pantomime Theatre (Pantomimeteatret), an oriental-style theatre dating from 1874. A unique aspect of the theatre is the the peacock’s tail which serves as a mechanical “curtain”. Regular shows revolve around an aristocrat, his beautiful daughter Columbine and her forbidden lover Harlequin. The cast is supplemented by the humorous antics Pierrot, the clown. Accompanying music is provided by a live pit orchestra, giving a cosy, authentic feel to the live theatre.
Other architectural attractions in the park include the beautiful Nimb Palace, a Moorish-style building housing high end restaurants and hotel. The colorful Tivoli concert hall is home to the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra and the Tivoli aquarium. Next to a miniature lake is a Chinese Pagoda while at the other end of the lake is an 18th century frigate, both housing restaurants. At night, sound-and-lights shows complte with lasers, shooting fountains and classical music light up the lake.
A popular event in the park is Fridays Rock (Fredagsrock), a weekly concert series attracting big names from the Scandinavian music scene including bands such as Roxette, the Cardigans and Aqua. Admission is included as part of the entry fee to the park, making it cheap and affordable especially for those with annual season’s passes (250DKK or $45CAD/USD). Another popular weekend tradition is the Tivoli Boy Guard, a band dressed in formal military uniforms which march around the park at regular intervals and stand guard at key Tivoli landmarks. Selection to the Guard is very prestigious with ages ranging from 8-16.
Unlike many amusement parks, Tivoli is particularly child-friendly with a children’s play area set aside from the rest of the rides. My youngest sister was particularly impressed that there was a children’s changing area which provided free diapers.
At night, Tivoli takes on the air of a fairy-tale, illuminated with over 100,000 lights. The feel becomes even more enchanted as the days get shorter and the park reopens for Halloween and Christmas. Because of the evolution and special decorations developed for each occasion, I will include two more posts with pictures from each season.