The SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst) is the National Gallery of Denmark. It has an interesting collection of works from various times and places. The interior space of the museum, giving a wonderful sense of space and light, is in itself an aesthetic experience. In addition to paintings and graphic arts, the SMK provides dimensional variety with displays of sculpture. The thoughtful layout of rooms also provides ample opportunities to sit and contemplate, something I find sadly lacking in many major art museums.
The SMK is a particularly good place to learn about the history of Danish painting, and to see works from the period referred to as the Golden Age of Danish Painting. In particular, one can see paintings by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, “the Father of Danish Painting,” and of the artists he worked with and taught. It’s interesting to compare Eckersberg’s work with that of the English painters Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, J. M. W. Turner, and John Constable.
The painting to the left is Det russiske linieskib “Asow” og en fregat til ankers på Helsingørs red ( The Russian Ship of the Line “Asow” and a Frigate at Anchor in the Roads of Elsinore), painted by Eckersberg in 1828.
The Amaliehaven (Amalie Garden) is a long and narrow park that runs parallel to the Inderhaven (Inner Harbor) between Larsens Plads and Toldbodegade. At each end of the long axis is a water feature sculpted by Arnaldo Pomodoro. These are connected by paths with a large fountain and four pillars (also sculpted by Pomodoro) at their center. From this center, where Frederiksgade intersects the park paths, there is a great view of the Operahus (Opera House) across the water to the east and of the Amalienborg Palace and Marmorkirken (Marble Church) to the west. The strict geometrical design of the Amaliahaven is complemented by the softer shapes and textures of trees and other plantings, which have been arranged to create a peaceful, enclosed space. The Amaliehaven is said to be most beautiful in the spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. However, we found the this little park also attractive in November, with dry fountains allowing us to examine their sculptural details, and with autumn leaves, bare branches, and bright berries set against evergreens and a restless sky in the slanting light of the approaching solstice.
If you walk along Nyhavn to the Inderhaven (Inner Harbor) and look to the north, you will see a modern brick and glass building known as Skuespilhuset, which is now the main venue for drama performances by the Royal Danish Theater. Skuespilhuset, which was designed by Lundgaard & Tranberg, is stunning to look at — from the outside with its juxtapositions of earthy brown brick, smooth green glass, and copper cladding — and from the inside where exposed steel trusses, long fiber optic lights, metal railings, and bright red chairs exist in visual harmony with the brick and glass walls. You can reach the building via a wooden walkway, and, even when no performance is scheduled, enjoy the food and the view from the café and restaurant (Ofelia) inside. At this café, during my first hours in Copenhagen in 2008, I was served a potato-onion soup which lingers in my memory as being transcendent. My appreciation for this soup may have been enhanced by having had little food or sleep during the preceding 24 hours, though I will note that the cafe was filled with people who also seemed to be well-pleased. You can learn more about the architecture of Skuespilhuset at the Architonic – The New Royal Playhouse and Copenhagen Architecture – Royal Playhouse webpages. There’s also a Wikipedia page for the Royal Danish Playhouse.
Nyhavn means “New Harbor.” The harbor referred to is an extension that was dug out around 1670 to allow ships to sail in from the sea and unload directly at Kongens Nytorv. Today this canal houses a number of museum ships, as well as privately owned veteran wooden ships. The street along the water is lined with colorful townhouses from the 17th and 18th century, which currently house shops, restaurants, and bars. At the end of the street, where Nyhavn meets the main harbor, are two historically preserved warehouses, originally used by the East India Company, now functioning as a hotel. Don’t leave Copenhagen without getting a look at Nyhavn!