Tivoli gardens and themepark in Copenhagen is celebrating it’s 175th birthday this year, and I finally got to see what all the fuss is about a few weeks ago, when we went one evening after work. Having seen glimpses of old fashioned looking rides over the walls a few times I was expecting a dated, underwhelming park full of references to fairytales I know very little about. That perception couldn’t have been further from the truth, and I loved it. Here’s what you can expect to find behind the gates of one of Europe’s oldest themeparks.
You can visit Tivoli on two different types of ticket, either an all encompassing gardens and rides ticket that gives you full access to both the gardens and unlimited rides, or you can go for the standard entry ticket which gets you entrance into the park to enjoy basically everything but the rides themselves. For 120DKK (about £12) this type of ticket includes the food hall, all the restaurants around the park, all the shows, performances, gardens and beauty of the place. Personally I think this is quite cheap, considering how expensive Copenhagen is, and it’s completely worth the money.
Tivoli is located in the heart of the city, just a five minute walk from the station, and right opposite the city hall. The giant statue of Hans Christian Anderson overlooks the park, which was his inspiration for the fairytale of the Nightingale.
On entry through the main gates you find yourself in the main garden walkway along to the park. The beautiful white building to the right is Nimb, a luxury hotel and restaurant concept that I’ll come on to in a bit, complete with bubble fountains and landscaped gardens in front.
The Tivoli gardens that wind their way around the rides and rollercoasters are made up of different areas and themes, and each one is as beautiful as the next. People come to Tivoli just to enjoy the gardens themselves, and there’s plenty deck chairs and recliners to simply sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
Some of the most striking and beautiful sections of the gardens were the Bamboo Forest, a Chinese themed garden and the Orient, a desert themed garden.
Wandering through the paths of these you will feel a million miles away from the centre of a city. Escaping to new worlds at Tivoli isn’t just for kids..
The restaurant and shops of these gardens were both architecturally built to fit the theme, as were the gondola style boats on the lake. This was one of my favourite areas of the entire park.
The Orangery was a beautiful indoor space, with a more contemporary feel, and there were a number of other little indoor spaces and outdoor pavilions among all the gardens.
We caught sight of this beautiful white peacock strutting it’s stuff among them too.
At night the gardens take on a whole new feel, as they are lit up to illuminate the paths and the trees through decorations you probably wont notice as you’re strolling through in the daylight.
The lake and the pirate ship are the focus point for a water and firework display at the end of the night at weekends.
Entertainment at Tivoli
Of course at every theme park the rides are one of the highlights, for those who enjoy them. There’s everything from some of the bigger thrill seaking waltzers and scary height thingys (no idea of the name?), to the more tame child friendly swings, merry go rounds and of course a big wheel.
As well as all of the traditional theme park rides, including one of the first rollercoasters in Europe, there are a number of stages and outdoor theaters dotted around the park.
These show anything from stage performers, mime acts, pantomimes, ballet dances and musical performances to the crowds lying out on the lawns in front, under the sunshine.
We heard some fabulous performers belting out musical classics, including the Sound of Music. It’s not just old fashioned performances, occasionally Tivoli brings in some special guests and more celebrity style performers. We missed Solange Knowles by just a few days.
Shopping at Tivoli
Blending in with the various themes of each section of the park, are an abundance of shopping opportunities, including everything from retro fairground type toys and souvenirs, to traditional Danish gifts, jewellery and toy shops. The Build a Bear company have a huge store that looked my idea of hell, but a family delight.
Food Choices at Tivoli
Tivoli has a huge food hall, with so many choices and options available. On this occasion we didnt venture in, as we had other plans but it’s definitely somewhere I need to explore fully on a future visit.
Within the park itself there are food places everywhere you turn, carefully blending into the themes and style of the park.
Fast food joints are carefully disguised as pirate ships, and coffee and cake can be found in the most beautiful almost English style country garden, with white iron tables and chairs and parasols.
One thing there is plenty of is ice cream, and again the parlours are traditional and gorgeous.
Other pretty cool food stalls I spotted were different flavoured and coloured popcorn, candyfloss, churros and waffle houses.
Some of these could be found down the Danish Alley, which runs alongside the rollercoaster mountain. This is done up to look like an old fashioned Danish town, with old shop signs and traditional souvenirs and pastries.
Nimb Restaurant at Tivoli
One place I can recommend for food if you’re after a more fine dining experience is Nimb. The Nimb family have been involved in Tivoli since 1909, and were restaurateur’s who got involved with the park in it’s early years.
The Nimb restaurant and luxury hotel are the complex inside the park that you come to on the right as you walk in through the main gate. It’s an enormous oriental looking white building, with incredible sculpted gardens and beautiful fountain out the front.
The restaurant is gorgeous, and a fine dining experience that is at the higher end of the budget. There is an outside terrace which is where we sat, with a great view over the park and within earshot of the musical performances going on at the outdoor theatre.
Service is intended to go that extra mile, and there is a good choice of high quality food including seafood, steak and vegetarian options. For a slightly more affordable option they do a set price for three courses, which does work out cheaper than individual prices.
Despite being there since 1909, it was renovated in 2008 to bring it up to date and keep the charm that is present throughout the entire Tivoli park. You definitely don’t feel like you’re in a themepark when eating here.
Seasons at Tivoli
Unlike some of the more mainstream parks like Disney World, Tivoli is open intermittently throughout the year, to coincide with the seasons. It transforms itself for every season, updating it’s light displays, shows and firework display.
Tivoli changes for summer, winter, Halloween and Christmas, and I can imagine in the festive season it’s absolutely magical, I’d love to experience it.
For my summer visit though, it totally exceeded expectations, and wasn’t at all what I expected. It’s a place that adults can enjoy even without children in tow, for the landscaped gardens and dining options available.
Even the rides where they were throughout the park didn’t feel like the main feature, and they didn’t overtake the atmosphere of the place as you wandered through.
While I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s as ‘magical’ as Disney, Tivoli definitely holds it’s own for what it is, and carries a certain charm and old world elegance without becoming tacky or dated even after so long. Disney himself visited the park in it’s early years, and took inspiration from this to build on for his own parks.
Tivoli definitely felt less commercial, and less of a brand that Disney, and had an attraction for all ages beyond just films and fairytales. I for one can’t wait to go back and see what the food hall has to offer, and hopefully one day the Christmas lights and festivities.
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