Whoever said that Disneyland was the happiest place on Earth has obviously never been to Tivoli in December.
Covered in faux snow, lit up with thousands of LED lights and roaming with pheasants,
Tivoli during the Christmas and New Years holiday season is so magical it is not to be missed!
Tivoli – an urban amusement park (located right across the street from Copenhagen’s central train station) – is the second oldest amusement park in the world. The only one that’s older is Bakken, an amusement park just north of Copenhagen.
Tivoli first opened its doors to the public on August 15, 1843. The park was dreamed up and developed by Georg Carstensen, whose vision was to create an amusement area so exotic and delightful, it would distract people from politics (at least that’s what he told the king, Christian VIII, when seeking permission to build it).
In 1951 Walt Disney visited Tivoli with a pad and a pencil. He walked around, sketched, scribbled some notes and opened Disneyland in Southern California in 1955.
You might be saying to yourself: “Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Why does one have to be better than the other? Surely, there are some wonderful things at Disney.”
To this, I say: “Nah. Not really.” I don’t like Disney for many reasons. I don’t like how commercial it is (can you buy anything in the park – anything at all – without a Disney trademarked character making it look tacky?), I don’t like how there’s not a whole lot to do and enjoy aside from rides (rides equal long lines), the food is bad and often there are people dressed up as Goofy or Pluto or whatever, dressed in felt, walking around in 90 degree heat. Disney isn’t exactly known for being a wonderful employer either.
Arguably, Tivoli is more fun than Disney even during the summer, but in the winter most certainly it can’t be beat. Decked out in holiday cheer, Tivoli, like the rest of Copenhagen, manages to charm and fill one with warmth (most of it is probably from gløgg) without being commercial, obnoxious and full of trademarked, overpriced junk.
At Tivoli there are plenty of rides, but you don’t need to go on rides. There are also arcades, an aquarium, botanical gardens, theater, ballet and concert venues and some of the best food and drink to be had in Copenhagen.
It also has plenty of quiet areas. These are best enjoyed in the summer since not much is in bloom at the rose garden and it’s too dark to fully appreciate the bamboo forest in the middle of the winter.
We made it to Tivoli twice during December, but with an annual pass, we really should’ve gone more often! Without the pass, the entrance to the park is 120 kr (less than $20). It costs more to go on the rides (you can pay for individual rides or get another, more expensive pass).
Now I’m looking forward to February. Tivoli is closed during January but reopens (for about 3 weeks) on February 2. What’s on the menu? Light installations (part of the CPH Light Festival), an ice-skating rink, an ice maze and an igloo!
February is also the month when Danish Halloween (Fastelavn) is celebrated. I know, a little weird. Even weirder when you consider that the festivities include a Danish version of a piñata, with a cat drawn on the sides. Yes, back in the day the Danish piñata held a real cat… Somehow this disturbs me even more than the witch burnings…
More on Festelavn in February! And Tivoli… I will return soon!