On day 10 of our trip to Copenhagen, we embarked on a journey that took us into the literary past, a potentially very wet future, and the life of royalty in the present day.
If you missed last week’s adventure, come swim with the fishes with us as we explore Copenhagen’s aquarium.
We started our morning by visiting Bakkehuset (The Hill House), or the Bakkehus Museum, a 19th-century home turned literary museum. Between 1802 and 1830, the home was owned by Kamma and Knud Lyne Rahbek, who began hosting a salon of sorts in their drawing room which attracted the top minds of the Golden Age of Denmark — including writer Hans Christian Andersen, scientist H.C. Østed, poet Adam Oehlenschläger, and many more intellectuals. The main topics of discussion? Literature! Science! Politics! Culture!
Today, Bakkehuset is set up to look much like how it would have during this heyday period, including the infamous drawing room, as well as the library and various other rooms. On display included, of most interest to me at the time, a slip of paper handwritten by Hans Cristian Andersen and several first edition books by Andersen.
Bakkehuset hosts a variety of exhibits intent on continuing the tradition of literary discussion. While we were visiting, the exhibit was about Jane Austen and a Danish contemporary female writer who I sadly can’t remember the name of. The two never met, but they were born only a few years apart and wrote very similar stories.
As a literary nerd, naturally I loved visiting Bakkehuset. It has a fascinating history and could be worth checking out if you’re in the neighbourhood.
Our next stop of the day was to the Cisternerne (Cistern). Cisternerne was once Copenhagen’s water reservoir, built in 1856-1859, and today is used as an exhibition site for truly unique creations.
Its waters once open to the air, Cisternerne was covered over in concrete in 1891, creating an underground cave-like environment that would make any bat feel at home. In 1933, Cisternerne closed down and its waters, no longer needed for drinking, were eventually drained, leaving us with the open underground space we can visit today.
And what a space it is! Because of its combination of humidity, temperature, and construction material, Cisternerne became an urban cave, complete with growing dripstones that have formed delicate lime stalagmites and stalactites, giving the place an eerie yet beautiful vibe. It’s almost always dark down there, relatively cold, and wet, so it really does feel like you’re walking through a cave.
Cisternerne holds a variety of exhibitions that are designed specifically for this cool environment. While we were there, Superflex’s It’s Not the End of the World exhibit was on, and let me tell you, it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
You head down into the depths of the Cisternerne, where the temperature immediately drops and your eyes have to adjust to the dim lighting. At the bottom of the stairs, we were given rainboots to change into — and boy, were these ever necessary! Once suited up, we went into the Cisternerne itself, and straight away I could tell this was going to be amazing.
Picture this: it’s dark save for a few dim lights scattered here and there. Slow, lilting music plays around you. Splash! You’ve just walked through a puddle. Only it’s not a puddle. The further in you go, the deeper the water gets until you’re wading through ankle-deep water that swirls all around you. Dripstones hang from archways, cling to columns, come towards you from the ceiling. In the distance, a blue, eerie glow. You head towards the light.
This is the future of the world as envisioned by the exhibition, a future where climate change has caused water levels to rise and begin flooding our lives. You walk through the waters past abandoned bathrooms, all flooded. You keep moving towards the blue light. Finally, you reach it — glowing blue letters stare back at you: “It’s not the end of the world.” Humanity might be gone, this exhibition suggests, but the world is still here, flooded and inhabitable, but still here.
It was a beautiful display and one I won’t ever forget. This was by far my favourite part of the day. It was just such a cool experience, getting to wade through the water in the near-dark. Although this particular exhibit is long gone by now, Cisternerne is definitely worth checking out, even if only to see the cave-like environment of the once-water reservoir. I’m sure whatever exhibit is on when you’re there will be a unique experience.
Our final stop of the day was to Amalienborg Palace, the Danish royal family’s current residence. Due to that, there are only a few rooms open to the public, but it was a good visit nonetheless (although my favourite castle of the trip remains Frederiksborg).
Built in the 1750s for several of the nobility class, in 1794 Amalienborg became home to the royal family after a fire forced them out of Christiansborg Palace, and here they have lived ever since. Amalienborg is actually four separate buildings, all built around a square facing one another. The rooms you can see are set up as they would have been between the 1800s to 1950s, and include Frederik IX’s, Christian IX’s, and Christian X’s studies, Queen Louise’s salon, the Garden room, the dining room, and various other chambers.
And that was our day! A grand day all in all. Which spot would you want to visit?
Check back next week as we head to the Copenhagen Zoo.
Meanwhile, check out my other travel adventures!