The Wonders of Copenhagen’s City Hall

Copenhagen has a magnificent city hall, with its own stately town square in front and everything. It also happens to be an open, working building, meaning that you can head there during the week and poke around should the need arise to see the inner workings of Danish bureaucracy. Of course, City Hall also has the City Hall Tower, which is not bureaucratic slang but rather a majestic brick construction that lifts more than 340 feet off the street, and offers the type of view that only the second-highest tower in Copenhagen can offer. I wish I could tell you what type of view the highest tower in Copenhagen offered, but that tower (at Christiansborg palace) is unfortunately closed for renovations at the moment. So here we are, standing at the top of City Hall, making do with what we’ve got. It’s well worth the 300 step climb to get up, and the incredible view provides ample opportunity to pick out curious looking landmarks and monuments that warrant further exploration as the day goes on.

Before long, it will be time to make your way down, but the fun is just beginning. The City Hall has more to offer than just a brick tower. I spent a considerable amount of time making my way around its halls and seeing which doors were open to visitors and which were not (there is, unfortunately, some limit to the openness of the building). I ended up discovering two delightful spaces. The first is City Hall’s courtyard garden— a wonderful little outdoor space centered around a fairly sizeable fountain that offers a nice respite from the surrounding city but still gives you a nice breath of fresh air. While it’s too small to be called a nice place to go for a walk, I’d imagine it would be a lovely place to have a conversation or to read a good book.

Sam Lincoln | Lets Go

It turns out, however, that the City Hall has an even better place to read a book— the reading room. Now, the reading room feels like a place that shouldn’t be open to the public. It’s a two story space tucked off one of the grander hallways in the building, and it’s absolutely wonderful. There are books everywhere, floor to ceiling. There are weird and cool modern chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling. There are lots of tables to sit at and one small green curved window-seat that makes its own little reading nook. Best of all, there’s a beautiful second story balcony running around the room that’s accessed by a narrow staircase near the window-seat nook. The whole thing feels lifted from a country home in England— it’s a cozy, quiet, light-filled library that as far as I can tell gets very little foot traffic.

Sam Lincoln | Lets Go

I ended up going back there to visit the reading room again, because I was so enamored, and for a second time I found it almost completely deserted. There were one or two people doing quiet work in the corner, but considering the mass of tourists milling just outside the building the whole thing felt like the library equivalent of a desert mirage: you’ve got a city dotted with incredible buildings and voracious tourists filling those buildings, and yet here we’ve got one of Copenhagen’s most historic constructions and it’s got a remarkably large (and probably historic) room just sitting inside of it going almost completely unnoticed! I can draw two possible conclusions from this: one is that perhaps it looks sufficiently official and studious that it just isn’t that appealing to tourists, but the second option is that I misread— or missed altogether— some sort of sign at some point that said tourists were not allowed in the reading room, and I unwittingly marched right in like I owned the place.

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