How to see Copenhagen through the eyes of Danish royalty

Queen Margrethe, Copenhagen
Though the settings are imaginary – the film's inspirations are gloriously real - Keld Navntoft

With its playful modern edge and grand historic foundations, Denmark’s charming capital has long been an autumn city-break favourite. But as the seat of the world’s seventh-oldest monarchy, and home of the oldest reigning living queen, 83-year-old Margrethe II, it should come as no surprise that Copenhagen is a city best explored by way of its royal credentials.

And though its four splendid ­palaces are a great place to start, there’s far more to be gained from a visit themed around the city’s royal identity than you might first think – particularly as a new adaptation of Danish writer Karen Blixen’s novel, Ehrengard, hits our screens on Thursday.

A period drama set within the ­aristocratic world of a fairy-tale ­kingdom, the film is a visual ­celebration of Denmark’s castle-­dotted countryside and turret-pierced skies, conjured up by the combined imaginations of two highly influential Danish women – Blixen, and Queen Margrethe, who is a respected artist and designed a series of costumes and decoupages for the film’s fantastical backdrops.

“What Her Majesty likes about Blixen is the way she paints pictures with her stories,” says Elisabeth Nojgaard, museum director of ­Rungstedlund, a museum dedicated to the author in her former birthplace and country home. “A painter herself, she can relate to that. She can also ­recognise some of the interiors Blixen describes from her own childhood growing up in castles.”

Film Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction
A still from the upcoming Netflix film Ehrengard, based on a Karen Blixen novel - Film Stills

And though the settings are ­imaginary, their inspirations are ­gloriously real. While Blixen only spent short periods in Copenhagen, including a stint at the grand dame Hotel d’Angleterre while ­Rungstedlund was being refurbished, royal references drawn from the ­Danish capital shape the spirit of Ehrengard – providing not only a ­wonderful glimpse of the city’s relationship with its royals, but an excellent day-long itinerary, too.

Spend your morning admiring some of Copenhagen’s splendid 17th-century spires. Completed in 1640, The Old Stock Exchange (Borsen) has one of the loveliest – planned by King Christian IV, and sitting opposite Holmens Kirke, where the Queen was married in 1967. Then stroll across Indre By to see the fairy-tale moat that guards the crown jewels at Rosenborg Castle. All of the above were templates for elements of Blixen’s fantasy kingdom.

Christiansborg Palace at sunrise, Copenhagen, Denmark
The Borsen building is an iconic sight in Copenhagen - iStock/Getty

Blixen is also said to have taken inspiration from the storybook illuminations of Tivoli, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world (tickets £8/18 child/adult;, so make this your next stop. Celebrating its 180th anniversary this year, the park is beloved by many Danes – including Queen Margrethe, who would visit once each year as a child.

As part of her 50th birthday celebrations, she even took a ride on Tivoli’s vintage roller coaster, which – I discovered – isn’t as tame as it looks. Using gravity to pick up speed and a human hand to pull on the brakes, wooden carts reach an impressive, gut-tumbling 34mph. Hurtling through dark tunnels, I screamed like a child as I was lifted from my chair at the peak of 100ft-drops, while veteran “brake man” Morten punched his fist ­gleefully in the air. The queen, apparently, was equally amused.

The monarch is also ­regularly involved in the set design for a series of special performances held at the park’s original Pantomime Theatre, and as tickets for performances are included in Tivoli’s admission price, it’s well worth checking what’s on during your visit.

Nimb Hotel, Copenhagen
Queen Margrethe likes to lunch at Hotel Nimb

Before you depart the park, do as the queen does and ­settle in for a lunch of white-herring open-faced smorrebrod sandwiches at her favourite ­corner table in restaurant Fru Nimb – set within the fantastical Hotel Nimb, which is designed to look like a magnificent Moorish-style palace (

Across Copenhagen, patisseries, chocolatiers, jewellers and tea ­merchants have received a royal seal of approval, so spare a few hours for afternoon tea in the botanical-themed, gold-trimmed upstairs dining room of AC Perch’s Tea Shop, established in 1835 on busy shopping street Kronprinsensgade ( Order one of two blends on the menu inspired by Blixen and Queen Margrethe, both with a bergamot base – delicious, if surprisingly mild for two women so defined by their strength.

Before you turn in, end your day as I did, at Christiansborg Palace – ­nipping in to see the daring, brightly coloured tapestries of controversial Danish artist Bjorn Norgaard (who famously cut up a horse and bottled its body parts in jam jars to protest the Vietnam War) before the building closes at 5pm. Displayed in one of the grand reception rooms, the historic 20th-century weavings were gifted to the queen (who, I was told, is “fond of the colours”) for her 50th birthday, and depict the likes of the Beatles, ­Hitler and Donald Duck.

As I turned to leave – keen to admire another of the city’s fairy-tale spires when the palace is gloriously lit after dark – I noticed that, of all the ­tapestries’ famous faces, Blixen’s is absent. Perhaps it’s an oversight, or maybe she’s discreetly disguised in keeping with her playfully ambiguous character. Or perhaps, like that of her ruling monarch, her love of ­Copenhagen is so entwined in the city’s moats, parks and spires that it doesn’t matter. Beyond decorative decoupages and statement artworks, both are ­irrevocably part of everyday Danish life – and half the joy is finding them there.


Sarah Marshall was a guest of Visit Denmark (

Set in a 19th century building, Hotel Kong Arthur (0045 3311 1212; has doubles from £246 per night, including breakfast. British Airways ( flies from London to Copenhagen from £78 return 

Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction comes to Netflix on September 14

Karen Blixen Museum Rungstedlund ( will host an exhibition of Queen Margrethe’s sketches and decoupages featured in Ehrengard from October 6 until April 30 next year. Rungstedlund is a 30-minute train ride from Copenhagen (