August 15th is the 169th anniversary of the opening of the Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen. I think it is fair to say that Tivoli is a Danish institution and still one of the top entertainment parks in Europe, welcoming over 4 million visitors a year. I remember that my first trip to Copenhagen to visit friends included an evening spent at Tivoli, I don’t recall too much about the rides on offer but the overall atmosphere was great and on a warm summer’s evening there are few better places to be in the Danish capital.
Tivoli’s founder, Georg Carstensen, obtained a five-year charter to create Tivoli by telling King Christian VIII that “when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics.” Originally, the park was designed to sit just outside the city walls, by the Western gate (Vesterport) but subsequent development of the capital means that today it boasts a position right in the centre of this beautiful city. Tivoli was constructed on the remains of an old moat which had long served as part of a defensive fortification; the lakes inside the gardens today are remainders of the original moat. Tivoli is a mixture of beautiful gardens, traditional shows and music as well as some very modern fairground rides. No Zoltar machine – but still a great place.
Tivoli is home to a Pantomime Theatre, a tradition which has its roots in the Italian Commedia dell’Arte and is still very much alive today with the main characters of the childlike Harlequin and the female counterpart, Columbina. The shows are designed for young and old audiences and draw upon traditional techniques while allowing for topical references. The peacock-tail curtain (which requires five people to operate it) is lifted to reveal a local city scene even if the action might be influenced by events elsewhere. If you find yourself at Tivoli then the Pantomime theatre is a most welcome distraction.
Elsewhere, Tivoli has its own indoor concert hall which features some of the finest European orchestras and conductors. There are also two smaller outdoor venues which offer free concerts in the afternoon and evening, keeping close to the traditional entertainment from when the site opened. For more contemporary musical entertainment there is the central square (Plænen) where many well-known international artists will perform.
The main pleasure of being at Tivoli is just to stroll around the grounds, take in the mixture of old and new and enjoy a very relaxed atmosphere. There are a variety of rides, from the traditional wooden rollercoaster to very modern attractions such as Vertigo and The Monsoon. On certain dates during the summer season the finale of a night at Tivoli will be the firework display shortly after midnight. Lasting 15-20 minutes this is quite the spectacle and well worth hanging around for.