Tivoli Gardens: Copenhagen’s Iconic Hub of Happiness

by | 3 Jun 2024

Tivoli is not just an amusement park. It is an integral part of our history on a national level.

In the heart of Copenhagen, Tivoli Gardens is a place of joy and enchantment, captivating visitors with its charm and vibrant atmosphere. This iconic amusement park, with its rich history and delightful attractions, is a beloved landmark for both locals and tourists. To give us a deeper insight into Tivoli Gardens, we are interviewing Lene, a native Dane and long-time Copenhagen resident. As our local expert, and this week’s Insightful Travel Trivia Destination Expert, Lene will share her unique perspective and insider tips on experiencing the best of Tivoli Gardens.

What is Tivoli Gardens?

“Tivoli is one of the oldest theme parks/amusement parks in the world. Danes often refer to Tivoli as ‘The Old Garden’.”

Who made Tivoli Gardens and why?

“Mr. Georg Carstensen, an enterprising business man, founded Tivoli in 1843. He had travelled a lot and seen amusement parks being opened in many European cities. He thought that Copenhagen ought to have one as well. Back then Denmark was an absolute monarchy and the king’s permission was needed. I don’t know if the story is true, but rumor has it that the king thought it was a great idea, because an amusement park would keep the Danes* minds and thoughts on something else rather than politics.

“At this time in history Europe was being swept with people demanding democratic reform and all kings and queens lived in constant fear of revolution, so if the king really said that… maybe that is the reason why Denmark never had revolutions, but a quiet transition to democracy 6 years after Tivoli opened. Who knows? Very few people had opportunity to travel back then and Mr. Carstensen wanted to create a world of magic and make-believe. Colorful pavilions in bright colors and and decorations as well as entertainment with acrobats and magicians and a magnificent Chinese style theatre followed in 1874 and in 1914 a mountain was build with a roller coaster running inside it.

Tivoli Chinese theatre

“Both these entertainments still operate! Many roller coaster enthusiasts from all over the world make a point of visiting Tivoli just to try out this iconic old roller coaster, and the Chineese theatre are today the oldest building in Tivoli and has daily performances of traditions Commedia del Arte stories with Harlequin and Columbine, often choreographed by the now abdicated 84-year old Queen Margrethe. For the people of mid-19th century Copenhagen this was very exotic. Our country is flat as pancake – no mountains and certainly no Chinees style buildings! Hans Christian Andersen loved Tivoli from the word go. It inspired him to write one of his fairy tales, The Nightingale, and he was a regular visitor to the garden all through the summer. Tivoli was only open in the summer, whereas now they open for Halloween as well as for a very popular Christmas market.”


Tivoli’s wooden roller coaster dates from 1914 and is one of the oldest wooden roller coasters still operating in the world.

What can you do there?

“Tivoli is as popular with the locals as it is with our visitors. I am a good example of that: i was four years old when I first visited Tivoli with my parents and now I am 75 and and I still have a season pass to Tivoli and go there a lot to meet up with friends. It would be unthinkable for Danish families not to go to Tivoli regularly and Danes from other parts of the country usually make it their first stop when visiting Copenhagen – every time they visit.

“Once you have paid the entrance there are music performances you can attend, but what we locals really love is the garden. As mentioned above we call Tivoli the old garden and when they open there are thousands of tulips and hyacinths in the garden and exotic bourgainvilleas and the peacocks are brought out from their winter hibernation. The kids love the rides, which do cost extra, and the grown-ups sit with a drink or and ice cream and end enjoy the flowers. We hang out on lots of benches under the shades of huge old trees. Tivoli was not built on a flat piece of empty land. It was built on the old city ramparts when these were demolished in the mid-!9th century, so many of the trees are very old. Originally Tivoli rented the land from the state, well actually from the military since they were in charge of these old fortifications.”


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What is your favourite memory there?

“I can’t pinpoint one favorite memory. After a long bleak winter we know that spring and summer is near when Tivoli opens up in mid-april and then I just cannot get enough of the explosion of colour in there with all the flowers.”

As the world’s third-oldest theme park, how does it keep crowds coming back year after year?

“Well, I think that the secret of people wanting to come back is very well explained in the slogan that Tivoli has: Tivoli – always as never before. We locals really do not want Tivoli to change. I has to be just like it was when we were children. Well, of course it isn’t. We do know that. The management has introduced new features regularly, but they do it carefully and gently. After all, they have a whole country to answer to. We watch the old garden assiduously to make sure it doesn’t change too much.”

Apparently Walt Disney was inspired Tivoli Gardens to create Disneyland, is that true?

“Yes, it is true. Indeed, he visited Tivoli several times both before and after he founded Disneyland in California in 1955. He wanted to capture and understand the magic and the special atmosphere of the garden, but this is something that is diffcult to export. It cannot be bottled and sold. Tivoli is not just a theme/amusement park. It is an integral part of our history on a national level and it is woven into the fabric of our personal and family history and tradition.”



Famous performers at Tivoli over time have included Marlene Dietrich, Mariah Carey, Kanye West and Eric Clapton.

“I would also like to mention the composer Hans Christian Lumbye. He is known as “the Danish Strauss” and is closely connected to Tivoli. His Champagne Gallop is played regularly at the concerts that we take our guests to in Vienna and was composed in 1846. In Denmark it is the tradition to play the Champagne Gallop at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Lumbye played the violin and conducted the Tivoli Orchestra every summer for thirty years from the first year that Tivoli opened up in 1843. In total, he composed 700 pieces of music and he is still extremely popular and his music is instantly recognized by all Danes. I’ll try to find a few photos of Tivoli to send you and I think I have a phone of myself in Insight livery from a few years back.”

Thanks Lene. Have you been to Tivoli Gardens or Copenhagen? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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I'm Jay – born in Italy, raised in South London. Having French sisters and Hungarian ancestors, I've always been fascinated with the world and its cultures, and I carry this curiosity into my writing for Insightful. My favourite destinations I've traveled to so far have been Italy, Peru, France and Brazil.