Posted in Italy on 18. Oct, 2011
Not many European capital cities are blessed with island paradises just minutes from their centres. But the island of Amager, which is filled with both natural and cultural landmarks, is so close to Copenhagen that the island actually hosts the city’s airport, which means that you’ll find many Amager hotels. On Amager you’ll find beaches, nature reserves and remnants of the distant past. The communities range from the cutting edge modern architecture of Ørestad, which is growing all the time, to the humble domiciles of Dragør, the quaint fishing village where time seems to have stopped. Amager is also the gateway to Copenhagen’s three fort islands.
The 5,000 acres of parkland contained in Kalvebod Fælled includes protected wetlands, beaches, forests and lakes. Located in southwest Amager, this is where you’ll find many deer and even more birds. In fact, nowhere else in Europe will you find so much wild nature so close to a major city. Autumn brings kite-flyers, who put on a spectacular show, and some of the most interesting parts of the park aren’t shown at all, as they are contained in an EU-recognized bird protection area to which the general public has no access. Much of what you see is actually man-made, as part of the park is located on a reclaimed sea bed. So many of the hills you see actually used to be islands. Other things to do include renting bicycles and horses, and this family-friendly park also has plenty of activities for the kids.
Amager Strandpark and Kastrup Fort
The largest beach in the Copenhagen area, the Amager Strandpark includes a large island made of sand and a lagoon. This beach is also man-made with recreation in mind, and as a result you’ll find the area full of recreational activities, including windsurfing, diving, water skiing, sea kayaking and of course beach volleyball. A popular winter activity is the bath on the New Helgoland pier, and summer’s number one pastime continues to be lying out on the sand. Adjacent to the Strandpark is Kastrup Fort, one of the many fortifications that were built around the city back in the old days. Now a beautiful park, you can still see the outline of the fort, the moat and a few remaining walls and buildings. Kastrup Fort is used more as a park than as a historical monument, but you can still see bullet holes left over from the WWII Nazi executions of Danish citizens in the fort’s catacombs. Whatever your reasons for visiting, you’ll appreciate the great views over the sound.
With crooked cobblestone streets below and the red tiled roofs on the pretty old yellow buildings above, the tiny fishing village of Dragør looks not so different than it did 100 years ago. This traditional Danish village can easily be reached by bus from downtown Copenhagen or from the airport. There are also two museums in Dragør worth visiting. The first is the Amagermuseet. Set in two old farm houses, this cosy museum relates the history of the island, focusing on the Dutch who were invited to dam the island and then farm it, just the way they had done back in the Netherlands. Many historical interiors and textiles can also be seen. The second is the Dragør Museum, which reveals the maritime history of the village and features models of ships and many odd items that sailors brought from around the world. There’s also a collection of paintings by famous local artist C.W. Eckersberg (1783-1853) and you won’t want to miss one of the fishing vessels that was used during the famous evacuation to Sweden of Jews fleeing the German occupation.
This free museum provides a unique perspective on the how the better half lived back in centuries long gone while exposing you to a large variety of Danish artists. That’s because the Kastrupgårdsamlingen is set in a grand 17th century country home that strikes a contrast from the modern farm houses of the Amagermuseet in Dragør. You can choose between permanent and temporary exhibitions, and after sampling the large collection of graphics, including many works from the avant-garde COBRA movement, you can sample the cocoa, wine, cake and coffee at the Kastrupgårdsamlingen’s in-house café. And did I mention that the admission is free?
Amager is also the gateway to several other islands, including the incredibly flat Saltholm Island. Covering 16 square kilometres, Saltholm’s highest point is a dizzying two metres above sea level. Though this low position keeps it largely uninhabited by human beings, who tend not to like the constant flooding, the island is quite popular with the 1,000 heads of cattle that come every summer to graze. Not surprisingly, the main attraction of Saltholm is its wetlands, which host many species of birds, some of them extremely rare. The southern end of the island is also home to several seal colonies. Asking around about Saltholm, you’ll find that very few people visit, which is a shame. To get there, you’ll need to make arrangements to tag along on a private fishing vessel, which also serves as a ferry to the island and leaves from a small marina near the Kastrup metro station. Once there, you will find it hard to imagine that the centre of Copenhagen is just 16 kilometres away and the international airport is just over the water.