No visit to Copenhagen would be complete without the Little Mermaid. As Copenhagen’s best known landmark and almost a national symbol, it attracts thousands of tourists every day all year round. It’s often crowded and everybody wants to take a picture with her, which can be a bit of a fight.
Avoid the Crowds
Your visit to the Little Mermaid will feel much better if you avoid the peak times.
It is not that the absolute number of people here is greater than in the other popular places (Nyhavn, Tivoli, Strøget). Quite the opposite actually, but the problem is that here all the people are concentrated at a single, small point – the Mermaid.
Common reaction when people first see her is “She’s much smaller than I expected.” The statue is only 1.25 metre tall, sitting on a rock. This rock is in the water, two metres away from the shore, but there are smaller rocks which you can step on to get all the way to the Mermaid and embrace her for a photo, as many people want to do.
Having to get to the statue and trying to not fall into the water (my friend managed to do that up to her knee once) makes the process of taking pictures with the Mermaid very slow. At busier times of day, when waiting for your turn you have to stand very close to the strategic point of access to the rocks, otherwise it will never be your turn. This results in many people being crowded as close to the Mermaid as possible, which can ruin the feeling for everyone.
That said, if you come here alone, or almost alone, it is an idyllic place. You can sit on one of the benches which are directly in front of the Mermaid and just relax and watch the water.
Best Time to Visit
So when to visit the Little Mermaid to avoid the crowds?
During the peak summer season, your best bet is early morning – as early as you can get yourself out of bed. After 9am may be already late, because the tour buses start arriving (it appears more people have the idea that they should come here first thing in the morning).
Another good time is later in the evening, but that can be hit or miss – some evenings it’s almost empty, but if you are unlucky it can also be full of (sometimes a little drunk) people. That said, if you are here in summer, you have the advantage of daylight long into the evening.
Another factor that decides the number of tourists near the Little Mermaid is the weather, because the place is quite exposed and there is nowhere to hide from rain and wind. If you don’t mind a bit of rain, you have a big advantage. By the way, rainy weather can create a special kind of atmosphere by the Mermaid.
Outside the peak summer season the crowds tend to be smaller and it is possible to find periods during the day when very few tourists are here. If it’s November and it’s very crowded, just wait a few minutes and it will get better. Vast majority of visitors only spend a few minutes here, take pictures, and move on to the next place.
How to Get to the Little Mermaid
For the reasons above, I wouldn’t recommend arriving with one of the hop-on-hop-off tourist buses, because everybody else from the bus will be hopping off with you.
It is best to arrive with regular public transport and combine the Little Mermaid with other places to take a very pleasant walk along the strait. In fact, there are a number of other statues and fountains, some of them considered by many locals more precious than the Mermaid herself.
You can come here from two sides – from Nyhavn (Kongens Nytorv metro station) or from Østerport S-train station. The latter is much closer to the Mermaid, and therefore if you are coming here in the morning, take an S-train to Østerport and start from there.
It is less than 10 minutes’ walk from Østerport station to the Little Mermaid (Den lille Havfrue in Danish; it is well signed). The only thing in between is the pentagram-shaped Citadel (Kastellet), which is also a place worth visiting. You can take a circular walk along the Citadel’s moat, which is like a park, especially nice in spring or summer. That said, you may want to visit the Mermaid first and come to the Citadel after (the gate is 350 metres from the Mermaid).
Alternatively, if you want to get as close to the Little Mermaid as possible with public transport, you can take bus number 26 from Østerport instead of walking. The nearest bus stop is Indiakaj (2 stops from Østerport station in direction to Søndre Frihavn), about 300 metres from the Mermaid.
After seeing the Little Mermaid and the Citadel, you can continue along the strait (the promenade is called Langelinie, like Long Line). In particular, don’t miss the Ivar Huitfeldt Column, the Gefion Fountain, and the traditional Anglican St Alban’s Church. The park next to this church is named Churchillparken, and there is also Churchill’s bust.
If you started from Østerport, you have actually walked three quarters of the way around the Citadel at this point. For a shorter version of the trip, you can return to Østerport station, either through the Citadel (there is another gate on this side), or the street which runs alongside it (Grønningen).
For longer version, return to the coast and continue to Amalienborg Palace. If you started with the Little Mermaid in the morning, you may be just in time for the changing of the guards ceremony, which is at 12:00 every day, and have lunch at Nyhavn afterwards.
This Langelinie walk is actually one of the most (perhaps the most) traditional and popular strolls in Copenhagen.