The Carlsberg brewery was my first stop on my inaugural visit to Copenhagen, and that was because ..
I like beer!
Probably more than I should owing to the history of diabetes in my family, but like most things in life moderate amounts is probably the key. But if it brings you a little bit of happiness …
So to Copenghagen, and owing to grabbing an early flight out to the Danish capital, I had a full day to myself to explore the city before I was to take part in a digital scavenger hunt – my reason for being in Copenhagen.
First off I took myself on the train outside of the city centre, to where the worlds oldest theme park ‘Bakken’ stands … but it was closed. I really should have checked the season dates before setting out shouldn’t I?! Ah well, over to plan B and a trip to the Carlsberg Brewery as recommended by a friend who had visited Copenhagen just a few weeks prior.
So back on the train I got, and made my way to the Visit Carlsbery centre which links to the Carlsberg Brewery. In just a few short minutes I had not only paid to enter the centre, but also to take a guided tour. Before the tour though, I had just enough time to use one of my free beer tokens, and soak up a of sun in the courtyard.
A guided tour of the Carlsberg Brewery, Copenhagen
With beer numero uno thoroughly enjoyed, I made my way over to the tour meeting point and was greeted by my guide Matilda. For the next hour or so Matilda guided us around the brewery site, giving great insight into the history of how Carlsberg and the site we were now walking around came to be. She explained how Carlsberg was founded in 1847 by J C Jacobsen, and was named after both Jacobsen’s son Carl, and the hill on which the brewery was built – bjerg hill. We were told how Carl himself would also go on to become a brewer, at Carlsberg, but under different circumstances to which you might expect. It was explained that after travels around Europe, Carl returned to Denmark and was given a brewery of his own by his father, but instead of brewing the beers his father advised, Carl had his own plans and inadvertently become his fathers biggest competitor. They became bitter (no pun intended) rivals in the brewing world, but weren’t both able to use the name Carlsberg, so via a court judgement, JC used the name Old Carlsberg, and Carl used New Carlsberg. It’s no secret that father and son fell out, big time, and only made peace with each other a short time before the passing of Jacobsen in 1887.
It was an interesting history lesson told by our guide, much more interesting than I ever expected. The subject matter probably helped a bit, but the story of Carlsberg is actually filled with a few twists and turns which wouldn”t have sounded out of place in a fictional story. So far the tour was well worth the fee.
As we continued around the site, the facts, figures and explanations into the unusual continued. Probably the two things that needed explaining the most, were:
1. The Elephant gate, and;
2. The use of swastika’s on Carlsberg bottles and around the brewery site.
Matilda told us that Carl had a profound interest in both ancient Greece and Rome where the swastika symbol was often used (more on that later), and it was the Roman influence which saw the building of the Elephant Gate. Probably the most famous and recognisable structure on site, the fate was inspired by Bernini’s obelisk-carrying elephant on Piazza della Minerva in Rome. Carl Jacobsen worked with architect Vilhelm Dahlerup on his own elephant based project which was completed in 1901. The elephants, Carl believed, symbolised loyalty and strength, and therefore adhered to his own latin motto – “Laboremus pro patria” – We work for our country.
The 4 elephants at the gate, and holding up the tower above which used to be a herb silo, are also representative of four of Carl’s children, as explained in the video below …
As also explained in that video, each of the elephants displays a Swastika, and so too for a time did bottles of Carlsberg produced in Carl’s New Carlsberg.
Somewhat obviously the symbol was removed from bottles around 1945, but before that time, the swastika was known and seen as an ancient symbol of prosperity and goodness in Sanskrit, and translated as ‘that is good’.
Continuing around the site, we visited some of the old but very grand looking brewing buildings and saw where J C Jacobsen used to live with his family. We were told about how back in the day those lucky enough to work at Carlsberg used to get a sizable beer allowance per DAY. We were also told about the laboratories (now known as the Carlsberg Research Center), the Carlsberg foundation and the planned regeneration of the site moving forwards.
Having finished the tour, and with the sun still shining, I thought it only right to sit in the courtyard and use the second of my free beer tokens. I did also contemplate ordering some of the food available, which i’m told is really good, but eating is cheating right? … plus I had already arranged dinner that evening.
The free self guided tour
Don’t fancy the guided tour? Finished all your free beer tokens? In either case its also worth taking a self guided tour around Visit Carlsberg and the Carlsberg Brewery. Upon entry you will be given a little map and directions to follow. It doesn’t take too long, but again is very informative and interesting, with lots of videos and information boards about the history of the site and brewing process.
Of the self guided sections my favourites had to be the worlds largest unopened beer bottle collection (yes Beer Lao is in there), and the old brewhouse which housed a very nice museum, complete with lots of videos showing how the brewing process has changed over the years. It was particularly amusing to watch how the brewing barrels used to be cleaned.
Tours, Prices, Times etc
Right so, below are the prices and times for simply getting into Visit Carlsberg. This includes the 2x free drinks, the optional self guided tour and access to the lovely courtyard area.
- Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 5 pm.
- Adults (18+) DKK 80 – 2 beers/soft drinks included
- Young people (6-17) DKK 60 – 2 soft drinks included
- Children (0-5) Free
- Free admission with Copenhagen Card
Now like me, you can pay more for a few optional extras. The availability of these does appear to have been reduced since my visit and I believe these are the most up to date details.
- Friday and Saturday at 4pm.
- Price: DKK 45 (+ admission as detailed above)
- Saturday at 14.00 in Danish
- Saturday at 15.00 in English
- Sunday at 13.00 in English
- Price: DKK 45 (+ admission as detailed above)
Just to be sure of the above still being correct, I recommend checking out the official site –> http://www.visitcarlsberg.com/
Enghave Station was where I got off the S Train . Visit Carlsberg is about a 10-minute walk from there.
My visit to Copenhagen was arranged by Visit Denmark and Generator Hostels as a part of their 2014 Digital Scavenger Hunt initiative to promote tourism in Copenhagen through bloggers and social media users like myself. I am under no obligation to visit the Carlsberg site, or write this post or any others that may follow, but have done so purely because I believe the Calrsberg Brewery to be a great way to spend a couple of hours in the city. As such, and considering I paid for my Visit Carlsberg tickets myself, all opinions are my own.