The Little Mermaid statue is a must-see sight in Copenhagen. Det Lille Havfrue in København is often seen as the symbol of Denmark.
The statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen harbor is one of the top must-see sights in Denmark. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to get here, as only once a visitor has seen this rather small statue is it obvious that not having seen her at all would not really condemn any visit to the Danish capital as a failure. It tends to get very busy at the Little Mermaid but visitors arrive, see, take a photo, and leave fairly quickly. During the high season, buses spew out new tour groups every few minutes.
The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen
Det Lille Havfrue is a small bronze statue of a fictional character in a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale that has been retold many times in various adaptations. This small statue is only 1.25 m (4.1 ft) tall and sits on a rock just off the promenade to the north of central Copenhagen.
The Little Mermaid statue was donated by Carl Jacobsen from the Carlsberg beer-brewing family. (Much of the rest of his vast art collection is included in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket.)
Although the statue was already unveiled in 1913, it was made by Edvard Eriksen (1876-1959) at a relatively young age. As art only passes into the public domain in Denmark 70 years after the death of the artist, any use of the statue in commercial endeavors is subject to copyright – something that the family actively pursues. The statue will be in the public domain from 2030. Wikipedia in Danish thus uses a cutout photo while the English version dares using a full version of the mermaid statue.
The head of The Little Mermaid is modeled on Ellen Price – a ballerina much admired by Jacobsen. However, she refused to model nude so Eriksen’s wife modeled for the body.
The statue originally attracted little attention – and even now many Copenhageners think the nearby Gefion spring from the same period is more worthy. However, pushed by the tourist office and the “Wonderful Copenhagen” slogan, the Little Mermaid has grown to become the emblem of Copenhagen, and sometimes all of Denmark.
Vandalism of The Little Mermaid
The Eriksen family still owns the original model of the statue, which is fortunate as a new head had to be cast after the original was cut off in 1964 and never recovered. She lost her head again in 1998 but this time it was found.
In 2003, she was blasted off her rock but recovered. Through the century she has also lost an arm, suffered cuts, and the indignity of being dressed up or painted for various political causes.
The Little Mermaid finally seemed to be accepted as a national symbol after outrage followed the decision to send her to the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai.
Getting to the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen
The Little Mermaid sits on a rock just off the harbor front to the north of Copenhagen’s old town. The promenade area is freely accessible at all times making an early morning or evening visit a good option during the busy summer season.
The Little Mermaid is easiest reached on foot or by bicycle from central Copenhagen. Simply stroll further north along the harbor front from the Nordre Toldbud (Maersk building). Pedestrians may walk up the walkway from the Gefion statue for the best views while cyclists should cycle underneath this passage. Cycling is not allowed directly on the paths next to the statue.
All tour buses and hop-on-hop-off buses call here making it fairly easy to identify where the statue is located. Many sightseeing boats also cruise past but passengers only see the mermaid from the rear.
Public Transportation to the Little Mermaid
No public transportation stops directly at The Little Mermaid, although hop-on, hop-off buses of course do. The simplest and most pleasant way to get to the statue is to walk from the city center. The Marmorkirke metro station is around a kilometer from the mermaid.
The closest Copenhagen public bus stop is Indiakaj – use bus 27 with Langelinikaj as the final destination. From here, it is a short walk past the yacht harbor to the statue – however, consider seeing the “sister” statue first (see below) if planning to walk back to the city center. Bus 27 is less useful than the previous bus 26 that does not cover this route anymore — bus 27 only departs from Østerport station, which is only a few minutes longer walk than taking the bus.
A further alternative is harbor bus boats 991 or 992 that stop at Nordre Tolbod at the southeastern corner of the Kastellet fort and the Gefion fountain.
Travelers arriving by taxi, usually have the taxi wait for a few minutes.
The easiest way from Copenhagen Airport to The Little Mermaid is to take the train from the airport (direction Helsingør), get off at Osterport station, and from here use bus 27 (included in the ticket) or a ten-minute walk. Alternatively, take the metro from the airport, change at Kongs Nytorv to metro 3 or 4, and then walk from either Marmorkirke or Osterport. Traveling time is around 30 minutes each way.
Other Mermaid Statues in Copenhagen
Two further mermaid statues are located near the famous Little Mermaid.
The first one is a more voluptuous older mermaid of granite — she seems to have disappeared but might be back. She is on land at the start of the Langeliniekaj shopping mall area just to the north of the yacht harbor. The statue of the polar bear with cubs usually attracts more attention.
More interesting is the genetically modified mermaid, which is part of a larger “Genetically Modified Paradise” sculpture group by Bjørn Nørgaard (2000) on Pakhuskaj. During the day, the DFDS Oslo ferry forms the backdrop.
If walking back to the city center from the Little Mermaid, consider strolling through the Kastellet fort (free admission). The buildings here are very photogenic and include in addition to the barracks a church with frequent free concerts, a historic windmill, and a memorial for the fallen soldiers of the Danish army in various wars. The best views are from the walkways on the bastions.