Visiting Copenhagen with children? Interested in what goes on in our oceans? Look no further than to The Blue Planet (Den Blå Planet) which is the National Aquarium of Denmark, and the biggest aquarium in Northern Europe.
In the 1930s, the National Aquarium of Denmark opened in a lovely, classical building in the leafy suburb of Charlottenlund where it almost felt like entering a rain forest, you were that close to the frogs and the octopus in the central room. Some years ago the aquarium was bursting at the seams, and the famous building did not benefit from the damp environment. Something had to be done, and in 2013 the much bigger Blue Planet could finally open on the other side of the city. This is now a perfect way to spend a few hours in the Danish capital, especially if the sun decides to hide.
Pikes and puffins
The aquarium is split in three sections and you can start with whichever one you want. We started in the Nordic section with perch, pikes and other fish familiar to us. This part explains various environments such as the Øresund Strait outside the building, the Danish stream, lakes and so on. Linked to this is the most unusual feature in the form of a puffin cliff. I absolutely adore puffins with their colourful bills, and have never seen their habitat recreated like this anywhere else outside the wild. The puffins are elusive as many hide in the bigger part behind the visitors’ part, but be patient and you will be rewarded and get to see them not only fly, but swim.
Beyond the puffins you will find one of the big pulls of The Blue Planet – the Alaskan sea otters. You may wonder why these big otters have ended up in Copenhagen, but that is because there is a need to re-home rescued sea otters in the world. In fact, that is why they cannot breed on the couple here today. A deal has been struck with the Americans so that there will always be a place for rescued otters somewhere in the world rather than centres breeding their own. As you visit the sea otters you may want to go outside to see them better, and then you are also met with a viewing platform, telling you what you can see in the Øresund Strait outside. Not only can you see the parked jumbo jets of nearby Copenhagen airport, but several lighthouses, fortresses, and the bridge across to Sweden.
The octopus is another of the highlights for me here, and we were lucky to see it showing off during our visit. Sometimes it is just hiding in the bigger area behind the part you get to see, but when we came it was very active. Staff told us how they love it as it is one of the most personal creatures in the aquarium and it has different ways to interact with different staff members depending on who they are. Intriguing animals.
Yes, of course the tropical area also pulls the crowds. In the main tropical aquarium there is only one clown fish amongst loads of other colourful species. This makes children stand for ages trying to find him. Before you get there though, you will have passed the shark tunnel and if you time it well, you can see the sharks, rays and other fish in this tank being fed, all with both Danish and English commentaries. Next door is a small rain forest with piranhas and other water creatures, as well as feeding butterflies, so as you will have realised by now, this place handles both fresh and salt water.
What I love about The Blue Planet is that it feels as if the staff here really care. During the shark feeding, we were informed that more people die every year from encounters with vending machines than die from shark attacks. We also got food for thought when it comes to farmed salmon and what it does both to the wild one and to our environment. Do follow a guided tour if you can. I was lucky enough to be here on a study tour and got to go behind the scenes. Have you any idea how much it takes behind the scenes to run an aquarium?
A short walk from Kastrup metro station, and with shuttle buses in summer, the aquarium is easy to find. If you stay long there is a nice restaurant and café area with huge glass windows out to the sea. In typical Danish style you can also bring your own food and head for their picnic areas. If nothing takes your fancy there is also a typical old Danish inn nearby in an old royal hunting castle for more traditional food, even though you might want to pick something other than fish from the menu.