A charming and somewhat understated place, Bakken (“The Hill” in Danish) doesn't trumpet its history. But oh, what history. Visitors who are not familiar with its past may be surprised to discover that it dates back to 1583 and is the oldest, still-operating amusement park in the world.
The relatively small, classic park, located just outside Copenhagen, has the usual assortment of attractions, including roller coasters, a carousel, and spinning rides. Thrill-seekers and children would be delighted by Bakken. But adults who prefer not to be tossed and turned would still find enjoyable diversions, including full-service restaurants, pubs and bars, and delightful entertainment. The park also offers special shows and events, including an annual Christmas celebration.
And get this: Unlike most theme parks and amusement parks, admission to Bakken is free. A la carte tickets and other options are available for the rides. Or visitors could choose to simply walk the grounds and take in the park’s unique ambiance.
History of Bakken
While it is accurate to describe Bakken (also known as Dyrehavsbakken or “Deer Park’s Hill”) as the world’s oldest existing amusement park, there really was no such thing as an “amusement park”–at least not in the way that we currently understand the term–when it first opened. After all, in the 16th century, there were no roller coasters, dark rides, water rides, or any of the other attractions that typically line the midways of modern amusement parks. Heck, Bakken even predates electricity, the Industrial Revolution, and the steam engine.
In its earliest years, King Frederick III established the forested area as a hunting reserve for himself and his royal entourage. Common people nonetheless flocked to the park, attracted by its freshwater spring, which, legend had it, delivered mystical healing powers. The king also established a zoo on the grounds. It wasn’t until 1756 that King Frederick V welcomed the general public to Bakken. That brought vendors peddling goods and operating food stalls and itinerant entertainers such as clowns, jugglers, singers, and mimes.
The first rides at the park were operated by hand and included a rudimentary Ferris wheel known as a “Russian swing.” In the 1800s, steamship and railroad service began bringing throngs of visitors to Bakken, and in the 1840s, Bakken got its first steam-powered carousel. The park added more mechanical rides and, in 1932, opened its first roller coaster, Rutschebanen (“roller coaster” in Danish). The wooden coaster still delivers thrills to visitors today. Other classic attractions that endure include bumper cars, a carousel with original wooden horses, and a miniature train. After World War II, Bakken expanded and added more modern amusement rides.
Perhaps the highlight of Bakken is one of its oldest rides, Rutschebanen. At 72 feet, the wooden roller coaster dominates the skyline and encircles the park. It reaches a top speed of 34 mph. Rutschebanen required brakemen to ride along, manually slow, and bring its trains to a stop until 2010 when more modern trains were introduced.
Other coasters, all of which are steel, include Tornado, which features spinning cars; Vilde Mus, a Wild Mouse-style ride that includes abrupt, hairpin turns; Mine Train Ulven, a family coaster that hits a top speed of 40 mph; and Mariehonen, a kiddie coaster.
Among other thrill rides are TårnGyset, a drop tower ride that climbs about 100 feet, and SkyRoller, a flat ride that flips passengers 360 degrees. The pendulum ride, SuperNova, also sends passengers head over heels.
Vandrutschebanen, the park’s log flume ride, soaks passengers and helps cool them down on hot, summer days. Spøgelsestoget ("Ghost Train") is an old-school dark ride with loads of gags and jump scares. Participants in the group game, Crazy Theatre, enter the auditorium, sit in seats equipped with interactive shooting devices, and aim for targets projected onto a large screen. The 5D Cinema combines 3D footage with special in-theater effects and motion-equipped seats for an immersive experience.
Bakken offers several rides geared specifically for younger visitors. These include The Children’s Ferris Wheel, The Little Train (which snakes around the park’s grounds), and Svanebanen, a monorail-type ride that travels among the tops of the park’s ancient trees in vehicles that look like swans. Spinning rides include Dizzy Ducks, The Frog, and Kangaroo. The latter two jump up and down as well as spin. Small kids can drive their own cars on the park’s Jeeps ride.
Entertainment, Shows, and Special Events
Entertainment has long been a staple at Bakken. One of the earliest performers, Pjerrot, remains a fixture at the park today. Dating back to 1800, the character is a white-faced clown who presents magic, plays music, and tells stories in front of his greenhouse. Another tradition is Bakken's Hvile or the Hill Singers. Dressed in period costumes, a troupe of women present a cabaret-style show replete with singing, dancing, and comedy.
The park also presents concerts on an outdoor stage. As with most of the shows and entertainment at Bakken, there are no additional fees required for the musical performances. Since the park does not charge admission, the shows are open and free to the general public.
Bakken also offers a series of performances in its tent. These shows do require a separate ticket. The featured presentation each year is Cirkusrevyen (“Circus Revue”). Founded in 1935, the show features television stars, movie actors, and other celebrities and includes musical parodies, political satire, and sketches about topical subjects. Bakken also stages a Christmas show, children’s performances, musical acts, and other presentations in its tent.
Among the highlights at Bakken is its Christmas festival. The park is decked out in twinkling holiday lights, and it operates many specialty stalls offering items for sale such as knitted hats and scarves, handmade jewelry, and other crafts. The restaurants serve seasonal fare. Each fall, the park presents special programming, including a hay maze, a horse-drawn carriage, and a games competition featuring activities such as archery and darts.
Food and Drink at Bakken
Dining is an important component of the Bakken experience. The park offers 26 different eateries, ranging from gourmet meals in posh settings to more casual fare. Bakkens Perle is the park’s signature restaurant and offers both sumptuous buffets and a la carte dishes. Among the more upscale restaurants is Hos Varnaes, which is themed as a bank director’s house. Among its offerings is a four-course dinner party. With a farmhouse ambiance, Bondestuen also offers both buffet meals and an a la carte menu.
For a more laid-back meal, Bakkens Grill and Bofhus serves barbecue fare in an American saloon setting. At Caesar’s Palace, Italian dishes are the specialty. Burgers, Belgian waffles, and ice cream are on the menu at the Elverdybet cafe. Bakken has several stands and carts offering everything from churros and licorice to fish and chips and pizza.
There are ten bars and pubs on the grounds, including The Cave, which offers 19 beers on tap along with a large selection of specialty brews. The London Pub serves its patrons in a double-decker bus facsimile. Opened in 1928, The Sausage Inn specializes in beer and (as you might suspect) sausages.
Getting to and Visiting Bakken
Bakken is located about 7.5 miles from Copenhagen. It is a pleasant bicycle drive from the city, and the park has many bike racks available.
The Klampenborg train station is a short walk from the park. Check the schedule for S-train line C to and from Copenhagen, Malmo, and Elsinore. The Øresund train also stops at the station in Klampenborg. Bus service is also available—exit at Klampenborg St. (Dyrehavevej). Bakken has a large parking lot for those who choose to drive. The parking fee is 80 Danish kroner (around $13).
There is no admission fee to enter Bakken. Visitors can purchase individual tickets to board the rides. Or pay-one-price wristbands, which allow unlimited rides, are available. A lower-priced “Miniturband” is also available for children under 4' that provides access to the park’s 11 kiddie rides. The park offers Humørkort cards pre-loaded with points that can be redeemed for the park’s rides and games. Season passes are also available.
Tips for Your Bakken Visit
- Consider going to the park on a Wednesday. Bakken offers reduced-price ride tickets on “PierrotWednesday” when purchased using cash.
- Get wristbands in advance and save money and time. Wristbands, which allow visitors unlimited rides, are for sale at the park. But Bakken charges a lower rate for wristbands purchased online up to six days before use. You can save even more if you purchase the bands seven or more days before your visit.
- Go on a bar crawl. Save some money and sample specialty beers at Bakken’s ten bars and pubs by purchasing an Oltour tasting pass.
- Bask in the glow. Be sure to stay after the sun goes down. Danish sunsets (which occur late in the day during the summer) can be beautiful. And the illuminated park is stunning at night.