The Little Mermaid: Copenhagen’s Seaside Jewel

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen statue Copenhagen Harbour Travel Guide

The Little Mermaid is one of Copenhagen’s most iconic tourist attractions, and is a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairytale by the same name. Everyone I know who has been to Copenhagen has visited the Little Mermaid, and almost all of them have felt disappointed by the statue. But I am all for forming my own opinion, so I was determined to visit myself.

As it happened, my self-guided tour with Around had the Little Mermaid as one of the stops. Which came as a relief as I didn’t really know what else was nearby. The tour took me from Gefion Fountain, past cherry blossom trees blooming. It was clear where I would have to head though, I could see the crowd that had formed around the statue. The Little Mermaid was by far the busiest spot on the tour. Every tourist was determined to get a photo at the front. 

The Carlsberg Foundation

The Little Mermaid was a donation from Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg Breweries. This statue is just one of the many works of art the Carlsberg foundation have donated to the city. And in doing so had brought arts to the masses. This statue was chosen after Carl fell in love with the play after watching a performance by the Royal Danish Theatre. So he commissioned the sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create a piece influenced by the performance.

The Little Ballerina

A ballerina inspired the art, so it’s fitting it should be a ballerina who models for it too. Ellen Price danced the lead role in the Little Mermaid at the Royal Theatre in 1909, and it was her who would pose. However Ellen Price would not model in the nude for Erik, so as a compromise Erik used her head for the Mermaid, and the body was his wife, Eline Eriksen.

Due to its high profile status, the Little Mermaid has been the victim of vandalism over the years. Twice she has had her head sawn off, once she lost an arm, but more commonly she has been covered in paint. Every time she has been lovingly restored and returned to her original rock, ready and waiting for great tourists who arrive by the harbour.

Rest and Relax

Deciding I didn’t enjoy being confined, I took a few photos and hastily retreated. I had the audio clip from my tour ready to be played. So I grabbed a drink and parked myself on a nearby bench, and with a view of the statue hit play.

Opinions on the Little Mermaid are mixed, but personally I thought it was ok. It is what it is and doesn’t pretend to be more. It’s beautiful art, it’s free, and it’s a lovely walk in the city. You can find a lot of beauty nearby that is easy to visit. And in a city that’s as expensive as Copenhagen anything that is free is appreciated. But the view is slightly ruined by the industrial harbour directly behind it. I am glad I visited, but I won’t be rushing back anytime soon.

The Little Mermaid FAQ’s

Is the Little Mermaid free?

Yes this is a free to visit art-piece in Copenhagen.

What time can I visit the Little Mermaid?

The Statue can be visited 24/7, if you want to avoid crowds I recommend getting there early.

When was the statue commissioned?

It was commissioned by Carl Jacobsen in 1909 after his visit to see the ballet.

Where should I visit next?

Lots of Copenhagen is walkable, I would recommend Gefion Fountain as it’s beautiful to visit. I have attached the latest activities with Get Your Guide. By booking an activity through this link I may receive a commission which helps support this blog.

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