Many Copenhageners, especially those with a boat or yacht, flock to Køge Bay in the summer, the way New Yorkers go to the Hamptons. We find the town very sleepy in winter; but in summer, it bursts into bloom and its population swells. The bay is one vast pleasure-boat harbor set against a backdrop of beaches that we find bone-chilling even in July.
The harbor is only a short walk from the medieval center, and it has the same appeal for the people of Køge as Nyhavn does for Copenhageners. We enjoy the atmosphere here and like watching the action in the busy harbor, which is filled with Baltic freighters, fishing boats, and pleasure craft of all types. If you walk to the North Pier, you'll find a number of eating places and cafes in old-fashioned houses, where you can relax over a meal or order a cold Danish beer.
Opening onto the bay is a monument commemorating the battle in Køge Bay. You'll see it standing some 9m (30 ft.) high near the harbor. This granite obelisk bears the names of maritime heroes Niels Juel and Ivar Huitfeldt. Huitfeldt commanded the Danebrog, which burst into flames when bombarded by Swedish forces in 1710.
Before taking a look at the bay, wander the medieval streets of Køge's Gamle Stan, or Old Town. You'll pass fish markets selling freshly caught flatfish, herring, and eel. Stroll through the town parks and surrounding woodland and peek into the courtyards of the old buildings left from the Middle Ages. In summer, live street entertainment will amuse you (giving a few kroner to the young musicians is always appreciated, of course).
The best street for wandering is Kirkestræde, lined with graceful old houses. A small building on the street, no. 20, is reputed to be the oldest half-timbered house in Denmark, dating back to 1527. A couple of porch stones from the Middle Ages, said to be the only pair in Denmark in their original position, are in front of a house at Smedegarden 13, near an ancient tree.
Of the town's churches, Sankt Nicolai Church, Kirkestræde 29 (tel. 56-65-13-59), 2 blocks north of Torvet, is a Gothic structure dating from 1450, named after St. Nicholas, patron saint of mariners. History records that King Christian IV watched the Battle of Køge, in which Niels Juel sank many Swedish vessels, from the church tower. The church has a number of art treasures, including an altarpiece by Lorents Jørgensen and 100 tombs of Køge merchants. Note the carved angels on the pews -- they are without noses, thanks to drunken Swedish troops who in the 1600s came this way, cutting off the noses with their swords. What sorry fun that must have been for them. Look for a little brick projection at the east end of the church tower. Called Lygten, it was for centuries a place where a burning lantern was hung to guide sailors safely back into the harbor. From mid-June to late August, hours are Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm, Sunday noon to 4pm; off-season, Monday to Friday 10am to noon. Admission is DKK10 ($1.70/£1).
On the north side of the Torvet (market square) is the Køge Rådhus, believed to be the oldest town hall in Denmark still in use. The building in the rear was erected very early in the 17th century to serve as accommodations for King Christian IV on his trips between the royal palaces in Copenhagen and Nykøbing F (the "F" refers to the island of Falster). You can wander into the courtyard at the town hall to see a modern sculpture created by Jens Flemming Sørensen.
A path for walkers and cyclists leads along the Køge River with access from the center in several places. Go here to enjoy some peace and quiet -- and take along a picnic lunch if the weather's fair. There are several delis in town where you can pick up some open-faced sandwiches and drinks to take along. At a park, Lovparken, only a 5-minute walk from the Torvet, a wooden bridge takes you across the river, where you have a panoramic view of the riverside and its gardens.
The coastline near Køge offers several fine spots for bathing. Directly north of Køge you'll come upon a land of dunes and lyme grass, with a sandy beach on Ølsemagle Revle. Near the city center, Køge Sydstrand, or south beach, offers camping sites, and a bit farther south, the beach at Strøby Ladeplads is ideal for windsurfers.
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