In the heart of Copenhagen, next to the famous Tivoli Gardens, lies Glyptoteket – an art museum with a collection of more than 10.000 sculptures, paintings and objets d’art, a designer book shop, café and extraordinary winter garden. The museum is good for several hours of museum fun, as I recently discovered on a rainy August day with my two daughters.
You’ll know it when you see it: A monumental red brick building with a giant glass dome, broad stairs, antique columns and lion sculptures in front – Glyptoteket is impossible to miss. Based on the collection of passionate art lover and Carlsberg beer brewer Carl Jacobsen, Glyptoteket opened in its current location in 1897. Primarily a sculpture museum, the main focus of the collection is antique sculpture, but the museum also houses a fine collection of modern sculptures by artists like Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas. Glyptoteket’s Rodin collection is the largest collection of the artist’s work outside of France. The museum has an exquisite collection of impressionist paintings, as well as pieces by Vincent van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and many more.
I took my girls to Glyptoteket on a rainy Copenhagen day. On the way to the museum we talked about how antique sculptures are often noseless. The girls liked that, and I promised to show them Glyptoteket’s Nasothek – a fun collection of restoration noses on display in the permanent collection. We also talked about the winter garden in the heart of the museum. Winter gardens are a wonderful phenomenon: Indoor fountains and palm trees – what’s not to like? We hadn’t really planned our visit around a particular exhibition – we just wanted to get a feel of the museum and the collection.
When you arrive at Glyptoteket you enter a hall with marble stairs on both sides leading to the exhibition rooms, and in front of you the giant palm trees of the winter garden are visible through open doors. Compared to smaller, more contemporary museums, Glyptoteket definitely has that awe-inspiring, intimidating monumentality that art institutions seemed to go for in the past. Lots of columns, lots of marble. The architecture is very serious and not very inviting, which is somehow alright at Glyptoteket, because the artworks inside are largely masterpieces by famous artists and sculptors. Luckily for Glyptoteket, visitors have to cross the winter garden in order to get to the special exhibitions. The winter garden is extraordinary – in size and splendor. The palms trees are ancient and magnificent and some of them almost reach the glass dome above them. The winter garden has a fountain with Kai Nielsen’s marble sculpture Water Mother, and several other sculptures located between the many plants. The exotic environment of the winter garden is a big hit with kids – they love all the plants, the hidden sculptures and the goldfish in fountain.
When I finally managed to pull my youngest, Bella, away from the fountain, we decided to check out the French collection, which takes up three floors of exhibition rooms in the new part of the museum. We played a little game where the girls pointed to a painting and I told a story about that painting. After 25 minutes in the French collection I had told stories about Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas and Vincent van Gogh and his blue bedroom. My girls really enjoyed the art stories and it’s a fun way for a parent to take a closer look at the paintings. Glyptoteket’s collection of impressionists and post-impressionists is very impressive, with more than 40 works by Gauguin, several masterpieces by Van Gogh and of course the Rodin collection.
Filled with art and stories my girls needed a little break, and they spotted the broad marble stairs leading upstairs towards the roof top terrace. They spent something like 15 minutes running up and down those stairs and I took lots of photos. Glyptoteket is a very photogenic museum. Out of breath, but very happy we set course for the café, which is located in the winter garden. The café has a broad selection of food – including a special meal for children with a Danish meatball, some greens, bread, butter and cake for dessert. The girls were very satisfied with their two macarons – one chocolate, one raspberry. Café Glyptoteket is a very pleasant experience as it combines the beautiful view of the winter garden with a nice meal at an affordable price. Right next to the café is Glyptoteket’s museum shop. The interior of the shop is designed by popular Danish design company Hay, and the shop looks just great. The shelves are full of beautiful stationary, shiny pens, little sculptures from Glyptoteket’s collection, ceramics, art books and so much more. The girls got to pick one thing from the shop – a very difficult task. After 20 minutes of browsing they finally chose a little reproduction of an ancient Egyptian sculpture from the collection.
Before we left the museum, we set out to find the Nasothek I had told them about. After a long walk through the museum halls, we finally found it. On the way back through the museum, we talked about which noses would go with which sculptures. All in all we had a fine day at Glyptoteket with art, food and fun. Despite the fact that the museum does not have a designated children’s area or workshop like many other museums, it’s still a fine place to spend some hours with the little ones. We’ll definitely go again sometime.