Bakken, Europe’s Oldest Amusement Park

Bakken, Cr- Beth Mc

Bakken, Danish Amusement park

Danish Fun Park Has Been Entertaining the Crowds for Over 400 Years

Discover the history of Bakken, the Danish amusement park that is the oldest in Europe and probably the world. Visitors to Denmark have usually heard about Tivoli, the famous amusement park in Copenhagen, but few have heard of Dyrehavsbakken, or Bakken for short. Located in the Jægersborg Deer Park north of Copenhagen, Bakken is the oldest amusement park in Europe. Far from being a mere country cousin of the more famous Tivoli, it has a distinct character, history and charm of its own.

The Early History of Europe’s Oldest Amusement Park

At over 400 years old, Bakken (or “The Hill”) is the oldest amusement park in Europe and probably the world. Its history began in 1583 with the discovery of a freshwater spring on the grounds of the Jægersborg Deer Park. The discovery of the spring was an important event at a time when the water in Copenhagen was barely drinkable and was referred to by the unappetizing name “eel soup”. Pure spring water was revered not just for drinking but was said to have curative properties as well. Unsurprisingly, visitors began to flock to this natural wonder in droves and enterprising locals, seeing the potential of this popular attraction, began setting up shop.

Hawkers and entertainers of all varieties descended on the spring to sell their wares and amuse the crowds and the area became an impromptu fun fair. One such savvy entrepreneur, a potter, started the rumour that the water must be drunk in a new bowl to increase its curative properties and provided the bowls to do so. Imperfect bowls did not go to waste, as he also set up what was probably the first crockery smashing stall in history where visitors were able to use these chipped bowls as target practice, for a small fee of course.

The fun was not to last, however. The spring happened to be located on royal land and in the 1670s, King Christian V decided to extend his hunting grounds to include the area of the spring. In 1756, however, during the reign of Frederick V, the spring was once again opened to the public. Midsummer festivals were popular at this time and as before, the area around the spring became the focus of celebration and amusement. Tents were hastily erected on the nearby hill and traveling entertainers arrived, including dancers, jugglers and animal tamers. By the late 1700s, Bakken became known throughout Europe, attracting even more entertainers and artists from across the Continent.

In 1800, Pierrot, the sad clown and mime, whose character is said to have originated 4000 years ago in Turkey, made his first appearance at Bakken and has since become its best loved mascot.

Bakken Comes Into Its Own

By the mid 1800s, Bakken was well established and the tents were replaced by permanent wooden structures housing eateries, dance halls and gaming halls, as well as steam carrousels and circuses. With the advent of rail travel, Bakken became more accessible to the public and people from all levels of society gathered there to enjoy its amusements.

The 1930s saw the arrival of Bakken’s first roller coaster, which was quickly followed by other rides. The park expanded further to include an open air theatre, as well as other entertainment venues, such as the cabaret hall Bakkens Hvile and the Circus Revue.

Bakken Today – A Fun Day Out for All

Bakken today continues its long tradition of fun and amusement. Attracting over 2 million visitors a year, it is the second most popular attraction in Denmark. Home to rides, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, it offers visitors a relaxed, down-to-earth atmosphere that embodies what the Danes call “hygge” (or cosiness). It is no wonder that scores of loyal visitors consider a trip to Bakken to be a must during the summer season.

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