Dyrehavsbakken: The World’s Oldest Amusement Park

Jun 21, 2022 0 comments

Just 10 km north of central Copenhagen, in the woods of Dyrehaven, sits Dyrehavsbakken, or simply Bakken, an amusement park that attracts close to 3 million visitors per year making it the second most popular attraction in Denmark. While the rides and roller coasters are modern additions, there has been a park here in some form or the other for more than four hundred years, making the Bakken the oldest amusement park in the world.

Dyrehavsbakken in 2016. Photo: Insights Unspoken/Flickr

According to legend, the park began in 1583 with the discovery of a natural spring in the woods by a local woman, which began attracting residents of Copenhagen due to the poor water quality in the city. Many believed the natural spring to have curative properties, and therefore the discovery drew large crowds, especially in the springtime. These large crowds in turn attracted entertainers and hawkers who began performing tricks and selling wares, and suddenly the forest was pulsing with activity.

In 1669, King Frederick III decided to set up an animal park in the area. The next year, when his son, Christian V, became the kind, he extended the size of the park by four times. However, from 1670 to 1756 the area where the spring was located was declared a royal hunting ground and closed off to the public. This changed when Frederick V became king in 1756, and once again the park was opened to the public and Dyrehavsbakken began to flourish

Dyrehavsbakken in1825

Dyrehavsbakken in 1840

Dyrehavsbakken in the 19th century.

The entertainers, hawkers, and innkeepers returned to the area, and Bakken's growing reputation throughout Europe attracted other entertainers and artists, including Pjerrot, the clown who still is a fixture at the park today. Bakken continued to grow even throughout the Napoleonic Wars. Its popularity was later aided by easier accessibility due to the development of steamships (1820) and railroads (1864), as well as good publicity from poets and authors.

In 1885, some of the business owners in the park got together and formed the Dyrehavsbakken Tent Owners’ Association with the goal of improving the conditions of the park. They improved garbage collection, restroom facilities, water supply, publicity, and helped bring electricity to the park. The association is still around today, and all businesses operating in the park are required to join.

Today there are 31 rides, slot machines, over 30 different competitions and games, including a 90-year-old roller coaster in Dyrehavsbakken. There are also a huge variety of performances and musical entertainment. The park is also home to the Circus Revyen which is Denmark’s largest Circus act.


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