National Aquarium, Copenhagen, Denmark

The last time I went to Copenhagen I managed to see most of the great tourist attractions but was a bit disappointed I didn’t have enough time to go to the National Aquarium, which is the largest aquarium in Northern Europe. I promised myself that next time I go to Copenhagen I will put aside some time to go.

I was not disappointed! I’d scheduled about half a day to get to the aquarium and spend time there. All in all I was in the aquarium for about 3 hours, not rushing through but enjoying all the displays.

The impressive whirlpool shaped building is 10’000m2 and has over 50 aquariums holding 7 million litres of water hosting thousands of plants and animals.

There are 3 different sections to the aquarium:

  • Northern Lakes and Seas
  • Tropical Lakes and Rivers
  • The Ocean

Here are a few things that were highlights for me to see:

1. The Faroe Islands display

The Faroe Islands cliff face

Very high on my bucket list is to go to the Faroe Islands one day. From the videos and pictures I have seen, this Danish self-governing island territory looks like one of the most beautiful places in the world. Impressive waterfalls, cliffs, green hills and mountains, colourful buildings and islands teeming with wildlife, these islands look incredible.

The display had a cliff face of Basalt Columns, similar to the famous Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Birds and fish of the region could be seen in the tank. Unfortunately it looked like the puffins were roosting at the top of the columns out of view and I couldn’t see them!

2. Sea otters

The Sea Otter tank

The sea otters were, in my opinion, the most fun of the displays to watch. Outside the aquarium towards the sea, you can view the sea otters above the water. When I was there, there were 4 resident sea otters. I can’t compare them to anything else except, perhaps, dogs of the water. They were constantly busy: chasing one another, swimming, rolling around, diving, splashing. I could probably watch them for hours.

They have a particularly cute manner of eating: they crush clams and crustaceans with a rock and eat their meal while they float on their bellies, using their belly as a table.

You can watch them swimming from within the aquarium.

3. The tropical displays

Arapaima and Giant Catfish tank

The tropical area is full of tropical trees and birds, with the humidity of the building quite high. Besides the tropical fish tanks, there are newly introduced fruit bats which roost and fly around which was cool to see.

The Arapaima is a prehistoric fish, native the basin of the Amazon River. This intimidating looking fish looks mostly like a dinosaur than any other of the fish we are familiar with. Fossils of the Arapaima dating back 23 million years show that the fish is mostly the same as it was then.

It is an air-breathing fish, able to hold it’s breath for between 10 to 20 minutes at a time. It has a modified swim bladder which opens into the fish’s mouth which acts as a lung. It has an omnivorous diet and will eat anything from seeds, fruit, insects, birds and mammals. When it catches it’s food it opens it’s massive mouth and gulps, forming a vacuum in the water and sucking it’s food into it’s mouth. One of the staff mentioned during their feeding that they have grabbed birds in the aquarium as food if they go near enough the water.

The other interesting tank was the pirañas. A rather impressive amount of them.

Amazon tank

4. The Ocean tank

I was impressed by the size of the ocean tank, it felt like standing right at the bottom of the ocean floor. Some great species to spot is the hammerhead shark and the false cardiac turtle and the rays.

The ocean tank has a water tunnel through which you can walk, taking a look at fish swimming past both above and on each side.


This is one of the greatest aquariums I have seen in a long time. I still can’t make up my mind if I think Ushaka Marine World in Durban, South Africa or The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa are more or less impressive than Copenhagen’s aquarium.


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