The concept of amusement parks began in medieval Europe as bucolic retreats where people would go to escape the bustle of city life. They were called pleasure gardens back then, and they would offer entertainment such as mimes, magicians, dancing, fireworks, and games. The oldest amusement park still standing today can be found in Bakken, a deer forest about 30 minutes from Denmark's capital, Copenhagen. After the discovery of a natural spring at what would become known as Dyrehavsbakken -- translated as the "Deer Pasture’s Hill" -- people began to congregate there as early as 1583. It soon became a place for entertainers to perform, and for entrepreneurs to sell their wares. Today, Bakken is a thriving amusement park, with 32 traditional rides including a wooden roller coaster built in 1932.
A place for harlequins and hawkers:
- The vintage Bakken roller coaster is known as Rutschebanen, which is Danish for “The Roller Coaster.” Bakken is considered the oldest operating amusement park in the world, with more than 2.5 million visitors a year.
- Water quality was poor in Copenhagen, so after Kirsten Piil discovered the spring in the late 1500s, Copenhagen residents would take day trips out to Bakken, to drink the water that many thought contained healing powers.
- In 1669, King Frederick III built an animal park at Bakken, and a year later the area was declared a royal hunting ground and closed to the public until 1756, when the park was reopened.