Step Inside the Cisterns | An Under Ground Art Space in Copenhagen

Experience Art in the Old Water Reservoir Under Frederiksberg
Go See Artist Jeppe Hein Exhibition at Cisternerne

I truly don’t know why it has taken me so long to step inside Copenhagen’s surreal underground art space known as the Cisterns. Or Cisternerne in Danish. Once a water storage facility for the city, the Cisterns could hold nearly 16 million liters of water. That’s over 4 million gallons. Thirsty yet? But you can’t wet your whistle down here anymore, the Cisterns haven’t held water since the early 80s. And when the water had to go-go, the reservoir was transformed into a place for art, starting in 1996. It is now one of the coolest art spaces I have ever experienced. Dark. Slightly dank. Definitely damp. All sorts of atmospheric. And the perfect space for Danish artist Jeppe Hein‘s new exhibition, “In is the Only Way Out,” on now through November 2018.


The Cisterns are located in Frederiksberg, an independent municipality within the borders of Copenhagen itself. Home to the Copenhagen Zoo, tree-lined boulevards with old historic homes, and lush green gardens around the Frederiksberg Palace. This is a lovely area to explore and get to know more. At the top of Frederiksberg, sits Søndermarken. A green slice of serenity in the city, Søndermarken is a beauty of a park. It almost feels like Paris up here. An intimate secret place to sit outside and soak in the scenery. Pack a picnic and put down a blanket, this park is worthy of a visit all on its own. But you shouldn’t miss the art. So let’s step inside the Cisterns.

The Frederiksborg Slot from Søndermarken


And while the park is pretty, it is now it is time to pack up your picnic and step down inside the cool colonnaded interior of the Cisterns and experience some art. Exhibits rotate through this space seasonally. “In is the Only Way Out” opened mid-April and will run through November 2018. Enter through the glass pyramid atop the park. Pay your fee and head down the stairs. Water slowly drips down the sides of the walls, calcifying in waves of color. Delicate stalagmites cling to the corners and decorate arches. The room is dark, but not ominous. The wet floor acts like a mirror to the changes in light. Suddenly a flame is ignited and interrupts the soft drip drip drip down below. Whoosh.


“In is the Only Way Out” is an interactive journey of discovery. You as the viewer make the art happen down here. Step closer and motion sensors start the flame in the first part of the exhibition. It is startling at first. Step away and it turns off again.


Hein is well-known internationally for his kinetic, mirrored, reflective pieces that invite audience engagement. The multi-room solo show here that fills the expansive Cisterns space is one of the largest he has ever undertaken. Inspired by the artist’s own personal journey, you are invited to reflect with him. After a bout of exhaustion in 2009, Hein found therapy and recuperation through meditation, yoga and other Eastern philosophies. Don’t worry, no downward-facing dog is required to participate here. But you will be part of the art. Giant hanging mirrors slowly turn and move as you pass, catching yourself inside. They are beautiful and mesmerizing.


The final room is my favorite part of Jeppe’s art. Here rubber balls suspended from wires are released as each person enters the room. They follow a winding snake-like path along a track on the ceiling. The balls move and weave around the space and every so often make contact with illuminated Tibetan singing bowls. Tones echo and resonate around the room as the balls strike the bowls, set at different heights. As more people come in, more tones can be heard. Spend some time in here. It’s serene and seriously magical. The room is cold and your breath condenses in the columns of light adding to the atmospheric setting. You are part of the art. Come in. Have you seen it? What did you think?


Cisternerne, Søndermarken, 2000 Frederiksberg


Public Bus stops near the Cisterns:
Roskildevej (bus No. 6A), Pile Allé (buses 26 and 8A), Valby Langgade (buses 26 and 8A) and Sønder Fasanvej (bus nr. 4A and 171E).


15 April – 30 November  
Tue, Wed | 11-18
Thur | 11-20
Fri-Sun | 11-18
(closed Mon)


Adult | 70 DKK
Senior (65+), Students, Groups (min. 20) | 50 DKK
Children (under 18) | Free
Cash, card, or Mobilepay accepted

As we want to be a good experience for all visitors, we have the following rules of the law:
– avoid loud behavior
– do not take photographs with tripod and flash
– do not walk on the slopes, as this may damage the drips, etc.
– be aware of the other visitors’ experience

– Cisternerne

Suitcases and Sandcastles

33 thoughts on “Step Inside the Cisterns | An Under Ground Art Space in Copenhagen

  1. This sounds so interesting. Copenhagen always seems to be “top of the class” when it comes to innovative takes on art. Will definitely have to check it out next time I’m there.

  2. Wow – what a fantastic find! I love Copenhagen and this is exactly the sort of cool, arty site I’d expect to see there : ) It looks like a great place to take young children too as they’d really enjoy being underground. #farawayflies

  3. Very interesting way to transform an old Cistern! I’m not sure that my slight claustrophobia would handle that though – or fear of dark places! But I bet my husband would find this fascinating! #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      It’s actually really wide open and the ceilings are quite tall and not as dark as some of the picture may seem. My daughter who does NOT like dark places had no problem. I didn’t think I it was spooky. Atmospheric yes.

  4. What a unique place. I’m not sure I’d be able to go down there – tunnels are not my thing. But it is definitely not your typical art gallery. #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      It’s not actually a tunnel – it’s a huge cavernous space that you used to hold literally TONS of water. I never felt confined or closed in. Not scary at all.

  5. What an atmospheric space – I’ve been in one or two old cistern, lit and open to visitors but none that had though to use the space for something like this #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      I know! Aren’t they beautiful. So mesmerizing to listen to and anticipate where the next will chime. Cheers from Denmark!

  6. Clare Thomson

    What a clever idea to turn this wonderful space into an art gallery – and one where you can become part of the art too. Even better! Cisterns are fascinating areas. We explored the one in Matera recently – it was really beautiful. #FarawayFiles

  7. Https://

    What an interesting exhibition space, I’ll be interested to find out what’s been there before and what’s coming up next. #FarawayFiles

  8. I love the idea that visitors become part of the art, so that the art is changing all the time. Such an interesting place. #FarawayFiles

  9. Ruth

    I am not sure who came up with the idea of repurposing a cistern into an art space but it must have been a very creative person. The nice things is that you still get the feeling of being underground but are appreciating art at the same time. I was expecting something super modern down there but it is relieving to see how the place has been approached. #FarawayFiles

  10. How cool is this!? I know it would be right up my alley… once I got over the dark and the dank. Still, I would brave all that to see this place. I love that they’ve given the cisterns new life. I feel like that would never happen here in the States. #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Yes I can imagine it might feel like you’d never find it all in a place as big and amazing as London! Thanks for reading! Cheers from Copenhagen.

  11. This looks really interesting, it sounds as though it is quite eerie in there. It’s amazing how the cool temperature creates such an atmosphere. #farawayfiles

  12. Ladies what travel

    Sounds like a really cool setting for art exhibitions, I love visiting quirky spots like this! #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Not THAT damp, nice contrast to a sunny day in Copenhagen (which we’ve had more than not this season! So much so that Sankt Hans bonfires were cancelled this year!)

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