A Hop-On, Hop-Off Boat: Cruising the Canals of Copenhagen

It was Monday morning in the old maritime city of Copenhagen.  Smiling Danes walked briskly past us or whizzed by on their bicycles all looking like they had places to be and things to do.  However, our big question on this Monday as tourists was, “What to do when many of the museums and tours of major attractions are closed?”  The answer?  Take a canal tour and view the city from the water. There are actually several different boat tour companies operating along the canal but the tickets for the hop-on, hop-off boat tour are good for 48 hours and can be combined with a land-lover’s hop-on hop-off bus trip of the old city.  You can choose between a boat with a covered top (to protect you from Copenhagen’s unpredictable weather) or take an open air boat like we did and chance the cloud bursts.  Some of the tours offered a guide but our boat had an audio tour where we could pick the language of our choice to learn more about what we were seeing.  Since the audio that accompanied our cruise was scratchy, difficult to listen to and just plain distracting, we pulled the cheap earphones off and enjoyed the quiet ride of the boat’s electric motor, guessing our location from the free maps we’d been given.

Watch your head - low bridge!

Watch your head – low bridge!  Check out the centerpiece carving below ↓

Tongue out troll! On center arch of marble bridge.

A welcome or a warning?

A blend of different architectural styles

A pleasing blend of different architectural styles.

The Opera House

The Opera House

And more lovely buildings along the canal.

More picturesque buildings along the canal.

Another old and low bridge. Head down and all body parts in the boat.

Another old and low bridge. We kept our heads down and all body parts in the boat.

We caught the boat at Gammel Strand which was about a five-minute walk from where we were staying and cruised along the wide canal for a bit, admiring the variety of very old and new buildings lining the canal. While motoring down a narrower canal, we instinctively ducked every once in a while as the tour boat navigated its way through centuries old, low and arched bridges. Gradually, as we entered the Nyhavn area, the 17th and 18th century homes became more colorful and vibrant, like something from a picture postcard.  Once home to artists, ballet dancers, poets and writers like Copenhagen’s favorite son, Hans Christian Andersen who lived at #67, the 17th century waterfront also had pubs for thirsty sailors and ladies of the night to provide a little company. Translated as “New Harbor,” Nyhavn is in fact a canal that was excavated from 1671-1673 by Swedish war prisoners. For the next 300 years, ships brought their cargo into the city to King’s Square for unloading.  With the decline in the importance of small ship transport, the area gradually faded but underwent an urban revitalization beginning in 1977.  Now the trendy streets lining Nyhavn are filled with upscale restaurants, pubs, street food vendors, cafes with outside tables and specialty stores and the area is lively with both locals and tourists day and night. We hopped off our tour boat to stroll the streets, window shop and gobbled down a tasty Danish hotdog from a street vendor’s cart while we people watched.  After our impromptu lunch, we jumped back on another boat belonging to the hop-on, hop-off Gray Line fleet to continue our cruise and admired the beautiful wooden boats, old schooners, yachts, and small vessels that filled the canal. Nyhavn - Copenhagen canal boat tour- photo by No Particular Place To Go

 

Nyhavn - Copenhagen canal boat tour- photo by No Particular Place to Go

 

Copenhagen canal boat tour - Photo by No Particular Place To Go

 

Lovingly refurbished wooden boat

Lovingly refurbished wooden boat

And then we were cruising by Copenhagen’s iconic statue, The Little Mermaid, by Danish sculptor Edward Ericksen who used his wife as a model for this life-size statue.  Inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the bronze sculpture was completed in 1913 and receives more than a million visitors a year.  For some reasons not quite understood by us, the pretty and innocuous Little Mermaid seems to be a source of ire and controversy and has been beheaded three times, covered in paint twice, had an arm removed and knocked off her pedestal.  She’s the most photographed statue in Denmark but unfortunately, when we had a chance to take her picture free of all those annoying tourists (besides us!) who insisted on posing with her, our photo turned out to be a blur of her backside.  You can find a great photo here.The Marble Church, Copenhagen photo by No Particular Place To Go

We drifted by and caught a rear view of Amalienborg Palace, the winter residence of the Danish royal family since 1794 and the Marble Church, officially named Frederik’s church, with its distinctive copper green dome.  The church, begun in 1749 and finally completed in 1894 after many stops and starts, is open to the public daily and a popular site for weddings on Fridays and Saturdays.  Amalienborg Palace is actually a complex of four identical separate palaces constructed in the 18th century and built around an octagonal courtyard.  The stately residences were first occupied by noble families but bought by the Danish royal family in 1794 when their Christiansborg Palace burned down.  Various kings and their families have occupied the four palaces over the years and the Amalienborg Museum is open daily, including Monday.  We can highly recommend a leisurely visit to this area (we went the next day) to watch the ceremonial changing of the Royal Life Guards, view the inside of the Marble Church and take a tour of the Amalienborg Museum in one of the Palaces.  The museum will show you how the rich and famous lived with rooms lavishly overfurnished furnished in various styles, all reflecting the refined taste of former inhabitants that lots of money can buy. (Here’s a peek below.)

abundant luxury

abundant luxury of a bygone era

We made our way to Christianshavn Canal, founded in 1618 as a fortress city and home for merchants, later incorporated into Copenhagen.  Here we admired beautifully refurbished houseboats and yachts.

Christianshavn along th canal tour - photo by No Particular Place To Go

 

Copenhagen canal boat tour - photo by No Particular Place to Go

 

Copenhagen canal boat tour - photo by No Particular Place To Go

Hopping out we wended our way through the lively neighborhood of residences, restaurants and 18th century warehouses to the Baroque-style, Our Savior’s Church, circa late 17th century.  The exterior spiral stairway was added later in the mid-eighteenth century and contains a daunting 150 stairs up to a panoramic view. Topping it all is a golden globe with the figure of Christ wielding a banner.

Our Savior's Church, Copenhagen. Photo by No Particular Place To Go

With our canal boat tour approaching Gammel Strand once again, we passed by the Brygge Harbor Baths, open-air swimming pools right on the canals, that had us reflecting that the Danes are much hardier people than us.  There were the swimmers basking in the Copenhagen summer weather while we glided by in our jeans and light jackets thinking about anything but a dip! Copenhagen-swimming pool by canal - photo by noparticularplacetogo.net

A canal cruise is a terrific way to begin your visit to Copenhagen, see many of the city’s highlights and tourist attractions and orient yourself to where the sights you want to see are.  The trip takes about 65 minutes for the whole loop through the canals and boats run a regular circuit with intervals of about 10 to 15 minutes between pick-ups.  And, lucky us, we liked cruising along Copenhagen’s canals so much that we did the circuit with its hop-on, hop-offs twice!

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

Copenhagen Boat tour in blue (Source)

Copenhagen Boat tour in blue (Source)

72 comments

  • Lovely post, with beautiful photographs!

    Liked by 1 person

  • If these pictures were in black/white, it would look like an old movie!

    Liked by 2 people

  • Your photos are lovely. I laughed at your bad luck with the Little Mermaid (sorry!). I think a hop-on/hop-off boat pass is a fantastic idea. I would have done it twice, too. I find I always miss something during the first visit. I guess the Danes are as hearty as some Canadians (I don’t include myself!).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Nancie for your comment about the photos! We had such a hard time getting a photo of the Little Mermaid without someone draped over her that we finally had to give up. And we had the same problem with a very fine statue of Hans Christian Andersen that has a beautiful patina except for his polished golden knees where all the tourists touch. Someday we’ll look at those photos and think, “Who are those people?”

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  • I love your photos and I’m going to remember this blog post for future use. Copenhagen has always been way up high on my list. There just seems to be so much color and culture and life. One of our favorite things to do when we arrive in a new destination is to take a hop on/off bus and stay on until it completes the route. It’s a great way to get an overview of the city. I love that the city has hop on/off boats!

    Liked by 2 people

    • As you may have gathered, Patti, we loved Copenhagen and just about everything Danish, too! It seemed to be one of those places that just had a little more to dazzle us: more happy and healthy people, more splendid and impressive buildings, more water and definitely more bikes! And it was quite relaxing as well as entertaining to take in the old city by boat!

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  • Exceptionally decent looking city!….Copenhagen is such a delightful city, yet I’ve never seen it from the water. I adore the trench visits in Amsterdam

    Liked by 1 person

  • They are quite wide canals there, different than Amsterdam’s – further to swim if you fall in.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We hadn’t thought about falling in but luckily there were a lot of hardy Danes around who looked like great swimmers! We were really amazed at the people who were swimming in what seemed (to us) to be chill weather but it looks like the people of Denmark take advantage of good weather whenever they can. Amsterdam is another destination on our bucket list and it will be interesting to compare the similarities between it and Copenhagen as well as what makes Amsterdam unique. Isn’t it fun to always plan for future trips?

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  • Take me with you!!! I’ve always wanted to see Copenhagen 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  • Pingback: Walking Copenhagen, Denmark – One Small Walk…after another

  • Very nice looking city! We met a couple from Denmark this summer while in Split. The wife threatened me that she could hack into my computer (she’s a computer geek) while the husband enjoys his hunting and showed me a video he captured shooting deer. I thought, “what a strange couple”. But I’m sure they’re not the typical Danes.
    Reminds me of Montreal though where anything above 5C warrants the wearing of shorts. Yeah, us Canadians get pretty weird about profiting from any decent weather.
    Frank
    Ps. Correction. That couple was from Norway.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Laughing Frank at your correction. 😀 If we didn’t have post-its or a daily calendar where we write just a little blurb from each day we’d be lost. As it is, we’re just hopelessly confused. 😉 Love the people you meet when traveling! Your comment reminded me of the years we lived in Montana and 60 degrees felt like a summer day. And now, we’re having a hard time adjusting to the heat and humidity of the US South as we’re currently working our way through Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Gotta grab any good weather (warm or cool) when you can find it!

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  • What fun! I have cruised on the water in Amsterdam, but not Copenhagen. Next time! Lovely photos of all the colorful buildings.

    Peta

    Liked by 2 people

  • Copenhagen is such a beautiful city, but I’ve never seen it from the water. I love the canal tours in Amsterdam (I’ve been on several, and they have the same sorts of low bridges as you describe.). The hop-on-hop-off boats in Stockholm, on the other hand, were the only thing in Stockholm I DIDN’T like! Canal boats can be a great way to get a different and relaxing view of a city.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The more we hear about Amsterdam the higher it moves on our “must visit” list It sounds like it has so many of the things we loved in Copenhagen as well as its own reputation as an incredibly interesting city. For sure we’ll plan on a canal trip there and I’ll keep in mind your advice about Stockholm, too. I know from reading your blog Rachel, that there’s so much to see and do in Stockholm that foregoing the hop-on hop-off canal tour won’t even be missed!

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  • Looks like a fantastic way to see Copenhagen. We have done it in several other cities and always enjoyed it from that perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Your lovely images have convinced me I’d like to take a boat tour of Copenhagen. It’s added to my to-do list.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Gosh – All of your photos are quite stunning – A real testimony to the scenic beauty –
    And of course I love the inclusion of a map to give us cartophiles our bearings 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Linda! It seemed like every view in Copenhagen was colorful, charming or just picture ready and we had a great time clicking away! Like you, we love our maps and we collected quite a few freebies during our wanderings about the city. Unfortunately, while they’re very serviceable, they’re not as imaginative as your handdrawn maps!

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  • What a great way to see the city, I love all the water views and looking at all that colorful architecture. I did a lot of walking around this city and I think taking a cruise would have been a better option of seeing a wide variety of places to see and experience from the water.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Copenhagen is a great city to walk around (watch out for those bikes!) and we had fun doing that as well, Noel. Between the walking and the boat tour we felt like we had a good introduction to this lovely city but we left knowing that there’s was a lot more to see and do in the city. We’ll cross our fingers and hope to return again!

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  • If we ever need travel ideas, photographs, information about a place or a tour guide, we’re contacting you two! Great piece, as usual, and the pix are stunning. They resemble postcards in their detail and color, great job. Keep the posts coming, we read them start to finish.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Copenhagen’s kind of like a fashion model – ready and willing to present all of it’s best angles for spectacular opportunities to photograph it. It truly is a picture- postcard city! We’re so glad you’re enjoying our posts and we love writing about whatever particular places we find ourselves in. You know we’d be more than happy to share whatever travel info we have with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Another lovely city that is on our bucket list, and hopefully one that we can strike off one day. Love the architecture and those colorful buildings. Your photos are lovely!

    Liked by 2 people

  • Somehow we missed the opportunity to do a hop-on hop-off boat tour of Copenhagen when we were there. We did do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of that City which we rank probably as the worst that we have done. It was still a little chilly when we were there in April, but we thought it was a nice touch that the cafes along Nehavn supplied blankets. We also found that walking was a good way to get around some of the attractions once we figured out how to avoid getting run over by the omnipresent bicycles.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! Those bicycles were everywhere and it didn’t take us too long either to see who had the right-of-way. We skipped the hop-on, hop off bus tour as we walked around almost all of the compact historic city while we were there. And, for the places we wanted to see that were a bit further, the bus system was great and easy to use. In fact, our biggest difficulty was trying to pronounce the place names!

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  • Seeing that you took the cruise twice is definite proof you liked it. Love how you can do the hop on, hop off not only on the canal but also on land. I think I agree that the Amalienborg Museum was OVERfurnished! Copenhagen looks like a beautiful place to visit…reminds me of Amsterdam.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Although there is lots to see in Copenhagen we resisted the urge to try to “see it all” and took our time to savor the things we enjoyed – hence, a loop around the canals twice! We also went took some time during our walk through the Amalienborg Museum which was absolutely overflowing with stuff from previous households including portraits, framed pictures, glassware collections and knick-knacks. Lots of beautiful things but it made us a little claustrophobic too!

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  • That’s a great way of exploring Copenhagen and seeing all its varied architecture. We did do a short boat trip when we were there but didn’t try the hop-on hop-off option – perhaps another time.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Makes me wish we were there again. And lovely that you got some blue skies. I miss Copenhagen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It sounds like two months in Denmark wasn’t enough for you, Shelley! We’d love to do a return trip too as there are so many places you told us about that we’d love to see for ourselves. We lucked out with some blue skies in our photos and some lovely clouds but we also have a lot of pictures of us standing in the rain, especially while we were waiting for the changing of the guard!

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  • I lost all our photos of Copenhagen when my phone crashed, so looking at these is a great memory for me. I wondered about the hoho boats, and it looks from your experience that it is a magnificent way to get a feeling for the city. Loved the ‘heads down and all body parts in the boat’ description of going under the bridges. It must have added to the fun of the trip. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  • Thanks so much for sharing this and the pictures! Now this place is on my bucket list for sure!

    Liked by 2 people

  • What a great way to see the city from the canals. It sounds very relaxing and provides a different perspective from the typical streetside views. Loved the colours, the architecture and the classic old boats along the docks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was a terrific way to get an overview of the historic city of Copenhagen, Tim and Anne. The architecture is an amazing blend of very old warehouses, centuries-old houses lovingly maintained, palaces and brick buildings with soaring spires that contrast with the ultra – modern newer buildings. We loved seeing the city from the canal perspective and also enjoyed walking about many of the neighborhoods. And seeing all the wooden boats, old schooners and yachts was icing on the cake!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Looks like such a great city that just has everything, the city feeling with the food and bars shops but also the quiet and nature side and it’s that combination that so appeals to me! Definitely on our citytrip list these coming years, unfortunately, or luckily, how you see it😉it’s a long list!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It would be hard to find anything that the city of Copenhagen could lack and you’re right when you point out that there are appealing parks and quiet areas amidst all the city bustle. We’d love to return for a second visit to this lovely city to see more of the sights we missed and we definitely understand how a list of “Must see places” can keep growing!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Well I enjoyed this watery tour of Copenhagen. You fort some great photos. The city has long been on our list and now I see why – it’s for Nyhavn! And the palace museum. Those two and the canal trip would be at the top of my list when ever we get to visit. Nyhavn sings to my soul.
    Alison

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nyhavn looks like a picture postcard neighborhood, Alison, and you would have so much fun taking photos there of the old and charming homes, cafe culture and picturesque shops. The neighborhood is very trendy but so colorful, quaint and vibrant that it’s impossible not to enjoy wandering the streets or just sit back and people watch. We can definitely understand its appeal to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Thanks for a taste of the city; it’s a tempting one!

    Liked by 2 people

  • Very picturesque. The hop-on hop-off canal cruise sounds like a great way to get an overview of Copenhagen.

    Liked by 2 people

  • A canal cruise is such a relaxing and great way to see the city. The poor little mermaid statue has been through some serious upheaval, I can’t imagine what possesses people to vandalise something that is so clearly enjoyed and cherished by many others. Sounds like your had a great time in Denmark.

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    • We loved Copenhagen, Gilda! We debated about hopping off the boat to see the Little Mermaid but there were so many people around her, posing for selfies and snapping group pictures, that it seemed pointless. She’s much smaller that we’d imagined (lifesized) and we have to agree with you that it really is hard to see why people would want to deface such a beautiful sculpture that radiates sweetness as well as innocence.

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  • Great pics! And yes, yes, HOHO buses (and now boats – kewl!) seem to be popping up in most every city. I took one in Havana, and there’s one that goes all over southern Peru from Lima to the Nazca Lines to Lake Titicaca to Cuzco (and connects with few stops in Bolivia). It’s definitely on my list. But first… I’ve got my eye on trying a few HOHOs in Munich, in Salzburg, in Zagreb, Croatia, and Istanbul.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We always look for HOHO buses in a new city as a way to get acquainted and get an overview of a new place. They’re also an economical way to visit a lot of the attractions, especially with a two-day ticket. Sounds like you have lots of experience with them as well Dyanne – we’d love to add some of the cities you’ve mentioned to our “been there on a HOHO” list!

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  • Love these photos and this city!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’d love to return to Copenhagen again as well as explore more of Denmark next time as our travel budget (and the weather) permits. Next time we’ll have to allow more time to see all the city has to offer and we’d love to visit more of the museums and castles too.The canal boat tour gives a great introduction to the city though and, rather than put the country of Denmark on our “been there” list, it’s still on our bucket list to revisit and see more of its sights!

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  • Looks lovely, you have certainly captured the spirit of the city!

    Liked by 2 people

  • This brings back such lovely memories! Amazing what stupid vandals do to such iconic statues isn’t it? We also took a cruise when we went and loved it as well. We also only got the backside of the Little Mermaid ;-). I so look forward to visiting this city again, it was so much fun and we missed museums…and the inside of the palace. Have to rectify that! So glad you guys had a great time. Haha..overfurnished is still and understatement.

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    • You’d love the museums (Federico would go nuts in the Glyptotek photographing the statues!) and the Amalienborg palace was beautiful, especially since we didn’t know much about the Danish Rococo architecture. But, OMG. it really was overflowing with all the furniture, pictures, rugs and bric-a-brac from past generations. All of them were clearly valuable but less might have allowed us to explore the collection and made more of an impression on us!

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