Whenever I visit a new city, I almost always make it my goal to get a general overview of the place on the first day. Sometimes, I achieve this goal by taking a guided walking tour or setting off to explore the top sights on my own. In Copenhagen, though, the best way to do this was by way of a Copenhagen canal tour.
We arrived in Copenhagen late at night and immediately made our way to our Airbnb (Get $40 towards your first rental here!). The next morning, after sleeping in long enough to recover, we made our way to Nyhavn – Copenhagen’s most famous canal.
The buildings were every bit as colorful as all of the pictures I had seen while planning the trip. I immediately got the feeling that it was going to be a very good day.
That feeling suffered a little bit of a hit after we bought our 80kr tickets, settled into the soon departing boat and noticed a sign for another company that was selling the canal tour for 40kr. Yeah, that went well.
The Copenhagen Canal Tour
Even though we payed twice as much as we could have for our Copenhagen canal tour, we greatly enjoyed the experience. The sun was shining down on us as we settled into our seats. And we tried to push the thought of lost money to the back of our minds. It was a beautiful day outside, and soon enough our guide was climbing on board and we were off!
It was a short ride through Nyhavn and under a few extremely low bridges. Then, we were out on the open water. The wind was whipping through my hair, and I immediately regretted not having put it up that morning. It was a veritable bird’s nest by the end of the tour.
One of the first things we passed by was the show stopping Copenhagen Opera House. With its overhanging roof and rounded walls, the building was certainly a sight to behold.
From there, it was onwards past the Queen’s own yacht and a garbage dispensary that has to import trash because Denmark doesn’t make enough (probably just another reason that they’re the happiest country in the world).
The Little Mermaid
At the farthest point of the tour was the famous statue of the Little Mermaid. At mid-morning, there was already a veritable crowd waiting for their chance to take a picture with her – even though she’s consistently recognized as one of the world’s most overrated tourist attractions.
Locals seem to have a love-hate relationship with the Little Mermaid. As we learned on the boat tour, some people were so concerned when she was brought to the World Expo in Shanghai, that they had to set up a live stream of the statue so that people could keep an eye on her. On the other hand, she’s also a very common target of politically motivated vandalism. I guess in the end, you just have to make up your own mind about her. Personally, I think she’s kind of cute.
If you are so inclined as to see the Little Mermaid, however, I wouldn’t suggest a Copenhagen canal tour as the way to do it. While the tour is loads of fun, you only see her from the back this way. And there’s no way to keep the crowds out of your shots.
After getting up close to the Little Mermaid, the boat turned around and headed back the way it had come. We passed by Amalienborg Palace and the Royal Danish Playhouse along the way.
Finally, we found ourselves at the actual canal part of our Copenhagen canal tour.
As much fun as seeing some of the sights out on the open water was, this is where I really started to have fun. I don’t know what it is, but I just love canals. Probably because all of the boats are just so darn photogenic. I can’t even tell you how many pictures I took during this part of the tour.
Our guide told us that Christianshavn (where all of these boat pictures came from) was originally supposed to be a completely separate town. Christian IV founded it as a merchant town, but it was so close to Copenhagen that the city soon engulfed it. Now, it’s a lively neighborhood of the city – and is even home to the famous Freetown Christiania.
After we passed through Christianshavn, we cruised along more of Copenhagen’s canals and past the back entrance of Christiansborg Palace. We even spotted the famous Royal Library, nicknamed the Black Diamond because of its shiny, black, mirror-like walls.
An hour after we had begun our adventure, we found ourselves floating back into Nyhavn. Even though we were upset that the canal tour was over, we couldn’t have been more excited to get back on our feet and start exploring the city for real.
If you go
Canal tours are super touristy, there’s no doubt about it. A Copenhagen canal tour is no exception to this rule. But even though they’re touristy, I’m a huge proponent of them. Firstly, they’re a great way to get acquainted with the city and they help you learn a lot about what you’re seeing from your guide. And secondly? They’re just plain fun! Who doesn’t like a good boat ride? Especially when it’s sunny outside.
We took our Copenhagen canal tour with Stromma for 80DKK. They were the first company we saw at the very head of Nyhavn. Like dummies we went ahead and bought the tickets without shopping around first.
If you look right past Stromma’s flashy signs, you’ll find Netto-Badene. Their tours are the exact same thing (one hour long with a live guide), but cost half the price!
Unless you have a Copenhagen Card (in which case you can take either one for free), definitely go with this company.