Summer in Copenhagen is all about being outdoors. Everywhere you go, you will see the locals hanging out and lounging around absorbing the sun’s rays. A very lively place is Nyhavn (“New Harbor”), established in the 1670’s. This is one of the oldest parts of the Copenhagen harbor; its history is as colorful as its buildings. During this era, Nyhavn was a busy commercial port. Ships from all over the world docked here, and sailors disembarked roaming the pubs and alehouses looking for a good time with the resident ladies of the night. While probably no one remembers the sailors’ or ladies’ names, everyone remembers one of Nyhavn’s most beloved residents, the storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen. He penned a favorite of mine while living here, The Princess and the Pea.
The buildings lining the canal are plastered in various colors, and their texture makes them look like they belong in a painting. The atmosphere is one of water, food, music, drinks, and people. Join the crowds and try to snag a seat at one of the many bars, cafés, and restaurants that share the canal’s sidewalk for a refreshment – or, if you are not in the mood for expensive drinks, do as the younger locals do and BYO beer/wine and sit on the dock and watch the people and water crafts go by. Either way, do not miss the experience!
Walk along the quay, now a pedestrian street, and admire the old wooden sailboats and the historic sloops. Some are presently occupied, others are just peacefully floating on the canal. Yet other boats, have been converted into cool and quirky hotels & bars, like the one below. You can even rent a bike here!
If you’re feeling up to it, you can rent a kayak, like these guys above. If that’s not your thing, then I’d highly recommend hopping onto one of the canal cruises for a leisurely one-hour guided tour of the city’s canals and harbor. And if you can do this before the sun goes down – even better. You’ll navigate through idyllic canals and under romantic bridges while learning about Copenhagen’s beautiful churches, castles, and historic houses.
During the cruise, you will get a view of Copenhagen’s outstanding modern architecture in the wide-open harbor that works in evident contrast to the salty old buildings hugging the canals. Below, the amazing Royal Danish Opera House, one of the most modern (and expensive) opera houses in the world.
Below, the stunning Royal Danish Playhouse. Here, you’ll find the locals just relaxing with gorgeous views of the harbor. You don’t need to buy a ticket to hang out here – the waterfront promenade is open to the public.
There are two major companies that will take you along for the ride: Canaltours and Netto Badene. Both companies leave from Nyhavn several times a day. Summer and winter schedules may vary in time and frequency. (Websites for checking out timetables are provided at the end of this post).
Views during the cruise.
The Royal Yacht Dannebrog (1931); the official and private residence for the Royal Family when they cruise home waters in the summer or during visits overseas.
Christianshavn Canal is one of the most beautiful canals in Copenhagen, in my opinion – your cruise will most likely sail you down this canal. It is flanked by wide, cobblestoned streets with lots of local bars and restaurants.
On a side note, the Opus VII boat you see below was actually our floating Airbnb on Christianshavn Canal🙂 If you can stay on a boat in one of the canals during your stay, you should do it! Our boat was super comfortable, and we felt like we were part of the neighborhood in a very special way. If you’d like to see this particular boat on Airbnb, here’s the link. Our host was awesome and we can’t wait to go back.
Summer in Copenhagen also means music – particularly jazz. Since 1979, one of Europe’s most important international music events, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, has been taking place in the very heart of historical Copenhagen. The series of concerts begin on the first Friday in July. Over the period of 10 days, internationally-renowned musicians play on Copenhagen’s city’s streets, cafés, concert halls, clubs, as well as offering open-air night venues. For more info on who will be playing this season and tickets, check out their website.
If you can’t make it for the jazz festival, you can still listen to some great jazz as you travel through the canals aboard one of the boat tours. Canal Tours Copenhagen offers both jazz and blues while you float along. You can check out the schedules online.
Cruise Info (both provide a live guides; Danish/English, sometimes additional languages):
*Netto-Bådene. 1 hour guided tour. Cost: 40 kr (approx. $7). Year round. In Fall/Winter, you’ll sail in glass-roofed, heated boats. *Check website for up-to-date departure dates/times. (www.havnerundfart.dk).
*Canal Tours Copenhagen: 1 hour guided tour. 75 kr (approx. $14). Year-round. There are also hop-on hop-off boats, covering the most interesting areas of the canals. The ticket is valid for 24 hours and you can hop on and off as much as you want. For complete information check out this page on their website.