With the word harbour (havn) incorporated into its Danish name (København), Copenhagen naturally has a strong connection with its waterways.
Many of these lead right past some of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, including postcard-perfect Nyhavn and the famous Little Mermaid statue.
There are loads of guided canal tours and boat trips to enjoy, and you can even rent your own boat for a bit of self-guided exploration.
Seeing the city from the water can help you find your bearings before diving into the maze of historic streets on foot.
Options for boat trips in Copenhagen range wildly, from solar-powered picnic boats and classic canal cruises to sailing ship adventures and solo kayak trips.
Use this guide to choose the one that will leave you in ‘oar’ of the Danish capital!
Where do the boat tours depart from?
Copenhagen’s most popular type of boat tour is a trip along the canals. Most of these tours leave from the touristy Nyhavn area and from Gammel Strand, near Christiansborg Castle.
Others run from Ofelia Plads near Amalienborg Palace (it’s just around the corner from Nyhavn).
Havnebussen boats, which are part of the city’s public transport system, can be boarded at several stops between Refshaleøen and Teglholmen, giving you a cheap alternative to the organised tours.
Just bear in mind that these are very much ‘local’ boat services – you won’t get any info on what you’re sailing past.
Do the boat trips run all year?
Boat trips are popular and get booked up quickly, so it’s wise to book tickets online in advance, though some tours can also be booked on the spot.
Tips for taking a Copenhagen boat tour
- Check the weather forecast and always bring an extra layer – it can get chilly here, even in the summer.
- Add sunscreen and a hat if you’re hitting the water during the summer months.
- Consider renting your own boat for a bit more freedom – you can safely rent certain types of boats in Copenhagen, even if you have no previous experience.
- Don’t forget to book in advance – especially in high season.
- Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch on the water. Several of the tours we’ve listed below allow you to bring your own drinks and food.
Guided canal and harbour tours
Touring Copenhagen’s canals is so popular that a whole industry has built up around it, with several different providers offering a multitude of tours, each aimed at taking visitors to see different parts of the city. These are some of the best.
The Grand Tour
This budget-friendly one-hour tour takes you around the canals and the harbour to see the city’s best bits.
Guides speak Danish and English (other languages are also available on specific departures) and provide a bit of background about the city as you sail past famous landmarks.
Tours start from Nyhavn, and will take you past highlights like Christiansborg Palace, the opera house, the Little Mermaid statue and majestic Amalienborg Palace.
The tours run all year round and ponchos are included, just in case it rains!
Hey Captain boat trips
Putting the focus firmly on good-old Danish hygge (you’ll get warm drinks and blankets to keep you cosy), this is a much more intimate boat tour with room for just 12 guests at a time.
Running from mid-March to mid-December, this two-hour boat trip sets out from Ofelia Plads near Amalienborg Palace, sailing past all the harbour highlights, plus some hidden gems too.
Havnebussen, or ‘the Harbour Bus’ is part of Copenhagen’s public transport system, just like the regular buses on land. This means you can travel with the same kind of tickets you’d use on ordinary buses.
Riding the harbour bus isn’t really the same as a guided tour, but it does offer a cheap, alternative way to get from A to B around the harbour, while still enjoying some of its attractions along the way.
The best routes for sightseers are #991 and #992. They run in opposite directions, but both pass the opera house and Nyhavn.
Wooden sailing ship tours
Looking to explore the harbour in style? Then be sure to visit Copenhagen in high season (late June to the beginning of August), when you can book a harbour tour aboard a real wooden sailing ship.
These tours aren’t cheap (expect to pay around 400 DKK per adult) and you’ll need to book in advance – check the United Sailing Ships website for exact sailing times.
Lake tours on a wooden boat
And if you fancy cruising some of the waterways out of the city, this lovely wooden boat dating from the 1890s tours round Denmark’s deepest lake.
The boat makes the two-hour journey round Furesøen Lake several times a day, stopping at the lake beach at Furesøbad, the castle of Næsseslottet and the Old Mill en route.
So you can hop-off when you want to explore the sights along the way, then catch the next boat onwards.
The boats leave from Holte Havn, 20 minutes outside of the city, and run from early may to mid-September.
If you don’t like the idea of setting sail with other tourists and would rather hit the water on your own, renting a boat is a great option.
There are a few different low-powered boats that you can captain yourself, and although there are age limits in place, no prior experience is necessary.
You can also rent a private boat with a captain from Refshaleøen, or jump in a kayak instead.
Some of the most popular boat rentals in Copenhagen are GoBoats. These dinky, solar-powered boats, based at Islands Brygge, let you go wherever you fancy along Copenhagen’s system of canals, with no experience or special license needed.
You’ll be shown how to drive the boats before you set off and provided with life jackets and blankets (in case it’s cold out on the water!)
There’s a little picnic table in the middle of these boats, so you’re free to bring along your own food, or you can order a picnic basket for an enjoyable day on the water.
The boats hold up to 8 people and cost the same whether there are two of you or 8 – so the larger the group the cheaper the cost per person.
If you’re travelling with a group of friends or your family, then you might want hire your own boat and captain to take you comfortably around the harbour.
The eco-friendly, electric Duffy boats take up to 11 guests at a time, and are a great option if you want a bit more space and the freedom to explore a little more.
The boats cost 2550 DKK for a two-hour trip, including the captain.
A good alternative to GoBoats (see above), FriendShips electric boats can be rented from Christianshavn, so you’re just around the corner from Christiania and the opera house.
Renting for two hours (around 800 DKK) will give you enough time to take in a few of the capital’s big sights while sailing quietly through the water.
Wanna keep those biceps in shape during your city break? Then you should consider skipping the boats altogether and jumping in a kayak.
This place lets you rent stable, easy-to-use kayaks or join a two-hour city tour (around 395 DKK).
Top tips for saving money on boat trips in Copenhagen
- Kayak for free. Green Kayak has double sit-on kayaks that you can use for free. All you need to do is to pick up litter from the harbour while you paddle, weigh it and share it on social media!
- Buy a Copenhagen Card. The Copenhagen Card: Discover includes unlimited use of the harbour buses, a classic harbour tour and the Furesøen Lake trip. So if you’re planning a lot of watery trips, it could save you a fortune. Check our guide to see if a Copenhagen Card could save you money.
- Go with a group of friends. With trips like GoBoats, you pay for the boat no matter how many people are on it. So if you can take 7 other people, you’ll pay as little as £7.50 each for an hour’s trip.
Are Copenhagen boat trips environment-friendly?
Most boat trips have a negative effect on the environment, however in recent years boat companies in Copenhagen have made big efforts to reduce their environmental impact.
The old diesel Havnebussen, for example, have been replaced with electric boats, and all the harbour buses are now nitrogen oxide- and particle-neutral.
Both FriendShips and the Duffy Boats are electric, while the silent GoBoats are solar-powered. However, the most environmentally-friendly way to take to the water is, of course, is by kayak!
Are Copenhagen boat trips safe?
Yes, boat trips round Copenhagen Harbour are safe. All boat trips provide life jackets for passengers, though there’s no obligation to wear them.
Make sure you stay seated while the boat is moving, and be aware of the safety procedures and where the emergency exits are.
Are Copenhagen boat trips accessible?
Most boat trips are problematic for those with limited mobility, and the boats that do the classic Copenhagen harbour tours are not suitable for wheelchair users.
The harbour buses, however, are wheelchair-accessible, with flat landing stages and ramp access to the boat. They can get very crowded though, and there’s limited space on board for wheelchairs.
Can I get food and drink on board the boats?
There are no facilities for buying food and drink on board the classic harbour boats, but there’s no problem with taking your own.
Some boat trips can pre-order a picnic basket for you, including the United wooden sailing ships and the GoBoats.
Many of the tours start and end at Nyhavn, where there’s no shortage of places to eat and drink before or after your tour. For ideas on where to eat in Copenhagen on a budget, click here.