The best canal tours and boat trips in Copenhagen

With the word harbour (havn) incorporated into its Danish name (København), Copenhagen naturally has a strong connection with its waterways. 

There are lots of different boat tours to try in Copenhagen

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!

Quick take: our top three Copenhagen boat tours

If you’re short of time, we recommend the classic boat trip from Nyhaven that takes in all the main sites in a comfortable boat with large glass windows.

We also really like this smaller electric boat trip that seats just seven people for a more personal, intimate experience – and it’s eco-friendly too. 

And for a chilled, relaxing trip, you can’t beat this tour of scenic Furesøen Lake on a lovely antique wooden boat.

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).

Canal and boat tours in Copenhagen

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. 

The Havnebussen (Harbour bus) public boats don’t need to be booked in advance, but you will need to have a ticket, travel card or a Copenhagen Card: Discover to use them. You can also buy tickets onboard, but only with cash.

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.

What’s new for 2024?

Increasingly small electric boats are gaining popularity, such as this one.

They provide a more intimate experience as well as personal interaction with the captain. So you can ask questions on the way and really enjoy what you’re seeing.

There will always be a place for the large glass-windowed tour boats, where you can walk around the boat – and they do you great views of the city.

But increasingly people are opting for smaller, more personal electric boat trips that limit their impact on the environment.

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.

Hop on, hop off tour boats in Copenhagen

The classic harbour 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!

The extended harbour tour

If you want a longer trip that takes in a few lesser-known sites, such as the up-and-coming area of area of Nordhavn, this extended harbour is a good bet.

The trip leaves from Ved Stranden and takes in all the main sites too, plus some of the newer trendy regenerated areas to the north and south of the centre.

It lasts one hour, 45 minutes and runs from June to mid-September.

The eco-friendly harbour tour

This electric boat trip leaves from Ved Stranden and takes in the city’s main sights on a small boat.

The boat seats just seven people, so it’s a more personal experience – and has heated seats and blankets for colder days.

The knowledgeable skipper gets top marks for the witty and fun commentary, plus the interesting facts about the sites you pass and their history.

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.

It’s a sociable boat trip where you’re encourage to chat to fellow passengers and the captain, so ideal for solo travellers.

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.

It takes in all the harbour highlights, as well as some up-and-coming areas and a few hidden gems too.

Havnebussen

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.

Boat tour of Bagsværd Lake

Escape the city for a trip on the wooden Baadfarten boats, which sail along the scenic Bagsværd Lake, just outside Copenhagen (May to August).

The hour-long tour of the lake takes in lush lakeside scenery, including parkland, woods and fields.

Your ticket also allows you to stop off en-route, so you can spend as long as you like at the art exhibitions at Sophienholm, and continue your trip on a later boat.

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.

Harbour bridges will open to let the tall ship pass as you sail through the harbour.  Or you can opt for a full two-hour sailing cruise aboard the beautiful wooden ship.

These tours aren’t cheap (expect to pay around 420 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. 

Take a boat trip on Denmark's deepest lake, just outside Copenhagen

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.

Boats for rent in Copenhagen

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.

Goboats can be rented in Copenhagen, even if you have no sailing experience
Pic: News Oresund (CC)

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.

GoBoat

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 licence 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 bench table in the middle of these boats, and you’re free to bring along your own food and drink. So, pack 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 (from 549 DKK) – so the larger the group the cheaper the cost per person.

Duffy boats

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.

They run year-round with heaters in the winter, plus comfy sofas and tables so you can relax and enjoy the view.

The boats cost from 190 DKK for a one-hour trip, including the captain.

FriendShips

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 900 DKK) will give you enough time to take in a few of the capital’s big sights while sailing quietly through the water.

Kayak Republic

Wanna keep those biceps in shape during your city break? Then you should consider skipping the boats altogether and jumping in a kayak.

Kayak Republic has stable, easy-to-use kayaks to rent for 195 DKK an hour, or 295 DKK for a double kayak (May to September).

Alternatively, you can join a two-hour city tour around the canals of Copenhagen, or an evening tour to watch the sunset (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 Baadfarten boat tours. 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 £8 each for an hour’s trip.

FAQS

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.

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.

See also: 
Where to go swimming in Copenhagen
50 free things to do in Copenhagen
The best guided tours in Copenhagen
Is the Copenhagen card worth buying?

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