Along the canals of Copenhagen

Stuck on a small motorboat surrounded by other tourists, listening to a guide who’d much rather be somewhere else, could be qualified as one of my worst nightmares as a traveller. The endless picture-snapping, the guide’s lousy attempt at humour, not to mention the selfie-sticks, I hate it all!

So why is it then that I find myself at 9.30am on the quay of Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s most popular canal, standing in line for the next departure?… I blame my Danish friends! “You have to do a canal boat tour when you’re in Copenhagen” they said. “Seriously, Els, it’s something you can’t miss!” Not one to disappoint people, I prepare myself for an hour and a half of pure frustration…

Our guide comes in the form of a twenty-something-year-old girl. I could have sworn she smiled as I got in. During the instructions, she switches from Danish to English to German without even blinking and after a few minutes, I already start to feel some kind of sympathy for her. I’m a weak soul, I know…

My prejudices for the tour guide put aside, I can now fully concentrate on the tour itself. The brightly coloured townhouses of Nyhavn reflect in the water as we make our way slowly forward. These aren’t just any houses though, some of them were once occupied by Hans Christian Andersen, the famous fairy-tale writer and Denmark’s favourite son! The name Nyhavn means “new harbour”, but is actually one of the oldest canals of the city. It was dug by Swedish prisoners of war during the 17th century. It must be said, they did a pretty good job!

canal tour in Copenhagen

Sailing out of the harbour, we turn right into Christianshavn. “Wow, this looks a lot like Amsterdam”, a German guy shouts. King Christian IV would be proud, since this was exactly what he was trying to achieve! Christianshavn wasn’t an instant success though. It took a tax cut to persuade merchants to move into this new district. Nowadays, Christianshavn is one of the most expensive areas of Copenhagen. As beautiful as it is seen from the water, you should definitely come back to stroll along the waterfront and take in the gorgeous warehouses. Christiana, the alternative free-state of Copenhagen, is only a few steps away and climbing the 400 steps of the 260-year-old “Our Saviours Church” awards you with a stunning view over the whole area!

We cross the harbour once more to enter “Slotsholmen” via the Frederiksholm canal. Christiansborg Palace, the Danish Parliament and the Royal Stables all have their home here. The grandeur of Copenhagen reunited! Passing the Old Stock Exchange, I notice a stretch of beach set up on a wooden platform on the water, complete with a bar and loungers! Ah, those Danes know how to make the best of summer!

canal tour in Copenhagen

Our tour ends with, of course, The Little Mermaid! Or rather, with a bunch of people completely surrounding a statue of a little mermaid. I don’t get it… but looking at the enthusiasm of the people on the boat, I must be the only one…

I learnt a lot about Copenhagen’s history on this canal boat tour, got a good overview of the city’s layout and if I’m honest, I secretly even enjoyed my canal tour in Copenhagen! But that, of course, I will never admit!

Did you ever do a very touristy thing that actually turned out rather pleasant? Where was it?

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