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  • copenhagen-canal-tour2.jpg - Visitors on a canal cruise pass through the Nyhavn neighborhood of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-opera-house.jpg - The Copenhagen Opera House, built at a cost of more than $500 million, is one of the world’s most modern opera houses.
  • Marble-Church-Marmorkirken - Frederik's Church (Frederiks Kirke in Danish), known to locals as The Marble Church (Marmorkirken), is renowned for its rococo architecture.
  • copenhagen-boat-under-footbridge.jpg - A tour boat passes beneath a canal footbridge in Copenhagen.
  • Gefion-Fountain - Gefion Fountain, on the waterfront in Copenhagen, features animal figurines being driven by the legendary Norse goddess, Gefjun.
  • Rosenborg-Castle - Rosenborg Castle is a Renaissance style castle in Copenhagen that was originally built as a country summerhouse in 1606.
  • Tivoli-arch - Tivoli Arch at the entrance to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.
  • visitors-pose-in-nyhavn.jpg -  Visitors pose with a picture-perfect backdrop in Copenhagen’s Nyhan district.
  • copenhagen-nyhavn-waterfront.jpg - Colorful buildings line the canal in the Nyhavn section of Copenhagen.
  • Royal-Danish-Playhouse-interior - The Royal Danish Playhouse (Skuespilhuset in Danish) hosts performances for the Royal Danish Theatre.
  • copenhagen-canal-tour.jpg - Visitors on a canal cruise pass through the Nyhavn neighborhood of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-nyhavn-canal.jpg - Tourists crowd the canal area of the Nyhavn neighborhood of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-Christiansborg-Palace.jpg -  Visit Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish Parliament, on the island of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-waterfront.jpg - Iconic buildings line the canal waterfront in the Nyhavn section of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-locals-in-christianshavn.jpg - Locals walk down a pathway in the Christianshavn area of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-bicyclists.jpg -  Bicyclists cross a canal footbridge in Copenhagen.
  • podcaster-in-nyhavn.jpg - A foreign podcaster live-streams with Nyhavn as the backdrop in Copenhagen.
  • danish-teenage-girls.jpg - Danish teen girls in a public plaza in the popular Nyhavn section of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-Alexander-Nevsky-Church.jpg - The pretty exterior of Alexander Nevsky Church in Copenhagen.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Nyhavn-late-dining - Late dining in Nyhavn is the perfect way to spend time on those long summer days.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Parliament-grounds - Stroll the grounds of Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-canal-tour - Take a canal tour of Copenhagen to view the sights from a different vantage point.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Nyhavn - Nyhavn is the 17th century waterfront area of Copenhagen, Denmark, known for its cafes and charm.
  • Stroget-Copenhagen - Copenhagen's largest shopping area is centered around Strøget in the heart of the city. Strøget is one of Europe's longest pedestrian streets with a wealth of shops.
  • City-Hall-Square-Copenhagen - City Hall Square, part of the capital's city center, is one of the main squares in Copenhagen. Danes gather here for demonstrations, to pay tribute to sports heroes, for big concerts and for exhibitions.
  • Thorvaldsen-Museum - Inside the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen, dedicated to 19th century Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
  • Round-Tower-Copenhagen - The Rundetårn, or "round tower," in central Copenhagen.
  • Copenhagen-canals-tour - Touring the canals in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Copenhagen-canal-locals - Two local women take a break at a canal in Copenhagen.
  • Copenhagen-Opera-House - A family pauses in front of the Opera House in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Christmas-Tivoli-Lake-Copenhagen - Christmastime in Copenhagen's Tivoli Lake, part of Tivoli Gardens, which opened in 1843, making it the second oldest amusement park in the world.
  • Royal-Danish-Playhouse - You can find the Royal Danish Playhouse along the waterfront in the Frederiksstaden neighborhood of central Copenhagen.
  • rooftops-of-Copenhagen-in-winter - Snow-covered rooftops of Copenhagen in winter.
  • copenhagen-Frederiks-Church.jpg -   Frederik's Church,  known as the Marble Church for its rococo architecture, is an Evangelical Lutheran church in Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-nyhavn.jpg - A look at the iconic buildings along the Nyhavn section of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-north-atlantic-house.jpg -   North Atlantic House is a cultural center located on the harbor front in Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-local-artworks.jpg - A local artist displays paintings along the canal front in the Nyhavn section of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-food-truck-nyhavn.jpg - Serving barbecued meats at a food truck in the Nyhavn section of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-christianshavn.jpg - A tour boat slices through the canal separating the Christianshavn and Nyhavn sections of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-borsen.jpg -   Børsen, also known as Børsbygningen, is a historic building dating to the 1600s that served as a major stock exchange in central Copenhagen.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Borsen - The Old Stock Exchange (Børsen) dates back to 1625 and is one of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen. Today it's used for gala dinners, conferences and other events.
  • sightseeing-in-nyhavn.jpg - Sightseeing in Nyhavn, the 17th-century waterfront, canal and entertainment district in Copenhagen.
  • Royal-Danish-Playhouse.jpg - The Royal Danish Playhouse in Copenhagen with the Opera House in the background.
  • Fredensborg-Castle - Fredensborg Castle on the island of Zealand in Denmark.
  • Nyhavn-Copenhagen - Nyhavn (literally New Harbor) is a waterfront, canal and entertainment district in Copenhagen, dating to the 1600s.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Black-Diamond-library - The dramatic Black Diamond is actually an extension of the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Botanical-Gardens-greenhouse - The greenhouse of the Botanical Garden of the Natural History Museum of Copenhagen is divided into departments, each of which features different climates.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-stroll-canal - Relax as you stroll along the many canals of Copenhagen.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Rosenborg-Castle - The grounds of Rosenborg Castle feature the lovely Kongens Have (The King's Garden).
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Parliament - The Parliament Building in Copenhagen originally was built as the third Christiansborg Palace in 1928.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Frederik-Church - Frederik's Church in Copenhagen is also known as The Marble Church, an example of Danish Rococo architecture.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Amaliehaven-garden - Take a moment to enjoy the fountain at the Amaliehaven garden while you tour the Amalienborg Palace.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Amalienborg - Amalienborg in Copenhagen is the winter home of the Danish Royal Family, with its four royal palaces.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Gefion-Fountain - In Copenhagen, the Gefion Fountain is a popular meeting place on the harbor.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-carriage-ride - Take a romantic carriage ride through the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • Denmark-Copenhagen-Nyhavn-quay - If you find yourself in Nyhavn, a district in Copenhagen, think about buying a beer at a market, then sitting by the quay and watch all the people go by.
  • copenhagen-architecture.jpg - An example of the architectural stylings in downtown Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-boat-tour.jpg -   Visitors on a boat tour in the København Havn canal of Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-church-spire-christianshavn.jpg -   A church spire rises above the Christianshavn neighborhood in Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-locals-at-cafe-in-christianshavn.jpg - Locals at a cafe in the Christianshavn neighborhood in Copenhagen.
  • copenhagen-nyhavn-hotel.jpg -   The pretty Nyhavn Hotel overlooks the waterfront in Copenhagen.
  • danish-cyclist-on-smartphone.jpg - Smartphone? Check. Bicycle? Check. A Danish woman in downtown Copenhagen.
  • bikes-in-copenhagen.jpg -   Copenhagen is world famous for its biking culture.
  • danish-fish-restaurant-menu.jpg - A menu in Danish at a fish restaurant on a boat along the waterfront of Copenhagen.

Copenhagen travel guide: What to do & see

our guide

The vibe

Copenhagen offers an exhilarating mix of historic charm and youthful exuberance, a place where baroque palaces and modern Danish design happily co-exist in a walkable and bike-friendly city center. Its spires, cobblestone squares and weaving canals emit a small-town vibe, despite its position as the largest city in Scandinavia and the capital of Denmark.

Along with an assortment of museums (Nationalmuseet), theater (Tivoli Concert Hall) and nightlife (Nyhavn), Copenhagen is arguably one of the greenest cities in Europe. The city center puts bikers at the fore; they often outnumber cars, so pedestrians do have to walk carefully. Green spaces in the form of parks and gardens are everywhere.

The grounds of Rosenborg Castle feature the lovely Kongens Have (The King's Garden).
Photo courtesy of Paul EdmundsonThe grounds of Rosenborg Castle feature the lovely Kongens Have (The King's Garden).

The Indre By (inner city) is the historical core of the city and home to several striking landmarks, such as the Amalienborg, or royal residence, which consists of four identical mansions; the botanical gardens; city hall, Dansk Design Center and the Danish Museum of Art and Design, called Kunstindustrimuseet. Also in this central district are the Tivoli Amusement Park and the artificial island, Slotsholem, which is surrounded by canals and hosts the city's many world-class museums.

Cruise ships that call on Copenhagen

Copenhagen is an ideal jumping-off point for cruises to the Baltic countries and a top choices for cruises to Norway’s west coast, Greenland and Iceland. Cruise ships that call on Copenhagen include:

Top reasons to go

  • Fairy-tale charm pervades the city, evident in sights such as Tivoli Gardens and Rosenberg Castle and places associated with Hans Christian Anderson.
  • Some of the best shopping in Europe.
  • Scandinavia’s culinary capital, everything from delectable pastries to street-stand sausages and Michelin-starred restaurants serving New Nordic cuisine.

Sonia Gil of Sonia's Travels offers five free things to do in Copenhagen in this 3-minute video.

Top things to do & see in Copenhagen

The most pressing problem for cruise passengers is choosing. This is a city with dynamic culture, entertainment, globally recognized dining and a wide variety of sights, from palaces and museums to tranquil canals intersecting with intriguing neighborhoods.   

Bus & canal tours

A great way to get oriented or to see a lot in a short time is by taking a bus or boat tour. Harbor and canal tours visiting sites such as Christiansborg Palace and the Little Mermaid statue are offered by Netto Badene. Hop-on, hop-off bus tours of the major city sights are available from Open-Air Sightseeing.

Here are some of the top attractions:

Amalienborg Palace and Square: The changing of the Royal Danish Guard takes place at noon whenever the royal family is in residence at this palace built in the French Rococo style. A small museum gives a glimpse of life inside the royal household.

Christiansborg Palace: Home to the Danish Parliament, the palace’s royal reception rooms are filled with dazzling tapestries and other artifacts from several centuries of Danish history.

Thorvaldsens Museum: Monumental works by Bertel Thorvaldsen, the great Danish Neoclassical sculptor are on display here.

Museum of Danish Resistance: Denmark’s struggle against Nazi occupation during World War II is movingly told through artifacts and video interviews from survivors.

Little Mermaid: Although frequently vandalized, the famous, but surprisingly small, harborside statue of the Hans Christian Anderson character remains a favorite camera stop for visitors.

Colorful buildings line the canal in the Nyhavn section of Copenhagen.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableColorful buildings line the canal in the Nyhavn section of Copenhagen.

Nyhavn: The historic sailors’ quarter is now a lively quay lined with jazz clubs, cafes, tattoo shops and throngs of young people enjoying the summer sun. The harbor is a veritable marine museum of vintage sloops and other historic vessels.

Hans Christian Anderson Museum: The life and times of Denmark’s famous poet and author of classic fairy tales is revealed here in exhibits that trace his childhood in Odense up through his successful career in his beloved Copenhagen.

Shopping

Strøget, the pedestrian street that cuts through central Copenhagen, is a shopper’s paradise, with designer boutiques, international chains and interesting second-hand and antique shops. Look for stores devoted to Danish-designed housewares and classic products such as Georg Jensen silver and Royal Copenhagen porcelain.

Midway along the street in the Illum Department Store is the Cruise Lounge, where passengers can relax with complimentary coffee or tea and store their purchases (be sure to bring proof that you're a cruise passenger). Other good places to find local treasures are the shops at the Danish Design Center and the Copenhagen Amber Museum; the large department store, Magasin du Nord; furniture stores in the district of Norrebro; and the Israel Plads and Gammel Strand flea markets, open on Saturdays.

Nightlife

International jazz fans flock to the Copenhagen Jazz House for live concerts. Clubs and other nightspots are clustered on and around Strøget and near Tivoli Gardens. The Operaen, Copenhagen’s state-of-the-art opera house, offers not only opera but also jazz and pop-music headliner concerts.

Tivoli Arch at the entrance to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.
Tivoli Gardens / Courtesy of VisitDenmarkTivoli Arch at the entrance to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.

Family-friendly options

Tivoli Gardens: Timeless and utterly delightful, Tivoli has been charming visitors of all ages since 1843. Its many pleasures include amusement park rides, bountiful flower gardens, marching bands and restaurants and cafés galore. Entertainment options abound, with free concerts, pantomime theater, jugglers, acrobats, ballet and more.

Don’t miss

Rosenborg Castle: The Renaissance-style residence of Christian IV, known as the Warrior King, the castle is a treasure trove of crown jewels, ivory coronation chairs, porcelain, portraits and swords studded with priceless gems.

Best bets for dining

There's been a culinary resurgence in Danish cuisine in recent years, led by Noma, voted one of the World's 50 Best Restaurants 2014 by prestigious Restaurant Magazine. Tucked away in a 1700s harbor warehouse in Copenhagen, Noma boasts two Michelin stars and offers New Nordic cuisine consisting of seasonal, terroir-led Scandinavian dishes. You'll need to make reservations months in advance to grab a table here, but that should work to cruisers' advantage. 

You'll find international influences, especially French and Asian, in lunch and dinner spots around town, and there are more than 100 restaurants in Copenhagen that participate in “Klima-friendly” food, serving only organic, locally produced and environmentally friendly meals, adding to the city's green reputation.  

Casual lunch: For a truly local experience, order a grilled pøse, a Danish version of the hot dog, from one of the many street carts. Good places to enjoy a smørrebrød, the classic Danish open-faced sandwich, are Café Nytorv and Domhusets Smørrebrød.

Fine dining: Ravelinen Restaurant, with its lakeside terrace in the charming Christianshavn neighborhood, is a popular and atmospheric place for classic Danish cuisine. Located in a historic building with vaulted ceilings, Kong Hans Kaelder is a longtime favorite for Danish caviar, game dishes and other specialties.

In its February 2015 issue, Travel + Leisure magazine named these as among Copenhagen's hot restaurants:

  • Øl & Brød, with modern adaptations of smørrebrød, the traditional Danish open-faced rye bread sandwich, paired with the world-class beers of Mikkeller and other top breweries. 
  • Studio, with a nice waterside setting, earned its first Michelin star just months after opening. 
  • Uformel offers creative small plates in a striking duotone setting.
  • Baest, featuring top-notch charred pizza, mozzarella and salumi worthy of Rome.

Best time to go

High season: July to August

Shoulder seasons: April to May; September to October

Low season: November to March

Summer offers long, sunny days and balmy temperatures, while spring and fall are crisp and cool. Winters bring chilly temperatures and short days.

Fun facts

  • Members of the Danish royal family are often seen about town, showing up at concerts, restaurants and bars with no fanfare.
  • Denmark has the lowest rate of income inequality in the world.
  • Copenhagen has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in Scandinavia – twice as many as Stockholm.

Metropolitan biking? Copenhagen is where it all began. Sonia Gil of Sonia's Travels takes a look at bicycling in Copenhagen in this fun 2½-minute video. 

When you arrive

Docking information

Copenhagen has two main cruise ship terminals: Freeport Terminal, about three miles north of downtown, and Langelinie Pier, about two miles from downtown and in walking distance of the Little Mermaid site.

Getting around

Central Copenhagen is easily explored on foot, but the city has an efficient bus system with stops at all the major points of interest. Busses marked “A” serve the primary tourist routes. Taxis are plentiful and easy to flag down, but are expensive. Cycling is another option, with most major streets having dedicated bike lanes. Look for bicycles at racks throughout the city available for public use at no charge.

Need to know

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens will need a valid passport.

Language: Danish is the official language, but many people are conversant in English.

Currency: The Danish Kroner – there are about 5 kroner to the U.S. dollar.

Safety: Copenhagen is one of the safest cities in the world. Still, be wary of pickpockets and don't flash cash or expensive items in public.

Your take

How about you? Have you been to Copenhagen? Planning to go? I'd love to hear about your experience or see your photos! Highlights?

Help improve this article! See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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Maria Lenhart
I am a veteran travel writer who has enjoyed reporting on destinations far and near for many publications. My favorite way to travel is on board a ship, no matter where it's going. 

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Overheard

“For a unique experience and a great opportunity to meet locals in their homes, consider having Dine With the Danes arrange for you to have dinner with a Danish family.”

Rick Steves

“Some ships staying in Copenhagen late into the night will offer evening tours of Tivoli – when most of the park’s most interesting entertainment programming is offered.”

Cruise Critic

“Copenhagen is the coolest kid on the Nordic block, with its industrial-chic bars, design and fashion scene.”

Lonely Planet

“For the best view in the city, walk the spiral steps up the corkscrew spire of the Church of Our Saviour in Christianshavn.”

Porthole magazine

“In Copenhagen the latest such agora operated is the light-filled glass sheds of Torvehallerne. This food hall, farmers' market, and social hub opened in  2011 on Israels Plads, a public square previously notorious for its drug dealers.”

Travel + Leisure magazine

“Local, organic, sustainable — the prime ingredients of New Nordic cuisine are also the hallmarks of Höst, designed by Norm and the design brand Menu. Rough plank ceiling and tables, gypsum brick walls, recycled windows, cutting boards as wall art, and furry hides bring farm to table — literally.”

Travel + Leisure magazine

“The beautiful Rosenborg Slot castle, built in the early 17th century, stands in the equally beautiful Kongens Have (Kings Garden). It’s a great place to kick back on the grass and watch the world go by. There’s a free marionette show here in the summer – only in Danish, but the kids will probably love it anyway.”

Porthole magazine 

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