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The city of Copenhagen is spread across two large islands, called Zealand and Amager, and connected to southern Sweden via the Öresund Bridge. When your Copenhagen cruise ship docks, you’ll arrive at a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a bustling harbor, renowned restaurants, and gorgeous historical architecture.
A stop in Copenhagen makes for a fabulous day in port while on a cruise to Scandinavia and to Northern Europe’s capitals. Spend the day admiring the city’s opulent castles and stroll along the colorful waterfront district of Nyhavn. Don’t forget to try a Danish brew and sample local eats at a food hall while you’re here
To gaze at some Renaissance splendor, spend part of your day touring Copenhagen’s Rosenborg Castle, which is home to the crown jewels and surrounded by sprawling garden scenery.
The Copenhagen Opera House’s modern, futuristic design features a streamlined exterior and a roof canopy that resembles a wide-brimmed hat. Inside its sleek interior, you’ll find a marble foyer and gleaming gold-plated auditorium roof. Positioned next to the water, the opera house encompasses 41,000 square meters and stands 14 stories tall. The award-winning design was created by local architect Henning Larsen.
Christiansborg Palace is an impressive structure that dates back to 1733 and features Baroque Revival architecture. Its defining characteristic is the tall tower in its center. Christiansborg Palace is located on a small islet within Copenhagen’s city limits, which gives it a powerful-looking position fitting for a structure that houses the Danish Prime Minister’s Office and Supreme Court of Denmark as well as the seat of the Danish Parliament.
Anyone who loves the Hans Cristian Andersen tale of a mermaid who longs to live on land (or has seen the animated movie of the same name) will love seeing Copenhagen’s iconic Little Mermaid Statue. The statue features a mermaid sculpted by Edvard Eriksen in 1913, which was placed atop a rock in the water by the Langelinie Promenade.
Copenhagen’s National History Museum is located in a historic, 70-room castle with beautiful Renaissance-style interiors. While touring the museum, you’ll see the ornate golden paneling of the Knight’s Hall, as well as the Coronation Chapel, where some of Denmark’s past kings were anointed.
Tivoli Gardens is one of the defining landmarks of Copenhagen. In addition to gorgeous gardens worthy of a stroll, you’ll find a seasonal theme park complete with rides, games, and one of the world’s tallest chain carousels.
Nyhavn means “new harbor” in English, which is a fitting name for this popular Copenhagen neighborhood. Located next to a canal where you can still see old wooden ships docked, its history dates back centuries. Gorgeous 17th and 18th century houses that host a variety of eateries, many of which have pleasant outdoor seating areas, frame the picturesque canal. For more Hans Christian Andersen history, pay attention to the house numbers of 18, 20, and 67, since Andersen lived in each one.
When spending a day in the Copenhagen cruise port, you’ll likely want to try some local cuisine, and one of the best places to do so is Torvehallerne. Located right by Nørreport Station, Torvehallerne is a bustling food hall that serves a wide variety of local specialties. It’s a great way to try small bites of many different types of Danish cuisine. You’ll also find groceries and fresh produce sold here. For street food vendors, visit Refshaleøen at Reffen where most of them congregate. It’s a bit of a trek to get to from the cruise port, but the delicious food at great prices makes it worth the journey.
Copenhagen has a thriving beer scene. Expect to pay around 30 kr for a large beer and more at upscale places. Carlsberg and Tuborg are two beer brands you’ll typically find on tap, both of which are Danish Pilsner styles of beer. It’s legal to drink beer in public in Copenhagen, and a laidback way to enjoy one is by buying a bottle and drinking it in a park. To experience the local bar scene, head to Nyhavn. You’ll also find many bars and clubs in Sankt Hans Torv and Blågårds Plads.
In the 11th century, the first settlement was built on the shores of Copenhagen. Over the next few centuries it grew in prominence, particularly after Bishop Absalon came to Copenhagen and led the city as one of its foremost politicians and church father in the 12th century. He was also the closest advisor to King Valdemar I of Denmark. In the 13th century, a stone wall was built around the city, which helped protect Copenhagen from several attacks over the coming centuries. The city grew significantly under the rule of Christian IV of Denmark in the early 1600s and became the principal fortification and naval port of the country.
Today, the three things that most define culture in Copenhagen and the rest of Denmark is simplicity, politeness, and equality. Bragging is considered rude, and high incomes are not to be coveted. Instead, living a life of simple pleasures is desired. Hygge is the word given to the idea of finding moments of coziness and contentment, particularly through relaxing and eating together with friends.
The local economy is thriving and healthy with a strong tourism sector, which has helped to make it one of Europe’s fastest growing metropolitan destinations. Women and men are seen as equals in Denmark, and the maternity leave offered is one of the best in the world at 10 months.
The country is run by a constitutional monarchy with the Queen as the Head of the State. In return for the high taxes the citizens pay, the government of Denmark provides health care and many other social services.
Copenhagen’s port is called Copenhagen Malmö Port, and it has two main cruise piers. Depending on your ship, you may stop at Langelinie Pier, which is located about 1.5 miles from the city center, or in Ocean Quay, which is the harbor’s newest terminal located in Nordhavn that can accommodate larger cruise ships. Those on cruises to Copenhagen, Denmark that pull into port in Langelinie Pier will find a busy port center with several shops and cafes as well as an information center, money exchange offices, and ATMs. From Langelinie, you can easily walk to the city center. Those who have a Copenhagen cruise port of call at Ocean Quay won’t be able to walk to the city center, but there are tour bus companies and taxis lined up outside the pier. There is also a third cruise pier at Nordre Toldbod near the Little Mermaid Statue, though it's not as commonly used by cruise ships.
The easiest way to get around via public transportation in Copenhagen is by using the commuter rail or metro system. Both of these offer fast, regular service all around the city. There are a variety of ticket options depending on your needs, including single-use tickets and 24-hour tickets that cover multiple zones. Walking is also a great way to get around the city, since the main sights are located right within the city center or just a short distance outside it.
For a more customized service, hiring a taxi is an easy way to go since there are more than 1,700 government-licensed taxis that service the Copenhagen area, and many of the drivers speak English. Most taxis will accept credit cards, but double check before entering the cab. Expect an increase in fare prices during the evening hours or if visiting on a holiday.
If you love traveling via water, then you’ll have a fun time taking the waterbus around, which connects from Langelinie Pier to the city center. There is also a bus (#26) that connects to the city center and the pier multiple times every hour. From Ocean Quay, a hop-on, hop-off bus service is available to get into the city.
Strøget, one of the largest pedestrian malls in the world, offers both high street and luxury brand shopping and is a must-visit for fashionistas on a cruise to Copenhagen. For locally owned boutiques and clothing with a hip and eclectic flare, try the side streets off Strøget located in the Old City.
Denmark uses the krone currency. Prices here tend to be higher than in other European destinations. To stay on budget, book a shore excursion in advance and plan to eat your meals on the ship. Most banks in the city offer currency exchange, and you’ll find ATMs outside local banks. You can also swap your cash for kroners at one of the currency exchange offices located throughout the city, which are often found in post offices, train stations, and by Tivoli Gardens.
In general, tipping is not customary in Copenhagen, though it is common for a service charge to come included on bills for restaurants and taxis. Any tip amount on top of that is not expected, but it will be appreciated if you wish to tip more for stellar service.