Copenhagen’s Harbour Buses – Seeing the city from the water

When you’re in Copenhagen, there’s water, water, everywhere, and it follows that in this city, the connection to it is magnetic. Great efforts have been made to make the harbour clean enough to swim in, and there are bright orange ladders emerging from it everywhere, so that you can dive in where you like and be able to get back on to land easily. Early mornings, Friday lunchtimes or after work, it’s not uncommon to see colleagues heading from their offices to the water’s side to remove their clothes and dive in together.

The city’s aquatic streets are made up of a wide harbour waterway and small side canals. Along the main harbour are many of the impressive buildings – old and new, public and residential – that Copenhagen has become famous for, and seeing them all from the place that’s so integral to this Nordic capital, seems to make sense.

There are two ways to do this: the super informative Stromma Tours, which depart from Nyhavn, and the yellow Habour Buses that zigzag up and down from Refshaleøen to Teglholmen, stopping at what happen to be major landmarks along the way. The latter is cheaper – just the cost of an ordinary standard public transport ticket (and this is half price if you have a Rejsekort, although this isn’t worth investing in unless you’re staying a while). For the price of a ticket, each paying adult can be accompanied by up to two children under 12 for free. It doesn’t include the commentary of the tours, but the Danish Architecture Center publishes a Guide to New Architecture in Copenhagen (co-written by yours truly!), which can be useful to take along for the ride.

The journey takes in Nordre Tolbold, useful for Amalienborg Palace and the Little Mermaid; Operaen (the Opera House); Nyhavn, where you can hop off to see this much-photographed canal, as well as Skuespilhuset (the Royal Danish Playhouse) at its mouth; the Knippelsbro; Det Kongelige Bibliotek (the Royal Danish Library, better known as the Black Diamond); Bryggebroen, for the most famous of the Harbour Baths at Islands Brygge; and finally a slightly longer chug down to Teglholmen, just across a short bridge from the newer canal district of Sluseholmen, itself modelled on Amsterdam.

We often take this journey as a way to do something cheap and easy in the city. At Teglholmen, we picnic on the pontoons (there’s an Irma supermarket right there, as well as a Hansen’s ice cream shop), dream about the houseboats and take a dip in the much smaller and quieter Sluseholmen Harbour Bath, of two bigger pools, a ‘youth pool’ where you can just stand and a children’s paddling pool. Its overall shape is apparently inspired by corals and water ebbs in straight from the harbour so that, over the course of the summer, the pools fill with soft, bright green algae. The pool is overlooked by Metropolis, an innovative, gleaming apartment block much higher than any you’d see in the city centre, its wavy facade seemingly inspired by its surroundings.


The Harbour Bus is yellow like the city’s road buses. From Refshaleøen to Teglholmen is number 991, the other way is 992 – check here for the latest schedule, hitting the ‘Hent køreplan’ button to see the timetable.

It takes about an hour from one end of the harbour to the other – the same, obviously, back again. Most visitors to the city tend to get on at Nordre Toldbold or Nyhavn.

On each boat either the front or back deck are open for standing and taking in the waterside view. Buggies and bikes are welcome.

We love it!


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