Nyhavn is a neighborhood located on a canal that connects a square called Kongens Nytorv ("the King’s
New Square") with the harbor. The canal was dug by Swedish prisoners of war between 1670 and 1673, under the
orders of Christian V. It was used for commerce for many years, but for the most part this is no longer the
case, with modern land-based alternatives being used instead. Nyhavn (pronounced "new-hown", meaning "new
harbor") was restored in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and is now quite picturesque. This being the case, it is
swarmed by tourists in the summer months, and this being the case, anything for sale in its vicinity
can be expected to be extra-expensive.
Connie and Nyhavn
One exception to this rule is the popular tour boats that leave from this point. While not cheap, they could
almost be considered reasonably priced. We walked around Kongens Nytorv a little bit while we thought about
whether to go on a tour or not, but the route seemed interesting and the price seemed less than outlandish,
so eventually we decided to go for it.
Stage Tower, Royal Danish Theater
We paid our money and boarded the boat. As it was late in the day, the boat was mostly empty. Our tour guide
was a young woman who didn’t interact with the customers much as it turned out, but ably delivered the facts,
Bob and Nella
The Tour Begins
The tour boats are all long and packed with seats, and are very low to the water. This didn’t seem like it
would be very practical if things were to get choppy, and we briefly wondered why they weren’t a little
higher. Until we came to our first bridge, that is.
Noting that the route included several more bridges, we were now fine with being low in the water. Especially
as we entered the main channel of the harbor and found it not to be choppy at all. On exiting the Nyhavn
canal, we noticed a large building on the left that the guide called the Royal Danish Playhouse, but we didn’t
linger near it, crossing directly to the other side of the channel.
Royal Danish Playhouse
Building Across Channel
On nearing the far side, we turned left and headed up-channel, directly toward the Opera House, which we’d
previously seen from Amalienborg.
The Opera House
We didn’t quite reach the Opera House, though, turning right just short of it and going around its back into a
channel through the multi-island neighborhood of Holmen. We found ourselves passing through what looked like
a residential area, with a long apartment block on our right. Our tour guide stopped talking for awhile, so
as not to disturb the locals. But after passing the apartment blocks, on our left the guide pointed out an
interesting-looking building that had been built in 1952 as a torpedo boat factory, but was converted to
apartments in 2003.
Across from the back side of Holmen was a road which was mostly surrounded by trees and shrubbery,
but along the road there was a tiny stretch of mostly bare sand which some of the locals had turned
into their own Waikiki.
Our channel turned left on reaching the oldest island in Holmen, called Nyholm. Holmen was originally
established as a home for the Royal Naval Base. Nyholm is a man-made island, created through land
reclamation, and its creation was followed by the creation of the other islands that make up
Holmen. The islands are no longer used by the navy, with the exception of Nyholm, where the Royal
Danish Naval Academy is based.
As our channel headed back toward the harbor’s main channel, we passed a three-masted training vessel
called the Georg Stage (built in 1934), and as we turned into the main channel we passed the
Royal Danish Naval Museum, where a modern frigate called the HDMS Peder Skram (in use until
1990) and a 155-foot submarine called the HDMS Sælen (or "seal", in use until 2003) are
Royal Danish Naval Museum with HDMS Peder Skram
Central Guardhouse and Barracks
Moored off Nyholm when it’s not travelling is Her Danish Majesty’s Yacht Dannebrog, a 257-foot yacht
used by the royal family. The yacht was commissioned in 1932, and has a commander who is officially a
member of the Royal Household.
Her Danish Majesty’s Yacht Dannebrog
After passing the Dannebrog, we’d reached the northernmost point in the tour. To the north
we could see the island on which Trekroner Fort is situated. This fortification was an important
part of Copenhagen’s defenses from 1713 through the end of World War I, and saw considerable action
during the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen, in which the British attacked the Danish fleet to prevent
Danish trade with Napoleon’s France.
Our tour boat at this point crossed back over toward the mainland and passed pretty close to the
Little Mermaid statue we’d visited the previous day.
Little Mermaid and Admirers
Cruising Past the Little Mermaid
We then turned back southward, passing between Amalienborg and the Opera House.
Amalienborg and Marble Church
The Opera House
On nearing our starting point of the Nyhavn canal, we instead turned left, crossing the main
channel and entering the area of Christianshavn. Christianshavn is a neighborhood made up of
artificial islands (the Holmen area is officially part of Christianshavn) that is culturally
known as being a home for artists and hippies. But the area is bisected by a long canal (which
we traversed), and if the houses and boats we saw are any indication, there’s plenty of
affluence going on there too.
Our Savior Church and Christianshavn
The most noticeable landmark in Christianshavn is undoubtedly the Our Savior Church, which has a tower with a
spiral stairway wrapping around its exterior. This looked like something we would have to try later.
Our Savior Church
Our Savior Church
Swans and Tires
Eventually the canal took a right turn and headed back toward the main channel. Crossing the channel, to
the right we noticed the Knippelsbro Bridge, a drawbridge that connects Christianshavn with the mainland,
and straight ahead we couldn’t help but notice the Royal Library building, a monolithic construction of
black marble and glass known as the "Black Diamond", which opened in 1999.
Back to Main Channel
"The Black Diamond"
We turned to the left, and then took a quick right to enter the Frederiksholms Canal, which connects with the
Slotholmens Canal to surround the island of Slotsholmen, on which stands the Black Diamond, among other
structures. The most important of these structures is no doubt Christiansborg Palace. This building is the
seat of the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister’s office and the Danish Supreme Court, thereby
housing all three branches of the Danish government. Parts of it are also used by the monarchy. A number of
castles and palaces have been built on the site, starting with Bishop Absalon’s Castle, built in 1167. The
current structure was completed in 1928.
Passing the Black Diamond
Tower of Christiansborg Palace
Floating down Frederiksholms Canal, we passed under the Marble Bridge, which connects to a back entrance
into the Christiansborg grounds.
The Marble Bridge
Shortly after the Marble Bridge (and another bridge), the canal took a sharp turn to the right and became
the Slotsholmens Canal. At this point we had a very nice view of the baroque spire of the Nikolaj Church,
built in 1909 (as a replica of the original spire, which burned in 1795) through a generous donation by
Carlsberg’s Carl Jacobsen. Next to the canal we could also see an equestrian statue of Bishop Absalon
himself, who had risen to prominence in the 12th Century as a close advisor of King Valdemar I.
Nikolaj Church Tower
Nikolaj Church and Højbro Plads
Following another right turn in the canal, we motored past the front of Christiansborg Palace. Ahead of us
on the canal we could see kayakers, who seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Canal and Kayakers
To the right of the canal was a distinctive spire, which we found to belong to the former Copenhagen Stock
Exchange. This building was built in the 17th Century by Christian IV. The spire is made from the
twisted-together tails of four dragons. The Stock Exchange moved to more modern facilities in 1974, and
the structure is now used to host parties and events.
The Old Stock Exchange
Completing our circuit of Slotsholmen, we were expelled from the canal and back into the harbor’s main
channel, and a brief northward voyage brought us back to our starting point, the Nyhavn canal.
Turning Back into Nyhavn
Along the Canal
Back in Kongens Nytorv, we found the end of the Strøget, and we walked back in the direction of our
hotel, keeping an eye out for a restaurant with food that was decent and affordable. This last
characteristic was hard to come by on the Strøget, but we eventually settled on an Italian place
that didn’t rob us too badly.
The Strøget and Danish Italian Food
After dinner we continued back to the hotel, where we retired in anticipation of the following day’s
plans, which included a visit to Tivoli Gardens.