Copenhagen is an extremely walkable, bikeable, and boatable city, which means there are many different ways to experience it—and tours for every type of transport. Here are a handful of the best, each offering unexpected takes on this Scandinavian capital.
In the summertime, Copenhagen harbor springs to life and many Danes spend their weekends swimming, kayaking, and boating in the water. Exploring the harbor and canals by water vessel is a great way to see the city, as it offers interesting vantage points and close-ups of waterside landmarks like the famed Little Mermaid sculpture.
Environmental NGO GreenKayak not only encourages locals and tourists to explore the harbor by canoe but also encourages them to help clean it up. Kayaks are available for free to anyone, as long as they collect trash during their paddle session (and then share the experience on social media). What a way to combine a workout, a city tour, and a good deed. Since 2017, more than 60 tons of trash have been collected by GreenKayakers from harbors, rivers, and lakes in five European countries. Talk about regenerative tourism!
Not keen on going on your own? They also offer group tours that last two to three hours (approximately $75 per person).
Being on the water isn’t a seasonal activity (Danes even swim outdoors year-round), and many boat companies have kitted out their vessels with blankets and warm beverages to create a very hyggeligt feel. Hey Captain was created around the idea of what it calls “social sailing.” Boats are intimate, with curved booths that hold up to 12 people, and guests are encouraged to get to know each other. Public tours, which stop off at both well-known sites and tucked-away locations, range from one to five hours long. The signature jaunt is the five-hour Diana tour (named after the company’s first boat, not the princess), which culminates in a family-style dinner in a former military sea fortress ($200). Private trips, where guests can tailor their tours, are also on offer.
GoBoat is a more DIY option: Sailors can rent boats, which hold a maximum of eight people, and navigate the harbor at their own pace with a group of friends. (It costs between about $75 and $380, depending on duration). Pack a picnic and take an easy cruise through the canals, or join one of GoBoat’s events, like Bingo and movies. The company’s newest addition is a floating communal sauna that invites travelers to brave a real Scandinavian experience and spend the afternoon hopping between the sauna and icy ocean water.
This kind of hot-cold shock combo is a typically Danish pastime, and at CopenHot, small groups can rent private saunas or hot tubs with panoramic views. Unlike in the United States, communal bathing is extremely common (and sanitary). The most convivial way to soak is in one of CopenHot’s sailing hot tubs, where up to five friends can quite literally sail around the harbor in a floating bath. A skipper and a Bluetooth speaker are included, so someone else can navigate while you zone out and listen to your own beats. If you’re in the mood for making friends, CopenHot also runs HotDays, when guests can share its many stationary outdoor hot tubs and a sauna while taking in gorgeous views. Experiences range from $75 to $230.
Biking in Copenhagen is like taking the subway in New York City–it’s just how people get around. Come rain or shine, commuters are always streaming through the streets on two wheels. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in local life, but newbies be warned: Bike lanes here are like highways, so inexperienced cyclists should steer clear.
Green Bike Tours
That said, nonprofit Green Bike Tours offers biking (and walking) tours that take travelers along less trafficked bike lanes and across some of Copenhagen’s most iconic biking bridges. Not only do the tours explore hidden places across the city, like urban gardens and recreational areas, but they also emphasize ecosites by taking bikers to see green roofs and smart water management systems–of which there are many. They also show where Copenhagen aims to cut emissions on its path to becoming carbon-neutral. The popular Saturday morning tour (around $40) discusses some of the biggest culprits of greenhouse gas emissions, such as aviation, and is aimed at providing bikers with information on how to lower their own climate footprint while experiencing green elements of the city.
For a city with so much good food, it feels like a crime not to sample as many culinary offerings as possible. And why not get some steps in while smashing an open-faced sandwich?
Food Tours, which also has locations in Oslo and Stockholm, offers a range of foodie-focused outings, from Nordic to Christmas themed. The most comprehensive is the Culinary Experience Tour (about $150), where walkers explore some of the oldest parts of Copenhagen and stop off at Torvehallerne and other markets, as well as hip culinary joints. The walk is at a leisurely pace and weaves around the city for 2.5 miles over the course of four hours, with plenty of bites and sips—like bonbons, hot dogs, and apple wine—along the way.
Danish Architecture Center’s Architecture Tour
Another essential part of Copenhagen culture is design and architecture, and what better way to pound the pavements in search of great buildings than with the Danish Architecture Center (DAC)? In the aptly named Copenhagen’s Best New Architecture tour, design lovers are guided past sustainable buildings made from recycled and upcycled materials, as well as starchitect creations such as Bjarke Ingels’s award-winning 8 House. Tours are two hours and tickets (which cost $23) include entrance to the DAC.