24 Hours in Copenhagen: Cruise Stop Guide

Are you spending one day in Copenhagen on a cruise and are wondering what to see? With the city’s effortlessly cool shops, restaurants and thriving cultural scene, you will need to make some tough choices.

I faced the same challenge and compiled this Copenhagen itinerary to make the most of my time ashore. In this article, I’ll share this with you along with essential practical tips, including how to get from the cruise terminal.

stationary boats on canal next to stone bridge seen in one day in copenhagen

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How I Visited Copenhagen on a Cruise

Copenhagen was the first port of call on my 2-week Baltic Sea cruise:

  • Cruise operator: Celebrity Cruises
  • Cruise ship: Celebrity Silhouette
  • Time in port: 24 hours. Berthed at 2 pm; left at 3 pm the following day

On the first afternoon in port, I joined a canal cruise from picturesque Nyhavn. The following morning, I took an early bus from the cruise terminal to visit the Little Mermaid and then did a self-guided walk to Christianshavn.

Language – Danish. English is widely spoken.

Currency – Danish Krone (DKK). However, cards are widely accepted, even as payment for small purchases such as a cup of coffee. Therefore, I did not bother getting local currency and used my card instead.

Tipping – As a 10 – 15% service charge is added to your bill, tipping in restaurants is not expected. However, if you feel that the service was exceptional, you can leave a small tip.

Getting around Copenhagen – Except for the underwhelming Little Mermaid, most of Copenhagen’s highlights are scattered over a relatively compact, and therefore walkable, area.

Copenhagen Canal Cruise

a canal in copenhagen lined with moored boats

I recommend doing this early in your cruise stop in Copenhagen.

Not only does it allow you to see the city from a different perspective, but it is also an excellent way to get an overview of Copenhagen and identify places that you would like to return to. Also, if you do not have time to visit The Little Mermaid, the canal cruise takes you there by water.

The boats leave regularly from Nyhavn and Ved Stranden. A pre-recorded audio commentary is available (headphones provided). Although there was a guide on board my cruise, she didn’t say much.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR CANAL CRUISE

The Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue)

Yes. The Little Mermaid is underwhelming but the poor old girl has had a bit of a rough time.

Sculpted from granite and bronze, she is just four feet tall and is based on the beloved Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale about the mermaid who forsakes all to be with her handsome prince. A gift to the city from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen, the statue was unveiled in 1913.

The Little Mermaid statue in copenhagen
The Little Mermaid

However, over the years she has fallen foul of vandals. She has had an arm sawn off, lost her head twice and has been doused with paint several times.

Although there are better things to do during your precious day in Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid is an iconic sight and that is a good enough reason for visiting her. Unless you visit early in the day, expect it to be busy.

If you have time, it is worth taking a quick look at the Kastellet. The star-shaped fortress dating from the early 17th Century is set within a tranquil park and you will also find a windmill and church.

greenery and buidling reflected in water of moat
Kastellet

To reach the Little Mermaid from the Oceankaj cruise terminal by public transport, get off the #25 bus at Osterport from where it is a 10 to 15-minute walk through the lovely Kastellet.

Copenhagen Self-Guided Walking Tour

From the Little Mermaid, take this lovely self-guided walking tour that shows Copenhagen off to her best.

To help you on your way, here’s my Copenhagen walking tour map. Click here or on the image for an interactive map. The total distance is 3 miles.

copenhagen-highlights-map
Copenhagen walking tour map (click on image for interactive map) Map Data @ 2024 Google

If you would like someone else to take care of the arrangements for you or want to benefit from the knowledge of a local guide, why not join a guided 2-hour walking tour of Copenhagen? Click here to book.

I stumbled upon this church completely by accident but was glad that I did.

Also known as the English Church, St Albans Church is the only Anglican church in Denmark. In the 19th Century, as Denmark started to welcome open worship by non-Lutherans, there was a need to accommodate these groups of worshippers. Until then, these groups congregated in various rented halls in Copenhagen and Elsinore.

A 30-year project, led by Princess Alexandra of Denmark, daughter of the king of Denmark and wife of Edward, Prince of Wales, culminated in the consecration of the church in 1887.

Designed by the Victorian church architect Sir Arthur Blomfield, St Alban’s is a fine example of Early English Gothic architecture. But whilst the church looks very English, most of its building materials are Danish. Its interior is gorgeous with a beautiful altar, organ and stained glass windows.

st albans church 1
St Alban’s Church and Gefion Fountain

In front of St Alban’s is the Gefion Fountain. Nothing to do with the church, this represents a group of four oxen driven by the Norse goddess Gefjon and is based on the mythical story of the creation of the island of Zealand, on which Copenhagen is located.

When you exit the church, take a look at the striking modern sculpture on the waterfront. Constructed from scrap metal, this ‘thinking man’ sculpture is part of the zinkglobal initiative.

sculpture of thinking man made out of car parts
‘Thinking Man’ sculpture

Continue walking along the harbourside path, and the next landmark that you will come across is the Design Museum. My one regret is that one day in Copenhagen was not long enough to allow me to fit in a visit to this museum.

Housed in one of the fine 18th Century rococo buildings that are typical of this area of Copenhagen, this museum offers a crash course in Danish design.

With its crayon-hued houses, Nyhavn is the poster child of Copenhagen.

brightly coloured housesd along the waterfront with boats in nyhavn

The quayside of the Nyhavn Canal was once a rough sailors’ district and a favourite haunt of writers including Hans Christian Anderson. He lived at No. 20 – look out for the plaque – and also at No. 18 and No. 67.

Now veer inland to check out cobbled Magstraeda, which is the city’s oldest street.

cobblestoned street with brightly coloured buildings
Magstraeda

En route, you will pass the home of the Danish Parliament, Christiansborg Slot, which is open for tours.

Once a firmly working-class area, today Christianshavn is a super-trendy area of Copenhagen with cool cafes, hip restaurants and charming 19th Century houses lining its canals.

boats parked along canal
Christianshavn

Christianshavn’s main landmark is the Vor Freisers Kirke (Church of Our Saviour) and its striking 18th Century spire with steps spiralling its exterior. The spire is crowned with a gilded globe and a figure of Christ keeping watch over the city.

If you have a head for heights – not me! – you can climb the tower’s 400 steps for panoramic views of Copenhagen.

For a different side of Copenhagen, on the eastern edge of Christianshavn is the hash-perfumed community of Freetown Christiana. Established by squatters in 1971, this area has attracted non-conformists from across the globe.

copenhagen street art

Although it was an interesting place to wander through, I found the main drag, the aptly named Pushers St, unpleasant.

Populated by those who adopt a zero-tolerance approach to filming, it was not exactly a welcoming environment. I was challenged purely because my camera was slung around my neck. I moved quickly on.

How to Get from Copenhagen Cruise Terminal to the City Centre

If you are lucky, you will disembark at Langelinie Quay just north of the Little Mermaid. However, most ships park up at the Ocean Quay (Oceankaj) Cruise Terminal which is 6 km north of Copenhagen city centre.

Therefore, unless you fancy over an hour’s walk into town, you will need to take some form of transport. Here are your options.

Bus #25 will bring you to Norreport in 15 minutes, which is within walking distance or a short metro ride from Copenhagen’s main attractions.

You can buy tickets from the bus driver or the ticket machine at the bus stop at the cruise terminal.

But my top tip is to purchase a 24-hour travel ticket online before you leave home, which will be delivered to you as an e-ticket via text and email. Buy a City Pass Small, covering Copenhagen’s public transport in Zones 1 – 4.

A local tour operator usually provides a shuttle service. The journey time is aorund 25 mins.

Even before we disembarked the Silhouette, a convoy of hop-on-hop-off (HOHO) buses was waiting to take her passengers around Copenhagen.

Red Buses

Red Buses’ main Mermaid Tour covers 18 sights in its open-top double-decker buses. The duration of the entire route is 1.5 hours and buses are timetabled to arrive every 10 – 30 mins. A separate Orange Line route explores Christianshavn and the Opera House.

Save money by not buying your ticket onboard the ship.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR HOHO BUS TICKET

Green HOHO bus

A cheaper alternative is the green HOHO bus service run by Stromma. Discounts may be available if you book online.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR HOHO BUS TICKET

Copenhagen Panorama Sightseeing

Also operated by Stromma, this is not a HOHO bus. Instead, it is a traditional sightseeing tour with a guide, a half-hour stop at the Amalienborg Palace and a few photo stops.

Feedback from fellow cruise passengers was not favourable.

Is the Copenhagen Card Worth it for a 24-hour Stay?

The Copenhagen Card is a discount card that gives you reduced or free admission to over 80 of Copenhagen’s most popular tourist attractions as well as free public transport.

I did the sums and concluded that as I was spending just one day in Copenhagen, I would not get value out of the card. However, depending on how long you are in port and where you plan to visit, you might arrive at a different conclusion.

Think about where you might be able to visit and how much individual tickets and transport will cost compared with the price of the Copenhagen Card.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR COPENHAGEN CARD


Enjoy your cruise to Copenhagen

I loved my brief visit. Its townhouses are splashed with more colour than a box of crayons, it has a flair for design, and you have the opportunity to rub shoulders with the happiest locals on Earth and to experience true hygge,

Don’t let the short time you have in the city deter you from making the most of your visit. Whilst you will need to accept that you can’t do it all, with a little planning you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground before your cruise ship sets sail.

Packing a good guidebook to allow you to explore the ports of call on a Baltic cruise independently is a wise move. I can recommend the excellent Lonely Planet Cruise Ports Scandinavia & Northern Europe that I used on this cruise.

If you have found this itinerary helpful, take a look at my guides to the other ports of call on this cruise:

Finally, if you are new to cruising, I also have advice on planning your first cruise and which cruise cabin to book, including solo cabins for single cruisers.

cruise packing checklist cold climate
bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.