Cruise from Copenhagen – the essential guide

Start your cruise from Copenhagen – capital of Denmark, gateway to the Nordic region of the world, and a city with Viking heritage running through its history.

Did you know that cyclists rule the city? That nearly 90% of Danish citizens speak English? And that Denmark is renowned for its modern, clean-cut European design and architecture? 

In addition, shorter work days, more paid vacation weeks, free education and healthcare and an outdoor lifestyle makes Denmark famous for their good work-life balance. 

Many regions are free of fossil fuels, build energy efficient houses through sustainable urban development and have highways just for bicycles. Denmark is a major producer of not only organic but bio-organic foods too.

In fact, Danes are some of the happiest and most contented people you will ever meet on your travels.

We think you’re going to like it here. Even if their language is tricky and the city is a bit pricey.

Copenhagen – a liveable city

In this article we have a great 3-day detailed guide to help you make the most of the city before starting your cruise from Copenhagen.

Complete with travel info, tips and itineraries, you are going to love your time in this Nordic capital before exploring the rest of Europe on your cruise from Copenhagen.

Transport options to and from Copenhagen Kastrup International Airport

Copenhagen’s International Airport is called Kastrup, and is the busiest airport for international travellers into Scandinavia. It is located just 8km from the centre of the city.

Here are the transport options you have to get from Copenhagen Airport Kastrup to your city center hotel:

Bus 

Many would agree that Denmark is expensive. So if you are traveling on a budget and want to save some money, Copenhagen has an excellent bus system which can take you anywhere in the city center. 

The bus takes only 35 minutes, depending on traffic conditions in Copenhagen city center, and leaves from just outside terminal 3. Pay onboard with your creditcard.

Taxi

A taxi will cost you about 300 Danish Kroner (DKK). That’s around USD$45/GBP£35/AUD$60/EUR€40. Journey time is approximately 40 minutes from the airport to the city.

This is the most expensive option however you don’t have to carry your luggage and you will get door-to-door service straight to your hotel. If you are 4 people travelling together then this will be the most convenient option as well as being the best value for money.

Train

Trains depart regularly from Copenhagen Airport to the city center, about every 10 minutes. They go from Terminal 3 directly to Copenhagen’s central station. The journey time is 13 minutes and the price of a one way fare is around 36 Danish Kroner (DKK).

Buy a train ticket from the machines either at baggage claim, or inside the terminal after you exit baggage claim. Once you have your ticket proceed down the escalator to the train platform. Signs clearly mark the way and are written in both Danish and English. 

The central station in the city is right opposite the popular Tivoli Gardens, and is surrounded by many hotels, restaurants and bars. 

Where to stay in Copenhagen

Here we present our favorite places to stay in Copenhagen! We have included top-rated hotels as well as those that are more affordable so there is something for everyone.

Our recommendation is that you stay in a hotel that is at least 4-star standard. This way you will get a good standard of room, convenient amenities and good service such as helping with booking of taxis and a concierge that can advise on local transport and provide city maps.

Copenhagen’s cruise terminals are located north of the city center. So we recommend you stay close to the city center for your pre-cruise nights, and take a taxi to the cruise terminal on the day of departure. More information about getting to your cruise terminal is further down in this article.

Copenhagen Admiral Hotel

Copenhagen’s Admiral Hotel is right on the quayside and walking distance to the best shopping streets in Copenhagen. The lobby has a peaceful, friendly ambiance and the rooms are simply but stylishly decorated.

What we love the most however is the ground floor restaurant, Salt. The atmosphere is casual and the food and wine is fantastic, we highly recommend it!

Copenhagen Strand Hotel

This historical building was originally a warehouse. It is now beautifully restored into a great hotel on the waterfront.

This hotel is the typical Scandinavian design of bright light, cool tones and wood floors in the rooms.

Everything is clean and spacious, and many of the 174 rooms offer a great view. Be sure to request one when you book.

Hotel Sankt Annae

Located right in the heart of the city, close to Amalienborg, the hotel Sankt Annae is a 4-star favorite.

A modern hotel with a great rooftop terrace, we really like the unbeatable location. You are walking distance from all the best sights, sounds and tastes of Copenhagen.

Copenhagen St Petri

Not only does hotel St Petri offer a great location and top class rooms, the service is super-friendly and professional. 

The concierge is knowledgeable and helps with just about everything you want to know about staying in Copenhagen. It gets top marks from us for good old fashioned service-with-a-smile. It’s a real pleasure staying here.

How to get around Copenhagen

There is nothing like walking a new city. It’s the best way to experience the atmosphere and of course to get to know your surroundings and how everything fits together.

We recommend purchasing the Copenhagen Card. This card gives you entrance to the major sights either free of charge or at a very discounted rate. 

Purchase the Copenhagen Card and choose the period of time to suit you. You can choose from a 24-hour card for up to 120 hours.

It also gives you free, unlimited use of the city’s public transport system, including transport from and to the airport and canal boat tours. (Note! Hop on/Hop off buses are not included in the Copenhagen Card!). 

It’s great value for money. Purchase the card before you leave home or pick up your card at the airport information desk right after you collect your luggage.

3 days in the city before you cruise from Copenhagen

Spend at least 3 nights in this friendly city. That will give you 2 full days plus one day to do a day trip outside of the capital. 

Day 1: Royal Palaces of Copenhagen 

Copenhagen is full of palaces. To explore the history of the Royal Family of Denmark, start your day at beautiful, lively Nyhavn located in Indre By, the historic heart of Copenhagen. This 17th century waterfront and canal district offers boating, restaurants, shopping and bars. 

This area is one of the most photographed scenes in Copenhagen, with its brightly colored townhouses and ships and boats of all kinds lining each side of the canal. 

To avoid the crowds, get there early. But if you are a night owl then this area has a fantastic atmosphere in the evenings. 

The most famous resident in the townhouses was the children’s author Hans Christian Andersen. In fact you can visit the famous Little Mermaid statue inspired by his fairytale at Langelinie promenade. 

Start at the palaces of Amalienborg. You are in the district of Copenhagen known as Fredriksstaden. Built during the 18th century Rococo period, it is also home to the Danish Royal Family. 

Everyday at noon you can witness the Changing of the Guard. There is a fantastic museum here if you really want to learn the history of the Danish royals, located inside Christian VIIIs Palace. 

From Amalienborg, walk via Frederik’s Church towards the King’s Garden and Castle Rosenborg from the Renaissance period of the early 17th century.

This is probably my favorite castle in Denmark and well worth a visit. The interiors are spectacular as are the crown jewels, some of which are on display in this castle.

Iconic Tivoli Gardens and the famous Danish Smørrebrød

By now you probably are looking for a place for lunch. There are many great places in Copenhagen where you can enjoy Smørrebrød. And we ask you not to leave this city until you have tried it!

Unlike many other parts of the world, Scandinavia leaves the top off their sandwiches – an “open sandwich”. And the Danes are the experts. Smørrebrød consists of cold meats or fish, spreads and dressings and lots of fresh garnishes.

There are many other variations so it is just to pick one out that appeals to you the most.

Our favorite place is Hallerne Smørrebrød, located just opposite Tivoli Gardens in the Tivoli Food Hall, by the central station. Their Smørrebrød is truely delicious. It is located about a 30 minute walk from Castle Rosenborg. Walk via King’s New Square (Kongens Nytorv) and you can admire the architecture of the city and window shop as you go.

In the afternoon, we recommend you spend the entire afternoon at Tivoli Gardens. The area contains not only beautiful gardens but also shops, roller coaster rides, restaurants and musical entertainment. It’s a great place for the whole family, right in the middle of the city. In the Christmas holidays it is the location of the most beautiful Christmas market.

Restaurant Flammen is just a block away from Tivoli Gardens and a great place to get dinner in the evening.

Day 2: Local culture and local food

Today you are starting at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. It’s a museum in a wonderful setting. Inside is a beautiful Winter Garden which houses a great little restaurant, ideal for an early lunch or coffee, called Cafe Picnic.

Entrance to Glyptotek is completely free on Tuesdays, so time your visit well and the whole family can go inside for free.

From the museum walk towards Strøget. This is the many shopping area located in the old city in Copenhagen. It is one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe. Enjoy the shopping, experience interior design shops showcasing the modern Danish style, and perhaps take home some unique Royal Copenhagen porcelain. 

When you reach Kongens NyTorv, look for the Amber museum. Exquisite amber that is found on Denmark’s coastlines. Baltic amber can be around 50 million years old and the fine jewellers of this area make the most fantastic jewellery here.

Now you at picturesque and lively Nyhavn. Boats are readily available here to take you on a guided boat of the canal. See everything from the water and enjoy the coastline. 

In the evening we recommend you experience a real Nordic dinner. Organic, sustainable and local are key to many of the city’s best restaurants. You will find a good restaurant guide here.

Day 3: A perfect day out from Copenhagen

Getting out of the city and into the country is a perfect way to get a glimpse of the Danish scenery and learn more about the history and culture. 

There are 3 days trips which we can particularly recommend!

1. The historical city of Odense and birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen

Walk the footsteps of this famed author of 200 years ago and see how his vivid imagination was able to bring to life his fairytales.

You’ll need to book a tour – Viator have some very good ones – and have an early start – the city – named for the Nordic God, Odin, is located 167 km southwest of Copenhagen.

2. Frilandsmuseet in Lyngby (Open-air museum)

Just a 20 minute train journey from Copenhagen is the open-air museum called Frilandsmuseet. Take the train from Nørreport Station in central Copenhagen to Sorgenfri station in Lyngby. From the station the bus number 191 takes you to Frilandsmuseet in about 10 minutes.

Located in the countryside, explore Denmark and how it used to be many centuries ago. Visit the homes and see how houses were furnished and the people lived and took care of their livestock.

Most hosts are dressed in traditional costumes of Denmark or peasant clothing to add to the atmosphere. It’s extremely authentic and well done.

It’s a great place for families especially, with a cafe and plenty of outdoor seating and countryside for kids to enjoy. 

3. Kronborg Castle 

Kronborg Castle is located in Helsingør, just a 45 minute train journey from central Copenhagen. Famous as the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a glorious Renaissance Castle. If you visit during the summer then you may be lucky enough to see one of Shakespeare’s plays being performed here during the Shakespeare Festival. 

Book a picnic and experience a performance under the stars in this beautiful outdoor theater.

How to get to Copenhagen Port for your Cruise from Copenhagen

Always double check your cruise ticket to find out the name of your port in Copenhagen where your particular cruise ship is departing from. 

The main cruise terminals for the larger cruise ships are:

  • Langelinie
  • Freeport
  • Oceanka

The ports are located north of the city.

  • Taxi: The most reliable way to get there is by taxi. The journey will be about a 20-30 minute taxi ride to get you there depending upon traffic and road works. 

    Your hotel can help you book a taxi to take you to the port. Book this in advance when you first check in.  The cost will be about 300 Danish Kroner (DKK). That’s around USD$45/GBP£35/AUD$60/EUR€40.

    Show your driver the number of the port terminal you need to reach (this information is on your cruise ticket). And the name of your cruise line so they get you as close as possible to your cruise departure point.
  • Private Transfer: If you are 4 people or more then you can pre book a private transfer before you leave home. You can share the cost as this is the most expensive way to get from Athens city center to the port. Inform your driver which port terminal your ship leaves from (this information is on your cruise ticket).

    And give them the name of your cruise line so they get you as close as possible to your cruise departure point.
  • Train: You can take the train from Copenhagen’s central station to your cruise port, but it is quite a walk from the nearest train station. You will need to get a taxi from the train station to your cruise terminal. 

Need more tips on cruising? We’re here to help!

Cruise Scandinavia and The Baltics

Cruise packing list essentials – our 21 best tips

11 Top tips for booking a cruise and avoiding common mistakes

When is the best time to book a cruise?

15 best tips on how to save money and cruise for less

Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..