It’s a funny kind of summer this year in Copenhagen, without the usual swarm of tourists.
No blustering American cruise ship passengers looking for KONG-ens Nytorv (pronounced like the protagonist in “King Kong”). No groups of petite elderly Chinese ladies posing for pictures around the Hans Christian Andersen statue. No European families wobbling on their rental bikes and riding very, very slowly in the bike lanes.
Because of the coronavirus, only tourists from Norway, Iceland, and Germany are welcome in Denmark this summer, and they’re a lot like family anyway.
In a sense, we longtime residents have the city for ourselves. It’s rather nice.
Of course, there’s less to do – no Copenhagen Jazz Festival, no Roskilde Festival, no Distortion, and a lot fewer of the big family parties and graduation bashes that keep things lively in other years.
But there are still the parks, the gardens, and the water. There’s nothing more eternal in Denmark than going out on a boat.
A boating nation
Denmark is a boating nation, from the days when the Vikings built innovative ships to the present, when the coast is dotted with marinas for pleasure boats.
The country has won 30 Olympic medals in sailing – 12 of them gold. That’s more than it has won in any other sport.
And many of the comforts of the Danish welfare state were paid for by the (now reduced) profits of Maersk, the world’s largest operator of container ships.
Cheap boating options
You wouldn’t get much joy out of spending a sunny summer day on a container ship, but even if you don’t own one of the 57,000 pleasure boats currently docked in Danish harbors, you can still get out on the water.
The yellow harbor bus costs no more than a standard bus ticket and gives you the chance to see some of the city’s most famous monuments – like the Black Diamond and the Little Mermaid – from the water.
Or you can upgrade a bit with a DK50 trip on the famous flat-bottom boats, which provide better seats and tourist guide narration in Danish, English, German, and sometimes French.
(If you speak more than one of these languages, it’s always entertaining to hear how the guides tailor their presentations for different language groups. As I recall, the Germans get more numbers.)
Upgrade a little more, and you can rent your own kayak, plus a kayaking teacher if you need one.
Get out on the water
Maybe the harbor is too small for you and you’d like to get out into the wider waters.
If you can’t get an invite from a friend who owns one of those 57,000 pleasure boats, rent a boat and sail into the Øresund. It’s a lovely day trip, heading up towards Helsingor with the coast of Denmark on one side and the coast of Sweden on the other.
For a social occasion, you can invite some friends to join you for a long picnic out on the water. Just don’t take argumentative types along, because once you’re out there on the waves, it’s hard for anyone to stomp off because they don’t agree on politics, religion, or FCK vs Brondby.
Another option is the popular overnight cruise to Oslo, where the tickets are cheap but the food is expensive.
Wherever you go, there’s a wonderful freedom to being out on the water, away from it all. Wind in your hair, sunshine (sometimes) on your face – it’s one of the best places to enjoy the Danish summer.