The waterfront and harbour are probably the most iconic thing about Copenhagen. Astrid already posted about Nyhavn, the ultra-cool “new harbour” area with a very attractive canal, interesting (and colourful) buildings, and nice cafes. Well, after strolling through there we wound up at the busy dock at the harbour’s edge, so decided to take a spin on one of the yellow harbour buses.
The four harbour bus routes (901-904) provide regular public transport via the waterways and accept regular bus/metro/S-Tog tickets and passes. This is route 903, a shuttle from Nyhavn over to the Opera House.
Lest you think these are leisure boats, the strict "no ice cream" policy suggests that this is a serious vessel for serious people only.
Pulling out of Nyhavn and sailing along the harbour is quite scenic, with distinctive buildings lining the waterfront on both sides. Here are several examples of what we saw.
This is the former Custom House - the distinctive oval building with the square watchtower now houses several bars and restaurants, taking advantage of the waterfront view.
This is Operaen, the Copenhagen Opera House, on the island of Holmen across the water from Nyhavn. Note the steps that appear to be going straight into the water across the front, as I will come back to that in a moment. While I have some pictures, this is from Wikipedia because it is a better view!
Also from Wikipedia, I wanted to include the nighttime scene, where the circular centre just radiates and reflects on the water. The opera house is apparently considered one of the most modern in the world; the Sydney Opera House was designed by a Copenhagen-born Danish architect, so there is a lot to live up to! This building opened in 2005 to great design acclaim.
- The front of the Opera House, facing the water, is perfectly aligned with Amalienborg Palace (in the foreground with the statue and identical buildings on either side – see more of it in a separate post to come on royal Copenhagen).
That's not all - the palace is perfectly aligned with the Marble Church, so that too is on the Opera House's axis. In the previous picture I was standing at the centre of the doorway of the church when taking the picture. Here you can see the Marble Church (aka Frederick's Church), which by the way has the largest church dome in Scandinavia and was inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Thanks to Wikipedia for the image.
Not to be outdone by the opera, the other performance arts now have a new home on the waterfront - back on the Nyhavn side of the harbour is the Royal Danish Playhouse, a 2008 theatre that is about 40% projected out over the water, giving an impression of floating.
The last major building we saw from the harbour bus was Det Kongelige Bibliotek - the Royal Danish Library. According to Wikipedia, this is the largest library in the Nordic countries - that is not too surprising if you know that it holds nearly all known printed works in Denmark back to the first one in 1482. This is the main location on Slotsholmen, a small island within the harbour (see more on that in the coming post on royal Copenhagen). This building is called the Black Diamond, and in 1999 it became one of the first of these new civic buildings that line the waterfront.
This is a typical scene along the waterfront - a mix of old (what I at least think of as a more traditional Scandinavian look) and a somewhat sleek new design that is in line with modern Scandinavian design.
We got off the harbour bus at the north end and walked along the waterfront to see the hopelessly overrated Little Mermaid. After that we saw some of the cruise ships docked in the harbour and found the way that the cruise ship blended into the landscape pretty funny!
See how the location and mass of the cruise ship with the nearby buildings? That's kinda cool.