Tim Padfield joins a tour around Copenhagen Harbour

We started from the small yacht harbour just north of the little mermaid and took a turn around Langelinie, the quay where the cruise ships tie up. The picture shows the nineteenth century warehouse designed by Jens Vilhelm Dahlerup (1836-1907).

Dahlerups pakhus

Then we headed over to Trekroner, the fortress which has guarded the entrance to Copenhagen harbour for centuries, and took a notable part in the 1801 defence against the British fleet. A fresh gale swept us rapidly across.


Our lunch stop was in front of some of the unrestored storage units for the cannon-boats, in a quiet part of the harbour which forms a defensive canal around the eastern side of Copenhagen. The cannon boats were rowing boats with a single cannon mounted at one end. They were part of the line of hulks which held Nelson’s attack to a draw (according to the Danish accounts) at the naval battle in 1801 and were used later in the Napoleonic war against the British blokade of the entrance to the Baltic sea.

Most of the cannon boat houses have now been restored and are used as architects’ offices and Communications consultancies.

Our next passage was through Christianshavn’s canal. This was constructed in the 17th century and is lined with merchants houses and warehouses.


Turning the corner towards the main channel of Copenhagen harbour one is faced by the massive polished granite facade of the Royal Library.


Turning south we paddled down a most depressing channel, lined with the pompous offices of international companies and international hotels and banks.


The wind rushed between the tall offices, arranged like a set of teeth with gaps just wide enough to allow the full force of the westerly gale to whip the spray off the water. After a kilometre of this dreary monument to the vulgarity of modern business we reached a challenge to its blandness – the M/V HalfMachine. A pensioned cable repair and diver support vessel. It now houses a culture centre and workshop for making art from scrap and obsolete electronic equipment www.halfmachine.dk/projects/5. You can just make out the two-man submarine moored alongside.

We returned northward through the canal which surrounds the island occupied by the Danish parliament building.


In the fading light and abating wind we weaved under the slanted pillars of the not-quite-finished National Theatre.


We disembarked in the twilight and I walked back to my lodging, along the quay, looking over to the recently completed National Opera.

opera at night