Copenhagen Nyhavn is the most famous street in the Danish Capital City… lined with colorful townhouses, seen in countless postcards. Nyhavn has accumulated some amazing history over the past 350 years, read on to discover some of its secrets…
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History of Copenhagen Nyhavn
The brightly painted townhouses are as colorful as the history of Nyhavn. Here are just a few of its historical highlights…
King Christian V built Nyhavn Canal between 1670-1673. But of course he didn’t have excavators and dump truck trucks back then. Instead he used forced labour from Swedish Prisoners of War. Under those circumstances one would assume it was dug by hand. Nyhavn canal is literally made from Swedish blood, sweat and tears.
The Canal was a working maritime port for 3 centuries. As you would expect, it was a renowned hangout for sailors, drinking and prostitution. Nyhavn was indeed the seedy side Copenhagen for many years.
Nyhavn was also popular with famous artists and some of the more colorful characters of Copenhagen. I’m certain you will recognise at least one of them!
Current Day Nyhavn
These days Copenhagen has realised the tourist potential of this historical port. It is now lined with renovated town-houses that have been transformed into bars, restaurants, eating places and live music venues. It is an entertainment strip, and a perfect place to watch a Danish Sunset.
Also Nyhavn Canal really comes alive during Christmas, and is renowned for its Classic Scandinavian Christmas atmosphere. Consequently the canal takes on an authentic Christmas ambience complete with Christmas theme dining, decorations and Christmas markets.
Historical wooden sailing ships line both sides of the canal. Moreover anyone with an interest in maritime history will be thrilled to stroll along Nyhavn and marvel at the beautifully restored sailing vessels.
Nyhavn Canal is also the hub for all the canal boat tours in Copenhagen. Additionally there are on-site ticketing booths where visitors can embark on a one-hour cruise along the Copenhagen waterfront and canals.
Amazing facts about Nyhavn Canal
- No 9 is the oldest building along Nyhavn Canal, built in 1681. In fact this house has not been modified since construction.
- The “Sunny Side” is the name for the colorful Northern side of the canal, the side with most of the pubs and restaurants. The “Shady Side” is the Southern side of the canal.
- The architectural style of the colourful houses along Nyhavn canal is authentic 17th century style.
- Famous Danish fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen lived in 3 of the Nyhavn houses – No. 20 from 1834-1838, No. 67 from 1845 – 1864, and No. 18 for his final years until he died.
- Also No.18 currently houses a Hans Christian Andersen themed souvenir shop.
- Nyhavn actually means “New Harbour” or “New Port”.
- This area was once a red-light district, right up until the 1960’s when it began a new era of ‘rebranding’.
- “The Longest Bar in Scandinavia” is the nickname for Nyhavn. This is due to the long strip of bars, cafes and eateries along the canal.
- Some Nyhavn bars, cafes and restaurants are open 24 hours a day.
- Also at the front of Nyhavn Canal is The Great Memorial Anchor (Mindeankeret). The anchor comes from the Frigate Fyn (Funen) from 1872, and is commemorating more than 1,700 Danish Navy servicemen who perished during World War 2.
- The Lord Mayor declared Nyhavn Harbour a “Veteran Ship and Museum Harbour” in 1977, then pedestrianized in 1980. Nyhavn has never looked back, and is now one of the most popular spot in the land.
- There is a real 17th century palace located on the Shady Side, called Charlottenborg Palace. It is located on the corner of Kongens Nytorv, and houses the Royal Danish Academy of Art.
- The world’s oldest functioning tattoo parlour is located in the basement of Nyhavn 17. In fact it has been operating since 1884. Notably their most famous client was King Frederik IX.
The Canal in Nyhavn, Copenhagen
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Take a Boat Cruise at Nyhavn
If you’ve come this far to see Nyhavn you can’t leave without going on a scenic boat cruise along the Copenhagen waterways and canals. With this in mind I recommend you choose a boat cruise with an open top if the weather permits; there are also others with closed tops if the weather is bad. While you can purchase tickets online in advance, you can also go to the ticketing booths located near the Great Memorial Anchor.
As a matter of fact you should be able to pick up a quality one-hour boat cruise for just $10-15 per person. If you’d like to check or book your Nyhavn Boat Cruise in advance click HERE.
Don’t miss Nyhavn
Whatever you do, don’t miss a visit to Nyhavn on your Copenhagen holiday. Visit a waterfront Danish pub, watch a sunset, enjoy a boat cruise, or just take some picture perfect postcard photos. Nyhavn was my number one attraction in Copenhagen, what’s yours?
Definitely look for our upcoming Copenhagen blogs, including a video blog about our Nyhavn boat cruise.
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