UK to Denmark by Ferry Travel Guide

Travel to Denmark and explore the picture-perfect scenes Scandinavia boasts in abundance.

Nyhavn Canal, Copenhagen

Denmark is a Nordic country found in Northern Europe, located to the south west of Sweden, to the south of Norway and to the north of Germany.

It's a beautiful country famed for great food and a rich maritime heritage. Copenhagen is arguably the top attraction for tourists to Denmark but for reasons most likely to due to economics there isn't a great deal of choice when it comes to ferry services here.

The following guides explain how to get from the UK to Denmark by ferry (or cruise ship) from different parts of the UK.

Harwich to Esbjerg by Ferry

Route closure: On 30th April 2014 DFDS Seaways announced the closure of the Harwich to Esbjerg route which was effective as of the 29th September 2014. The line blamed strict sulphur emission limits in a new environmental law for adding an estimated £2million of annual costs to the operation of this route. The route first started back in 1875 and is closing after 139 years of operation. It is unknown as to whether the route will ever be reinstated though I expect it most likely will not as this route was suffering from dwindling passenger numbers and it is highly likely that freight will be moved elsewhere in the network or through other operators. For details of alternative ways to get to Denmark check out this guide from DFDS °.

Sailing to Esbjerg from Harwich is simple and efficient.The route moves a lot of freight cargo but is also highly popular with car, caravan and camper van drivers who want to explore the magnificent Danish country. With excellent road links, great cities to explore such as Copenhagen and world-class attractions such as the original LEGOLAND Billund, there is plenty to see and do here. Whilst the ferry crossing is fairly lengthy, it is an overnight service which means you are asleep during most of the sailing. For the part you are awake there's plenty to do on the friendly, cosy yet comfortable Sirena Seaways.

Getting to Harwich International Port

Getting to Harwich International Port is very easy, as it is located on the Essex coast with great road and rail connections.

Checking-In And Boarding Your Ferry as a Foot Passenger

For a 1615hrs departure, check-in opens at 1400hrs and closes at 1530hrs. For a 1715hrs departure, check-in opens at 1530hrs and closes at 1630hrs. For the later 1745hrs departure, check-in opens at 1530hrs and closes at 1700hrs.

You will need to take along passports for everyone travelling in your party. You can find more information on who needs passports and to apply for them on Gov.UK.

Check-in takes place in the main passenger terminal building adjacent to the railway station. The DFDS Seaways office is tucked off to the left hand side in a small office. The Stena Line check-in desks draw the focus here so this tiny office looks a bit lonely in comparison. There's a quiet departure lounge a bit further beyond the office and whilst it does benefit from being secluded it suffers from a lack of announcements so you'll need to keep your eye on the time so you're ready to board.

The terminal has a small café for light refreshments which can be found opposite the Stena Line check-in desks.

Once boarding commences a short queue normally forms. Passports and boarding tickets are checked before you head through a security check area. A random spot check system is usually in place meaning security staff will pick a random selection of bags to check.

Once you are through this area you then proceed onwards through a walkway that takes you directly onto your ship, the Sirena Seaways.

Checking-In And Boarding Your Ferry with your Car, Caravan, Camper Van or Motorbike

Once you've reached the port follow the signs for taking your car (or vehicle) on the ferry. This detours you to a separate part of the port to foot passengers who will use the main terminal building next to the train station.

You will find several kiosks. Here you will check-in where your passports, your booking confirmation and your vehicle details will be checked. From here you'll drive around to your allocated lane to park in. Here you will wait until called forward by staff. You will drive along a gradually elevating ramp before descending around a loop that then leads to a ramp to board the vessel. The ships' staff will direct you to the next available parking space on-board and will make sure you have parked in the correct position.

Remember: The vehicle bay is closed off the passengers during the voyage so make sure you take out everything you need for the journey and move it to your cabin for storage. Also, remember to lock your vehicle but DO NOT activate the alarm.

Despite the numerous public-address announcements that are made before departure you can always guarantee someone won't have listened. The motion of the vessel moving off the port (a gentle shudder) is enough to set off many car alarms. The result is further public-address announcements calling the owners of the vehicles to deactivate the alarm. The morale of the story is DO NOT activate the alarm to avoid unnecessary disruption to your sailing.

Amenities On-Board

The Sirena Seaways is a cosy vessel, built to carry a large volume of cargo. Whilst the passenger decks are relatively small compared to King Seaways or Princess Seaways, there's still plenty to do on-board and the service from the tight-knit crew is very personable. This ship sails alone on the Harwich to Esbjerg route and so there isn't a daily service but one service every two, three or four days instead depending upon the season.

Esbjerg

Arrival into Esbjerg is at 1300hrs. The port is well placed to the south of Denmark affording it great connections for onward road journeys to Germany, northern Denmark or further afield to Scandinavia. Sweden, for example, is just a short road journey beyond Copenhagen.

You really can't visit Denmark and not visit LEGOLAND Billund (I'm a big kid at heart). This theme park is just 40 miles (about 64 kilometres) by road from the port and is great for kids of all ages.

Tip: Catch the modern cruise ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo ° to explore Norway.

Esbjerg for Foot Passengers

Speaking from experience it is possible to walk from the port to the centre of Esbjerg. There are public service buses that run across Esbjerg should you rather not walk. There's a handful of attractions in the city and it is a great choice for a short break. Esbjerg has a very strong maritime history and so you will find nautical themed museums and attractions.

Fanø is an island in Denmark that is right across the water from the port of Esbjerg and is a popular attraction for wildlife buffs and photography enthusiasts in the Autumn as the birds migrate.

Your Return Ferry From  Esbjerg to Harwich

Check-in opens at 1400hrs and closes at 1630hrs for the 1715hrs departure. For departures that leave at 1845hrs then check-in opens at 1500hrs and closes at 1800hrs.

Arrival into Harwich is at 1300hrs the following day.

Distances from the ports

From Esbjerg (for tourists from the UK):

  • Kiel in Germany is around 150 miles (about 241 kilometres) from Esbjerg, around 2½ hours by car.
  • Odense in East Denmark is 87 miles (about 140 kilometres) away which would take up to 1¾ hours to get to in a car.
  • Copenhagen is 188 miles (about 303 kilometres) away which is around 3¼ hours by car. Travel a tiny bit further and you're in Sweden as Malmö (208 miles (about 335 kilometres) from Esbjerg, 3½ hours by car).

From Harwich (for tourists from Denmark):

  • Harwich International Port is located 2.5 miles (about 4 kilometres) from Harwich town which takes about 5 minutes to travel by road depending upon the traffic.
  • Colchester is around 19 miles (about 31 kilometres) away from the port which is a 30 minute car journey away.
  • Ipswich is around 24 miles (about 39 kilometres) away from the port which is a 45 minute car journey away.
  • London is about 86 miles (about 138 kilometres) away and would take up to 2 hours to reach by car or train from the railway station next to the port.

Harwich to Esbjerg Ferry - Useful Information

Category Details
Operator DFDS Seaways - No longer available to book (for details of alternative ways to get to Denmark check out this guide from DFDS Seaways °) - Customer services °
Journey Time 18¼ hours - 19¾ hours / Approximately 340 Nautical Miles (or 391 land miles)
Outbound Check-in at Harwich between 1400hrs and 1530hrs for a 1615hrs departure. Check-in between 1530hrs and 1630hrs for a 1715hrs departure. Check-in between 1530hrs and 1700hrs for a 1745hrs sailing
Transfers No coach transfers are available but it is easy to walk to Esbjerg city centre from the port (around 30 minutes or so)
Inbound Check-in at Esbjerg between 1400hrs and 1630hrs for the 1715hrs departure or between 1500hrs and 1800hrs for the 1845hrs sailing
Time in Denmark If you sail with DFDS Seaways on a Danish mini cruise you will have up to 4¾ hours to spend in Esbjerg
Estimated Costs This route is no longer active. Historically, as a very rough guide, a car plus four passengers started from £388 one-way (based on 4 sharing) and a mini cruise started from around £416 return (based on 4 sharing)

UK to Denmark via The Netherlands

You can reach Denmark by road if you first sail to the Netherlands. I've covered this in a separate guide.

From Ijmuiden, Rotterdam or Hook van Holland you'll need to head north east towards Germany. As you transit through Germany you will need to head north towards the Danish border which is the gateway to Scandinavia by road.

I've calculated some distances which might be of use should you fancy a holiday to Scandinavia from the UK:

  • Hook van Holland (sail from Harwich) to the Danish border - 420 miles (about 676 kilometres) (6¼ hours by car)
  • Ijmuiden (sail from Newcastle) to the Danish border - 400 miles (about 644 kilometres) (5¾ hours by car)
  • Rotterdam (sail from Hull) to the Danish border - 425 miles (about 684 kilometres) (6¼ hours by car)

UK to Denmark via France

You can reach Denmark by road if you first sail across the channel to Calais or Dunkirk and drive up through France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

I've calculated some distances which might be of use should you fancy a holiday to Scandinavia from the UK:

  • Calais (sail from Dover) to the Danish border - 570 miles (about 917 kilometres) (8½ hours by car)
  • Dunkirk (sail from Dover) to the Danish border - 550 miles (about 885 kilometres) (8 hours by car)

UK to Denmark by Coach (and Ferry)

Eurolines run a scheduled service from London to Copenhagen or from London to Aalborg. On the London to Copenhagen service the coach runs from London Victoria Coach Station via Dover to Amsterdam through France and Belgium. Here you change service and continue onwards to Copenhagen through Germany stopping at Rodby before arriving at Copenhagen. This route takes around 24 hours to complete but it does take in several countries, albeit fleetingly. The coach stops at Ingerslevsgade (behind Central Station) in Copenhagen.

The London to Aalborg takes in a few more stops. It too runs from London Victoria Coach Station via Dover to Amsterdam through France and Belgium. Here you change service and continue onwards to Hamburg in Germany where you will change onto yet another coach. From here you'll travel onwards into Denmark calling at Kolding, Vejle and Aarhus before finally arriving at the Eurolines Coach Station in Aalborg.

The London to Copenhagen route is a daily service and departs London late in the evening and departs Copenhagen early in the morning. The London to Aalborg runs three times a week, again departing London late in the evening and departing Aalborg early in the morning. You can book your tickets here.

Confused? Unsure? Got questions? If I can help I will! I've sailed on ferry mini cruises and taster cruise ship holidays so I know what to expect on such holidays. Get in touch and I will try my best to help you out.

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(Photo credit to Dennis Jarvis)

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