In the Danish capital, 62 percent of Copenhagers cycle around to work, study or play. There are bike rental docks and repair shops every few metres. Copenhagen has 375 kilometres of cycle tracks and nine out of ten Danes own a bike.
It would be criminal not to explore a city so well-designed for cyclists on two wheels.
Route 1: Pedalling through Danish art and history
Start unravelling Denmark’s history with Glyptoteket on Dantes Plads. This museum was founded in 1888 by Carl Jacobsen, the son of J. C. Jacobsen who started the famous Carlsberg brewery. Glyptoteket is divided into two sections: Department of Antiquities (comprising artefacts from Roman, Egyptian and Greek history) and Modern Department (which has displays of 19th and 20th centuries French and Danish collections). They are both connected by the magical Winter Garden.
Pedal a few metres onwards to Rigsdagsgården with Børsen (the Old Stock Exchange) and Christiansborg Palace on either sides. Four dragon tails twist to form the spire of Børsen, which has three crowns at the top—one each demarcating the Scandinavian empire—Denmark, Sweden and Norway. It is believed that because of this dragon-tailed spire the imposing Børsen has not been burnt by the many fires in the city.
Christiansborg Palace is where the Danish Parliament, the Ministry of State and the Supreme Court all come together. Park your bike here and set on foot to explore the dominating space around it. Within the palace, explore the Great Hall (with Queen’s Tapestries), Throne Room, the Ruins under the palace, Royal Stables and Royal Chapel.
From here take a slight detour to glance at the charming square of Gråbrødretorv. Here you may need to walk with your cycle for less than 100 metres around the square, which has colourful houses and a fountain designed by Søren Georg Jensen, famous Danish sculptor, adorn it. It also connects to Strøget, the pedestrian shopping street of Copenhagen.
On your two wheels, ride onward to Vingårdstræde and then Kongens Nytorv until you reach the grand Amalienborg Palace. The palace along with Frederik’s Church dominate the skyline of Copenhagen. The castle, however, is known for its royal guards. Every day at 12 noon, the changing of guards takes place in which visitors are welcomed.
SMK-Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark) is worth a detour for an insight to Danish art, before the therapeutic Kongens Have (King’s Garden). Also called the Rosenborg Garden, this park is frequented by locals and tourists alike. Take a break from cycling by walking around the Hercules Pavilion and the famous statue of Hans Christian Andersen here. It also adjoins to Rosenborg Castle, which was built by Christian IV in the early 17th century.
Pedal onwards to the gorgeous Dronning Louises Bro (Queen Louise’s Bridge) towards a different district of Copenhagen. The bridge was built in 1887 and connects the inner city to the trendy neighbourhood of Nørrebro. It is this locale that houses the scenic Assistens Cemetery. The burial ground has gravestones of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The digteren’s (the poet’s) tombstone reads ‘the soul will last forever’ and rests alone, while the Danish philosopher is buried alongside his entire family.
Total distance: 9.4 kilometres
Refreshment stops en route: Den Økologiske Pølsemand hot dog stand on Købmagergade; Restaurant Klubben on Enghavevej; Torvehallerne food market on Frederiksborggade; Andersen & Maillard Cafe on Nørrebrogade.
Route 2: Pedalling across the harbour and bold designs
Start at the very vibrant neighbourhood of Vesterbro, known for its varied cultural experiences. On Sønder Boulevard, Absalon is a church-turned-community space which encapsulates the ethos of Vesterbro. Start your bike trail here with a cup of coffee with strangers, who socialise over a game of table tennis, movies and other activities.
Ride onwards to new Kalvebod Brygge waterfront which has the unique Kalvebod Bølge—a slide rising above the promenade like a wave. This urban space is designed for people to relax with various water sports like kayaking and swimming.
Continue pedalling along main harbour to make a quick stop at Søren Kierkegaards Plads, in front of the Royal Library. From here begins Copenhagen’s modern and edgy architecture. The Royal Library (also called the Black Diamond) stands against the delicate Circle Bridge (only for pedestrians and cyclists). The pathway leads to Skuespilhuset (Royal Danish Playhouse) and the striking Copenhagen Opera House on the other side—which can be seen just before turning inward for Nyhavn.
Park your bicycle and walk a few metres ahead to Nyhavn (New Harbour)—quintessential Copenhagen. The harbour is flanked with colourful houses, numerous restaurants and teems with tourists who photograph the port endlessly.
Make your way back to your bike and ride onto Inderhavnsbroen (Inner Harbour Bridge). Inderhavnsbroen was built in 2016 and connects city centre to Christianshavn. It is colloquially called the Kissing Bridge since it opens up in a gradual, diagonal move than the usual vertical lift, to allow ships to pass through.
Pedal onwards across to Refshaleøen island, which was once an industrial hub. The quiet space is now used as an activity and recreational space (like yoga, dancing events and music festivals), and has cool bars and Michelin-starred restaurants.
After a few turns, Copenhagen’s largest street food market, Reffen, opens up along the Copenhagen harbour. Reffen has 50 food stalls (across world cuisines), all of which have to comply by the ‘Reduce and Reuse’ philosophy. This means that they have to sort their food waste for reusing, apart from using local ingredients and biodegradable disposables. Replenish yourself here with the variety of food and drinks available, in the outdoors.
Total distance: 8.5 kilometres
Refreshment stops en route: Absalon on Sønder Boulevard; Told & Snaps on Toldbodgade; 108 on Strandgade; La Banchina on Refshalevej; Mikkeller Baghaven on Refshalevej.
-A number of bike rental companies and apps like Bycyklen, Copenhagen Bicycles, Wecycle Copenhagen and Donkey Republic.
-Some companies, like Bycyklen, require user accounts for rentals.
-Vesterbro Food Tour and Urban Tour by Cycling Copenhagen are highly recommended.
-Wecycle Copenhagen on Bremerholm upcycles old bikes to make new ones. They also have a cafe.
-Most hotels, like Hotel Danmark, rent out cycles at an extra cost.
-Cycling is not allowed in parks in central Copenhagen.
-Familiarise yourself with the traffic rules before your start your cycling.
Have you biked around in the Danish capital yet?
An edited version of this story was published in Jet Wings, Jet Airways’s in-flight magazine.
Note: I was invited by Wonderful Copenhagen on this trip.
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