Exploring a city through the hop-on-hop-off tours can be very clichéd and touristy. You can never set your own pace and find your own footing in the new town that you are discovering if you’re forced to stick to strict schedules and predetermined route plans. Which is why the biking option in Copenhagen is a true blessing.
Why the cycle?
I spent over a month in Copenhagen, just as the summer was ending and the autumn leaves were gaining colour. It is a perfect time to cycle around the city, sans the occasional showers. I attempted various ways of exploring the city, including walking its lengths and breadths. But, nothing was as satisfying as pedaling my way through the town, chalking my own plans and experiencing the city like the locals.
Every road that runs through the city has a separate bike lane. It’s as safe as it could ever get. Follow the lane rules like you’re driving a car and you’re good to go. Most of the topography is flat lands – with the occasional bridges and hills.
Cycling here is not a grueling task or even one that needs marathon-level fitness. I had not picked up a cycle in about ten years – and I could comfortably cover a 20-km ride through the day with enough stops and rests. Parking for bikes is also extremely easy.
Every large establishment has bicycle parking racks, that you can use for free. Hence, you’ll never be paying for parking, neither will you have to search the city for parking spots (two downsides of using a car for transportation). Here’s what’s even better: if the cycling becomes too exhausting, most trains and metros have a coach only for cycles.
How heavy is it on the wallet?
For those of you who are budget travelers, this is a pocket-friendly option. There are numerous companies that will help you pick the cycle of your choice. Pick up and drop off points for cycles are present throughout the city. If you do not want to go in search of a cycle, the best option will be to take a daily bike rental from your hotel. Most hotels provide this option at the same nominal rate that prevails on other apps.
Here are a few apps / rental companies you could consider exploring:
The costs that I paid back in September 2018 ranged between 12 to 17 USD for a single day’s cycle rental.
What are the best routes to cover?
The architecture in the city is incredible. With a slight scandic influence and a touch of European inspiration, the aesthetics are urban-friendly and sustainable. There are bridges specially built for the cycling population. These bicycle bridges connect the whole city. The most famous of these is the Bicycle Snake. Pedal through the harbor on this bridge at dawn/dusk and drown in the colours that the sky has to offer. The Inner Harbour Bridge and the Circle Bridge could be extra add-ons to your itinerary if time isn’t a restriction.
Take the touristy road
If you are looking for something touristy, the must do sites in the city would include the following trail (that can more than comfortably be covered in a single day): Rosenberg Castle Grounds, The Little Mermaid, The Gefion Fountain, St. Albans Church, The Royal Palace of Amalienborg, Nyhavn, The Inner Harbor Bridge, the canals, The Old Stock Exchange and Christiansborg Palace.
The extremely famous statue of The Little Mermaid will be shown to you from behind if you take a boat tour through the canal. The face of the Mermaid faces the shore, and hence, the only way you will get to see it in whole or even have a photo opportunity with this literary marvel would be if you approach the Mermaid from the roads inland. I remember waiting in the small queue of cyclists and treading on some slippery stones, a little into the water, to get a single photograph.
Or take the road that suits you better
Just sitting by the side of the Nyhaven Canal with my bike next to me, while I randomly absorbed the happenings around me and munching of a bowl of hot churros dripping in Nutella, was my favorite pastime. The coloured buildings that line both sides of the canal, the cafes that serve some incredible lobsters that have taken over the entire walkway and the constant rush of activities makes the rather laid-back city have a different life of its own.
The palaces and castles are almost similar to what you’d experience in any other European city. The harbour and the calmness of the water are very typical of a sea-side city within the continent. I had spent years visiting such spots and I wanted to discover sights that I would not find elsewhere.
What’s unique to explore in the city?
Spare some time for Christiania, a little hippie neighborhood within CPH that claims that it does not belong to the EU. You can’t take photographs within this community. The reason goes without saying. Here, you’re able to buy and exchange marijuana in various forms. However, Christiania is also home to some quaint cafes and free-spirited bars. This community is such a refreshing relief for those who dwell in the fast-paced way of living. The extra conversation, the acknowledging smile, the colours on the wall and the free-flow of coffee and beer can tranquilize your weekend.
Do like the Danes
I also decided to go the extra couple of miles and spent a weekend like the Danes. With the arrival of the blossoms and summer, most Danes head out for barbeque parties and picnics in the open-to-air spaces around Copenhagen. While some of them might go to the Rosenberg castle, a lot of other head to cemeteries where there is more trees and grass if you compare it to tombstones and epitaphs. The Vestre Kirkegård, also known as the Vestre Cemetery, is the most famous of these. Fifty Four hectares of lakes, gardens, and driveways lined with fauna of all types, I would literally consider this place to be one of the best for wedding photo-shoots (a lot of irony there, I tell you). Locals use this expanse for their daily jogs, get-togethers and outdoor parties.
There’s this grove of lush green pine-like trees that line of the walkways that caught my attention in an Instagram post. I decided to venture into Vestre Kirkegård to recreate a similar photo not knowing that finding that single row of trees within such a large property would zap me of all the energy I had. I then resorted to showing a couple of locals the picture until one of them pointed me in the right direction.
What else should you know about cycling in CPH?
Most locals are approachable and they will be willing to help you with routes and queries; this includes cashiers at the closest Irma or Netto (similar to the Seven Elevens). Google Maps was my saving grace through all of the cycle rides I did. Maps even tell you if you are riding on flat-land and when the next steeped elevation would come.
Prepare for the rains! Usually, a windcheater with a hood or a light poncho will do the trick. Remember to lock your cycles, as well. And most importantly, remember where you parked it. There’s every chance that the same parking rack has a cycle similar to the one that you rented!
What’s the Copenhagen Hygge all about?
Hygge (pronounced as Hoo-ga) cannot be easily defined. It is a state of mind that needs to be felt. The word might be easily connected to the winter season where people took part in activities that brought in warmth and comfort. But, soon this word started becoming a noun associated with anything that could be termed cozy and fun. It is just a dynamic quest away from melancholy.
Cycling might be a very strenuous activity. Don’t worry, the Danes have found ways to simplify it and add it into their daily life. There seems to be no better way to honor the city’s legacy when compared to cycling through its heart.