Cycling in Copenhagen is as natural as breathing. It is one of the main things you will notice about the city – there are bicycles everywhere; and it is apparent that it is very much part of the culture of the city. Having not been to Amsterdam before (another bike friendly city) the amount of bicycles I was seeing was quite profound.
Copenhagen is a very bike friendly city, with dedicated bicycle lanes, and lots of places to park your bike up, everywhere you go. More than 50% of cyclists in the city are female, and many children cycle around also. Some younger children are passengers on bikes, which have attached cart like compartments, for their parents to transport them.
Public transport is also geared up for bicycles too, with many metros and trains having sections in them for your bike, if you wished to get the train to work, and cycle home, for example.
Experiencing Copenhagen by Bicycle
Booking a tour or bike hire when in the city, will not be necessary – there are about a billion places you can get one; from the bike share programme called Bycyklen to your average hourly rate hire bike, to more elaborate group tours; you won’t be short of options.
I decided I’d like something a little different however, and found it when I stumbled upon Bike the city not long before my trip there last weekend.
‘Bike the city in Copenhagen, is an independent tour company that offers GPS guided urban discoveries. Explore the best of Copenhagen at your own pace!’
When I read this, I was sold on the idea; an urban discovery with a GPS guide – this was made for me.
For someone that gets lost, all the time, but loves spontaneity, rather than the restriction of being in a tour group, I knew I had to get in touch with Anton, who is the owner and brainchild behind the company, so when in the city, we met over coffee and he explained the unique concept (the World’s first GPS guided bike tour), the challenges of setting up a company in an already busy market, as well as a little about cycling in Copenhagen.
I then got to test it out for myself.
Here, Anton explains what Bike the city is all about.
So what is bike the city about?
if you didn’t happen to watch the video, basically; Anton set the company up himself, including building the GPS devices, which are made from second hand smartphones, with one app on it. It is placed in a custom designed box, which a magnifying glass top, which will help guide you better, and protect it, if it rains. This is then clipped onto the front of the bike.
The app comes programmed with 4 languages – Danish, English, French, and German, which you select when you turn the device on. You then select the tour you want to take. There are 4 tours, each with 13 stops.
The tours all start and finish at the bike the city shop, and you basically follow the GPS to each location. Each stop will be indicated by a fanfare noise, then you have the option to stop, and listen to the audio guide about where you are (headphones can be plugged into the device to allow for a better listening experience).
You have the option of skipping a destination, or even detouring off to somewhere else – the GPS will always guide you back on the tour, wherever you are.
Where is bike the city?
Bike the city is located near the Rosenborg Castle – not far from Sortedam Sø (the lakes)
However, I did get a little lost trying to find it (there’s a surprise!), as the signage wasn’t clear. The actual address is Gothersgade 157. Outside you will see a number of bikes parked up and a yellow sign as below (rather than a green and black bike the city sign).
My ride around the city of Copenhagen by bicycle
After my chat with Anton, I picked up my bicycle. Attached the GPS unit and my camera. Anton made sure it was the correct height for me, and explained how the lock worked.
It was a super comfortable bike, with a cute little bell, and it felt easy to ride. I programmed in what tour I wanted to do first, and I was off. I chose to do two tours, and fitted in most of what was on the list, with some detours, and skipping of certain places, but it gave me a great insight into the city, and its neighbourhoods, so I could later explore more on foot, the following day.
The Nørrebro Tour – 10 km (approx. 2-3 hours)
I decided to start off with the tour of the vibrant and multicultural neighbourhood of Nørrebro, as recommended by Anton, as it is amongst the lesser trodden areas of the city, which I love, and was glad I could get a look into local life, rather than be thrown into the tourist sights from the get go.
Nørrebro is predominantly a working class area, and it was were many people came to, when moving to Copenhagen to seek their fortune. It is an area that has undergone a lot of transformation in the recent past. It is a creative and hip part of town, with cool shopping streets, a number of creative murals, and innovative public spaces to chill out in.
To get to Nørrebro, you’ll first cycle over the Queen Louise Bridge, which will take you across the Sortedam Sø (the lakes), which is a stunning area.
Here you will find evidence of how proud Copenhagen is about its cycling culture, with a sign telling you how many people have cycled across the bridge that day, and since the beginning of the year. Impressive figures!
Notable places to visit in Nørrebro
So as to not spoil it for you when you go riding in Copenhagen. Here are some of my favourite spots in Nørrebro.
The Assistens Cemetery
I never thought I’d say that a cemetery would be one of my favourite areas in a city, but this has to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the World. It is known as a resting place for the dead and the living, as many people come to walk through the beautiful woodland like area, as well as relax on the gardens surrounding it.
The cemetery has a number of notable Danish people buried there, including the one of the most notable; the writer Hans Christian Andersen.
A former toxic wasteland, this area was campaigned to be kept by the local community, and was turned into a green haven used by the local community and visitors from the city. The name comes from the yellow banana shaped embankment, which is used as a skate park. The park also a climbing wall, and basketball court.
The Superkilen is an innovative public space, which was created to regenerate built up areas in the city. It has a cycle path running through it. Its aim was to bring elements of the World to one area, with art installations, furniture, sport and leisure facilitates, as well as plant species from all over the World.
You’ll see American style advertisements, as well as Indonesian swings, a Japanese slide, palm trees and a Moroccan fountain – a real multi-cultural area.
When I was done hanging out in Nørrebro, I headed back to bike the city, to start the city tour.
The Copenhagen Class Tour – 13km (2-4 hours)
Copenhagen is a vibrant, yet quiet capital city. It is well laid out, and the bicycle is king, with many cars and pedestrians being very ‘bike aware’. There are many beautiful landmarks in the city, with incredible architecture.
Here are a few stops I took on the Copenhagen classic tour.
The Round Tower
The 200 metre ascent to the top of the spiralling Round Tower, sits in the centre of Copenhagen, just off a small market square. The observatory is worth climbing to the top of, for great views.
City Hall Square
This is a vibrant public space, which houses the new city hall. It is often used as a space for public events. You’ll see buskers performing and see street vendors selling food. It is a great place to stop and people watch.
The Nyhavn waterfront
The Nyhavn literally means new harbour, and is a vibrant entertainment district, with many pubs and restaurants lining the strip. The colourful facades of buildings are possibly the most photographed buildings in the city.
The Rosenborg Castle and gardens
The former Danish Royal Residence isn’t far from the bike the city shop, and makes a great stop toward the end of the tour, for a rest in the park, wander in the gardens, or you can in fact go inside the castle, for a look around.
Taking a tour of Copenhagen with Bike the city
If you’re in Copenhagen; don’t jump on a tour bus, instead, head on over to bike the city and grab a bike. I loved the uniqueness of this tour. I had the freedom of stopping where I wanted, for as long as I wanted; and still got amazing information from the audio guide to help me get to know the city.
A one day bike tour rental price (which includes the bike rental and GPS device) is 225 Danish Korne (approx. £25/ US $38).