Nothing says Copenhagen quite like the breezy way its citizens glide through her streets on their bikes. The city embodies bike culture and is frequently named the best city for cycling in the world.
So why not join in the fun and tour Copenhagen on two wheels. You can ride the city, see the sights and experience Danish culture all at the same time. Fantastisk! “That’s Danish for fantastic” – as my Copenhagener friend Erin would say. All you need to do is rent a bike.
Bike culture in Copenhagen
Denmark always appears at the top of the world’s happiest countries lists as well as among the leaders in cycling culture. This is probably not a coincidence if you ask me. I find driving stress pretty intolerable.
The people of Copenhagen love to cycle with over 50% of the population commuting to work, school or university by bike. Everyone does it, even the Crown Princess!
In Copenhagen, there are over 450 kilometres of bike paths, many of which are slightly raised and clearly marked. This ensures a feeling of safety as you pedal the city’s roads.
Last but not least, the terrain is flat making the conditions ideal for a leisurely cycle for all types of riders including families.
Highlights of Copenhagen: A self-guided bike tour
I’ve created a little tour to show you the highlights of Copenhagen. At 10.5km and on flat terrain I rate this tour as easy as it could also be done on foot. We hired bikes and rode around Copenhagen as a family, and it was such an enjoyable ride.
Here is a map of my suggested tour of Copenhagen stopping at most of the highlights. Clicking on the map will take you straight to Google Maps where you can add to your smartphone or print if you are old school – including all the streets and turns. The details of the stops are below.
You could start at any point along the map as it is a circuit. I think beginning at Nørreport station is a good idea as you can easily pick up bikes there and have a coffee and breakfast at Torvehallerne market before heading on your way.
We liked the porridge with extras at Grød which is open from 7.30am on weekdays and 9.00am on weekends.
From Nørrebro station, head northeast along Øster Voldgade past the Botanic Gardens and Rosenborg Castle and follow the route until you reach Langelinie, home to Copenhagen’s most famous citizen – The Little Mermaid.
The Little Mermaid
The statue of the Little Mermaid was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of the same name written in 1837. She is a tiny little thing who looks shyly at the water as hundreds of tourists try to snap a selfie. Many people are disappointed with how small the statue is but she is an iconic symbol of the city and one you would regret missing.
Nearby: Kastellet – a 17th-century star-shaped fortress with lovely grounds and a windmill
It’s a very short ride past Kastellet and its moat to your next stop.
Gefionspringvandet and St Albans Church
You can’t miss the magnificent Gefionspringvandet fountain featuring the Norse goddess Gefjon designed by Danish artist Anders Bundgaard. The fountain sits next to St Albans Church, also known as the English Church as it was built to serve the English population of the city.
Nearby: peaceful Churchill Park renamed in 1965 to commemorate Winston Churchill and British assistance in the liberation of Denmark during World War II.
Back on your bike again for another short ride down Amaliegade to Amalienborg Palace
Home of Queen Margrethe II, Amalienborg Slot or Palace was built around a central square where you can see magnificent views of the harbour and nearby Frederiks Kirke with its distinctive domed roof.
I love that the palace, just by virtue of its design, is so accessible to the people of Copenhagen. You can tour the palace and if you time your tour right, you can see the daily changing of the guard that happens at 12:00 noon in the square. You’ll need to be there a little earlier to get a good spot for viewing.
Nearby: Amalienhaven park and fountain where you can get close to the water for views across to the modern Opera House or relax in the peaceful gardens
Next ride towards Frederiks Kirke and around it to reach Store Kongensgade towards Kongens Nytorv and Nyhavn.
Built in the 17th century Copenhagen’s colourful harbour is simply a great place to wander, relax and watch the people and boats leave and enter the harbour.
If you wanted to take a break from riding, you could join a boat tour of Copenhagen from here. Tours leave every 15 minutes in summer, and you get another perspective of the city from the water. It’s touristy but fun and if you’re lucky you could see one of the bridges being raised to let the tall ships through.
Nearby: Take a walk to the harbourfront where you will see the impressive modern building that houses the Royal Danish Theatre
Hungry yet? Head across the newly opened Inderhavnsbroen and visit Papiroen or Paper Island for lunch
Paper Island is where you find Copenhagen Street Food. This hugely popular venue houses a huge number of street food vendors in a converted warehouse. On my second visit to Copenhagen, I went back there just to taste Duck It’s pulled duck burger I’ve been thinking about since my first visit. The food stalls open from 12.00 noon each day and you will not leave hungry.
Now head off Paper Island and onto Prinsessegade where you will find your next stop
Freetown Christiania is an alternative car free and green community in the heart of Copenhagen. The neighbourhood of around 850 residents is found in the grounds of a former military barracks and has been self-governing since its foundation since its foundation by hippies in 1971.
A visit to Christiana is an interesting insight into a unique society. You can wander the streets and visit cosy cafes and craft shops. We took a walk around the beautiful lake and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere.
The area is notorious for its “Green Light District” and Pusher Street where drugs are freely bought and sold despite being illegal in Denmark. You are advised not to take photos in this area and should take that advice seriously. Read more about Freetown Christiania.
Nearby: Baroque Vor Frelsers Kirke with its famous helix spire that can be seen throughout Copenhagen
Time to head north-west down Torvegade and across the canal to Slotsholmen
Christiansborg Palace and Slotsholmen
As the seat of Danish government, Christiansborg is a complete contrast to Freetown Christiania. Home to the Folketinget or Danish Parliament, it is a former royal palace and as grand as that description implies.
You can visit the state rooms and royal kitchens as well as the ruins of the original medieval castle beneath its foundations or take in views of the city from the tower
Christiansborg is on the small island of Slotsholmen where there are several other museums and attractions such as the Danish Stock Exchange. Visiting hours are from 10:00am.
Tip – you can park your bike in the Rigsdag Courtyard
Now ride into Indre By, Copenhagen’s true centre, and down Nikolaj Plads and Kristen Bernikows Gade to your next stop
Rundetaarn – the Round Tower
If you’re interested in astronomy, you won’t want to miss the Rundetaarn, the oldest working observatory in Europe. There are wonderful views of the city from the viewing platform accessed by a spiral staircase to the top of the tower. Rundetaarn is open from 10:00am – more information.
Head down Landemærket for the last stop on your bike tour – the beautiful King’s Gardens and Rosenborg Slot. You will need to park your bike at the entrance and walk through the gardens.
One my favourite castles in the world, Rosenborg Castle has fairy-tale qualities. Originally a royal summer house, the castle lies in the Renaissance style King’s Gardens and is surrounded by a small moat.
Rosenborg Slot was built in the Dutch Renaissance style by King Christian IV and has several turrets and an impressive hall. You can visit the castle and view a collection of the Danish Crown Jewels as well as many of the state rooms.
And that’s the end of your tour! Head back to Nørreport station by riding along Gothersgarde and turning left at Nørre Voldgade
Explore Copenhagen’s neighbourhoods by bike
Now you’ve explored the highlights why not venture beyond the city centre and discover Copenhagen’s laid back neighbourhoods.
Take a ride out to Nørrebro through Assistens cemetery and browse the boutiques and cafes along Jægersborggade. You can get a great coffee at the Coffee Collective, try new Nordic cuisine at Manfreds and indulge in some special ice cream at Istid. Assistens Cemetry is worth a stop to visit the grave of Hans Christian Anderson too.
If you’re travelling with kids, I recommend a trip to Østerbro where you can explore Fælledparken. This huge park has playgrounds and activities for children of all ages. Our kids loved learning about the rules of the road in a traffic school playground and jumping on trampolines and the huge swings close by.
I was most impressed with the coffee tuk tuk keeping the parents of Copenhagen caffeinated as they watched their kids play.
Copenhagen bike rental
We rented bikes with Donkey Republic who have around 700 bicycles in convenient locations around the city. All you need to do is download their app and locate one of their bicycles close by. This is easy, even among a throng of Danish bikes, as they all sport vibrant orange stickers.
You then book your bike for however long you need it and use the app to unlock it. Once you’ve adjusted your seat and had a little test ride you are ready to go!
Tip: Look for one of the newer bikes with a holder for your phone, so you can navigate your route safely and with ease
No doubt you will want to stop and get off your bike and take a look around. With your Donkey bike, you just use the app to lock it up safely and unlock it again when required.
When it is time to return your bike, you simply take it back to where you found it. The bike is then registered as returned.
You can rent a bike in Copenhagen with Donkey Republic starting from DKK 100 per day – around £10. There is a small optional charge if you want to insure the bike against theft.
Family bike hire
We travelled to Copenhagen as a family and had some special requirements for bike hire. At the time of writing our kids were not yet 4 years old. I really wanted to try out the famous 3 wheeled Christiana cargo bikes.
Donkey Republic were able to help with this by engaging one of their local partners. Do give them a call if you want to hire a family bike in Copenhagen and I am sure they’ll do their best to assist.
Road rules and tips for riding in Copenhagen
Familiarise yourself with road rules and etiquette before embarking your tour or hiring a bike in Copenhagen.
Here are the main points:
✪ Danes ride and drive on the right-hand side of the road. Keep to the right at all times unless overtaking
✪ Helmets are not required to be worn by law
✪ Bike lanes must be used when present. You may not ride on footpaths
✪ You must use hand signals to indicate if you are turning or stopping
✪ When turning left, cross to the opposing right corner and wait for the traffic light to change before proceeding
✪ Headlights must be used at and after dusk
✪ Helmets are not required to be worn by law but you can hire helmets, and it’s a good idea
You can take your bike on public transport in Copenhagen with some common sense restrictions such as not bringing bikes on trains during peak hour. Family cargo bikes are not allowed on public transport.
Guided bike tours of Copenhagen
Our friend Erin who lives in and writes about Copenhagen served as our guide however if you are new to the city, are a bit nervous about riding and don’t have local connections; I recommend joining a bike tour.
I’m such a fan of local tours. Taking a bike tour of Copenhagen will help you get up to speed quickly on the road rules and culture. You’ll also learn about the city’s history and culture and discover what makes Copenhagen unique.
If you are travelling as a family, do check out these family friendly bike tours of Copenhagen. Owner and guide Maike is passionate about showing family groups her beautiful city.
When I first visited and fell in love with Copenhagen last year I was not able to ride through its streets. Now I’ve tried biking the city I feel like I know the Danish that much better.
Would you hire a bike in Copenhagen?
This post was written in partnership with Donkey Republic. All opinions are my own.
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