Joining the Cycling Revolution in Copenhagen

I never thought I’d get to Denmark, but thanks to my husband’s enthusiasm we made it there one cold and rainy day. My favourite thing was Nyhavn, a picturesque harbour.

Copenhagen is known for being the worlds most cycleable city, with defined bike lanes, thousands of bikes, and flat ground. So we hired bikes and set off. Normally when i cycle it is just me, a solitary cyclist cycling around my hometown. So it was thrilling to be part of a bike – caravan; at the traffic lights there would be a queue of about 20 of us waiting for the light to change!

We cycled out to the famous Little Mermaid statue, which certainly draws a crowd. There is also a lesser visited Genetically Modified Little mermaid statue, which had exactly zero visitors apart from us, while we were there.

We went to the nearby Kastellet, a star-shaped fortress with pretty buildings in the middle. You can climb up the ramparts and walk around them for views across the bay. From there we could see the recycling-centre with a ski-slope on the roof which my husband was keen to visit but it was closed during our visit. From here it was a short distance to Nyboder, the part of town with cute houses which were originally for military personnel but are now privately owned and a lovely part of town.

We also made it to Rosenborg Slot and Amelienborg, both royal palaces, and saw the changing of the guard at the latter one on the way back to town.

Back in town we went up the Tarnet (tower) in the Christiansborg Palace. We were lucky it was a clear day so the views were great and we were able to see Sweden and the Oresund bridge connecting the two countries.

Before going to Copenhagen I read a book “The Year of Living Danishly” by Helen Russell. I learnt certain things about Denmark, which is often voted the happiest country in the world. You will have to read the whole (excellent) book, but some of my take-aways from the book were as follows:-

Trust – the Danish have high levels of trust; they trust their neighbours, they trust their government to spend their taxes wisely, and the government in turn trusts the neighbouring countries. Safe in their trust they can relax more and hence be happier! One manifestation of this trust is that they feel safe leaving their children asleep in the pram outside restaurants. I saw this once while I was there (look closely at the photo and you will see two little legs in the buggy).

Design – good design is really important and appreciated in Denmark; being surrounded by lovely aesthetics makes you happier. And we certainly noticed this all over Copenhagen. In fact I don’t think we saw a single place without good design! Every cafe, every light fitting, every chair was high-end design and we spotted Arne Jacobsen chairs, Poul Henningsen lamps, and many more which we are not educated enough in design to recognise! The Bang and Olufsen flagship store is also in Copenhagen so we visited this to see their high-end well-designed sound equipment.

Lego – a Danish institution, this integral part of any childhood originates from Denmark. The author’s husband worked for Lego so the above book includes a fascinating inside look at the working culture of this business, eg. having a bowl of Lego in the middle of the table in business meetings so workers can build things to stimulate the mind while working, and having a sing-song at the end of the work year. For our part, we visited the flagship Lego store. To be honest it was much the same as any other big Lego store, but we had to visit, right?!

Food – they have delicious snegles (pastries in a whirl shape – literally snails) – but more on this in my next blog.

next blog: Food in Copenhagen, Denmark

previous blog: DMZ, South Korea

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