Appetite for cycling not quenched by the Tour de France? Well, says Tony Gardner, head to the Danish capital.
The streets of Copenhagen are awash with bikes. It is the original bike city. To borrow a phrase from the marketeers over at the Danish capital’s famous brewery – it’s probably the best bike city in the world
While the Grand Départ may have attracted the attention of the world’s Press, when it comes to pure grassroots participation and sheer volume of people who count on the good old push-bike as their main mode of transport, we are firmly in the slipstream of the Copenhageners.
Copenhagen folk bike whether it’s sunny, raining or sleeting sideways. It is a deeply rooted fact that it is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to get around.
At present 55 per cent of people in the city cycle 1.2m km daily – one of the highest percentages in the world.
The international Cycling Union (UCI) appointed Copenhagen the first official Bike City in the world and places like New York are keen to learn and receive help from Copenhagen on how to become an effective bike city.
So much so that the phrase ‘Copenhagenised’ has been coined for an international blueprint for urban planning and design centred on making a city more accessible to cyclists and pedestrians and less car dependent.
At every street corner there is row upon row of traditional-looking sit-up-and-begs. The trusty bike is called upon to get to school, work, university, shopping and medical appointment. At night time we even saw smartly dressed couples pedalling to the opera and groups of young revellers wheeling their way to the nightclubs.
The 400km of bike lanes and a recently opened city-to-suburb Cycle Super Highway make cycling a heavenly experience for someone who has to run the daily gauntlet with rush hour traffic on Dewsbury Road. Bicycles are cheap to hire, easy to find and there are numerous places to keep them securely locked.
Staff at The Kong Arthur Hotel, where we stayed during a long weekend break to the city, are happy to provide bikes for guests to get around the city. It is the best way to quickly explore the compact capital’s famous landmarks such as the Parliament Borgen, Christians Harbour and, of course, The Little Mermaid.
These days, murder is also one of Copenhagen’s big draws. Such has been the popularity of crime thrillers The Killing and The Bridge that the city has become a major attraction for lovers of Scandinavian Noir.
Peter and Ping are a company who specialise in literary walks around the city and the popularity of those Danish serials in the UK and many other countries has opened up a new avenue for them.
Now they run Borgen and The Killing tours every Saturday afternoon and will take visitors to the locations of The Bridge on request.
We were given a sample of all three which involved a trip around some of the seedier sections of the city where tourists would not otherwise want to find themselves. The strip clubs, bars and doss houses of Vesterbro and the deserted meat-packing district where Sarah Lund and Martin and Sega followed up clues are becoming bona fide tourist attractions.
Another excellent way of exploring the city is by canal. Both new and and old parts city can be reached, including the houses where Hans Christian Andersen once lived in Nyhavn, overlooking the harbour. We also travelled to see the old shipyard which has been converted into a concert venue which hosted this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
Nyhavn is also well worth a return visit after dark for its choice of nightlife and restaurants - Copenhagen has won 17 Michelin stars for 15 of its restaurants in the new Main Cities of Europe 2014.
The Danish capital is home to the world’s best restaurant, Noma, which has been awarded the accolade for the fourth time. Those able to stretch their budget enough to eat there can look forward to its speciality of Nordic cuisine with a focus on ingredients foraged from the nearby forests and shores.
We chose more financially viable options. They included Host, a restaurant which focuses on raw materials for the Nordic kitchen. Koefoed produces dishes made with produce specifically from the Danish island of Bornholm, which lies to the east in the Baltic sea.
The city is also served by an affordable and easy-to-navigate metro system, with a line bringing visitors quickly to and from the airport. Those keen to cram in a spot of shopping should head to Strøget – the world’s longest pedestrian street.Visitors in a hurry to do and see as much as possible in a limited space of time are advised to get hold of a Copenhagen card, a travel pass that can be bought at a number of locations.
It allows unlimited travel on buses, trains and the metro, as well as free entry into a number of attractions in the city.
The three-day version pass costs £60 but it does cover the Greater Copenhagen area so you can get further afield.
A 40-minute train ride out of the city centre will bring you to the North Sealand – commonly referred to as the Danish riviera. Follow the sloping bridges down to an underground museum to experience a colourful world which tells the story of Denmark as one of the world’s leading shipping nations.
A stone’s throw from the museum is Kronberg Castle, immortalised as Elsinore, the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Also in the region is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, which showcases works by Danish artists along with some more familiar Yorkshire names such as David Hockney and Henry Moore.
• Scandinavian Airlines (0871 2267760, www.flysas.co.uk) now operates a twice-weekly direct flight to Copenhagen from Leeds Bradford Airport. Departing on Friday evening with a return on Monday afternoon, the flight time is one hour 40 minutes. Prices start from £66 one-way or £119 return, including all taxes and charges.
Yorkshire Premier Lounge prices start from £18 per adult; discounts are available when purchased with car parking. To pre-book on-site car parking at Leeds Bradford Airport (www.leedsbradfordairport.co.uk). Prices start from £4.21 per day for a two week stay during the summer season.