Every travel site you visit about Copenhagen will probably tell you the same thing: The best way to see Copenhagen is to cycle. And after our short visit to Copenhagen as part of our two-weeks Northern Europe trip, I have to concur. It’s true. Cycling in Copenhagen rocks!
2-Weeks Northern Europe Trip with Kids
Renting a bicycle in Copenhagen is easy. They have Donkey Republic which is similar to our OBike. So it is not difficult to find a Donkey Republic stand near you and just pick up a bike. However, renting a bike when you have kids with you complicates things.
We were staying in an AirBnB apartment along Stroget, so I found a bicycle shop called Be Copenhagen which was a short walk from our apartment. I was thrilled that they had Christiania bikes for rent! Christiania bike is a kind of cargo bike with a compartment in front where kids could sit inside. It even came with a shelter – which worked out perfectly for the day we were there because it rained. The kids could sleep inside the Christiania bike and we didn’t have to worry about our kids and bags getting wet. I highly recommend renting a Christiania bike to explore Copenhagen if you are visiting with kids! And be sure to reserve one beforehand because they have very limited supply for the Christinia bikes.
We started our day bright and early with a visit to Torvehallerne, Copenhagen’s ‘Super Market’. I love visiting markets when travelling, so Torvehallerne was at the top of my to-visit places in Copenhagen. It was too early to rent a bike, so we walked there from our AirBnB apartment.
There were two buildings at Torvehallerne and most of the shops were unfortunately not open yet when we reached at about 9am. There were a couple of cafes open though, selling coffee and delicious-looking pastries. I decided to settle for GRØD, which I had read about on Oregon Girl Around the World. Grod was essentially oatmeal porridge with fancy toppings. It doesn’t look like much but it was quite nice, and very comforting on the rainy morning we were there.
It was still drizzling when we were done with breakfast, and the kids were starting to complain that it was very cold. So we went back to our apartment to grab more layers of clothes. When the drizzle stopped and the sun came out, we headed out to Be Copenhagen to rent our bikes. Along the way, we were so happy to see the clear blue sky!
After picking up our bicycles from Be Copenhagen at 11+ am, we decided to start our cycling tour at Amalienborg Palace where the Change of Guard Ceremony was scheduled to start at 12noon. I set the destination on my phone’s Google Map and off we went!
Before we reached Amalienborg Palace, we were ran into the guards marching through Copenhagen. Everyday at 11.30am, the guards would march out from Rosenborg Castle and march through part of the city to Amalienborg Palace for the change of guard ceremony at 12. I actually didn’t know which route they would be marching via, but we just happened to find ourselves along the same path as them. Lucky!
The guards were marching on the road, so being cyclists, we got to ride along just beside the guards on the bicycle lane. This gave up the ULTIMATE best view of the parade. Because if you weren’t on a bicycle, you had to stand on the pedestrain walkway – which was seperated from the guards by the bicycle lane. There were police to make sure the pedestrains stayed on the pedestrian walkways – so the only way you can be right next to the guards is to be cycling. Don’t say I didn’t tell you. 😉
We reached Amalienborg Palace and we were not allowed to cycle into the palace and had to park our bicycles outside. The kids had fallen asleep in their Christiania Bike, so hubby and I took turns to go inside the palace to check out the parade while the other stayed outside to watch the kids. Not that we could see much since we arrived at the palace so late. So we decided to beat the crowd to leave the palace before the Change of Guard ceremony ended. Which turned out to be an awesome decision because it started raining!! Like SUDDEN DOWNPOUR!
So we were way ahead of the crowd who suddenly came swarming out of the palace to avoid the rain. We cycled as fast as we could in the rain, the kids staying asleep and completely dry the whole time in their cozy Christiania bike, towards Paper Island (Papiroen) where we wanted to have lunch.
Cycling from Amelienborg to Paper Island brought us right past Nyhavn, the famous harbour of Copenhagen. As we were riding past Nyhavn, the rain suddenly stopped! So we decided to take a short break to snap some photos at the harbour before heading on.
Continuing from Nyhavn to Paper Island, we found ourselves riding across Inderhavnsbroen Bridge, a cycling-cum-pedestrian bridge which opened not that long ago in July 2016. I thought was a life-saver for tourists like us. It made it so convenient for us to get across to Paper Island / Christianshavn from Nyhavn without having to pay for a harbour bus! I’m not even sure if we could have brought the Christiania bike onto a harbour bus. Without the bridge, we would have had to make quite a big detour to get to Paper Island via the next nearest bridge. Which wasn’t that near. So yes, I love the Inderhavnsbroen Bridge.
As we rode onto Paper Island, right after passing the gates, we saw many bicycles parked there and we thought that was where we had to leave our bicycles. So we woke the kids up, locked our bicycles near the gate and continued walking in. But later on, we realised that there was another bicycle parking area right in front of the Papiroen building. So if you’re cycling here, note that you can cycle all the way in until Papiroen and park your bicycle right outside. And if you have sleeping kids inside the bicycle, you can just leave them to sleep and picnic next to your bike. :p
Usually the kids would be super cranky to be woken up from their naps. But lucky us, they found some dove structures with kids climbing all over them and decided to join in. Who needs playgrounds when we’ve got cute climbing structures shaped like birds? Denmark loves their kids. I’m serious.
Our lunch venue has many names. Some call it Copenhagen Street Food, some call it Paper Island, some call it Papiroen. If I had looked at a map and saw “Paper Island”, I may have glanced right past it. But thankfully when I was scrolling around Visit Copenhagen website, they called it ‘Copenhagen Street Food’. The words ‘street food’ were a sure-fire way of getting my attention and I had bookmarked this place immediately!
For Singaporeans, the best way to describe Papiroen to you is.. imagine Timbre+ by a beautiful European canal. Where an assortment of local food is available at the many stalls within the complex, and people dine in seating areas made out of old containers while looking out at boats zipping by. Don’t you just love it already?
I declare Papiroen one of my absolute favourite spots in Copenhagen. Despite the crappy weather that kept us indoors rather than next to the canal. It started raining again shortly after we arrived at Papiroen, so we had to eat indoors. Bummer.
Our favourite stall within Copenhagen Street Food was not very Copenhagenish nor Danish. It was the stall selling Brazilian meat that had a perpetual crowd in front of it.
Our second favourite stall was the one selling Pulled Duck. We Chinese eat a lot of duck – mostly braised or roasted. I’ve never had Pulled Duck before! It was good. And the guy selling it was so cute and friendly I couldn’t walk away without buying from him.
After lunch, we continued to cycle through the lovely neighbourhood of Christianshave lined with yachts docked by the sides. We passed by Church of Our Saviour, one of Copenhagen’s most famous landmarks. It is possible to climb up to the top of the spire of the church for a supposedly awesome view of Copenhagen. But on this gloomy day, we passed. And near Church of Our Saviour, we found the entrance to Freetown Christiania.
Be sure you read about Freetown Christiania before you visit to understand and appreciate how it came to be what it is today. And learn how to behave appropriately when you are there. Freetown Christiania is a place you need to be there to see with your own eyes. Because photography is strictly prohibited within the freetown.
You must be thinking now. Surely some idiotic tourist would have tried to act ignorant and gone around taking photos of Freetown Christiania?? For sure. But read the section on ‘Safety in Christiania’ and you’ll know why you shouldn’t. And really, when you are actually there, you will know better than to mess around with the people there over things as dumb as photographs.
Freetown Christiania is not a place I would hang around for long with the kids. Maybe because I grew up in a country like Singapore where we have very stringent laws, being in the freetown, while eye-opening, made me feel a bit uneasy. So good thing we had bikes and we just cycled our way through quickly to have a look. Surprisingly, when we were cycling through, we saw a ‘Family Area’ where smoking was not allowed and looked rather quaint and peaceful. But we didn’t stay.
And if you are wondering if there is a link between Freetown Christiania and the bike we were using, Christiania Bikes, yes. The Christiania Bike was invented at the bicycle shop right here at Freetown Christiania. Hence its name.
After riding through Christiania, we rode back the way we came from, past the Inderhavnsbroen Bridge and towards Nyhavn. Since the kids were awake now, we stopped at Nyhavn again to take some more photos – with wide awake kids this time.
We couldn’t leave Nyhavn without enjoying a drink along one of the many pubs / cafes along the harbour. Many of them were selling something called ‘Irish Coffee’. I was more focused on the word ‘coffee’ and I didn’t think you could go wrong with whatever coffee. We went into a random cafe and ordered an Irish Coffee without really knowing what it was. Turned out it was coffee with whiskey and whipped cream on top. More whiskey than anything else. I sipped a big mouthful (without stirring) and the whiskey burned my throat and I started choking. I am somehow who can take alcohol quite well, but I need to be warned! This totally caught me by surprise, and I can’t say I enjoyed it. And I couldn’t help thinking if the age-old advice of ‘If you drink, don’t drive’ applied to cycling.
After we were done with our coffee break, we checked the time and figured we still had enough time to make it to the Little Mermaid and return to the bicycle shop by 5pm. So off we cycled towards the Little Mermaid.
Along the way, we passed by Frederick’s Church. Frederick’s Church was one of the places I had bookmarked to visit, because it was supposed to be the best vantage point for taking photos of Amalienborg Palace. But if we went in to the church, we wouldn’t have enough time to get to the Little Mermaid and back in time. So we passed.
The Little Mermaid reminded me a lot of the buddha head stuck in the Bodhi tree that we saw recently in Ayutthaya (Thailand). Before you can even see the mermaid, you will see the crowd of tourists surrounding her, trying to get a photograph of her. It was just hilarious to me. I enjoyed looking at the crowd more than the mermaid per say. The way they scrambled across the rocks, not the least bit concerned about falling into the water, just to get that photo with the Little Mermaid.
I waited and waited for a chance to take a photo of the mermaid without any companion. But it was just impossible at the time we were there. That lady in the green jacket? I suspect she never left the mermaid’s side even by the time our bicycle shop closed. Yes, I’m exaggerating, but probably not by much.
Ask around whether The Little Mermaid was worth visiting. One person will tell you it’s a must. Next person will tell you don’t bother. I will tell you, hop onto a sightseeing boat (something we did later on in the trip and I highly recommend) and it will take you there and you’ll see it. But don’t bother walking or cycling or taking other public transport all the way there just to see it. I wished I had gone up Frederick’s Church instead. But the lady in the green jacket gave me a good laugh with her 101 poses, so I guess it was all worthwhile.
And we were almost running out of time to get back to the bicycle shop! As we cycled back, we found ourselves cutting through Amalienborg Palace. Minus the crowd from the afternoon who were there for the Change of Guards Parade. So we just had to stop for a quick photo. I’m glad we made the stop, because this photo turned out to be one of my favourite photos from the entire two-weeks trip! You know, when we travel with kids, there will always be moments when we question why we are spending so much money and effort to bring them along? For me, having photos like these to look back upon makes it all worthwhile. I imagine when my kids are old, these are the memories that I will be happily living with. Okay fine, that’s just me being emo. Back to our cycling trip – we had to make it back before the bicycle shop closed!
And like Cinderella (too much Disney Cruise!), as the clock struck 5pm, we arrived back at the bicycle shop.
After returning the bikes, we just strolled along Stroget shopping street. It started raining (again), so we hid inside the famous LEGO shop at Stroget. Which kept the kids very well occupied until it was time for dinner. Check out these LEGO figures in the shop! What an apt ending to our cycling day tour of Copenhagen!