Denmark is one of the most cycle-friendly countries in the world, so it makes a great place to go bike touring.
That’s just what Patrick and Sandra – a husband and wife team from Britain – have done twice and they’re planning to return for a third Danish bike tour.
There are just too many nice landscapes to explore, although the wind can be a little challenging, as we learn in this week’s 10 Questions. You can read more of their Danish cycling experiences as well, through their two journals: Cycle Touring Round Denmark and A Cycle Tour In Denmark.
1. You’ve been cycling in Denmark twice and plan to return. What keeps you coming back?
We’ll return in 2011 to cycle a northern loop, having done a ‘middle loop’ in 2009 and a southern loop round the islands in 2010. But that’s really just an excuse to go there again, because the cycling is prefect. Denmark is a nation where the bicycle is part of daily life, and it shows in the way cyclists are treated with unfailing courtesy and in the superb cycling infrastructure. It’s also quiet and the landscape is beautiful, with big skies, well kept fields and forests, peaceful lakes, pretty villages, and an attractive and interesting coastline.
2. Denmark has one of the best reputations as a cycle-friendly country. Does it live up to that reputation, with bike paths and other facilities for cyclists?
Yes, it certainly does. You can cycle through towns and cities – including Copenhagen – without ever having to share the surface with motor vehicles, and throughout the countryside there’s the official network of national, regional, and local cycle routes, much of which is separated from the road. Junctions and roundabouts are cycle-friendly too, with priority for cyclists and a safe system of turning left (the equivalent of turning right in the UK).
3. Is there a favourite route you’d recommend?
Any route eastwards! Just joking. East is away from the prevailing wind and Denmark can be windy. Our best days have been cycling downwind across the lovely central island of Fyn, and along southern parts of Jutland and the island of Lolland. But Denmark is a fairly uniform country with no blackspots to avoid, so wind permitting, all routes are good.
We also like ferries, and there are plenty of those. A route that includes a ferry crossing is all the more enjoyable. Or a bridge – they have some fine bridges open to cyclists.
4. It’s not a big country. How long should a trip to Denmark be, at a minimum?
Actually, allowing for crossings between islands, it’s bigger than you think. Two weeks minimum. Unless you’re especially interested in Danish culture and history and plan to see monuments, galleries, and museums, that is also a maximum for one cycle tour. Our approach is to go there several times for two weeks each trip. Beautiful though it is, there isn’t so much variety. But of course, once your tour is finished, you want to go back!
5. What kind of budget should you plan on for bike touring in Denmark? Can you do it on the cheap (wild camping, for example)?
Wild camping is not allowed, but there are designated low-cost Nature Campsites for cyclists and walkers, with basic facilities only. We camped at commercially operated campsites approved by the Danish Camping Board. We also stayed at Danhostels and B&Bs. Depending on the standard you’re looking for, an average accommodation budget of 350-550 Danish crowns should be okay for two people.
Denmark is a rich, expensive country. Eating out isn’t cheap but there are good supermarkets, and of course there’s always Macdonald’s (open until late).
6. You experienced some wind and rain. Was this typical weather or did you just have bad luck?
We had beautiful weather in May 2009. This May’s coolness and occasional rain was untypical of what is one of the driest sunniest months of the year in Denmark, but wind is apparently a common feature of the weather all year round. We find a coolish climate is best for cycle touring. A daytime temperature of 16 degrees – typical in May – is perfect.
7. Aside from weather, were there any particular challenges that cyclists should be aware of?
Not really. Not challenges, as such. For a densely populated western nation, Denmark is very quiet and things tend to close early, or not open at all at weekends. You might arrive in a town in the evening, for example, and not find a place to eat, or even to stay, as reception at campsites and hostels is open only during certain hours. It’s also worth noting that Danhostels are often full when you wouldn’t expect it, as they take parties of schoolchildren and students, or travelling workers wanting a cheap place to stay. Campsites fill up with caravans on public holiday weekends. If possible, book in advance.
8. Were you able to communicate reasonably well, just speaking English, or should people learn a little Danish before going?
All younger people seem to speak good English. Not so with older ones, who sometimes don’t understand a single word of it. But this is never a problem and I doubt if it’s worth spending time learning any Danish before you go, unless you happen to be interested in languages. We found all Danish people we met to be very friendly, helpful, and polite.
9. Does Denmark have a special cuisine or any famous dishes to try? And was it always easy to find a supermarket for self-catering?
Denmark is supposed to be famous for its open sandwiches, called Smørrebrød. We’re not much into cuisine though. On bicycles we tend to prefer simple regular meals with plenty of fruit. The Danes seem to like fatty foods – burgers and Hot Dogs, for example – but you’ll get a quality meal for about 130-140 Danish Crowns in a decent restaurant. There aren’t many shops between towns. You might come across a filling station selling basic food and drink, or a small local Spar grocery, but not much else. Food-wise, Denmark doesn’t compare to France or Italy.
10. What’s one thing every cyclist going to Denmark should pack in their panniers?
Definitely not a high-security D-lock. A good book to read, probably. The summer evenings are long and the nightlife almost non-existent in most Danish towns. This happens to suit us perfectly.
Thanks to Patrick for answering the questions and supplying the photos.
Need more information? Check out these helpful resources for cycling in Denmark:
- CycleTourer – A great overview of practical considerations for cycling in Denmark.
- Cycling In Denmark – Official Danish tourist board resources for bike tourists.