Denmark offers diverse activities, from island-hopping cycling adventures to Lake District canoeing. The sea, never far away, offers fishing, sailing and wind- and-kitesurfing, while hiking trails are abundant. The cycling opportunities are outstanding, with more than 12,000km of signposted cycle routes, most of which traverse relatively quiet country roads.
Denmark is a superb country for cyclists, with more than 12,000km of signposted cycle routes and relatively quiet country roads that wend through attractive, gently undulating landscapes.
As well as the Danes’ use of cycling as a widespread means of commuting, you’ll also see locals (and tourists) enjoying cycling holidays. The big draw for touring cyclists are the 11 national routes, which are in excellent condition, but there are oodles of regional and local routes to get you pedalling. The routes are well suited to recreational cyclists, including families with children.
Danish cyclists enjoy rights that, in most other countries, are reserved for motorists. There are bicycle lanes along major city roads and through central areas; road signs are posted for bicycle traffic, and bicycle racks can be found at grocery shops, museums, train stations and many other public places. Overall, cyclists and drivers coexist remarkably well.
When bicycle touring, accommodation is easy to find, be it at a small country inn or camping ground. One advantage of Denmark’s small scale is that you’re never far from a bed and a hot shower.
For quality rental bikes, Copenhagen and Aarhus are your best starting points, but you can generally rent bikes in every town – enquire locally. Note: you are not legally required to wear a helmet. Bikes are allowed on most trains, some buses and all ferries.
Signs along cycling routes are blue, with a white bike symbol. Note that many routes criss-cross each other, so it's possible to combine routes.
- National routes White route number in a red square. North–south routes have uneven numbers; east–west routes are even. There are two circular routes (10 and 12).
- Regional routes White route number on a blue background, with numbers 16 to 99.
- Local routes White route number on a blue background, with numbers 100 to 999.
Denmark’s Cycling Routes
Vestkystruten (West Coast Route)
560km (70% sealed)
Begins in Rudbøl (by the German border) and runs to Skagen along the windswept west coast of Jutland, taking in sandy beaches, tidal flats and dunes. See also www.northseacycleroute.dk.
420km (80% sealed)
Begins in the north Jutland fishing port of Hanstholm and runs southeast across central Jutland to Ebeltoft. The Ebeltoft–Odden ferry allows you to pick up the route again through northern Zealand to Copenhagen.
Hærvejsruten (Hærvej Route)
450km (78% sealed)
Heads from Skagen along the backbone of Jutland to Padborg on the German border. From Viborg it follows the Hærvej, an ancient trackway. See also www.haervej.dk.
310km (90% sealed)
Runs from Søndervig on the west Jutland coast, east to Hou, then by ferry (via Samsø) across to Kalundborg, and east across Zealand to finish in Copenhagen.
Østkystruten (East Coast Route)
650km (90% sealed)
The longest route begins in Skagen and runs the length of Jutland, hugging the east coast to finish at Sønderborg.
330km (92% sealed)
Begins in Esbjerg and runs east through Funen and Zealand to finish in Copenhagen. Note: cyclists are not permitted on the 18km Storebælt bridge linking Funen and Zealand; you will need to take a train.
240km (90% sealed)
A family-friendly route that begins at Odden in northwest Zealand and travels south through north Falster and Lolland to end at Rødbyhavn.
Sydhavsruten (South Sea Route)
360km (95% sealed)
This trail sweeps across southern Denmark and requires a couple of island-hops. It begins in Rudbøl, traverses Jutland to Als, crosses to southern Funen, Langeland, Lolland, Falster and ends at Møns Klint.
290km (92% sealed)
This route has links with Sweden and Germany thanks to ferry connections at its start (Helsingør) and end (Gedser) points. It follows the east coast of Zealand before tracking south through Møn and Falster.
Bornholm Rundt (Around Bornholm)
105km (90% sealed)
Bornholm is an idyllic island encircled by a popular cycling route.
Limfjordsruten (Limfjord Route)
610km (90% sealed)
The route hugs both sides of the Limfjord in northern Jutland, from the Kattegat to the North Sea. Ferry and bridge ‘shortcuts’ across the fjord are possible.
*Note: there is no route 11.
Planning & Resources
The best way to tour Denmark by bike is by grabbing a map and planning it yourself. Tours are also available and are well run, although they tend to be rather pricey.
For planning, a great resource is the Cyclistic website (http://cyclistic.dk/en/). The best planning overview map is the Cycling Map of Denmark (95kr), a 1:500,000-scale map that shows all the national routes. (Note that it’s useful for general planning, but not detailed enough to use on the trail.)
You can view a digital map of Denmark’s cycle routes on the Danish Road Directorate’s website (www.vejdirektoratet.dk), and download routes to GPS and your phone from www.denmarkbybike.dk. Visit Denmark produces the Bike & Stay app in four languages (Danish, English, Dutch and German). I Bike CPH is an app produced by the City of Copenhagen.
A newly updated series of eight cycle touring maps have been produced, which together cover all of Denmark. These are detailed 1:100,000 maps, accompanied by booklets detailing accommodation, sights and other local information. The maps are in Danish, German and English, cost around 149kr, and are available at tourist offices or online via the Danish Cycling Federation, Dansk Cyklist Forbund (its shop is at www.1905.dk).
Cyclistic (http://cyclistic.dk/en/) Fabulous resource, combining route-finding for cyclists with attractions and practical information along the way (sights, accommodation, food etc).
Cycling Embassy of Denmark (www.cycling-embassy.dk) Has great info on cycling culture and some cool stats too – for example, nine out of 10 Danes own a bicycle, and 75% of bicycle traffic continues through the winter.
Dansk Cyklist Forbund (www.cyklistforbundet.dk) Website of the Danish Cycling Federation, with a helpful compilation of info and links.
Denmark by Bike (www.denmarkbybike.dk) Lots of assembled info: long and short routes, map recommendations, advice for families.
Visit Denmark (www.visitdenmark.com/cycling) A good starting point, with loads of useful information on its cycling-dedicated pages (including cycling with kids). It outlines 26 great 'panorama cycling routes' of 15km to 40km length, broken into east coast and west coast Denmark. Download its Bike & Stay app.
Out in the Baltic, the magical island of Bornholm is ideal for exploring by bike. Some 235km of bike trails cover main roads, extensive forests, former train routes and fine sandy beaches. There are picturesque coastal hamlets, medieval round churches and top-notch museums, and the excellent local food and drink are a great reward for pedalling.
Consider burning some calories from Gudhjem to Østermarie and on to Svaneke, stopping at shops producing chocolates, toffees and sweets; smokehouses; farm shops; a super cake cafe and a microbrewery.
The island's tourist offices stock a free cycling booklet, outlining routes of varying difficulty across the island.
‘Tis the Season
If you’re thinking about visiting Denmark to partake of the outdoors, it’s worth bearing in mind a few things. There’s an old joke that Denmark has two winters – a green one and a white one – but that is rather unkind. While it’s true the weather can be fickle, the summer season most reliably runs from mid-June to mid-August. That’s when there are enough travellers around to ensure regular departures of boat cruises or frequent schedules of windsurfing classes etc, and hence there’s a wider range of activity options during this two-month window. Depending on weather and demand, however, many operators may open in May and remain open until mid/late September.
And in winter…? Denmark is not a destination for winter-sports enthusiasts. The country’s highest post is a trifling 171m. That’s not to say that Danes don’t love (or excel at) snowbound activity – it’s just that many of them head north to Norway to engage in it.
Although the water temperature would worry even brass monkeys most of the year, enjoyable seaside swimming can be had in the warmer months (July and August). The quality of the beaches is outstanding as the majority have clean water, silky sand and plenty of room.
Generally speaking the Baltic waters (east coast) will be a degree or two warmer than those of the North Sea (west coast). If you’re swimming on the west coast of Jutland, caution needs to be taken with currents and undertows; otherwise the waters are generally calm and child-friendly.
Aside from the miles of beaches (no place in Denmark is more than 52km from the coast), most towns have a family-focused aqua centre with heated pool – look for the svømmehal (swimming hall). These are becoming more grandiose, offering plenty of ways to wrinkle your skin (water slides, jacuzzis, saunas, kids’ play area, day spas).
There are also summertime water parks – incredibly popular are the aqua playlands of Lalandia, at Billund and Lolland, and Sommerland, attached to amusement parks at Fårup, near Løkken, and Djursland.
Our writers have travelled the length and breadth of Denmark to bring you their favourite spots to take a dip.
Copenhagen (Islands Brygge) Not technically a beach, but slap-bang in Copenhagen’s main canal, this designer outdoor pool comes with downtown views and delectable eye candy.
Zealand (Tisvildeleje) Sandbars, shallows and chic hotels on Zealand’s north-coast ‘riviera’.
Møn, Falster & Lolland (Marielyst, Falster) Endless sandy beaches and a family-friendly holiday vibe.
Bornholm (Dueodde) Soft endless sand, epic skies and a forest backdrop.
Funen (Vesterstrand, Ærø) Swim and/or sunset-watch among the brightly painted bathing huts outside Ærøskøbing.
Southern Jutland (Rømø) Miles of west-coast emptiness, plus hair-raising speed-machine activities down south.
Central Jutland (Hvide Sande) Colourful wind- and kitesurfers harnessing the North Sea wind.
Northern Jutland (Skagen) Wild winds and shifting sands to the west, calm family-friendly waters to the east, and everywhere are the blue hues that have inspired many artists.
The wild winds of Jutland’s west coast have gained plenty of attention from windsurfers and kitesurfers, and the consistently good conditions attract many European enthusiasts to Klitmøller (aka 'Cold Hawaii', a nickname we love) and Hvide Sande.
Not only do these towns hold numerous contests each year, but they have great options for all skill levels. Experts can carve up the wild North Sea breakers, while beginners can master the basics on the inland fjords.
At both Klitmøller and Hvide Sande, outfits offer gear rental and lessons in windsurfing and kitesurfing. There are other water sports on offer, too – surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. At Hvide Sande there’s also a cool waterskiing course, which skiers navigate using cable rope-tows.
Other summer strands have fun options – you can learn to surf at Løkken, and sign up for courses to harness the wind in kites and sails at places like Hornbæk in northern Zealand, Balka on Bornholm, Marielyst on Falster and Sønderstrand on Rømø.
Canoeing & Kayaking
Canoeists and kayakers can paddle the extensive coastline and fjords or the rivers and lakes. White water is about the only thing that’s missing in mountain-free Denmark.
The country’s best canoeing and kayaking can be experienced along the rivers Gudenå (in Jutland) and Suså (in Zealand). The idyllic forests and gentle waterways of central Jutland’s prized Lake District are perfect for cycling, rambling and, especially, canoeing – multiday canoeing-and-camping adventures are possible here. You can hire canoes and equipment in Silkeborg. The lakes are generally undemanding as far as water conditions go, although some previous experience is an advantage.
Canoeing the small coves, bays and peninsulas of several Danish fjords is also an option, including Limfjorden in northern Jutland and the fjords of Zealand: Roskilde Fjord, Holbæk Fjord and Isefjord.
Denmark’s long (7314km) and varied coastline and 406 islands are made for sailing, something the Danes embrace enthusiastically.
The island-speckled, sheltered cruising area between Jutland’s east coast and Sweden is very popular. The mixture of sea, calmer inshore waters and still fjords, combined with scores of pretty, cobbled and often historic harbours (more than 350 marinas) makes sailing a perfect way to explore the country. Yachts and motorboats equipped with all the necessary safety, living and navigational equipment can be hired – prices vary considerably by season and size of craft.
Charter a yacht through Scancharter (www.scancharter.com) or JIM Søferie (www.jim-soeferie.dk). The latter website also has a few tour suggestions. If hiring your own craft sounds too much like hard work, major towns along Funen’s southern coast offer sailing cruises around the islands of the South Funen Archipelago. Svendborg is an excellent yachting hub.
There’s not much wilderness in wee Denmark (especially in comparison to its larger, more mountain-endowed neighbours), and walking or hiking is not as widespread a phenomenon as cycling. But rambling is popular nonetheless, and all local tourist offices will be able to point you in the direction of a local area with walking trails.
In Jutland, there are some picturesque trails through the forested Rold Skov area, the Mols Bjerge and Thy National Parks, and the bucolic Lake District.
The 220km Øhavssti (Archipelago Trail) is a long-distance walking trail spanning Funen and the islands to its south. It snakes its way from west to east Funen along the southern coast, then traverses northern Langeland. It concludes with a delightful 36km stretch across Ærø’s countryside.
An increasing number of hikers are heading to Møn to walk the well-organised network of trails known as Camønoen (www.camoenoen.dk), a pun on Spain's Camino de Santiago.
Shorter walks at or around scenic landmarks include the base of the chalk cliffs at Møns Klint; along the coast at Stevns Klint; to Grenen sand spit, Denmark's northernmost point; along Hammeren's heather-lined trails at the northern tip of Bornholm; and in the forests around 147m Himmelbjerget, one of Denmark's highest peaks.