The greenest way to see Denmark’s stellar architecture
Green and playful ways to see the best of Denmark’s world class museums and architecture as Copenhagen celebrates World Capital of Architecture 2023
In 2023, the capital of Denmark will be the World Capital of Architecture, honouring the city’s commitment to creating liveable, sustainable architecture along with its world-class architects. To celebrate, we’ve brought together a series of fun sustainable journeys exploring the most ground-breaking and sustainable architecture on display in Denmark’s museums and culture centres, by train and bike.
New for 2022, in a trial period running until June 2023, it is free to take a bike with you on a metro, harbour bus, S train and bus in the Copenhagen region; elsewhere in the country, it’s easy to take a bike with you on a train or bus, making getting around car-free and easy.
Join us on a trip around Denmark’s edgiest museums and culture hotspots, designed by stellar architects including Henning Larsen, Bjarke Ingels Group and Kengo Kuma, and discover underground treasures, museums of the future and all the fun of cycling in Denmark. None of these routes require you to wear lycra or cycle more than 15km (and most, far less); they’re the perfect option for the future-focused design-loving architecture fan that likes to feel the wind in their hair and the joy of the open road.
A design-led day in Copenhagen
Your day starts at the Danish Architecture Center, in the OMA-designed BLOX. It’s a great place to begin: this mixed-use waterfront urban space, which combines a cafe, gym, children’s playground and the museum itself, even has a bike path running underneath it. Its upcoming exhibition ‘Made in Denmark’ will introduce Danish architecture and the critical role it plays in everyday life when it opens in March 2023. Expect to see plenty about cycling architecture and the belief that cities should be liveable for all citizens.
Then step out on to the street to see it all in action. It’s a brief cycle to the Danish Jewish Museum, which has a dynamic Daniel Libeskind-designed entrance and adventurous design throughout, showcasing the intersecting stories and unfolding of Jewish culture through contemporary life. A short 10-minute cycle from here through the city and along its historic waterfront leads to Designmuseum Danmark, the recently reopened temple to design in all its forms in Denmark, set in a grand former hospital building dating back to 1926. Inside, discover Danish design classics from the likes of Arne Jacobsen and Verner Panton, along with challenging modern exhibitions about the future of design and where it will take us next.
What next for you, our cycling architecture fan? Biking along Copenhagen’s streets is a great way to get a design fix, whether you’re interested in contemporary architecture around the harbour, classic buildings on Bredgade and around the old town, or fashion and interior design in the many shops. Just a word of warning: don’t be so busy looking up and around that you forget to look at the road ahead…
Easy day trips from Copenhagen by train and bike
Getting out of the city is easy by bike: from Copenhagen central station it is a short train ride to Klampenborg Station. Then wind your way through the woods for around 10 minutes to find Ordrupgaard, a sensational art and outdoor sculpture gallery with a sweeping modern extension designed by Zaha Hadid in 2005 and a subterranean wing designed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta in 2021. The gardens hide an oversized toadstool, a mirrored glass maze and a nest-like play structure among other things, while the gallery itself holds one of the world’s finest private collections of French Impressionism.
Also easily accessed by train and bike from Copenhagen Central Station, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is one of the city’s most celebrated art galleries, set in Humlebæk in beautiful grounds overlooking the Øresund Strait. It’s certainly a benefit to arrive by bike: the gallery is a 15-minute walk from the nearest station. Leave at least half a day to explore the wonderful spaces and international collection, which includes works by Kusama, Giacometti, Yves Klein, David Hockney and many more.
A few stops further up the coast, Helsingør plays host to the Bjarke Ingels Group-designed MS Maritime Museum of Denmark, an ingenious boat-shaped museum hidden below ground in the former dry dock of the seafaring town. Discover the undersea story of Denmark’s seafarers and get close to Bjarke Ingels’ vision in the BIG Dock exhibition, all about the thoughts, vision and creative process behind the space.
Finally, fall into Denmark’s fairytale museum in Odense. Denmark’s third largest city, Odense, is easy to reach by train in just 1 hour 10 minutes from Copenhagen Central Station. From the station it’s an easy cycle along charming cobbled streets, setting the perfect mood in which to reach Kengo Kuma’s celebrated H.C. Andersen House. This delightful museum has interactive stories from Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved fairy tales to explore, from the Emperor’s New Clothes to the Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid and The Princess and The Pea.
Jutland by bike and train
Architectural museum exploration in Jutland takes you on a time travelling route through the Second World War and around one of the country’s UNESCO heritage sites. It’s certainly a ride to remember.
New in Jutland in 2022, the Bjarke Ingels Group-designed Flugt - Refugee Museum of Denmark examines the history of refugees in the world’s first museum of refugeedom, housed in a former refugee hospital in Oksbøl. It couldn’t be more relevant today, with exhibitions asking questions about what home means, and highlighting stories of refugees from countries such as Germany, Hungary, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Syria. From Oksbøl station, it’s an easy 2km/ 10 minute cycle away.
Tirpitz, an award-winning museum about the Second World War housed in a former WWII bunker, is also reachable by bike from the same station and is around 15km away, giving you the chance to do a BIG double header in one day. The imaginative reuse of the building brings the stories buried in the sand to life, with light-filled underground spaces contrasting the dramatic stories of war with the peaceful dune-backed surroundings.
Modern art fans and design lovers alike are able to tackle an easy 4km-cycle ride from Kolding station to discover Trapholt Museum. This one-of-a-kind gallery includes a sculpture park and Arne Jacobsen’s summer house, a modular shape designed around cube-shaped modules with Arne Jacobsen interior design inside. The architect-designer’s radical take on modern living is something of a hidden secret only recently made available for the public to visit.
Feel the wind in your hair at the Wadden Sea Center on Jutland’s south west coast, as you cycle and walk the windswept sandy beaches nearby. Dorte Mandrup’s astonishing building is both the gateway to the area’s UNESCO-World Heritage Site and a celebration of natural shapes and traditional craftsmanship, complete with a fully modernised thatched roof. It’s a beautiful 30-minute cycle ride from Ribe central station to the nature centre through its protected landscape.
Aalborg & North Jutland by bike and train
Aalborg is easy to navigate by bike. The city is North Jutland’s undisputed architectural hotspot, and the home to Jørn Utzon, architect of the Sydney Opera House. His great work turns 50 in 2023. Celebrate at the Utzon Center, a hub of design, architecture and culture in the city, where an exhibition about Danish summer house architecture runs until late January 2023. Weekend workshops in the space include building new worlds with LEGO, Minecraft and virtual reality.
A short stroll or even shorter cycle ride away, the House of Music by Coop Himmelb(l)au, FRIIS & MOLTKE is a stunning school/concert hall. Opened in 2014, the playful angled exterior stakes a claim as a visionary space where creativity can run wild.
Kunsten, a modern art museum designed by Alvar Aalto, completes the trio of must-see buildings in the city. The Finnish design master created a space here with white marble details along with ash, copper and brass. It’s all surrounded by a sculpture park. Until April 2023, the gallery is showing About Hill, an exhibition by two of the most significant contemporary Nordic artists, Tal R and Mamma Andersson.
Aarhus by bike and train
Two of the key attractions for architecture and design lovers in Denmark’s second city are just a short bike ride away from each other in Denmark’s second city. ARoS, including its show stopping rainbow-topping walkway, My Rainbow Panorama, by Danish-Icelandic architect-designer Olafur Eliasson is an absolute must-visit for architecture fans, and anyone who likes to take a fun selfie. An undemanding ride away you’ll find Den Gamle By, a recreation of the city in years gone by, which showcases Danish architecture from 1864, 1927 and 1974, documenting a shift in lifestyles and design through the years.
Adding a little more fun to the idea of sustainable architecture fans, Moesgaard Museum, a world-class anthropology museum, is a lovely 8 km / 30 minutes cycle right of the city along the coast and through a lush forest. The museum was designed by Henning Larsen architects and includes a striking turf roof used as a toboggan run in the winter. In Denmark, The Land of Everyday Wonder, the playful is never far behind…
- Copenhagen is UNESCO World Architecture Capital in 2023
- A wide array of architecturally-distinct museums and culture centres are accessible by train + bike in Denmark
- Self-guided tours are easy to arrange; train tickets can be bought online at DOT for the Copenhagen area and DSB for the rest of Denmark.
- The Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, turns 50 in 2023
- The Refugee Museum of Denmark, designed by BIG architects, opened in June 2022
- Design Museum Danmark reopened after a full scale refurbishment in June 2022.
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