Streets ahead: a running tour of Copenhagen

Pressed for time but eager to sightsee, Chris Peacock sets out on a running tour Friday, 11 March 2016

By Chris Peacock

“I can see you're a good runner,” says a wiry, Lycra-clad Jen as he sizes me up for our early morning run. Jen's looking pumped and raring to go, so I wonder if I'll be able to keep up, but he assures me we'll be taking it easy today. He's the one who'll have to run and talk for nearly 10km without losing breath.

I've met Jen outside the Danish Parliament to join a running tour of Copenhagen, one of the most rewarding and healthy ways to explore the city. Running Copenhagen was founded by Lena Andersson, and its concept is simple: combining sightseeing, local knowledge and exercise. Instead of ambling around town or being trapped on a tour bus, you run.

After jogging with a friend in Vienna a few years back, Lena realised a city's best stories always come from the people living there. Inspired by the idea of running tours, Lena set up Running Copenhagen, and now has a team of guides taking groups or individuals on runs around the city's main attractions. The concept has caught on with visitors as it offers a pavement-eye view of the city with the bonus of being environmentally friendly and healthy.

Jen's keen to get going, so we kick off on a route that'll take us past Copenhagen's set-piece sights such as Christiansborg Slot, the Nyhavn waterfront, Amalienborg Palace, the Little Mermaid and Rosenborg Castle, while also taking in the city's charming harbour, canals and parks.

As we pound the pavement, Jen offers handy sound-bite commentary and anecdotes on passing sights such as the brightly coloured gabled houses of the Nyhavn quayside where a certain Hans Christian Anderson used to hang out. Further on we come to Amalienborg, the Danish royal family's winter home since 1794, where four rococo palaces face each other around a cobbled square and you're able to peer right into the palace windows.

With much of the city centre pedestrianised and few cars — strict anti-pollution laws mean bikes are prevalent — together with plenty of green spaces and waterways, it's clear to see why Copenhagen is lauded as one of Europe's greenest capitals. And apart from the few crowds mingling at the Little Mermaid, it's blissfully free of human traffic, allowing Jen and I to stride along the harbour-front without dodging throngs of people.

After a brief glimpse of the Little Mermaid's bronze form, we dash past the star-shaped Kastellet fortress, trot through the beautiful Østre Anlæg park and jog around Rosenborg Castle, a fine red-brick renaissance palace housing the Danish Crown Jewels, before taking in the Church of Our Lady cathedral, City Hall and returning back to Christiansborg Slot.

It's surprising just how much of the city we've covered in little under an hour, and thanks to Jens' insider tips, I know exactly which places I want to revisit and delve into more — without the Lycra perhaps.

Essentials

Best for: City breakers short on time who want to cover all the main sights.
Ideal time to go: Spring and summer to catch Copenhagen in its best light.
Fitness level: Copenhagen's streets are safe and flat, and suit everyone from slow joggers to speedy runners.
Try: On hot days — and even in winter — Copenhageners swim in the perfectly clean harbour baths, ideal after a brisk city run.
Insider secret: Fuel up at the gourmet food hall of Torvehallerne by Nørreport station. Try the superb duck confit baguette at Ma Poule.
Details: A private 10km tour with Running Copenhagen costs from DKK300 (£28). running-copenhagen.dk

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Published in National Geographic Traveller – The Spa & Wellness Collection 2016

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