Den Grønne Sti: walking from Frederiksberg to Valby

Amid the cacophony about cycling in Copenhagen there is a handful of innovative facilities for walking as a way of getting around. Den Grønne Sti (green path), also known as Nørrebroruten, is a handy way of cutting across Copenhagen’s tiresome topography from outer Nørrebro to Frederiksberg and on to Valby. Started as a pilot project in 2008, Nørrebroruten is 9km long, part of a 40km network of green (cycle) paths to be completed some day soon.

The path starts at Lyngbyvej in Bispebjerg and ends at Valby Langgade. Copenhagen Green states almost as an afterthought that “pedestrians are allowed to use the route too”, thanks guys, and bigs up mainly the northern section. Here’s a look at the southwestern section, following parts of the old railway line through Frederiksberg to Valby. Signage isn’t fantastic – a couple of times I had to retrace my steps to relocate the path after crossing a road, but for most of the stretch it’s a pleasant stroll. OpenStreetMap’s route plan shows clearly how the path opens up new routes from a to b across the city.

Start at Kejserinde Dagmars Plads, just across the road from Frederiksberg Centret and the metro. Kejserinde Dagmar, aka Tsarina Maria Feodorovna and mother of the last tsar, was daughter of Christian IX of Denmark (the father in law of Europe) and younger sister of Britain’s Queen Alexandra. Seemingly a feisty pair.

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Cross the road and walk across the windswept plains of Copenhagen Business School’s campus (update: redevelopment afoot), complete with pampas grass.

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A bit of a dogleg at Finsensvej brings you to a bicycle counter…

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…and a nice wooded stretch. The path was initially designed for commuters, but on a Saturday afternoon there were dogwalkers, people carrying their shopping home, etc. But let’s just enjoy the autumn colours.

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HF Dalgas (usually translated as allotments, but with permanent structures allowed and running water for six months of the year many people use their plots as quasi summer houses) offers some great photo opportunities…

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…with some reasonably successful new developments the other side of the path.

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At this point the path runs alongside Solbjerg Parkkirkegård, dating from 1865. One of Denmark’s biggest graveyards at 18 hectares, it’s to be turned into a park by 2050, the result of changing burial fashions.

A rather larger dog leg at Roskildevej (a labrador rather than a beagle, maybe) and under the railway bridge brings you to Domus Vista, completed in 1969 and until 2005 the tallest residential structure in Scandinavia. Now in need of the same level of TLC being lavished on all those new developments.

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Leaving Frederiksberg and walking across the aktuell if underwhelming Monrads Plads (DG Monrad is the anti-hero in DR’s current blockbusting 1864) and you are on Valby Langgade. Turn left for Langgade S tog station on Herman Bangs Plads with its new street art, courtesy of Områdefornyelsen Gammel Valby and Statens Kunstfond.

Now clearly this only works when it’s dark (see pics in Magasinetkbh’s article), but Søren Ulrik Thomsen’s poem regn søvn blå kys from his 1982 collection Ukendt under den samme måne is displayed on that building in neon, part of the Valby Fortællinger gable art project. The word blå (blue) is in blue. Søren Ulrik sounds like a good egg – in an article in Politiken about the opening he says “there should be traffic, so you can get the city buzz. Lots of traffic, on different levels and going in different directions.”

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Copenhagen’s graveyards

Updates…April 2014: the fab Slow Travel Berlin has just come up with a tour of Berlin’s cemeteries – rather more to work with there, but still, should revisit…Oct 2015; see photos of Mariebjerg Kirkegård (1926-33) in Gentofte, an example of Modernist landscape architecture and part of Denmark’s ‘cultural canon’…Nov 2015: Cathays Cemetery heritage walks and podcasts…March 2016: CPH’s graveyards – places for grief or recreation?

Most cemeteries in Denmark are managed by the Folkekirke, but 11 kommuner run their own, and Copenhagen manages five (plus two crematoria):

Guided tours led by leather jacketed kirkegårdsvejleder Stine Helweg are on offer during the summer. I went on a Kierkegaard walk on 11 September – this is what it is, a tour of a cemetery is probably never going to be very dynamic. Stine’s style tends to the deadpan and self effacing, with facts complemented by readings.

Assistens Kirkegård

Although Vestre Kirkegård is the biggest of the five it doesn’t attract the most attention – Assistens Kirkegård has the graves of two internationally famous Danes, plus the unique Kuturcentret Assistens, which offers a range of activities. It’s also part of the European Cemeteries Route.

Two Sunday afternoon tours on offer during the summer:

  • Den fortællende have – cultural geographer Christopher Jørgensen on people and events from the history of the cemetery (suspect same style as Stine above, but for DK 50)
  • Digterruten på Assistens – street poet Christian Kronmann borrows the voices of writers and poets, they lend their words (not for me)

See also the map, with four different routes around famous graves, plus the inevitable patchy blog and Facebook page.

Also used as a park in inner city Nørrebro – dogs on lead only! Building going on due to the metro – not sure of long term impact (here’s a 2017 update).

Update, May 2014: the graveyard has just been listed. The process caused a certain amount of controversy and debate around how to maintain a balance between preservation and progress, the old fashioned and the modern. (Did anyone say metaphor?) The listing has put a stop to a proposed super cycle path and should ensure that no more graves are moved to accommodate the new metro station, and that more voices are heard when any further alterations to the 1989 plan for the area are proposed. Plus there’s Captain Irishman.