The ancient heartland of the Viking kingdoms and one of the undisputed jewels of the continent, Denmark bridges the cultural and geographical gap between northern Europe and Scandinavia. Here, we delve into ancient burial sites and sophisticated, design-mad cities alike, to bring would-be travelers to the land of the Danes a selection of the top, must-see spots in the country.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Denmark:
Cool, calm and sophisticated, Copenhagen is every inch a 21st-century Scandinavian capital. It can be found facing Malmo across the Oresund Strait, rising against the rollers of the Baltic Sea in a patchwork of red-tiled medieval roofs and uber-modern new builds. It is home to more than one million Danes and hosts neighbourhoods like Vesterbro and Christianshavn, where chic cafes abut restaurants like Noma (oft hailed as the single greatest fine-dining joint in the world!). Right at the heart of the capital stands the enchanting Indre By; a web of narrow streets and alleyways where the formidable Rundetarn tower and the ancient fortifications of Slotsholmen stand tall, and the Tivoli Gardens throb with energy and life. In short: there’s never a dull moment in this truly bucket-list metropolis!
2. Faroe Islands
Rising like hulking, petrified rocks where the Norwegian Sea fuses with the North, the Faroe Islands are the stuff of legends. Their coastlines are dramatic in the extreme; chiselled and sheer-cut, carved by crashing waterfalls and topped with a layer of verdant green grass. The Northern Lights shimmer in the sky, while the timber towns and hamlets below hide rowdy fisherman’s taverns and pubs that tick over to the trademark local folk shanties. While only half-in and half-out of Denmark (the Faroe’s are self-governing), these otherworldly and far-flung islands rarely fail to draw a gasp!
3. The Danish Riviera
Running the length of the island of Zealand’s northern coast, the so-called Danish Riviera is home to some of the finest beach resorts in all of Scandinavia. Particularly popular are the castle towns of Helsingor and Hillerod, which play host to the majestic Kronborg Castle (the stomping ground of Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet no less) and the elegant Renaissance Frederiksborg Palace respectively. Beach wise, Gilleleje and Hornbaek take the biscuit with their yellow stretches of sun-splashed sand, backed by undulating dunes and colourful beds of roses. And then there are the coastal forests, headed by the primeval beech groves of Gribskov (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the much younger Scots pines of Tisvilde.
The urban jewel in the touristic line-up of Funen Island, Odense is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. However, there’s much more to this quaint and charming town than its honorific exhibitions and monuments to arguably the greatest fairy tale teller of all time (and there are plenty of these!). Yes sir, there are the gorgeous turrets and moats of Egeskov Castle, the looming Knuds Kirke and the sepulchre of King Canute himself, street upon street of elegant low-rise Scandinavian homes, cobbled squares in the old quarter and creaking timber windmills on the edge of town. What’s more, a lively university scene and countless cafes add a dash of energy and nightlife to the mix, while Odense Zoo remains the best in the country.
Resplendent Skagen, its rows of terracotta-roofed houses and painted timber buildings, glows against the deep blue-grey of the North Sea. A magnet for painters and poets over the years, Denmark’s northernmost town is famed for its fresh air and postcard location between the Jutland beaches and the dunes. One aged lighthouse stands as testimony to the town’s long held connection to the sea, while oodles of glass, pottery and craft boutiques along the beachfront rows and Sankt Laurentii Vej street have cemented Skagen as a town for artsy types and freethinkers.
Thanks to its namesake rock and pop festival that booms on the fields to the south of Roskilde each year in June and July, this Zealand city has become almost synonymous with hedonism. However, even if you don’t head in to pitch the tent and party, Roskilde has plenty on the menu. For one, the town boasts an uber-long history that has its roots in the pagan age of the Vikings, while the old quarter at the heart of the city comes adorned with one seriously gorgeous UNESCO cathedral, the ochre facades of the Roskilde Palace, the acclaimed Viking Ship Museum on the edge of the Roskilde Fjord, a clutch of haunting stone churches from the Middle Ages and a welcoming population of students that ebbs and flows with the local university’s terms.
7. Skjoldungernes Land National Park
A relatively recent addition to Denmark’s line-up of national parks, the Skjoldungernes Land is a fascinating and beautiful area that encompasses sections of Frederikssund, Roskilde and Lejre in the very heart of Zealand. It’s famed for its eerie Viking burial mounds, which bubble up unexpectedly from the rolling meadows and grassy hills here as a testimony to the onetime dominion of the Iron Age King Skjold. The most famous of these ancient sepulchres can be found around the town of Lejre, which sits enfolded in enchanting swaths of beech forest and decorated with the pretty Baroque faces and manicured gardens of the Ledreborg Palace to boot.
Denmark’s second city makes its home on the edge of the Kattegat Sea, and sits enfolded by the wild forests of Djursland. A town that’s always on the up, Aarhus throbs with culture and heritage. Museums like the ARoS and the Den Gamle By (one of the largest open air exhibitions in the country) draw in big crowds, while the old centre of half-timbered homes and Germanic municipal buildings is perfect for strolling and indulging in café culture. Meanwhile, interesting boutiques showcase the town’s indelible creativity on Stroget shopping street, and the emporiums and tea houses of the Latin Quarter are almost irresistible. And that’s not even mentioning the electric nightlife, led by the massive student population during term times!
9. Thy National Park
Spread out over more than 240 square kilometers on the windward tip of Jutland, the untrodden Thy National Park is a place which still holds true to Scandinavia’s reputation for wild landscapes and untouched natural beauty. Between its borders, the reserve encompasses undulating dashes of heath and bog, coastal dunes dressed is tawny sea grasses, sporadic pockets of conifer forest and the occasional bucolic hamlet set to the sound of the northern rollers. Hiking and biking are two of the top activities here, and travelers eager to delve into the park can now make use of countless kilometers of maintained trails.
Nestled in the coastal join between the Jutland Peninsula and the pretty island of Funen, Fredericia began life as a purpose-built fortified town to protect Danish lands in the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War. Today and this conflict-ridden past still oozes out of every gate and bulwark that make up the encircling city walls, while monuments like The Foot Soldier stand as testimony to Fredericia’s continued strategic importance right up until the start of the modern age. And if you’re not into your military history, there’s also one seriously gorgeous stretch of sand to be found at the city’s Eastern Beach, along with pretty Palsgaard Lake, a clutch of earthy Jutland taverns and oodles, oodles more.
Set right in the heart of the Jutland Peninsula, tiny little Billund is really known for one thing and one thing only: Lego. Started here in the early 1900s by the Danish entrepreneur Ole Kirk Christiansen, the global brand still informs the local way of life. On the edge of town is where travelers will discover the Lego factory, while the piece de resistance is surely the famed Legoland Billund theme park, where the likes of the adrenaline-pumping Dragon coaster, the Polar X-plorer, Duplo Land and Danish-inspired Vikings River Splash all draw up to a whopping two million visitors a year!
Stranded on its own betwixt the icy rollers of the Baltic Sea, the island of Bornholm is a laid-back place where travelers can seek out salt-washed fishing villages, rugged seascapes complete with chiselled granite cliffs, Scandinavian timber towns, deep forests and anthropomorphic monoliths protruding from the ocean. In the north, the gorgeous Hammeren Peninsula is a favourite amongst walkers, boasting windswept cliffs and undulating farm fields, stone churches and beautiful lighthouses to boot. Wide Dueodde beach also draws a crowd, while the gorges and forests of Almindingen are watched over by European honey buzzards and white-tailed eagles. In short, this one’s perhaps Denmark’s prettiest natural enclave!
Picture-perfect Ribe hails in as Denmark’s oldest town. Its roots go all the way back to the 9th century, and its sloping cobbled streets and narrow alleyways, ice-cream coloured cottages and wobbly web of red-brick buildings stand as testimony to a past that’s wrapped up in tales of the Vikings and a medieval merchant boom. At the town’s heart rises the majestic spires and towers of the Ribe Cathedral; a veritable palimpsest of architectural styles that’s said to be one of the most elegant Romanesque constructions in the country. And once the history and heritage is done and dusted, Ribe’s array of excellent restaurants and bespoke beer and sweet shops await. Nice.
Sprawled out over the banks of the pretty Limfjord Sound, Aalborg is a post-industrial centre with a difference. Its urban heart is decorated with a series of famous half-timbered mansions, while students flock to the city universities during term time and bring a lively, youthful vibe in tow, adding a ceaseless chatter to the waterfront promenade and sleepless energy to the meanders of Jomfru Ane Gade (the longest party street in all of Scandinavia if you believe the locals). Aalborg is also known for its curious yearly carnival; one of the largest in northern Europe, when the folk of Jutland flood the streets with fancy dress, music and beer-fuelled festivities.
Perfect for travelers eager to glimpse the timeless, sleepy side of uber-pretty Funen Island, Kerteminde offers a quaint array of timbered homes and winding cobblestone streets. The centre of the town has changed little since the late Middle Ages, despite the appearance of a few enticing coffee joints and restaurants, while fantastic exhibitions like the Ladby Viking ship and the home of famous national painter Johannes Larsen add just a dash of ancient history and culture into the mix. Others will head to Kerteminde on route to the windswept reaches of Romso Island out at sea, where some of Denmark’s most remote natural landscapes await in all their rugged glory!