The smallest of the four Scandinavian countries, Denmark nonetheless packs a powerful cultural punch and is home to what is arguably Europe’s loveliest capital city in Copenhagen. Away from the cities, it boasts deserted golden beaches, a smorgasbord of rugged Viking monuments and charming market towns.
Most cities and towns have comprehensive public transport systems, among them Copenhagen – a city also famous for its network of bike rental stations. Although there’s no shortage of intercity trains, getting to the furthest reaches of northern Denmark is easier by road, although it is possible to fly between Copenhagen, Billund, Aarhus and Aalborg.
Cool Copenhagen might be the main draw but for all that, there’s no shortage of things to do elsewhere. A visit to Denmark wouldn’t be complete, however, without stopping off in the capital – even if time is short and limited to a swirl around pretty Nyhavn. Longer trips to Copenhagen should include a stroll along cobbled shopping street Stroget from the Amalienborg Palace to the City Hall, with visits to multicultural Norrebro and chic Frederiksberg squeezed in.
A short drive from Copenhagen is the old capital Roskilde, which boasts a striking UNESCO-listed mediaeval cathedral, as well as a Viking museum that houses a pair of impressively well-preserved ships. Off Zealand, the main Jutland peninsula has ancient monuments of its own – not least Royal Jelling; Denmark’s Viking answer to Stonehenge. Billund, although not especially lovely in itself, is home to the country’s most popular attraction, Legoland, while pretty surrounding towns such as Vejle and Silkeborg are wonderful for walkers.
In East Jutland, you’ll find Denmark’s second city Aarhus – recently voted the happiest place on the planet – which, along with a large student population, is also awash with interesting museums such as ARoS and Den Gamle By. The surrounding countryside is some of the loveliest in the country and contains a magical mixture of ancient fir forests, fjords and breath-taking sandy beaches.
Tucked away between Zealand and Jutland is Denmark’s small second island Funen and the lovely city of Odense. Famously the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, Odense is thronged with palaces and, in Sankt Knuds Kirke, is home to the only Gothic church in Denmark. To the north of Jutland is the ‘Danish Riviera’ – a spectacularly lovely stretch of coast centered around Aalborg and Skagen. The latter is famous for its beautiful golden light and for being at the point where the Baltic and North Seas merge. So pretty is Skagen, it has become the holiday spot of choice for the Danish royals.
Once known for 100 uninspiring ways with pork, Denmark has undergone a culinary revolution over the past two decades and, while traditional frikadeller are still to be had just about everywhere, is now replete with top notch restaurants. Many are concentrated in and around Copenhagen, where Noma’s Rene Redzepi continues to win just about every award going. Nonetheless, smaller cities such as Odense are also getting in on the act, while the country’s coastal towns offer up fresh seafood that’s never less than delicious. Even the sleepy north is getting stuck in: Aalborg is swiftly becoming a gastronomic force to be reckoned with and, at nearby Lindholm Høje, is spearheading a revival of Viking cuisine.