Cute and compact, Denmark is a harmonious blend of the old and the new. Ancient castles and Viking ring forts exist side-by-side with lively cities and the sleekest modern design you’ll ever see. Over a millennium ago Danish Vikings brought the country to the world’s attention when they took to the seas and ravaged half of Europe, but these days they’ve filed down their horns and forged a society that stands as a benchmark of civilisation, with progressive policies, widespread tolerance and a liberal social-welfare system.
Best time to visit Denmark
May and June or AD 900 if pillaging is your thing.
- Knocking back a local beer while enjoying a summer evening on Nyhavn canal
- Letting your hair down at northern Europe’s largest rock festival, Roskilde Festival
- Being charmed by the cobbled streets and well-preserved buildings of Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town
- Building (and destroying) your own mini-empire at Legoland
- Dipping a toe at Skagen, where the waters of Kattegat and Skagerrak clash
- Cycling from end to end of this flat landscape on the extensive bike routes
- Exploring a Viking ring fortress at Trelleborg
Smǿrrebrǿd (the famous Danish open-faced sandwich), frikadeller (Danish meatballs of pork mince, served with potatoes and gravy), sild (pickled herring), and of course Daniesh pastries, known locally as wienerbrǿd (literally, Vienna bread).
ǿl (beer, or Akvavit (schnapps) – but you have to swallow it in one swig
Denmark has virtually no down hill skiing because its highest mountain is 147m; not all Danes are blonde and blue-eyed.
Set on Denmark’s coastal islands of Zealand and Amager, Copenhagen, the country’s capital, is no ordinary city and, despite its size, many areas have a distinctly village-like quality. It has all that one would expect from a modern city, including state-of-the-art architecture and cutting-edge infrastructure, but its modernity is juxtaposed with a host of Danish cliches. Rows of sherbert-hued townhouses adorned with flower boxes and lace curtains line ancient canals playing host to fleets of quaint, rickety houseboats. Add to this an incredibly innovative design scene, a pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly road system and culture, and a slew of stylish bars, clubs, and galleries and it is easy to see why so many visitors are seduced by the charms of this atmospheric seaside city.
East Jutland is the eastern region of mainland Denmark. Its capital, Aarhus – Denmark’s second-biggest city – boasts sights of both a historical and modern nature, and was named the 2017 European Culture Capital. The picturesque cobblestone streets of its Molestien district date back to Viking times and its Latin Quarter, found in the old city, bustles with cafes and student-life. From Aarhus, it is easy to visit Ebeltoft, a charming seaside village with half-timbered houses dating back centuries and offering tours of one of the world’s largest remaining wooden ships. For fans of ecotourism, the nearby island of Samso gets all of its energy from renewable sources, while – for the young at heart – the original Legoland in Billund is a must-see, with its giant plastic-block replicas of sights from around the world.
The region of West Jutland is located in the western part of the peninsula that connects Denmark to mainland Europe. A scenic region of fjords and moody seascapes, West Jutland is most easily accessed via its main cities of Herning and Holstebro. While these cities offer some great sights, including museums and art galleries (don’t miss the HEART Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, or the Elia, an unforgettable sculpture in Herning’s Centerpark), most travellers will be more beguiled by places such as Henne Strand (the pick of the region’s coastal towns), Ringkobing and Skjern. Ringkobing, located on the fjord of the same name, is a quaint town with historic buildings and excellent bird watching opportunities at Tipperne, while Skjern offers access to the marshy Skjern A National Park.
The region of South Jutland is the southernmost area of mainland Denmark (sharing its border with Germany), and for many travellers forms their first impression of the country. It is a strong first impression, with many varied sights and attractions that will appeal to history lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The town of Ribe is the oldest in Denmark, full of gorgeous medieval buildings, while Christiansfeld – a Moravian Church settlement – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Meanwhile, the resort island of Romo boasts Denmark’s widest beach, and the Wadden Sea National Park is home (in spring and autumn) to the astounding Black Sun Phenomenon, where the sky is covered by a murmuration of hundreds of thousands of starlings.
The region of North Jutland is located in the north of mainland Denmark, offering a good mix of cultural and adventure activities. The capital is the sightseeing hub of Aalborg, full of beautiful architecture and some key attractions, including Aalborghus Castle and the KUNSTEN Museum of Modern Art. However, many of North Jutland’s most memorable experiences are to be found on its evocative coastline. Known as the Land of Light, there is something magical about the sweeping blue-tinged vistas offered by destinations such as Blokhus and Skagen, while adventurous travellers can also discover the Thy National Park (a coastal preserve and Denmark’s first national park), and make trips to the Hirsholmene, a group of 10 UNESCO-listed islands located in the North Sea.
An island located about 200 kilometres east of Copenhagen, Bornholm is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Baltic’ – and is undoubtedly one of Denmark’s premier destinations. The sunniest area of the country, Bornholm is spectacularly beautiful – with the rugged cliffs of Helligdomsklipperne, dense forests and white sandy beaches – and offers plenty to see and do. The centrepiece of the island is the ancient castle of Hammershus, a stirring archaeological sight offering great views from its prominent position, while Bornholm is also home to four of Denmark’s seven historic rundkirke (round churches). Dueodde Beach, boasting sand so fine it was once used in the hourglass industry, is located on the southern shores of the island and offers an impressive variety of water sport activities (including windsurfing and sea kayaking).
Located just west of Copenhagen, the Danish city of Roskilde is well known for its rich Viking history and its superb array of cultural attractions. Start at the gothic Roskilde Cathedral, an impressive UNESCO-listed site which serves as the final resting place of many former Danish kings and queens. Near the cathedral lies the natural fjordland harbour, home to an active boatyard and the Viking Ship Museum, which boasts some breathtaking replicas. Next, make your way to the incredible Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a former royal mansion, before heading to the new Ragnarock Experiential Museum of Modern Music. Lastly, history lovers should make sure not to miss a trip to the enormous Land of Legends open-air museum, which features a series of reconstructed settlements, houses, and active workshops from the Iron, Stone, and Viking ages.
Located in southwest Jutland, the Danish town of Ribe is well known for its enchanting atmosphere and picturesque scenes. This is one of Denmark’s oldest towns, boasting a 1300-year-old history, but it finds the perfect balance combining modern conveniences with historic charm. From art galleries, shops and restaurants; to its collection of protected 16th-century half-timbered houses and Denmark’s oldest church, Ribe is a special place to explore. History enthusiasts will delight in its incredibly rich heritage. It also serves as a gateway to the Wadden Sea National Park, known for its seascapes, stunning landscapes, variety of wildlife and excellent hiking and cycling trails. Don’t miss a visit to the beautiful surrounding sandy beaches, wander along the narrow cobblestoned streets, and soak up Ribe’s fascinating history.
Mon is one of Denmark’s most attractive islands, located south of Zealand in the Baltic Sea. The island boasts much to see and do, including the gorgeous chalk cliffs of Mons Klint, sheer-sided and dazzlingly white, crowned with thick green forests just waiting to be explored. Near the cliffs, the 18th-century castle of Liselund offers delightful gardens, while Stege – Mon’s largest city – is home to the great Thorsvang Museum. Elsewhere, the megalithic tombs of Klekkende Hoj (most easily accessed from Askeby) are truly awe-inspiring, while villages such as Keldby and Fanefjord are home to churches adorned with outstanding frescoes. For beach lovers, Klintholm Havn is a popular resort and Rytsebaek Beach (near Hjelm) offers quiet, peaceful shores.
Odense is the main city on the garden island of Funen, and the third-largest city in Denmark. Known for its impressive array of museums and sights, the city predates Viking times and features numerous historical attractions such as Saint Canute’s Cathedral, an incredible example of Gothic architecture; and the open-air museum of Funen Village, a reconstructed 19th-century village. The renowned fairy-tale writer Han Christian Andersen is honoured by a museum housed in his childhood home, which also offers special guided tours of the city. The well-known Jernbanemuseet museum is another must-see attraction, showcasing over thirty engines, wagons, and model trains and ships. Once you have had your fill of sightseeing, try out one of the city’s many alluring cafes and restaurants, or simply relax and take in the spectacular views on the lovely harbour beach.
Hirtshals, a charming fishing town, is situated in northern Denmark on the coast of Skagerrak. One of the largest ports in the country, the bustling modern hub offers a fantastic base for outdoor enthusiasts, who will enjoy the lovely beaches, rich sea life, and idyllic coastal trails. The flourishing fishing industry here makes it a top choice among travellers wishing to indulge in fresh seafood, and strolling along the harbour watching the catch come in is also a wonderful way to spend a morning. Those interested in history and architecture should visit the lighthouse, dating from 1862, which is still in use and provides some breathtaking views. Hirtshals makes a convenient and well-connected base from which to explore the beautiful surrounds – from here, sail to Norway and the Faeroe Islands.
Wadden Sea National
Extending along the southern stretch of Denmark’s West Coast from Ho Bay to the German border, the Wadden Sea National Park is Denmark’s largest and newest national park. It covers the Danish Wadden Sea and is a fascinatingly dynamic eco-system encompassing numerous islands, valleys and marshlands. The park is famous for its enormous unbroken system of tidal flats and provides visitors with excellent opportunities to see a diverse range of flora and fauna. Visitors should be sure to explore the popular islands in the park: the island of Romo has a beautiful large well-known beach; visitors can take a tractor bus to the island of Mando; and those on the island of Fano can experience some ideal kite-flying conditions.
The region of North Zealand is located in the northern part of Denmark’s largest island, north of Copenhagen and east of Ise Fjord. One of the country’s top tourist regions, North Zealand offers a great array of historical and natural sights. The city of Elsinore, the setting of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is home to the must-see attraction of Kronborg Castle and some lovely beaches (Snekkersten Strand and Gronnehave Strand), while Fredensborg boasts an impressive Palace and a photogenic city centre. Elsewhere, the fishing village of Hundested makes a quaint stop on the way to the northern beaches of Gilleleje, Helsinge and Tisvildeleje, while the Kongernes Nordsjaelland National Park is home to thick forests, picturesque canals and some interesting ancient burial sites.
The region of South Zealand includes the southern part of Denmark’s largest island as well as the south-lying islands of Falster, Lolland and Mon. The region will appeal most to outdoor enthusiasts and adventurous travellers, being home to two large and dazzlingly white chalk cliffs (Mons Klint and Stevns Klint), and unrivalled hiking, cycling and even kayaking and horse riding opportunities. The region’s most popular beaches are Marielyst, located on the east coast of Falster, and Karrebaeksminde (in the Smalandshavet Archipelago), but Maribo (on Lolland’s southern coast) makes a great alternative during the busy summer months. Meanwhile, on the main island of Zealand, Vordingborg is a pleasant harbour town with some ancient castle ruins and Koge boasts a beautiful historic centre and some fine museums.
The region of West Zealand is located in the western part of Denmark’s largest island. A region steeped in antiquity and full of beautiful natural sights, West Zealand will appeal most to history lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The most popular destination is Roskilde, a city with a history dating back to the days of the Vikings, and home to some excellent sights, including the Roskilde Cathedral and the highly recommended Viking Ship Museum. Another popular hub is Holbaek, which boasts some impressive museums of its own and the fantastic Lovenborg Castle. Those looking to explore the coastline should check out picturesque Kalundborg (providing access to the spectacular peninsula of Rosnaes) and Saelskor, a popular boat trip destination.
Located in the North Jutland region of Denmark, Aalborg is a pleasant historic city featuring an impressive array of sights and attractions. The gateway to the Land of Light (as the northern coast of mainland Denmark is known), Aalborg boasts some fascinating architecture both old and new, from the historic fortress of Aalborghus to the ultra-modern Musikkens Hus. Don’t miss the KUNSTEN Museum of Modern Art, or the Aalborg Historical Museum, which details 1000 years of the city’s history. Aalborg also makes a great base for exploring the Viking burial site of Lindholm Hoje, the nearby fishing village of Limfjorden and the rugged (though scenic) boglands of Lille Vildmose.
Situated on the east coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula, the city of Aarhus is the country’s second largest after Copenhagen. This vibrant metropolis is fast becoming a major European attraction, as it boasts an impressive array of remarkable tourist attractions. These include a number of intriguing museums, such as the ARoS Art Museum (which boasts nine floors of art from the Golden Age to the present) and the fascinating open-air museum of Den Gamle By (a reconstruction of a provincial market town). Just west of Den Gamle By is the beautiful oasis of the Aarhus Botanical Garden, where visitors can enjoy picnics on the lawn and walks through the magnificent tropical greenhouses. Other must-see attractions include a newly renovated waterfront area featuring Scandinavia’s largest library, Dokk1, widely considered to be the best and most cutting-edge public library in the world.
Located at the northernmost end of Denmark’s peninsula, the scenic port town of Skagen is best known for its beautiful white sand beaches lapped by crystal clear waters. While active travellers can enjoy a variety of outdoor adventures amidst some exceptionally beautiful landscapes, those seeking more leisurely activities can soak up a vibrant city life downtown. An array of cafes and bistros are on offer, as well as a wealth of tourist attractions, including the Skagens Museum, which showcases a collection of works by a number of prominent Skagen artists. Other popular attractions include the Grenen area, where the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas meet, and the Skagen Fyr lighthouse, which was built at the exact midpoint between these two seas. The largest migrating dune in Denmark is also certainly worth a visit, as is the famous sand-buried church, den Tilsandede Kirke.
The picturesque fortress town of Fredericia, sandwiched between expansive grasslands and the glistening azure waters, is idyllically set in the Fredericia municipality in the southeastern part of the Jutland peninsula of Denmark. This picture-perfect town offers an exciting mix of medieval-style red-brick architecture, fascinating museums, delightful eateries, lush public parks and a pristine beach that offers both beach sports and a water pool. Highlights of this lively destination include: the insightful Museerne i Fredericia; the fun-filled Madsby Playpark; the historic Fredericia Theatre; the fascinating Kongens Port museum; the unique Historical Mini-Town; and the scenic grounds of the distinctly designed Fredericia Vold park. A history enthusiasts playground, Fredericia’s historic city wall path is dotted with old statues, antique cannons and building ruins, as well as a striking, commemorative statue known as ‘The Brave Soldier’.
Frederikshavn, famously known to be Jutland’s busiest international ferry terminal, is a charming Danish town on the northeast coast of the Jutland peninsula in the wonderful northern section of Denmark. This bustling hub offers a plethora of entertainment, events, shopping and dining opportunities. Highlights of this charming destination include the Bangsbo Fort – Bunkermuseum war museum; the striking Cloos Tower observation deck; the beautifully ornate interiors of the Saeby Church; and the enchanting castle-like structure of the Frederikshavn Church. History enthusiasts will be thrilled as they visit the acclaimed historical Bunker Fort Bunkermuseum, which houses both intact World War Two structures and an insightful museum. Don’t miss a chance to sunbathe and swim at the wonderfully unique Palm Beach, a pristine white-sand beach, dotted with lush green palm trees.
Set at the head of Kolding Fjord in Southern Denmark, Kolding is an attractive port town known for its wealth of heritage, its alluring natural environment, and a cutting-edge design scene. Get insight into the area’s past by visiting the extravagant Koldinghaus Castle, with parts dating back to the 15th century; the UNESCO-listed religious settlement of Christianfield, just 16 kilometres outside the city; and several unusual old buildings such as the Helligkorsgade 18, a skew-standing, half-timbered house dating back to 1589. Several tree-lined lakes, set in gorgeous green surrounds, offer idyllic canoeing spots and draw anglers with their high numbers of trout, carp and other fish. Kolding is a thriving design location – make sure to see Trapholt Museum’s famously chic modern furniture design, striking sculpture garden and several classic Skagen works. The area also boasts many family-oriented attractions.
Situated on the island of Funen, Svendborg rests within the Svendborg Municipality in Denmark. It is the second-largest city on the island. This bustling little market town serves as a gateway to Funen’s beautiful southern archipelago. It is well-known for its festivals and is a popular yachting hub for locals. It boasts an array of pristine beaches, fascinating museums, and picturesque streets dotted with cafes and restaurants. Visitors can look forward to cycling along a network of wooded paths, visiting the Islands of the South Fyn Archipelago, and discover Svendborg’s wonderful surroundings. Don’t miss a ferry-ride that passes through the island-dotted estuary to Valdemars Slot. Other popular activities include: hiking, sailing, diving, kitesurfing, fishing, and kayaking.