Maybe it’s the fairytale cottages dotting the shoreline. Or maybe it’s Copenhagen‘s streets as alive at 2:00 am as they were at broad daylight. Maybe it’s the smartly dressed Danes buzzing around the city on bicycles.
From exceptional design to the world’s best restaurant to pristine beaches, Denmark has it all. No wonder the Danes are consistently named the happiest people in the world!
1. Danish Design
Denmark architecture offers a remarkable mélange of past and present – you’ll discover charming castles on the same street as the modern or bizarre. And of course, you’ll notice true Danish design, with its emphasis on simple lines.
Get a glimpse of Danish government at the Christiansborg Palace. The Palace has been through two fires and three different design eras and there’s a lot to see for both history and architecture buffs.
If modern is more your style, visit the Copenhagen Opera House – one of the most expensive opera houses ever built. A number of world-recognized artists contributed to the design, which was created to allow optimal sound quality. The blockish structure sits harbor-side in the city center, a great spot to watch the sunset. If you get a peek inside, look to the left where you’ll see the Queen’s balcony.
Take a City Tour of Copenhagen and view the buildings that made Danish Design a household term. For a good overview and a heavy dose of design inspiration head to the Danish Design museum. Hunt for souvenirs at the museum gift shop that sells unique textiles, jewelry, and housewares.
2. Literary leanings
Hans Christian Andersen, who enthralled children around the world with The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid, hails from Odense, Denmark. See his childhood home in Odense or get the quintessential snapshot next to The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.
If Shakespeare is more your guy, head to the Kronborg Castle, commonly referred to as the Hamlet Castle, as it is the setting of the author’s famous work. Picnic on the grounds or arrive by way of the Danish Riviera on the Hamlet Castle Tour. While you’re in the area, pop into the nearby Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.
3. Inventive cuisine
Because of outside culinary influences, Danish cuisine isn’t known worldwide (with the exceptions of those sticky pastries, which aren’t actually Danish). But once you devour your first Smørrebrød you will realize Danish food is highly underrated. Smørrebrød started as the go-to lunch for Danish workers. It is a hearty open-faced sandwich with fresh meat or fish and fixings piled high on a small piece of rye bread. Thankfully, it caught on and is everywhere now – from street stands to gourmet restaurants. And the Danes keep recreating this classic – the latest: Smørrebrød sushi!
Noma, touted as the world’s best restaurant, calls Copenhagen home. Located in a warehouse in Central Copenhagen, Noma set the standard for the New Nordic cuisine – a movement that strives to reinvent traditional dishes using fresh, simple ingredients from the sea and Boreal forest. Call months ahead if you want a table and be prepared for adventurous eating; the menu includes reindeer moss and live shrimp.
4. Best for bikers
Forget the car rental. Denmark is all about bicycles and bike paths are nicely sectioned off so commuters can zip about the city safely. You’ll see city bike stands everywhere in Copenhagen – just leave a small deposit and take off on your trusty steed. Feel like a Danish commuter by riding the cycle superhighway, an 11-mile new path through the countryside with an air pump every mile. It starts at the North Port Station in Central Copenhagen and winds its way to Alberton, a nearby suburb. It is the first of many paths soon to come on the superhighway.
5. Amusement parks abound
Roller-coaster enthusiasts aren’t the only ones who will enjoy Tivoli Gardens. When the sun sets, hundreds of lights illuminate the park, making it a prime spot for shutterbugs. The gates open to enchanting gardens, old-fashioned carousels, numerous restaurants, shops, and cafes.
Families and “blockheads” should consider making a trip out to Legoland in Billund. The rides aren’t thrilling, but the landmarks, characters, and villages constructed out of LEGOs will captivate.
6. Water, water everywhere
No matter where you go in Denmark, you’ll be close to water. Spend an afternoon at the shore or island-hop your way across the country. Tranquil waters and beaches draw Danes to weekend in North Sealand, a short, scenic train ride from Copenhagen. To see Fjord beaches, head to West Sealand; shallow waters and family friendly beaches can be found on this seemingly endless coastline.
Definitely carve out time to sip wine and cider at one of the outdoor terraces by the Copenhagen canals. Go at an off-peak hour so you can find a table; the sun doesn’t set until around 10:00 pm in summer – so you’ll have plenty of time to spend by the water.
7. Viking influences
Visit a Viking ship museum where you can set sail on a longship or watch presentations on shipbuilding and sailing. Or let your inner Viking loose at the Viking festival that takes place every July in Aarhus. If you’d rather stay in Copenhagen, head to the Danish National Museum where you will see the old bones Viking ships and leave with a good understanding of Danish history.
- Amanda Halm