“If Americans want to live the American dream, they should go to Denmark.” So said Richard G. Wilkinson. Of course, you don’t have to be American to live the dream vacation in this country that gave the world Hans Christian Andersen. There is a reason this Scandinavian Country has repeatedly ranked as the Happiest Nation in the world in the World Happiness Report. Pop in and find out why, and you might just be one of the happiest people worldwide, if only for a short vacation stay.
Travelers wanting to visit Denmark from certain countries outside of the Schengen Zone and European Union should find out about the European Travel Information And Authorization System known as ETIAS. While you are planning your trip, check on the ETIAS requirements as to whether you will need to make an ETIAS application before leaving your country.
We know how the Danes take such pride in their Little Mermaid statue, but what else should make it onto the Denmark to do list?
In celebration of Denmark’s literary son, a visit to the Danish island of Fyn also known as Funen Island introduces visitors to Odense, where Hans Christian Andersen was born. As such when compiling a what to do in Denmark compendium, Odense is up there. The town is brimming with monuments and honorific exhibitions in recognition of its very own notorious fairy tale teller. Visual scenes straight out of Hans Christen Andersen’s tales are to be seen everywhere. These are evident in the authentic Scandinavian homes, the moats and turrets of Egeskov Castle, the town’s old quarter with its cobbled squares, and the timber windmills skreiching at the town’s edge.
Foremost of the attractions in Denmark to be found in Odense must certainly be Knuds Kirke. Known also as Sankt Knuds Kirke, St. Canute’s Cathedral, Odense Cathedral, and Odense Domkirke, the marvel takes its name from Canute or Knud, the Danish king. The king is in fact entombed right here in a crypt and is open to view alongside the remains of his brother Benedict. The cathedral itself gives visitors a prime look at Brick Gothic architecture.
Out at sea is the best place to appreciate the remote natural landscapes that are definitely among the more rugged and unusual of the local attractions in Denmark. Kerteminde is on the Danish island of Fyn or Funen Island, a popular stop on the way to Romso Island. The heart of the town of Kerteminde remains pretty much as it was in the late Middle Ages. As such, the visitor looking for a timeless, sleepy hollow will have found it here on the cobblestone streets among the quaint timber homes. Kerteminde was home to the painter Johannes Larsen and enthusiasts can also view the exhibition of the Ladby Viking ship.
The Little Mermaid
Edvard Eriksen is responsible for creating Denmark’s iconic bronze statue that depicts a mermaid becoming human. The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen sits on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade. The 4” 1-inch-high sculpture brings to life Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, written in 1837. The sculpture was unveiled in 1913 to join other iconic statues symbolizing cities around the globe such as Manneken Pis in Brussels, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, New York’s Statue of Liberty, and Pania of the Reef in Napier.
The far-flung islands that are the Faroe’s are absolutely the stuff of legends. Petrified rocks rise up at the place where the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea meet, with dramatic coastlines chiseled out by the elements over eternity. An absolute must-see among the attractions in Denmark with its magnificent waterfalls and lush green lands, the Faroe Islands are in fact half-in and half-out of the country and they are self-governing. Look up from the fisherman’s taverns and pubs in any of the hamlets and timber towns on the islands to take in the awe-inspiring Northern Lights seemingly moving to an unheard orchestra in the skies overhead!
The Danish Riviera
When considering what to do in Denmark the beaches should top the list. The Danish Riviera boasts the finest of Scandinavia’s beach resorts, spanning as it does the extent of the island of Zealand’s northern coast. Gilleleje and Hornbaek beckon sun lovers with stretches of sandy beach and dunes rising and falling invitingly. But that’s not all…. The Danish Riviera brings you coastal forests, too! Gribskov has attained status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the region’s primeval beech groves while Tisvilde brings something a little different with its Scots pines.
In true Hans Christen Andersen style, Hillerod and Helsingor are the popular castle towns of the Danish Riviera. Hillerod invites visitors to marvel at the elegance that is the Renaissance Frederiksborg Palace.
Helsingor proudly shows off the very battlements presented to readers worldwide in Hamlet in the form of Kronborg Castle, resplendent in all its majesty. Shakespeare enthusiasts and visitors alike are able to discover its hidden cellars and lend an ear to the tales about the kings and queens who called this home over the centuries. Kronborg Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Throngs of tourists beset the castle once a year especially to watch Hamlet performed by professional actors in the very place in which Shakespeare intended.
Copenhagen’s answer to a renaissance castle takes the form of Rosenborg Castle, originally envisioned as a country summerhouse way back in 1606. This is an example of the Dutch Renaissance style that was typified in the Danish buildings of the time. The original building however has changed over time, remaining true to its 1624 self still today, however.
Den Gamle By
Den Gamle By translates in English to The Old Town. Located in central Aarhus, in the Aarhus Botanical Gardens. This open-air town museum became the first of its kind when it opened to the public in 1914. The focus of this highly regarded Danish Museum is on the culture of the town with a collection of 75 historical buildings from 20 townships across Denmark. The Old Town is largely made up of half-timbered structures dating as far back as 1550 that were moved to Aarhus during the 20th century. Visitors can see five historical gardens, 34 workshops, ten stores, a post office, a school, a customs office, 27 rooms, chambers or kitchens, and a theatre.
Central Copenhagen has an islet known as the islet of Slotsholmen. Christiansborg Palace is to be found on this islet. It serves the purpose of both a palace and a government building. As such, it is the seat of the Danish Parliament and houses the office of the Danish Prime Minister as well as the Supreme Court of Denmark. It is the only building in the world that also encompasses all three branches of government. Housing the Supreme Court, it furthermore hosts the three supreme powers: the executive power, the legislative power, and the judicial power.
The Danish monarch utilizes sections of the palace. Among these are the Palace Chapel, the Royal Reception Rooms, and the Royal Stables. Christiansborg Palace was originally erected in 1167 and the one now to be seen is the third building bearing this name. The buildings that have lent their presence on this site have since the early 1400s served as the base of the central administration and since 1849 as the seat of parliament. Up until 1794, the Danish kings lived in the Palace as their principal residence.
National Museum of Denmark
The main building of Denmark’s largest museum can be found at the center of Copenhagen, very near Strøget. As a museum of cultural history, it tells the story of the history of Danish as well as foreign cultures. The exhibits are from all around the world. The museum sponsors further archaeological and anthropological research in Greenland and has national commitments within the areas of archaeology, natural science, conservation, ethnology, numismatics, ethnography, and communication. The museum involves itself in building antiquarian activities related particularly to Danish churches.
Hillerød is home to Frederiksborg Castle which is a palatial complex in anyone’s esteem. The Castle began its story back in the 1600s as a royal residence for King Christian IV of Denmark-Norway. It took the place of the original castle to become Scandinavia’s largest Renaissance residence. The Castle comes complete with an extensive formal garden in the Baroque style, sprawled beatifically over three islets in the Slotssøen. The castle suffered damage in a fire in 1859 but was fully restored. In 1882 when it reopened it was as the Danish Museum of National History, open for viewing to the public throughout the year. Visitors can view some of the castle’s state rooms, such as the Valdemar Room, Great Hall, the Chapel, and the Audience Chamber as well as Denmark’s largest collection of portrait paintings.
Now for something completely different. You will recognize the name Roskilde from the rock and pop festival of the same name that is hosted here annually in June and July. Thanks to this association, the Zealand city of Roskilde is now synonymous with hedonism. But there is more to Roskilde than a few weeks of rock and pop.
The Vikings are well portrayed here and the town has a historic link to the pagan age of these interesting people. Of the attractions in Denmark is therefore to be found on the edge of the Roskilde Fjord in the form of the Viking Ship Museum. The heart of the city of Roskilde has bragging rights to a UNESCO heritage site, the cathedral in the old quarter. Roskilde Palace and a clutch of stone churches dating back to the Middle Ages also provide a haunting glimpse into the bygone years of this Scandinavian city. Playing more to the present must be the local university students who fill the city for much of the year to learn and prosper.
Skjoldungernes Land National Park
A more recent addition to the what to do in Denmark portfolio is located in the very heart of Zealand in the form of the Skjoldungernes Land. This fascinating area is known for its eerie Viking burial mounds that bear testament to the local presence of the Iron Age King Skjold way back when. The National Park is made up of sections of Frederikssund, Roskilde, and Lejre and offers visitors a glimpse into its museums, bridges, cathedrals, and dams.
In the Jutland Peninsula is a tiny offering among the attractions in Denmark, Billund. Ole Kirk Christiansen started Lego right here early in the twentieth century where the Lego factory is still to be found on the edge of town. Legoland Billund theme park is a favorite among fairground junkies on the Denmark to do list, bringing the thrills of the Danish-inspired Vikings River Splash, the Dragon coaster, the Polar X-plorer, and Duplo Land.
The island of Bornholm is the natural enclave to which travelers are drawn for that laid-back experience. This island is home to Scandinavian timber towns, fishing villages, rugged panoramas, chiseled granite cliffs, thick forests, and megaliths in human form that rise out of the Baltic Sea. Birdwatchers get their fix in the gorges and forests of Almindingen where European honey buzzards and white-tailed eagles swoop and hunt. Wide Dueodde beach is also very much among the tourist attractions in Denmark. Hammeren Peninsula with its windswept cliffs and farm fields is favored by hikers and walkers who even get to take in the local scenes of stone churches and interesting-looking lighthouses.
If historic scenery and photography are among your interests in what to do in Denmark, the oldest town in this Scandinavian country will certainly be a place to visit. Ribe has been around since the 9th century with its colorful cottages, cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, and buildings of red brick standing proud. Ribe Cathedral, also known as Our Lady Maria Cathedral, was the first Christian church to be erected in the country. It was built in the Romanesque style during the Viking era and remains the best-preserved Romanesque building in the country, inspiring with its ancient spires and towers. Ribe has witnessed the comings and goings of the Vikings and the merchant boom of medieval times, and still, it stands today.
Hammershus Castle Ruins
The fortification of Hammershus was erected during the medieval era on the northern tip of the island of Bornholm. Around the mid-18th century, the fortress was partially demolished and also partially restored around the beginning of the twentieth century but all that remains of it today are the ruins of the Hammershus Castle. The ruins can be seen today at Hammeren.
Denmark has intrigue, romance, history, culture, drama, scenery, fairytales, castles, monarchs, and palaces. Something for everyone. Come spend some time in this country, discovering the happiness factor.