As the heart of Scandinavia, Denmark was once known for its fierce Vikings. But today, it is a peaceful country with great people, culture, food, and architecture. Denmark embraces its beautiful history as its innovative modern buildings share space with medieval structures. Its picturesque fishing villages that trace back to the Viking era now offer famous fish dishes such as herring. Denmark is often referred to as the land of Hans Christian Andersen as a result of its fairy-tale atmosphere with all of its palaces and castles. Denmark is truly a dream come true.
Below are Denmark’s top sites for anyone lucky enough to visit:
Most travelers will begin their visit to Denmark in Copenhagen and for good reason. As the country’s largest city and capital, Copenhagen is a vibrant city with much to offer. Originally, a Viking village, Copenhagen is now the cultural and financial center of the country. One of the main reasons tourists love Copenhagen is the Tivoli Gardens, the most visited theme park in Scandinavia. The Tivoli Gardens opened in 1843, making it the third-oldest operating theme park in the world. In addition to its beautiful gardens that are full of vibrant colors, the park is best known for its wooden roller coaster, the Rutschebanen, which loops around the park. In addition to the fairy-tale-like Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen is also well known for its bronzed Little Mermaid statue that makes for a great photo opportunity. Moreover, Copenhagen is famous for its Dutch Renaissance architecture. The city’s horizontal landscape is marked with some colorful buildings, castles, and medieval churches. Avid traveler Jeremy Wien perfectly summed up the Copenhagen after his trip: “Copenhagen is one of my favorite cities in the world–different areas full of unique character–whether taking in the beautiful quirkiness of Nyhavn on the water, marveling at the gardens in Tivoli, or strolling along the Stroget (the longest pedestrian street in Europe), it is virtually impossible not to have a positive experience in Copenhagen.”
Ribe is Denmark’s oldest town and only gets better with age. Located in Jutland, Ribe was a Viking marketplace in 700 AD. Ribe’s town hall was built in 1496, making it the oldest in the country and a great photo opportunity as its architecture conveys such a deep sense of history. Despite its age, Ribe is still a lively town that has much to see and offer to its visitors. From its quaint half-timbered medieval buildings to its grand cathedral (which was the first Christain church in Denmark), Ribe has plenty of compelling sites rich with history that will add such depth and understanding of Denmark’s culture to anyone’s trip. Additionally, for those nature lovers, Ribe offers the nearby ecological treasure of the Wadden Sea National Park, which is ripe for exploring and provides numerous breathtaking views. Ribe is often forgotten about when tourists make their travel itinerary for Denmark, but it is a city with rich history, compelling architecture, and incredible scenery and it will be a highlight of anyone’s trip.
For those compelled by Ribe’s history, your next stop should be the city of Elsinore, also known as Helsingør. Elsinore is home to one of the most famous castles in the world and will stun history buffs and literary fans alike. The first time you lay eyes on the Kronborg will be a memory that is forever-cherished as its powerful architecture conveys a deep sense of fortitude. The Kronborg was chosen as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The play has been performed on-site annually for over 80 years. There are many mysteries surrounding Shakespeare’s use of the castle as the setting as it is unclear if he ever actually visited. Nevertheless, the site honors him and Hamlet in many ways and there are various guided tours you can take throughout the beautiful castle. The Kronborg sits amongst a former medieval fishing village that was founded in the 15th century. However, the fortress and local church surrounded by convents were established a whole century earlier. Today, the town is a bustling port city. For those who take the time to explore the port, there is a 2012 statue, Han, in the harbor and it is considered the counterpart of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid.
Bornholm is Denmark’s hidden gem. Bornholm is an island in the Baltic Sea and is actually closer to the shores of Poland and Sweden than Denmark. This island is the perfect day-trip or even overnight trip as it offers breath-taking panoramic views and is known as a local hubspot of Danish culture. Specifically, Bornholm is known for its arts and crafts items, especially glass and pottery. It’s no wonder why people on Bornholm feel inspired to create as the island is home to several towns with picturesque windmills and several medieval churches. The quaint and calming nature of the windmills combined with the stoic medieval churches creates an interesting atmosphere that begs to be explored. Bornholm is reached by ferry from both Denmark and Sweden. Once you arrive, you’ll find medieval fortresses and sun temples from the Neolithic age. In line with the rest of the country, Bornholm has a fascinating history as the island was occupied by the Germans in World War II and later by the Soviets. Additionally, because of the island’s outstanding scenery, from craggy sea cliffs and forests to verdant valleys and beaches, it was chosen as the setting for Ken Follett’s thriller, Hornet Flight.
The Danish Riviera
Because Denmark is so far north, its riviera is often forgotten about but is absolutely worth a visit. The Danish Riviera is anchored by Gilleleje, a picturesque fishing town on the North Sea at the top of Zealand. The Riviera offers incredible scenic views as you stroll through the city. As fishing is at the heart of many aspects of Danish culture, you can stop by the daily morning fish auction in town to observe the everyday hustle and bustle. There is also a monument to Kierkegaard, the first existential philosopher. Because of its location, Gilleleje played an important role in World War II as fishermen would use their boats to smuggle Danish Jews into Sweden, just 15 miles away across the riviera. The local museum explains this history in-depth and offers educational guided tours at an affordable price.
The Danish concept of “Hygge” means to look out for a comfortable, cozy moment to cherish. And with all of its rich history, fascinating architecture, great food, scenic views, and plenty of places to explore, such moments are easy to come by for all that visit. Author bio: Jason Ortiz is a travel and entertainment blogger at Chowder Bucket. He has traveled to over 20 countries and hopes to someday visit every country on Earth. In his travels, he often gets involved with local humanitarian efforts and is a believer in open borders making for a better world.