Travel to Denmark

Travel to Denmark

Praised as being the world’s happiest country, Denmark will certainly put a smile on your face. Come explore this Scandinavian jewel’s amazing cities!

Southernmost of the Nordic countries, Denmark will charm you with its castle- and church-studded skylines, beach-edged coast, and friendly, humble people. The longtime capital of Denmark, Copenhagen is one of Europe’s leading cities and certainly among its prettiest. Other major hubs include Aarhus, Odense, and Aalborg. Denmark’s most popular tourist attractions include the imposing Kronborg Castle (which famously inspired Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamletand has hosted numerous performances of the play) as well as Copenhagen’s treasured landmarks, such as the National Museum, the Tivoli Gardens amusement park, and the Little Mermaid statue. Denmark’s capital has also gained recent renown for its impressive culinary offerings: The restaurant Noma, for example, has been called the best in the world.

Though small in size, Denmark has much to offer visitors. While its shining star is undoubtedly Copenhagen, there is an abundance of cultural attractions to enjoy throughout this pristine, friendly, and gorgeous country. We'll begin in Copenhagen. While in Denmark's cosmopolitan capital, consider visiting the 170-year old Tivoli Gardens amusement park, an icon of Copenhagen.

Denmark is home to some truly remarkable architecture. Before the Protestant Reformation, the most exceptional architectural works were usually medieval churches. After the country became Lutheran, architectural masterpieces tended to be manor homes or castles. Denmark has had a monarchy for over 1100 years; as a result, it contains some of the finest castles in all of Scandinavia. In Copenhagen, the following castles and palaces are all deserving of a visit: Amalienborg Palace, the winter residence of the Danish royal family; the magnificent Dutch-Renaissance style Rosenborg Castle; and Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish Parliament. Outside of Copenhagen, there are three must-see castles. The first is Kronborg Castle in Helsingør. Shakespeare used the castle, which is one of three World Heritage Sites in Denmark, as the setting of Hamlet. The second is Frederiksborg Castle, which is located in a city north of Copenhagen called Hillerød.

Lastly we recommend the unusually-beautiful Egeskov Castle, a romantic Renaissance castle surrounded by water and stunning gardens. It is located on the island of Funen, which is also famous as the birthplace of Denmark's favorite son: Hans Christian Andersen. Fans of his fairytales can visit the home where he lived as a child as well as the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. Both are located in the town of Odense. Bringing the kids? Another great place to visit outside of the capital is the Legoland Park in Billund, which is located next to the original Lego factory.

And we can't talk about Denmark's cultural achievements without mentioning modern design. The Danes today are renowned for the sleek, functional design found in their Expressionist architecture, mid-20th century furniture and home furnishings. (Yes, we're talking about those gorgeous, mid-century teak chairs!) If you want to learn more about Danish design, consider paying a visit to the Danish Design Centre in Copenhagen. While you're shopping, keep your eyes peeled for the hand-painted Royal Copenhagen porcelain, another favorite Danish export.

It's often said that Denmark has the best cuisine in Scandinavia. Their great tradition of farming has resulted in classic Nordic dishes made of fresh, well-seasoned ingredients. Consuming an open-faced smorrebrod sandwich is a ritual in Denmark. If you're a seafood fan, you'll be happy to know that the Danes serve delicious shrimp, salmon, mackerel, cod and herring. There is also a great variety of Danish beef, pork and lamb dishes. The dining scene in Copenhagen is outstanding – where visitors can enjoy pleasantly-unstuffy, neighborhood restaurants with good fare or head to one of the city's 13 Michelin-starred gourmet restaurants.

In Denmark is it common to drink akvavit – a distilled, flavored liquor – at mealtimes and festive occasions. If you want to try a local beer, Carlsberg – the hometown brew – is a good choice. Visitors can even take a tour of their historic brewery in Copenhagen.

Throughout its history, Denmark's strategic location has always been of major concern. For Viking seafarers, medieval Hanseatic traders, Swedish kings and German navies – whoever controlled the straits that linked the North and Baltic Seas had power. Even today, Denmark's position is crucial to Northern Europeans, particularly to countries somewhat isolated on the Scandinavian Peninsula (Norway and Sweden). By means of the Oresund Tunnel-Bridge, which accommodates both cars and trains and was completed in 2000, traveling from the metropolitan area of Malmö, Sweden to Copenhagen's metropolitan area is now a piece of cake.

Denmark only has one land border – and it's a rather tiny one: 42 miles – with Germany. The country is composed of a thin peninsula surrounded by over 400 islands, with roughly 1/6 of them inhabited. Despite the fact that Denmark's territories are naturally fragmented, the country is ingeniously connected by innovative engineering projects and great systems of public transportation.

While it lacks the dramatic fjords and steep mountains of its Scandinavian cousins to the north, Denmark's farm-filled countryside, fishing villages and private gardens (hundreds of which are open to the public) are absolutely lovely. For the most part Denmark is flat, a feature that lends itself to the bicycle-loving Danes! It also has a much milder climate than its northern Scandinavian neighbors have, which has nurtured the Danes' pervasive farming culture. One advantage to the fact that the country is spread across a narrow peninsula, several very large islands and then many smaller ones – you're always near a sandy coast in Denmark! In the summer months, visitors and locals enjoy nice beaches as well as an array of sports like hiking, golfing, cycling, kayaking and fishing (salmon, shrimp and herring).

Another advantage of vacationing in Denmark, which is slightly smaller than a combined Vermont and New Hampshire, is that it can easily be combined with Norway, Sweden and Germany. Its regal (yet trendy) capital city of Copenhagen is frequently featured on Scandinavian and Baltic cruises.

Largest cities: Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense

Today we think of Denmark as a peaceful, socially-progressive, egalitarian, eco-friendly kind of a country brimming with kind, happy, prosperous and high-tax-paying people. This was not always the case. The Danes were once some of the most feared folks in Northern Europe. They raided, traded, explored, conquered and ruled a great many lands. Their present territories are a far cry from their once powerful Empire. If we look at the last 1200 years or so, the Danes have controlled territories in parts of present-day Sweden, Norway, Scotland, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Estonia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and India. These conquests were lost, sold or relinquished during many different eras including the Viking Age, the Late Middle Ages, the Scandinavian Kalmar Union, the Protestant Reformation and the Colonial Era. Of all of Denmark's colonial possessions, only Greenland and the Faroe Islands remain part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Let's narrow in on the Viking Age, a fascinating (and often terrifying) time in Europe! As did the Norwegians and Swedes – from 800 AD to 1100 AD, the Danes had their fair share of seafaring plunderers, explorers and master craftsmen – known now as the Vikings. Danish Vikings largely went to England to an area called Danelaw, whose major cities included York, Cambridge and Nottingham. They also established the Duchy of Normandy in France. (Interestingly enough, the Vikings' Norman descendants kept it up! William the Conqueror who led the Norman invasion of England in 1066 was Norse in origin. The Normans also conquered parts of Southern Italy, so one could say that the Danish Vikings were extremely successful all in all!)

If you're a fan of the History Channel's Viking series and in search of Viking sightseeing in Scandinavia, you can't go wrong with Denmark. Denmark is home to four ancient Viking ring fortresses called "Trelleborgs" that date back to end of the 10th century. Top Viking sites in Denmark to visit include the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, which houses 1000-year-old Viking vessels. As one of Europe's oldest towns, unsurprisingly Roskilde is also home to one of Denmark's three World Heritage Sites: the Roskilde Cathedral. This Brick Gothic masterpiece, whose construction began in the 1100s, is the burial site of Denmark's monarchs.

Another worthy Viking attraction can be found in the Danish town of Ribe: the Ribe Viking Centre, which shows what life was like in a Viking settlement. Even if you're not particularly interested in Viking history, Ribe merits a visit for other reasons. It is one of the oldest towns in Denmark, and its medieval area is outstandingly preserved. Denmark's most important sights from the Viking era form a World Heritage Site: the Jelling Burial Mounds, Runic Stones and the Jelling Church. Back in the capital, check out the National Museum. History buffs will also love Copenhagen's Open-Air Museum.

Copenhagen Escape