Five Danish Destinations to Visit (that Aren’t Copenhagen)

Think Denmark, think Copenhagen? Think again. Beyond the Danish capital’s borders, lively cities, salt-sprayed peninsulas and hippie enclaves await

Design mavens and Ganni girls planning a city break might make a beeline for Copenhagen, but Denmark's allure stretches far beyond its crowded capital, from the blustery, dramatic shores of the west to the northerly tip where two seas meet. Adding a few days to your Copenhagen city break to explore the raw beauty of the Nordic country is well worth it. Here are five places to try.

Five alternative Danish destinations to visit

Aarhus Brick Street
Photo credit: Steffen Muldbjerg



Take the dainty red-and-white seaplane a short 45 minutes' flight from Copenhagen's Nordre Toldbod to reach this cosmopolitan Jutland city - it's the best way to arrive in style. Aarhus, the country's second-largest urban area, is making a name for itself through its unpretentious culinary offering, which is distinctively different to that of the Noma-bewitched capital. Sure, new Nordic restaurants are in evidence, but you're just as likely to be snacking on Korean bibimbap or Nepalese momos at Aarhus Street Food, sipping chilled reds at Sjovinisten or scoffing a seafood selection at Mefisto, a straightforward bistro in the Latin Quarter serving lobster three ways, as you are attempting to pick up a reindeer heart jerky stick with your fine-tined fork. At rustic Pondus, organic Danish produce is paired with organic wines; at Langhoff & Juul, you'll find sandwiches as tall as they are wide on the menu. Walk off holiday banquets at the city's enormous, ten-floor ARoS modern art museum. Head straight to the roof to scan the sea and the old town, as well as the Botanical Gardens, below, before working your way back down through exhibitions.

Where to stay: Villa Provence

Odense Building and Garden
Photo credit: Magnus Hasberg



The birthplace of fairy-tale storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, and home to a striking Kengo Kuma-designed museum dedicated to telling the writer's own story, as well as the whimsical tales he became famous for, Odense takes its role in promoting its most famous inhabitant seriously - even the pedestrian crossings feature a flashing silhouette of the scribe. There's more here than just Little Mermaid references, though. A 90-minute train ride from Copenhagen airport, the quaint and colourful city centre belies the urban innovation happening in Odense's vibrant, modern neighbourhoods and leafy outer suburbs - all of which are much easier to access thanks to a recent expansion of the city's slick light railway. Start a long weekend with a Friday-night dinner at the ancient Sortebro Kro, a 200-year old restaurant plating up classic dishes made using locally sourced ingredients (think scallops, roe deer and homegrown apples), then switch it up with a post-prandial drink at natural wine bar Lalou. Alongside the architecturally impressive Hans Christian Andersen museum, you'll want to make time for the modern art at Kunstmuseum Brandts.

Where to stay: Hotel Odeon

Gilleleje Lighthouse
Photo credit: Hjalte Gregersen

The Danish Riviera


With pearls such as a Henning Larsen-designed luxe spa hotel on the oceanfront, a world famous art museum and sea-gazing harbour towns all with their own smokeries and old pubs, the northern extremes of Sjaelland (the region in which Copenhagen is based) has a lot going for it - including a buzzy cultural scene. We'd recommend driving from the Danish capital to explore all 230km of this breezy Sweden-facing coastline; you'll be able, en route, to peer at the 20th-century designer Arne Jacobsen's cubist house, as well as the 1936 Bellevue Teatret and chic 1937 gas station he designed. Don't miss the Louisiana Museum at Humlebaek, either. In late summer, this artistic haven acts as a playground for local (and international) literati when its book festival rolls into town. After getting your cultural fix, head towards the beaches around Gilleleje and Hornbaek, where white sand and cool blue waters rival even the beauty of southern France (despite the temperature difference). Book a stay at 25-room Gilleleje Badehotel for a room with a view. The hotel sits atop a 30m cliff on Sjaelland's northernmost point.

Where to stay: Gilleleje Badehotel

Skagen, Denmark



A port town nestled into the finger-like tip of the Jutland peninsula, Skagen is known as "The Land of the Light", in reference to the paintings of an artistic collective who frequented the area from the 1870s to the turn of the century and captured the fishing culture and sun-kissed Skagen landscapes in dreamy, pastel hues. Check in at Brøndums Hotel to sleep among the painter's ghosts, including the mysterious Mrs Brøndum, whose spirit is said to haunt the hotel's Blue Room, then bundle up for a walk through the dunes. Seafood is a must: feast on towering platters of just-harvested mussels at Skagen Fiskerestaurant, or head to a candlelit krø (roadside inn) for toast skagen - a local dish of prawns, dill and crème fraîche. For something unique, try the oak bark ice cream at the Ruths Hotel restaurant. In summer, surfing is (increasingly) popular in the area; come winter, bird-watching takes over as the nature-based activity of choice.

Where to stay: Brøndums Hotel

Thy Lighthouse
Photo credit: Mads Rosendahl



When Yoko Ono announced she was quitting NYC earlier this year, we liked to imagine she was heading to Thy. In 1970, during a one-month residence in northwestern Denmark, she and John Lennon helped launch one of the world's first hippie communes, Thylejren, which still exists today. The location might have lost momentum over the years (current population: 65) but this free-loving enclave still has something of an unpretentious friendliness about it. It's part of Denmark's first national park, an area under protection due to its unique sand dunes, mystical moors and heaths, and bird-packed wetlands. Despite the hippie vibes (or, perhaps, inspiring them), this area also played a major role during the Second World War: a visit to the award-winning bunker-turned museum Tirpitz in all its brutalist concrete-and-glass glory is sobering. Bed down at Strandhotellet Vedersø Klit Badehotel‎, a smart hotel set just 200m from the coastal dunes.

Where to stay: Strandhotellet Vedersø

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