12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Denmark
Denmark's many charms have become apparent to a global audience, particularly in recent years. Scandinavia's "European" wing boasts glorious beaches, beautiful fairy-tale castles, lush forests, a temperate climate, friendly citizens, and a joie de vivre that's infectious. Smash TV series Borgen made a star of Copenhagen, in particular, the magnificent parliament buildings at Christiansborg. Similarly, Danish/Swedish collaboration Bronen (The Bridge) showed the world the Oresund Bridge, a stunning feat of engineering that links the two countries by road and rail. For lovers of literature, a visit to Odense, the hometown of master storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, is a must. A museum here is dedicated to the writer and a visit to his childhood home is a real treat.
Denmark's eco-credentials are obvious throughout the land. In Copenhagen, the bicycle takes precedence over the car and is arguably the best way to explore this compact, picturesque city. On top of all this, the food is legendary - Danish fine dining paves the way for the best of Scandinavian cuisine.
1 Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
When visiting Copenhagen, many visitors make a beeline for this iconic recreation space. Dating from 1843, Tivoli is the inspiration behind the world-famous Disney theme parks, and here, you'll find a huge range of attractions including a roller coaster, roundabouts, puppet theaters, restaurants, cafés, gardens, food pavilions, and even a Moorish-styled concert hall. Known across the world, Tivoli has appeared in numerous movies and is a true symbol of the city. At night, firework displays illuminate the sky, and in winter, the gardens are adorned with lights for the Christmas season. During the summer, you can catch free rock concerts on Friday nights.
2 Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen
On the tiny island of Slotsholmen in the center of Copenhagen, you'll find the Danish seat of government. Boasting more than 800 years of history, Christiansborg is the power base of the kingdom of Denmark and now home to the Parliament, the Prime Minister's Office, and the Supreme Court. Fans of the TV series Borgen will be familiar with the setting. Several wings are still used by the Royal household and much of this is open to the public. Bishop Absalon built fortifications of the city here in 1167, and visitors can see ruins of the bishop's castle, which was destroyed in the 14th century, as well as the medieval fortress.
3 National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen
A ten-minute stroll from Tivoli Gardens leads to the National Museum (Nationalmuseet), which delves into Danish history and culture. The museum displays an impressive collection of Danish artefacts, including a 2,000-year-old sun chariot, Danish porcelain and silver, and Romanesque and Gothic church trimmings. Other collections highlight clothing from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as antique furniture. Supplementing this journey back through Danish history is an excellent ethnographic exhibition with items from Greenland, Asia, and Africa among others. At the Children's Museum, kids can dress up in period costume, climb aboard a Viking ship, and visit a 1920s-style classroom.
4 The National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst), Copenhagen
The National Gallery of Denmark houses the country's largest collection of Danish art. The original exhibits were once housed at Christiansborg, but moved to the current location in the late 19th century. A gigantic extension has not only significantly extended the space, but allows natural light to flood into the interior of the museum. Covering more than 700 years of European and Scandinavian art, the museum displays paintings by the Dutch Masters, Picasso, and Edvard Munch among others. Not surprisingly, fine collections of Danish art are also on display. The café is particularly pleasant and a great place to unwind and soak up the surroundings.
5 Nyhavn, Copenhagen
The star of countless images and postcards of the city, Nyhavn (New Harbor) is a great place to stroll or grab a slice of Copenhagen café culture. Located to the rear of Amalienborg Palace, this was once a disreputable stretch of dockland but has been given a new lease of life with its multi-colored houses, restaurants, and tall ships (some of which are museums) dotting the quayside. Nyhavn is now a particularly charming quarter and consequently a major draw for tourists and locals alike. If you're feeling adventurous, you can catch a hydrofoil to Sweden from here or grab a pleasant harbor cruise to see the sights.
6 The Round Tower, Copenhagen
Well worth scaling for the excellent panoramic views, the Round Tower (Rundetårn) is 36 meters high and was built as an observatory in 1642. Here, you'll find a small collection connected with the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, however the highlight for most is the viewing platform reached by a spiral ramp. A glass floor hovers 25 meters above the ground, and not only can you gaze out over the rooftops of Copenhagen city, but also peer down into the castle's core. A short walk through the surrounding old town takes you to Gråbrødretorv, one of the city's most picturesque squares.
7 Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen
In the Frederiksstaden quarter of Copenhagen, you'll find Amalienborg Palace and its tranquil gardens by the water. Originally built as residences for the nobility, the four palaces face onto the square. The Danish Royal Family took occupancy after a fire at Christiansborg in 1794, and the palace remains their winter home. The identical palaces form an octagon, and it's claimed the design is based on plans for a square in Paris that later became the Place de la Concorde. Built in a light rococo style, the buildings combine both German and French stylistic elements. The Soldiers of the Royal Guard, in their bearskins and blue uniforms, are a particular draw for visitors.
8 Oresund Bridge
Decades in the planning and often controversial, the Oresund Bridge has quickly become a Scandinavian icon. The bridge is around ten kilometers from Copenhagen, and you can either drive across or take the train. On the Danish side, it starts out as a tunnel so as not to interfere with flights to and from adjacent Copenhagen Airport. The eight-kilometer structure opened in 1999 and now links the island of Zealand, Denmark's largest island and home to Copenhagen, to the southwest coast of Sweden, specifically to the port of Malmo, Sweden's third largest city. Fans of Scandi-noir will know that the Oresund Bridge has recently gained much global infamy as the central focus of the smash hit Danish/Swedish TV drama The Bridge.
9 Lyngby Open-Air Museum (Frilandsmuseet), Copenhagen
Just over 15 kilometers outside Copenhagen, you'll find Lyngby Open-Air Museum, part of the Danish National Museum, and a must-see for many visitors to Denmark. Occupying 35 hectares, there are authentic farmhouses, agricultural buildings, dwellings, and mills from across the country in this "living museum." There are also ancient breeds of domestic animals, magnificent historic gardens to wander through, atmospheric old houses from Schleswig-Holstein and Sweden, as well as numerous picnic sites. You can even take a horse-drawn carriage around the grounds.
10 Kronborg Slot, Helsingør
Kronborg Castle is not only the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet, but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Consequently it scores top billing on Helsingor's list of must-see sights. Even those with just a passing interest in the bard will surely want to visit. The imposing structure is clearly visible as you approach, so you can't really miss it. The present incarnation dates from 1640, although several other fortresses preceded it. Serving as a garrison for a century or more, the castle was renovated in 1924. In the South Wing, you'll find the Castle Chapel, which survived a fire in 1629 and has a magnificent Renaissance interior with German woodcarvings. The North Wing contains the great Ballroom or Knights' Hall, while exquisite tapestries are displayed in the West Wing.
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11 Egeskov Castle, Kvarnstrup
Fairy-tale Egeskov Castle lies in a beautiful setting less than 30 minutes' drive from Odense and is the best preserved moat-castle in Europe. The superb Renaissance structure as seen today was completed in 1554 and originally built for defence purposes. Over the centuries, the castle has changed hands many times and later became a model farm. In 1959, the grounds opened to the public, and much renovation and development has taken place since. A Vintage Car Museum opened in 1967, and other attractions include a treetop walk and Segway tours. The Banqueting Hall is simply magnificent. A visit to Egeskov is a wonderful day out, particularly for families.
12 Hans Christian Andersen Museum, Odense
You can't visit Denmark without being aware of Hans Christian Andersen. His fairy tales and stories are woven into the fabric of Danish society. The museum dates from 1908 and is dedicated to the writer's life and work with displays of artefacts, mementos, and Andersen's own sketches and artwork. Listening posts and interactive installations bring the writer's words to life, and the domed hall is decorated with scenes from Andersen's autobiography Story of My Life. To the southwest of Odense Cathedral, in Munkemøllestræde, you'll find Hans Christian Andersen's childhood home (Andersen's Barndomshjem), which is also part of the museum.
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Off the Beaten Path in Denmark: The Farøe Islands
The Kingdom of Denmark also encompasses two autonomous countries: the far-flung Farøe Islands and Greenland. Lying some 600 kilometers west of the Norwegian coast, the Farøe Islands (Sheep Islands) is an archipelago of 18 remote islands. Landscapes range from steep rocky coasts, meadows, and mist-cloaked hills to fjords that bite deep inland. The Gulf Stream moderates the temperatures on land and at sea and attracts a diversity of marine life, including seals, whales, and many species of fish. Anglers come here to cast their lines in the crisp, clear waters, and birders can admire some of the 300-plus species including puffins and guillemots. A boat trip to the Vestmanna bird cliffs is a highlight. The Faroe Islands also boast a lively music scene with many festivals in the summer.
To the north and northeast of Eysturoy, one of the archipelago's largest islands, lie many sizable and smallish islands. Blessed with a natural harbor surrounded by emerald hills, Klaksvik on Bordoy is the second largest town in the Farøes. Tourist attractions include the history museum and the Christian's Church (Christians-kirkjan) with a boat hanging from its ceiling, the only one of four to return safely on a stormy winter's night in 1923.
To access the Faroes, you can fly to the airport on the island of Vågar year-round from Copenhagen or hop aboard a ferry from several Danish ports to Torshavn, the capital, on the island of Streymoy.