Despite being attached to the main European continent, making it estranged from its cousins to the north across the Skagerrak Channel, Denmark is one of the nations that make up Scandinavia.
This will make it the first nation you’ll visit if you plan on visiting Northern Europe from the rest of the continent, but don’t breeze on by on your way to places like Sweden or Finland. With some of the most beautiful castles and cathedrals in Europe, as well as having some of the most peaceful islands in the region, you’ll be passing up a memorable destination if you do.
Currency: Danish Krone
What To Do
Considered to be one of Northern Europe’s most important castles from the Renaissance period and serving as an inspiration for William Shakespeare’s Elsinore in the play Hamlet, Kronborg Castle is an obvious first stop on your tour of Denmark.
Significant enough to earn a designation from UNESCO as a World Heritage Site due to its historic importance as a point of control in the channel between Denmark and Sweden, this site can be found on the very northeastern tip of the island of Zealand. Don’t forget to check out the statue of Holger the Dane, who is said to be sleeping until he is needed to defend the Danish homeland once more!
Heading back to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, there are many spectacular buildings to explore, but ensure that you make time to explore Amalienborg, a former palace of this country’s royal family that currently serves as their winter home.
Originally intended for four separate families in the noble class, the royals bought them out once their primary residence burnt down in 1794 and moved in. With fountains, gardens, and statues, the grounds of this palatial building are truly remarkable, but be sure to take the interior tour when they are available.
Also, a daily march takes place in streets of the Copenhagen near the palace at around 11:30 am, with a changing of the guard occurring at around 12 noon, so be sure to time your visit to take in this ceremony as well!
While the Danish city of Roskilde is well known for its annual rock music festival that draws tens of thousands of fans from across the continent and the world, Roskilde Cathedral, its namesake church also makes trips out here well worth the effort at any time of year.
This Lutheran hall of worship was the first Gothic style cathedral in Europe to be built out of brick, and with its continual expansion over the years due to its status as a burial place for Danish monarchs, there is plenty to explore here as a result. For these reasons, it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a must see for those hunting down sites on this very long list.
If you are traveling as a family, or you simply wish to indulge your inner child, visiting Tivoli Gardens will prove to be an excellent decision on your part. Founded in 1843, this amusement park is the second oldest in the world after Dyrehavsbakken, which is located in nearby Klampenbourg (opened in 1583).
While you should definitely drop in on the latter park as well, Tivoli Gardens still ranks as one of Europe’s most popular parks even after 170+ years of operation, as it logged more than 4 million visits in 2012 alone. It has done this by continuing to evolve with the times, all without losing sight of its past.
One of the world’s oldest operating roller coasters can be found here, built in 1914 with operator-controlled brakes to ensure that the cars don’t roll down the declines too fast. Meanwhile, state of the art rides are unveiled regularly, with gut-twisting and gravity defying rides like the Demon (Dæmonen) thrilling crowds looking for the latest way to push the envelope in search of an adrenaline high.
Those looking to connect best with Denmark’s countryside will want to explore the Danish Islands, as there are hundreds of islands sitting off this nation’s east coast that offer a respite from the urbanization of the mainland.
Isles like Møn offer plenty of opportunity to hike and bike beneath sea cliffs and pleasant woods, while Læsø and Anholt offer massive sand dunes that make for a perfect escape for those that are desperately seeking out a place where they can be alone with their thoughts. Most of the islands have a collection of quaint villages where the pace of life is significantly slower than in the bigger towns and cities found elsewhere in Denmark and Europe.
What To Eat
If it is merely a sandwich that you seek, then tucking into a Smørrebrød will satisfy your hunger while giving you an authentic taste of Denmark. Made with buttered rye bread with a variety of local cold cuts, cheese, meat or fish (particularly pickled herring), it is the Danish way to refill your energy tanks on a busy day of sightseeing anywhere in this country.
When dinner swings around though, you likely want something a bit more substantial. Frikadeller is a great option for those seeking a uniquely Danish dish, as these pan-fried dumplings are filled with kibbled beef, pork or veal, and are often served with white potatoes and gravy. Available all year round at local restaurants, it is the perfect way to warm yourself up on a cold winter’s day, or it is good as a savoury treat even in midsummer.
When it is time for dessert, do have some Rødgrød if it is available. Rødgrød is a porridge-like pudding made with a variety of berries ranging from redcurrant to blackberries and potato starch. Top with some fresh whipped cream and enjoy!