Planning a trip to Denmark: Everything you need to know about visiting the world’s happiest country

Denmark is a stunning country populated by a bunch of happy people. That’s what we’re known for – happiness and “hygge” (a mystifying concept to all non-Danes). We pay about half of what we earn in income taxes so there is really enough to cry about, but we don’t. We smile.

You can read a lot of articles debating why we keep dominating the World Happiness rankings year after year, but why not come see what all the fuss is about for yourself?

But before you start planning a trip to Denmark, let me give you some facts about my home country. This Denmark guide details the unmissable Denmark destinations and the popular tourist attractions. You’ll also find info on when to visit Denmark, how to get around, food, safety and money.

By the end of the guide, you will have all the tools you need to plan an amazing trip to Denmark.

 

A few facts about Denmark

Once Denmark was full of brutal Vikings – now it’s one of the world’s most peaceful societies. It’s slightly less than twice the size of Massachusetts and is home to about 5.7 million Danes. The main part of Denmark is Jutland and the two islands Funen and Zealand. Jutland is connected to Germany by land, but the rest of Denmark is surrounded by sea. No wonder we perfected the art of building ships. Denmark is a monarchy, one of the oldest in the world actually, and we really do love our queen.

The biggest cities in Denmark are Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense. Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and is home to about 600.000 Danes. We speak Danish, but almost all of us speak English as well. And if we don’t speak English, we speak German, Spanish or something else.

Three Danish keywords: Equality, solidarity and a high level of trust.

Also Danish: The Faroe Islands and Greenland are self-governing nations with autonomous powers within the Kingdom of Denmark

Denmark’s claim to fame: Vikings, Danish (the pastry), hygge, New Nordic Cuisine and being the first country in the world to legalize porn (1969).

 

 

The best time to visit Denmark

Denmark can be visited at all times, but let’s be honest: Denmark kind of sucks in the fall and winter (September-February). It’s cold, rainy and grey. The absolute best time to visit Denmark is in the spring or summer. In the cold months, Danes spend most of their time at home, but when the sun comes out we all sprint to the nearest café or park as if our lives depended on it. Summertime in Denmark equals concerts, eating out, swimming in the ocean and socialising. With an average temperature of 16.7 °C, July is the hottest month.

T-shirt or a warm jacket – find out here: Weather forecast.

 

How to get around in Denmark

Denmark is a country made for cyclists, but we also have excellent public transportation. The two main airports, Copenhagen Airport and Billund Airport, are located in Zealand and Jutland. Copenhagen Airport is very close to Copenhagen, but also very well connected to the rest of the country by train. Find out how to get from Copenhagen Airport to the city centre here: Transportation to/from Copenhagen Airport. It’s very easy to go by train – that’s what we always do. It takes about 20 minutes.

When you’ve arrived at your destination in Denmark, I highly recommend you rent a bike. Doesn’t matter if you’re in Copenhagen or visiting the rural west coast of Jutland – you can’t go wrong with a bike.

Three fun facts about cycling in Denmark:
1. Denmark has 12,000 km. of sign-posted cycle routes.
2. The furthest you can cycle from the sea is 50 km.
3. A third of people working in Copenhagen commute by bike.

If you decide to skip the iron horse, here are a few good transportation links.

The Copenhagen Metro

DSB – it’s all about trains.

FynBus – buses on Funen.

Midttrafik – buses in and around Aarhus.

All of the companies offer tourist tickets.

DSB offers very cheap (less than half the regular price) “Orange tickets”, but you have to buy them well in advance, and you don’t get a refund if you miss your train. You can’t make any changes to the ticket either. Fill out the boxes on this pagecheck the little box saying “Show me the cheap Orange Tickets” and voila – there you are.

 

 

How long should I stay in Denmark?

I guess it really depends on how you travel. You can do a quick weekend trip to Copenhagen, but you can also spend two weeks exploring Funen and Jutland. To help you plan a perfect trip to Denmark, I’ve tried to sum up what you can see and do in Jutland, Funen and Zealand.

Planning a trip to Denmark? Don't forget about Råbjerg Mile.
Råbjerg Mile is one of the sights that should be on your Denmark itinerary.

Things to do in Jutland

Jutland is mainly known for its endless beaches, big dunes and dramatic landscape. Every summer thousands of Germans and Danes go to Jutland for a week or two to swim in the sea and get some sand between their toes. North Jutland, the very top of Denmark, is known for its special light (have you ever heard of the “Skagen painters” ) and raw nature. It’s also at the very tip of Nort Jutland that the two seas Skagerrak and Kattegat meet each other. The collision of the waves is clearly visible to the naked eye.

Grenen: A sand formation from where you can see Skagerrak and Kattegat crash into each other.
Skagen: The most delightful little town. You definitely want to spend a couple of hours in Skagen.
Råbjerg Mile: A colossal migrating sand dune. You’d never know this was Denmark.
The sand-buried church: It used to be a functioning church, but around year 1800 it became increasingly difficult for the parishioners to dig their way to church services. Today only tower of the church is visible. The rest is buried in sand.
Aarhus – the City of Smiles: Aarhus is the second biggest city in Denmark, and it has a lot to offer in terms of food, culture and shopping.
Legoland and Lego House: Go brick-berserk. An absolute must for families.
ARoS: The biggest art museum in Aarhus and one of the largest museums in Northern Europe. One of the big attractions is the rainbow panorama, a  150 meter long, circular panoramic path with 360º views of the surrounding city, located on top of the museum.
Black sun: Black sun is one of the most impressive and exciting nature phenomenons in Denmark. Every year hundreds of thousands of starlings meet in the marshlands in southwestern Jutland where they shape-shift and dance in the evening sky.

An old Danish house on Strynø.

Things to do on Funen

Funen is the island squeezed in between Jutland and Zealand. It may not be big, but it is beautiful. There are loads of good reasons to spend a few days on H.C. Andersen’s birth island.

The South Funen Archipelago: A unique area of 55 islands easily reached from Funen. Keywords: tranquillity, salty sea air and slow living. One of my favourite islands is Strynø – a tiny, tiny island reached with ferry from Rudkøbing, Langeland.
Everything H.C. Andersen: The H.C. Andersen Museum, his birth home, his neighbourhood, the parade etc.
Egeskov Slot: Europe’s best preserved Renaissance moat-surrounded castle. A great day trip.
Odense: Denmark’s third largest city is buzzing with life. Visit the old quarter with its crooked houses, the brand new harbour-quarter or the lovely Latin quarter. .

 

Photo: Lasse Salling

Things to do on Zealand

Zealand’s claim to fame is largely Copenhagen, our very happening capital. When you’re in the midst of planning a trip to Denmark, don’t forget to reserve at least three days for Copenhagen.

Tivoli, Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid: No explanation needed, I think.
Castles: Kronborg Castle (home of Hamlet) and Fredensborg Castle are both very impressive.
Roskilde: A city of kings and Vikings. In Roskilde Cathedral, no less than 38 Danish monarchs have been laid to rest for eternity. The cathedral is also on UNESCO World Heritage list.  In Roskilde, you also find the Viking Ship Museum.
Møns Klint: I’m sort of lost for words. Just go see it.

 

The Danish currency

The Danish currency is Kroner (DKK). Find exchange rates here: Currency converter. The cost of living in Denmark is very high which means you’ll probably find everything insanely expensive. A beer costs about five pounds/seven dollars in a restaurant.

 

Danish Food

Here are some examples of foods you should try while visiting Denmark. We eat all five things all the time. It’s not sophisticated and it’s far from New Nordic Cuisine, but it’s good!

Smørrebrød

Smørrebrød: An open sandwich which consists of a dark brown rye bread slice, topped with various ingredients such as leverpostej, sausage or eggs and shrimps (really good). In recent years it has become popular to eat smørrebrød again, and you can now find several restaurants serving great smørrebrød.

Flæskesteg: We do love our pigs – especially eating them. Flæskesteg (roast pork)  is considered one of the most typical national dishes. The salty crispy rind makes this dish oh so special and mouth-watering. We usually eat it around Christmas.

Frikadeller: Also a pig-dish. Frikadeller is the Danish version of meatballs.

Leverpostej: Leverpostej is sort of like a paté, only better. It’s made out of pork liver, onion, butter, eggs, milk and spices. It can be eaten both warm and cold and is served on a slice of rye bread. A slice of cucumber suits the dish.

Hotdog: To make this right you have to use six equally important ingredients to put on top of a sausage resting in a crusted bun. The ingredients are ketchup, mustard, remoulade (a yellow sauce), pickles, fresh onion and fried onion. When you get everything right, you have the taste of Denmark.

 

Read this before you go out in Odense: A guide to the best restaurants in Odense

 

I hope this guide to Denmark has helped you figure out where to go and what to see in Denmark so you can start planning that awesome trip to Denmark.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a few words. I love hearing from you.

 

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