When we first started planning our trip to Scandinavia, Denmark was always on our radar. The appeal of their World Happiness ranking and uncovering their Hygge was enough to peak our curiosity. After three weeks exploring all corners of the country, we are so happy that we made this an integral part of our journey. So join us as we meander around Denmark’s countryside and discover the joys that an extended visit to Denmark can offer you. Our purpose – to entice you to come, explore and stay a while.
I feel that in order to sell a place, first I must offer a preliminary sales pitch, just like any good tourist brochure. Although I’ll be honest, our entry into Denmark didn’t give us the instant wow that I hoped for. In truth I had few expectations, which I guess is a good thing, yet I was just not bowled over. We could put it down to hormones or travel weariness although the fact remains that Denmark was definitely a slow burner for us. Yet the longer we stayed and the further we travelled, the more we began to connect. Whilst it’s true that much of Denmark is flat, I’m not adversed to flat, as I mentioned in our recent post on the Netherlands. Flat can offer the most amazing topography if we stay open minded to its beauty. You don’t have to be Marilyn Munro to be alluring; and in the same way there’s more to travel than mountains and hairpins! Or at least this is what we’ve found to be true.
So what can we entice you with? How about some fascinating facts as starting point?
- Denmark in 2019 ranked the second happiest country to live in, according to the 2019 World Happiness Report.
- Denmark is host to two of the world’s most powerful brands; Lego (which when translated means, Play Well!) and Carlsberg beer. Add to that Danish bacon and Lurpak butter and Denmark begins to raise its world stage impact.
- Did you know that Denmark is also known for the Christmas Tree market and Cat Litter? Yes that’s right, cat litter! Now we have to go back 55 million years to find the origins of this product which is called moler. To save you from the full geology lesson, quite simply the North Sea marine environment back then created perfect conditions for the formation of shell and clay deposits. When combined they created a substance with an extraordinary absorption factor. Moler landscapes are only found in the archipelago of Limfjorden of northern Denmark.
- Denmark has the oldest flag in the world.
- Denmark is the home of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
- The Faroe Islands belong to Denmark.
- Denmark has 5,440 miles of coastline to lure you, much of which is under the protection of National Parks.
- Denmark’s most famous Dane is Hans Christian Anderson (although the world’s largest shipping company Mærsk, AP Møller might have something to say about that). Anderson, born in 1805 is famous for his childrens’ fairytales and also, did you know, for his travelogues?
- Denmark was the inspiration of Walt Disney’s theme park Disneyland, inspired by his visit to Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens.
- Did you know that Denmark distilled whiskey and has a thriving wine industry?
When I started loosely planning our trip, I was shocked to see, in a very well known Travel Guide, only 80 pages dedicated to Denmark, 20 of which were about Copenhagen. Surely there had to be more to Denmark than this minuscule profile? Perhaps we had made a mistake by putting this on our itinerary; perhaps like so many others with their sights set on Norway and Sweden, it should just be a drive-by?
Remaining resolute if not a tad stubborn, I was serious about spending more time in Denmark and exploring. So with determination to giving Denmark space in the Motoroamer’s storybook, we started to uncover its treasure little by little. Here’s the seven reasons we believe you should come to Denmark and stay a while.1. Its coastline, fjords and archipelago
With over 5000 miles of coastline that weaves its way around Jutland and Denmark’s 400+ islands, this Scandinavian country is a serious coastal contender. I had never associated fjords nor archipelago with Denmark – it’s more akin to the likes of Greece and Norway. Yet if you take a look at the Danish map, see how many bridges and ferry routes knit this small country together, like a jigsaw puzzle.
With coast comes an affiliation with the forces of Mother Nature. The North Sea to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east, the coast faces some severe weather and with it the creation of some extraordinary sights. Like the Rudbjerg Knude lighthouse that is fighting the force of the sand. This Danish landmark was built in 1899 together with 71 other lighthouses around the coast. At the time, this building was 200m inland and today, as you can see from the gallery below, is close on becoming consumed by the ocean. It is expected that this iconic building will be devoured by the eroding cliffs within the next couple of years. So go soon before it disappears completely.
Denmark’s island network sets up a fabulous exploration; across bridges, causeways and with ferries waiting to transport you, its patchwork of archipelago is a treat. Rømø in the south west, which sits in the Wadden Sea UNESCO site houses a beach you can drive on and the smallest school. And Enø in the southern reaches of Zealand is a fishing and farming island that rarely cares whether you come or not. Check out our gallery below.
With so much coast and the full frontal experience of the North Sea, is it any wonder that Denmark has a lot of windmills and turbines? Where the Netherlands has an intimate relationship with the sea, Denmark’s affiliation is with the wind. Another Danish fact… Denmark has the highest proportion of wind power in the world, producing in 2015 42% of its electricity from it. Anyway I digress. With wind and coasts come an array of water and wind sports and Denmark is a haven for them. From the Annual Kite competition on the southern island of Rømø, to the west coast Klitmøller’s hosting of the PWA World Surfing Cup in September where 32 of the world’s best surfers compete here for this prestigious award. Aptly named Cold Hawaii this is heaven for all types of water sport opportunities.
Elsewhere Denmark’s fjords offer cosy harbours and marinas where sailing is an almost guaranteed activity for a Dane. Kayaks, speed boats, windsurfers and any other water and wind based activity is a major draw for this lovely country offering us wanderlusters a little taste of sporting wonder whilst on our vacation.
Denmark oozes history and you need look no further if you want to experience the spiritual home of the Vikings. With the unique Rune Stones at Jelling to iconic Viking fortresses around the country, Viking evidence is clear. From 793 for nearly four hundred years the Viking race dominated this Scandinavian region, pillaging their way into the history books. Denmark has much to offer if you want to learn about this important bedrock of their culture. Head to Hobro for three great Viking sites where activities for young kids – and the old will delight, especially if there is an inner historian in you. For more sites that focus on Viking culture click here.
Every town we visited has a museum that, in part has a Viking story to tell. And although we are not great fans of museums, the understated building at Silkeborg in Denmark’s Lake District is not to be missed. It is here that you will stumble upon the most incredible discovery of 1950 – the uncovering of Tollundman. Tollundman is the preserved remains of a man in his 30’s thought to have been murdered in the 4th Century BC according to carbon-dating. His body was buried in a peat bog which has kept the integrity of this man’s body for us to gaze upon in some sort of macabre awe – and he is on display at Silkeborg’s museum.
And for a more recent look into history, World War 2 has made its mark here in Denmark too. Despite declaring itself as neutral in the outbreak of war, Germany occupied the country in 1939. Denmark was allowed to continue as normal, taking on a protectorate role up to 1943 when Germany took military occupation until the Allied victory of May 1945. Evidence of German warfare is to be found all along the northern coast particularly. Open-air Bunker Museums are open to the public to explore. You can walk through trenches, into bunkers and touch the ammunition that shaped the German’s protection of these northern borders from invasion. Why not check the museums at Hanstholm, Hirtshals and Grenen. See our gallery below for visual stimulation!
Denmark’s flat and softly undulating landscape makes it a joy for cycling and hiking. With forests, lakes and dedicated cycle paths, for the active amongst us, then Denmark will delight. With 7000 miles of cycle routes navigating around the country you’ll not be bored. So take your time to enjoy the gently rolling Lake District region and cycle for miles through the beech and pine forests.
Amidst the countryside that is laced, in May with acres of sunshine-yellow fields of rape and purple lilac bushes fringing the roads like cheerleaders as they dance in the wind, you can’t help smiling. With hen harriers hunting, hares alert like meercats and plovers elegantly flapping across the wheat crops, wildlife is abundant. Deer in the forests, gannets on the oceans, flocks of geese in the salt-flats and porpoises in the fjords; you begin to see the natural potential of this beautiful land. When you look beyond Denmark’s agricultural landscape, nature speaks in volumes. Click below for our gallery.
Whilst Denmark’s modern architecture doesn’t really excite me with its square, characterless designs, the old medieval towns are beautiful. Brightly painted and wonky buildings that framed with cobbled stone streets just exude charm and intrigue. Denmark’s oldest town Ribe on the south west edge of Jutland is a prime example. Where ancient past meets modern thinking Ribe has a story to tell dating back to 800AD. Other towns around the country compete for our affections as their chocolate-box alleyways and town squares just look primed for a TV period drama. Viborg and Mariager are firm favourites and need to be explored. And then there’s the thatch cottages that are dotted around the countryside. What is it about thatch cottages that work their magic on us? Check out our gallery to lure your photographic eye.
6. Let’s get Hygge with it!
One of the biggest reasons for me visiting Denmark, was to satisfy the curiosity of my happiness coaching vocation. The only true remanent from my ‘old life’, I am passionate about happiness and help others tap into their inner joy. So what better place to come and learn about Denmark’s reasons for happiness. Especially given their second place ranking from the World Happiness Report of 2019.
The first thing to strike me was how much the outdoor life influences their culture and lifestyle. From being at the beach, to having a picnic along side the river, people are outdoors all the time. Communities have regular social gatherings where they light a fire-pit and eat together. Many school children have a weekly excursion outdoors. The working day starts early, between 7.30-8.00am yet finishes at 4.00pm. And with the long spring and summer days this leaves plenty of time for being outside. The roads are a breeze to drive, partly because they’re such good quality also because there’s just no one on them. And we have felt the safest here than in any other country in Europe.
And then there’s Hygge (pronounced hewge). This is a tricky word to translate, although the best we can do is to say it’s about creating coziness, well-being and contentment. Time away from ‘doing’ and just ‘being’. Well this is heaven for me in my coaching world and forms the very basis of my work. People I’ve spoken to have their own unique ways of creating hygge; from having a bench in the sun with beautiful flowers around it, to a fire-pit where the family gather of an evening to share their food. Others also described it as a tradition; one family have a regular ‘date’ each Friday where they make home-made pizza and cuddle up on the sofa to watch a film. Others describe how the community has a bar-be-que to celebrate the collective. Candles, blankets, benches, quiet space to contemplate and warmth, all contribute to making this Danish culture one of calm, well-paced, reflective and a community-based influence, which is infectious. Why wouldn’t you want to come experience that?
7. Castles and Monuments
Denmark might not roll off the tongue when it comes to castles, yet it should. With 177 of these majestic buildings, each one having its own historical tapestry and regal story, you’ll be easily satisfied. And to top it all, the most famous of all, Shakespeare’s Hamlet castle, UNESCO Kronborg must qualify Denmark for a castle itinerary? Many of the castles’ grounds are free to explore although if you wish to venture inside to gaze at the artwork and listen to the tales of a bygone era, tickets are required. One of Europe’s 50 most beautiful places is Egeskov castle with its fabulous gardens, adventure park and classic car museums, this will entertain the whole family for the day. Check out our gallery.
Are you coming?
So there we have it; an introduction to the deliciousness that is Denmark and that’s before we’ve even talked about Copenhagen. That’s for another day. Whilst Denmark has been a slow burner, it has also been an endearing experience, one that will entice us back to explore the many more islands and miles not yet covered. So if you are thinking of coming just to see Copenhagen on a city trip or thinking about transitioning through the country en route to Norway or Sweden, we implore to stay a while. There is so much to explore and discover here and we hope that perhaps we have whetted your appetite just a little.Want to save for later? Why not pin it?