All About Denmark
Denmark is the homeland of Lego and of Hans Christian Andersen, of massive outdoor music festivals and urban hippie communes. Though connected to Germany and the European mainland, Denmark’s Jutland peninsula—and the 443 islands, large and small, that together make up this tiny Scandinavian nation—reaches emphatically north towards its North Sea neighbors and their shared Viking history, progressive social values, and perpetual modernist hipness. It’s no mistake that the Denmark’s capital city lies at the very easternmost edge of the country, on the island of Zealand just across a bridge from Malmö, Sweden—as close as it can get to the rest of Scandinavia.
Copenhagen and the Island of Zealand
Cosmopolitan Copenhagen’s historic Indre By—the downtown tangle of tidy Scandinavian streets—is ringed by the (active) royal palaces of Christiansborg and Amalienborg, the pleasure gardens of Tivoli (the world’s oldest amusement park), and the post–hippie anarchist commune of Christiania in the “Little Amsterdam” canal-laced island neighborhood of Christianshavn. Follow the tourist crowds an hour up the coast to Helsingør and its mighty Kronborg Slot castle, where Shakespeare set Hamlet within sight of the Swedish coast (rail pass holders get discounts on ferries to Norway and Sweden, as well as on Copenhagen’s S-tog suburban rail system). Inland at Roskilde, thousand-year-old wooden Viking ships found preserved in a fjord are now pride of the Vikingeskibsmuseet.
Funen and Jutland
Much of Denmark is rural or wild, from the fishing villages on Funen—the second largest island, where medieval Odense has two museums dedicated to hometown hero Hans Christian Andersen—to the moors and fjords of the Jutland peninsula, Denmark’s only mainland territory. Jutland is renowned for its North Sea beaches and the charms of its largest city, Århus, a delightful mix of Scandinavia’s old and the new, with a 15th century gothic cathedral and famously Functionalist city hall, the collection of historic buildings in The Old Town Museum and the art in the delightfully modernist ARoS Museum.
When to Go to Denmark: Southerly Denmark is the most temperate of the Scandinavian countries, at its best in the height of summer. Spring and fall are not bad, though it can get cool in the evenings. The Gulf Stream takes the edge off winter, so it can get chilly, but not nearly as harsh as you might think.