We spent two weeks in Denmark in August 2009. One week in Copenhagen, the rightly named Paris of the North, and then a week visiting the Lake District around Silkeborg and the Odden peninsula.
Denmark might never be top of your list for next year’s holiday – but it really is a great place. It oozes quality, the people are delightful, the food is simple but fresh and you leave feeling there really are some lovely places left in the world.
We stayed right in the middle, near Christianshavn, the main tourist magnet. In the summer it’s astonishing how civilised Copenhagen is. Many of the locals decamp to their summerhouses so the capital feels quiet and relaxed. We had no problem getting around, everyone spoke perfect English (although they will encourage you to say “porridge with strawberry jam” as the locals find it unpronounceable), the trains and buses are spectacular and best of all we hired local ‘Christiana’ bikes – with huge wooden boxes on the front which the kids sat in to their great entertainment. Wherever you stay though everything is only is short distance away.
Copenhagen is based around a series of rivers and canals so it feels not unlike Amsterdam. It’s definitely worth taking a boat trip as these give you a real sense of the city. The new Opera House (a personal $300m gift from Mr Moeller to the Queen) is amazing. The boats skirt past the famous hippy community of Christiana (don’t bother investigating further).
If you’re there in summer the water is clean enough to swim in. There aren’t many capital cities where you can swim in the river – but in Copenhagen you can. There are a number of lovely beaches and a city centre swimming pontoon. We took full advantage and the water is amazingly clear (and warm).
There are some great museums. None of them are world beaters (apart from one) but the best thing is they are different and very creative. Our kids loved them. One, the Kunstal Charlottenborg was full of string, a car suspended from a hot-air balloon and a gallery where you could leave your own effort. The best museum by far is called Louisiana – a short train journey outside the city. It’s on a promontory a short train journey north. It’s a modern art gallery. The art is so so (there are some lovely Giacommetis), buried in galleries built into the hillside. The location is amazing set right by the sea. Just chill out in the café – and enjoy the view out to a small island with a town called Tuna on it. I was lucky enough to see one of Denmark’s national treasures – Helena Christiansen!
Tivoli Gardens – the world’s first amusement park is definitely worth it. It’s pretty, central and fun. Spend the whole day as like all things in Denmark, it’s expensive. Reckon on spending about $100 to get a family into any museum in Copenhagen.
Don’t even think about hiring a car in Copenhagen. It’s small and perfectly connected and parking costs a fortune.
Silkeborg – The Lake District
Denmark is basically three islands. Copenhagen is way over on the right – next to Sweden. The Lake District is way over on the left – on Jutland. The drive was fun – one bridge was over 16km long (ok I do come from a family with a history of bridge building).
The lake district sounds like a huge area but it’s a couple of towns – Silkeborg and Ry. We reckon it’s better to be outside Silkeborg at one of the (well-located) campsites or B&Bs. The one we stayed in in Ry was fabulous, down a track, by a lake with its own pontoon and kayak. We made the breakfast last all day. The food in Denmark is expensive although they do a delicious hamburger with everything on for about $3.50 and you can find them pretty much everywhere.
The popular thing to do in the Lake District is hire a kayak and float down a river or across a lake. But if you’re in car just get yourself lost on a by-road and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Down by the sea
Denmark is a series of islands so you are never far from the sea. There are bridges, ferries, beaches, boats everywhere. The beaches are clean and empty compared to pretty much anywhere else we’d every been.
We were in a tiny, basic summerhouse near a beach. We’d taken the ferry from Arhus in Jutland back to Odden in Zealand and our summerhouse was in a place called Lumsas. Because foreigners are restricted in the property market the Danes all seem to have a summerhouse as a second home. They are generally small and simple, located near the sea. Ours was a tiny wooden building with a couple of bedrooms and one big living room. There are no gardens or fences, the summerhouses are just dotted around in the woods. Our local beach was frequently empty – even on the days we had perfect weather. It’s worth noting that August is a great time to visit as children go back to school at the beginning of the month.
We spent the days swimming, reading and going crabbing (a tradition in the East of England where we come from). The local fishshop in Rorvig (delightful and well worth visiting) leaves out fish heads which you attach to a piece of string and then fish crabs out of the water on the local pier. Simple but hours of fun and free entertainment. And the food at that local fish shop is amazing.
We ended up thinking Denmark might just be the place to retire to but the locals assured us visiting is best. Tax is 65% – hence the great public services and the tax authorities make sure they see your bank statements every new year’s eve. And don’t even think about jay walking. They are a very law abiding bunch. It’s definitely worth a visit.