WITH Hans Christian Andersen celebrating his 200th birthday, it’s about time to discover that Denmark has so much more to offer than just the Little Mermaid & Tivoli Gardens. Covering an area smaller than Scotland, the two main islands – Sjælland (Zealand) and Fyn (Funen) – and the peninsula of Jylland (Jutland) are easily accessible by car and contain some of the country’s best kept secrets. Let’s take a trip around this ’wonderful wonderful’ Kingdom.
From the nation’s capital – København (Copenhagen), it is about an hour’s drive south to some of most dramatic sea cliffs in northern Europe. Situated on the island of Møn (one of over 400 islands that make up this diverse and wonderful country), Møns Klint will take your breath away http://www.insula-moenia.dk. However, if you really want to experience its true wonder, It isn’t for the fainthearted. The Klint (cliff) is 128 metres at its highest point and has spectacular views over the turquoise waters of the East Baltic sea. Nevertheless, to really appreciate the splendour of these towering cliffs, you must climb down to the beach and gaze up at them from sea level. Don’t worry, no abseiling required – those kind Danes have provided a ‘stairway’ – although a reasonable level of fitness is required if you are to make it back up to the car park again.
A short drive north west takes us to one of the finest bathing beaches in Denmark. Enø island’s beach is one of many in Denmark that have the ‘blue flag’ award and the waters here are among the cleanest in Europe – not to mention the warmest (in August, of course!).
If lazing around in the sun all day is not your thing then don’t worry; there’s plenty to keep you (and the little ones) occupied. If you want to sample the quieter side of this picturesque fishing village, why not take a stroll around the island? You can take in some beautifully secluded nature and, on your way, stop off at the ‘smokehouse’ and sample the famous Danish sild (herrings), fresh from the bay that morning. http://uk.enoe-camping.dk
However, if excitement is what you’re after then a short 15-minute drive will take you and the family to one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions – ‘Bonbon Land’ http://www.bonbonland.dk/ In a few hours here you will be looped upside down on the ‘wild boar’ (voted Denmark’s best roller coaster), dropped 35 metres straight down on the ‘cobra tower’ and turned giddy with delight on the ‘crazy albatross’. There’s also plenty for the kids (that’s the real kids – not those of us refusing to grow up) with a children’s theatre, sea lion show, circus, balloon and cowboy clown.
Heading west now we have an hour’s drive to the island of Fyn and the birth place of Hans Christian Andersen – Odense. To reach Denmark’s second largest island involves a trip over one of the longest suspension bridges in the world – Storebæltsbroen (the great belt bridge). The bridge spans the ‘great belt sea’ in two sections, both over four miles long. The actual ‘suspended’ section of the bridge is 1,624 metres – the second largest in the world! Arriving on Fyn, we are just a few miles from Odense, the birth place of Denmark’s most heralded son.
Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense in 1805 into poverty and left his home at aged 14 to find wealth and riches in København. Once there, he failed as an actor and started to compose poetry which was soon to be recognised by King Frederik VI. He took to his new found love for writing like a ‘duckling’ to water and soon started producing the tales that to this day enthral children, and adults alike, across the globe. We all remember growing up with ‘The Ugly Duckling, ‘Thumbelina’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’ which were just three of the 168 fairy tales this storytelling genius wrote during his lifetime. You can learn more about H.C. Andersen and his tales at: http://hca.gilead.org.il
There are many attractions for all ages in Odense including The H.C. Andersen Museum, The Tinder Box Children’s Cultural Centre, Hans Christian’s Childhood Home and the City Walk where you can follow in the great man’s childhood footsteps. To check the opening times for these, and many other Odense attractions visit http://www.visitodense.com
It’s south west now and a drive over the lillebæltsbroen (little belt bridge) to take us onto the peninsular of Jylland and a two hour drive toward the island of Rømø. However, before we reach Rømø we take a short detour south, just before reaching the island, to the ‘Capital of Denmark’s marshland’ – Tønder. This active commercial centre was a main disembarkation port for horses and cattle during the Middle Ages and, in the 17th century, was one of the world’s largest produces of lace, employing some 12,000 lace makers in its hay-day. The wealthy lace dealers built many of the beautiful houses that line the streets today and the neighbouring village of Møgeltønder boasts one of the ‘most beautiful village streets in Northern Europe’. However, all this beauty and idyllic living is disrupted for 4 days in August when Europe’s biggest Folk Music Festival comes to town. This year the festival will be held on 25th – 28th August and is a must visit if you get the opportunity. Artists from all over the world come here to perform for what is truly a memorable weekend. Either book tickets to one of the big tents or just stroll around the town and enjoy the festival atmosphere, where performers can be found on almost every available street corner. For more information : http://www.tf.dk/
The island of Rømø lies off the west coast of Denmark and is reached via a causeway across the Vadehavet (Wadden Sea). Having one of Europe’s widest beaches, it is a mecca for all those seeking solitude in a beautiful windswept environment and many travel here from all over Europe just to ‘unwind’. One of the most popular activities here is the fishing, with waters containing trout, pike, sea trout and salmon. Many fine restaurants can be found scattered across the island serving everything including local Danish specialities, international cuisine and fish so fresh that it was still swimming only hours before. If all this relaxing, and good living, starts affecting your waistline, you can always visit ‘Rømø Play and Horse Park’ and trim those extra pounds off with a round of miniature golf or some aquatic fun in the water park – slides and all. http://www.romo.dk/
We head North now with a three hour drive through countryside dotted with wind turbines. Arriving in the town of Løkken, the first thing you realise is that you really are in a holiday resort. There’s sand blown across the streets; there’s fast food outlets (although these are selling the infamous Danish sausage as opposed to fish & chips); there’s shops with buckets, spades and beach-balls hanging outside. This is a real ‘seaside’ town in every sense of the word.
As is to be expected of the Danes’ most popular summer resort, Løkken is jam packed with activities to keep the whole family happy. The Action House is great! Kids of all ages can try their hand at go-karting, bowling, pool, paintball and 3-D laser fun – all under one roof. For a more relaxing few hours, Løkken has both a nine and 18 hole golf course and a driving range for you to get that handicap down a point or two. With so many other attractions to keep you amused including restaurants (Løkken is famous for it’s seafood), museums, art galleries, bars and nightclubs there really is something for everyone.
The beach here (also awarded the ‘blue flag’) stretches as far as the eye can see with miles of golden sands, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a place to park the towels -even on bank holidays! Although the beach is, of course, most popular when that all too rare Northern European sun shows its face, one of the most fascinating times to stroll this shoreline is after a big storm. Denmark is an extremely rich source of amber and, when a storm lashes the west coast, it invariably throws up pieces of ‘the gold of the north’ onto the beach. There aren’t many places in the Europe where you can stroll along a beach and find gemstones! http://www.loekken.dk/
The final leg of our journey takes us to the northern-most point of Denmark.
Skagen is a small town situated right on the northern peninsula, at the point where the Skagerrak and the Kattegat meet. These two seas come crashing together in a mass of foam and spray and provide a wonderful display of nature at its rawest. The whole area is rich in nature and seals are often seen swimming off the coast to provide a fascinating end to your journey across one of Europe’s lesser known jewels. http://www.skagen-tourist.dk/