Wednesday 19 July 2017

Memories of Denmark

I'm not long back from a two week and a half road trip around Denmark and my goodness I cannot wait to tell you how amazing this country is. Having visited Copenhagen back in 2009 I was expecting the rest of the country to be wonderful, but I was blown away by just how charming, pretty, and full of joy Denmark is. Denmark isn't like Copenhagen, well maybe Aarhus is a little. Cities are small, villages are full to the brim of cutesy, colourful houses, and day-to-day life is peaceful. Not to mention that the people are some of the friendliest you'll find.

A couple of years ago Steve and I did a road trip around Iceland which was indescribably out-of-this-world. Whilst Denmark doesn't have the same dramatic landscapes, it does have it's own unique style of beauty. Denmark is flat, when you come across a hill it's a big deal, which is why there are so many cyclists. The luscious, green landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see. The coast is an eclectic source of glorious white beaches and dramatic cliffs. The architecture is stunning, from rainbow coloured bungalows, end-of-the-world light house and sand swept churches, stunning design museums that will make you want to move in immediately, and ancient Viking fortress ruins that are so incomprehensibly old it's hard to believe they're real. Denmark has it all and when you take into account how small and easy to travel the country is, it's the perfect place for a stress free and beautiful road trip.

Whilst I'm hardly a pro on Denmark I feel like we covered so much ground that I can give you an excellent overview of the country. Some of the places we visited I would return to in a heartbeat, whilst others I could happily never visit again, not because they weren't nice but because I left feeling satisfied. Plus there's still a few parts of the country I need to save for another trip.

1. The Copenhagen food scene

Oh my the food was good in Copenhagen. Actually, the food was good throughout the country. I knew it would be great and I planned our meals accordingly but it was only once we were eating our way across the city that it dawned on me just how incredible it is. I love the sustainability of New Nordic cuisine, using only local and seasonal ingredients in your cooking is a practice I can really get on board with and the chefs in Denmark execute this style so well. Some of my favourite restaurants included Mad & Kaffe, Atelier September, and Meyers Bageri for breakfast; Øl & Brød, DØP, Mother, and Torvehallerne KBH for lunch; and Manfreds, Höst, and Copenhagen Street Food for dinner. I wrote a where to eat in Copenhagen guide so check that out for all things food related in Copenhagen.

2. Reliving Nordic Noirs

An original Arne Jacobsen staircase inside the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel

Copenhagen's famous police station which is a lot less photogenic in real life than it is in The Killing


Steve and I love Nordic Noir TV - The Killing, and The Bridge are some of the best crime dramas. When I found out that there's a Nordic Noir walking tour in Copenhagen (4pm every Saturday, £10 per person when pre-booked) I immediately booked ourselves a space. The 90 minute tour takes you through the west part of the city where you will stop at various filming locations and sites of interest, finishing at Copenhagen's famous police station. Our guide was so knowledgeable about the shows and on top of all the interesting facts, she also explained about life in Denmark and how the shows captures the essence of what it is to be Danish.

Steve and I also visited Malmö in Sweden during our time in Copenhagen, which meant driving across the famous Øresund Bridge. Fans of The Bridge will recognise this bridge instantly and I couldn't help playing the theme songs (Hollow Talk by the Choir of Young Believers) as we drove over. It was a bit of a grey day but I think this added to the whole Nordic Noir vibe we were going for. It's expensive to cross the bridge via car due to a toll of £40 per vehicle each way but it does mean you get to experience the structure in all its glory. Had we crossed via train, the cheap option, we would have travelled under the bridge and not been able to see it properly.

Unfortunately we didn't bump into any of our favourite Nordic Noir actors during our trip but we did have a lot of fun visiting filming locations and pretending to be in a TV show.

3. Finn Juhl's House

We visited so many incredible design museums and art galleries throughout our trip, but the place that stuck with me the most was Finn Juhl's house at Ordrupgaard Museum. Finn Juhl was a Danish architect and designer but it's his 'Danish modern' furniture designs that have given him world fame. His house, which he designed, built, and created ALL the interiors for is located in the museum gardens and can be visited when visiting the museum. It's no secret that I adore the Danish modern aesthetic so being able to wonder around his home was a really special experience. He designed everything from the door handles, coat hangers, kitchen utensils, to the larger pieces of furniture. Stepping into the house is like stepping back in time to a beautiful, functional, and calming mid-century space. If you are at all interested in interior design, or Danish life, this place is an absolute must visit.

4. Ærø

During the 48 hours we spent in the city of Odense we went on a little boat trip to Ærø, a tiny island found off the south coast of Funen. I'd read that this was a pretty island, especially the town of Ærøskøbing, yet I wasn't prepared for the sheer amount of cuteness in store for us. Cobbled streets, lined with candy colour bungalows greeted us as we drove off the ferry. The coast was lined with multi coloured beach huts and with a vibrant blue sky glistening against the sun, I actually thought we were in a fairytale. Without a doubt is was the prettiest town in the whole of Denmark.

5. Night watchman tour, Ribe

Ribe, the oldest town in Denmark, is a sweet little place, made up of cobbled streets and half timbered houses. It's also home to the Night watchmen who have been patrolling the city at night for as far back as the 14th Century. Every night at 8pm (and also 10pm in the summer) you can embark on a free 45 minute tour around the town, lead by the night watchman and his ghost stories. He'll guide you around the city, making sure the streets are safe. He'll even sing a song or two. The tour is a really wonderful experience and helps tourists understand more about this historic city. Steve and I aren't normally ones for guided tours but this is something unique and fun, an absolute must do.

6. Legoland

Legoland was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. Situated in the central Jutland town of Billund where there's not a whole lot happening, the theme park is a wonderland for adults and kids alike. The star of the show really is mini land, where you can see lots of northern European towns brought to live in Lego form. It was particularly cool to see towns that we had visited in Lego form. Copenhagen and Ribe looked stunningly accurate. I think we spent 2 hours walking around this part of the park, taking photos and marvelling in the genius construction of it all.The rides are good fun as well, there's a few basic roller coasters, a couple of fun water rides plus plenty of kid appropriate things as well. It's definitely a step up from Legoland Windsor and even on a busy day (we visited during a National holiday) the longest we had to queue for a ride was 20 minutes. This was honestly one of the most fun days on our trip, and with cheap flights from London to Bilund I really do hope we can visit again.

7. Skagen

The two nights we spent in Skagen, the most northerly town in Denmark, were bliss. This sleepy, seaside town doesn't have much going on but makes up for this in terms of dramatic nature. The beautiful Skagen Art Museum is the main cultural attraction in the area and once you've enjoyed the gorgeous local art from the beginning of the 20th Century it's time to head over to the coast and explore the stunning surroundings. From the buried church (Den Tilsandede Kirke) south of Skagen, a sand swept ruin of a lighthouse at Rubjerg Knud, northern Europe's largest migrating dunes (Råbjerg Mile), and the most northern tip of Denmark (Grennen) where the North and Baltic seas meet, this part of the country really is an other worldly experience. Topped with the most gorgeous beach house we could find on Airbnb, this was my absolute favourite part of the holiday. We might have spent our days running across epic sand dunes and paddling in wavy waters, but our evenings were spent riding bikes, eating delicious seafood, and relaxing on the sofa in the beach house. This was the perfect place to relax after a busy two weeks and I cannot wait to visit again.

8. Aarhus City Hall

I adored Aarhus but we only had a day and a half to explore the city which really wasn't enough. We managed to cram loads in but it's definitely a place I plan on revisiting. Our first port of call was a 10am tour of the famous City Hall. I'd been looking forward to this tour for years and it didn't disappoint. Despite completion in 1941 the city hall still feels fresh and contemporary, and unlike any city hall I've visited before. The hour long tour takes you around the Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller designed building, and with specially designed furniture by Hangs Wegner, it really is a Danish modern lover's dream. The wood panelling, the floral wedding room, and the futuristic lifts were some of my highlights but the entire building is a stunning piece of design that deserves a visit by anyone vaguely interested in 20th Century art and design.

9. ARoS, Aarhus

Next door to the City Hall is Aarhus' premier art gallery, ARoS. You can spot the museum from all over the city thanks to the wonderful Olafur Eliasson 'Your Rainbow' installation on the roof. The rainbow tunnel is a joy to walk around as you view the city in a myriad of different colours. We must have done five laps before we decided it was time to explore the rest of the museum, which is a haven for modern art lovers. Ever since I first found out about Aarhus I've waned to visit this installation so it was a pleasure to finally make it, and it really did live up to the hype. Boy by Ron Mueck is another recognisable work of art on display at the museum. This 4.5 metre high crouching boy is unbelievably detailed, from his knee creases to the way his feet stretch over the floor, this piece of art is incredible and deserve a little time to take in every single detail.

10. Danish design

One of the reason for wanting to visit Denmark was to immerse myself in Danish design. I love the Danish modern aesthetic and this trip was a chance for me to visit as many design museums, interior shops, and beautiful apartments as possible. Steve and I recently moved into our very own flat and we're taking our time to furnish the place so we can get it just right. We wanted to experience real Danish homes to get a sense of what works, which items of furniture are popular across generations, and how to create that perfect hygge vibe.

We visited so many wonderful design shops, from small boutiques to huge shows room. Even the smallest of cities have gorgeous design emporiums. Hay, Illums, Normann Copenhagen, DANSK made for rooms, Stilleben, Paustian, Louis PoulsenThe Apartment, and Designdelicatessen were some of my favourites in Copenhagen.

The art and design galleries were some of the best I've experienced. In Copenhagen you've got the Design Museum, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Arken Museum for Modern ArtFinn Juhl's house at Ordrupgaard Museum, and the Danish Architecture Centre. Outside of the capital you'll find Trapholt Museum for Modern Art, Tønder Art Museum, KUNSTEN Museum of Modern Art, and Brandts to name a few of the best we visited.

When it came to accommodation I had to balance keeping costs down whilst finding that right aesthetic. Not all our apartments were swoon worthy, but most of them hit the design nail on the head that I was after. Even the old school bnb in Ribe was full of PH lights that I wanted to sneak into my suitcase. Our Airbnb in Copenhagen, Aalborg, Skagen, and Aarhus were some of my favourites and being able to enjoy living among beautiful designs was a really special part of the trip

But even without visiting the specialist stores and museums, Danish design is everywhere, from restaurants and cafes, hotel lobbies and even public spaces. Everywhere you look you'll notice that sleek and functional design that makes Danish interiors so pleasing on the eye. Across the country you'll notice PH lights, Jacobsen chairs. shelving units that I am yet to discover who they are designed by, muted colour schemes, indoor plants a plenty, and perfectly positioned furniture to make homes feel welcoming and cosy. I loved it so much!

Our road trip around Denmark was an utter joy and I can't wait to return for more visits. I could have made this list a lot longer and included things like the castles, the west coast of Jutland, and our time in Odense but this post is already long enough. Basically, Denmark is full of incredible things. Expect more blog posts about the places we visited because I can't wait to share it all with you.

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  1. Love all of this post! I really want to make it to CPH one day. I flew to Billund for £16 return for Legoland so you should definitely try to do another trip there! x

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