While there is no end to the number of activities in Copenhagen, the city’s surrounds have equally abundant offerings – from a world class modern art museum to the sandy beaches of the Danish Riviera to the castle where Hamlet was set – all of which are easily accessible by train in little more than an hour.
If that were not reason enough
to combine a visit to Copenhagen with side trips beyond, spending a few days in
the countryside also provides valuable insight into how the Danes -- known to
be the happiest nationality on Earth -- really spend their free time.
of Modern Art
The world’s most stunningly
situated art gallery may be located in Humlebaek,
about 40km north of Copenhagen. Louisiana, Denmark's museum of modern art,
is housed in a 19th-century villa perched on a cliff on the north
Zealand coast and overlooks the sparkling Øresund straits between Denmark and
Sweden. Bizarrely, it was named Louisiana by the first owner of the estate,
Alexander Brun, who had three wives all named Louise.
landscaped gardens that extend down to the sea are home to exceptional
sculptures by some of the greatest 20th-century artists. At the
centre, a large, reclining figure by Henry Moore serenely soaks up the beautiful
sunlight. The permanent collection concentrates on international contemporary
art post-1945, including Picasso, Giacometti, Baselitz, Warhol and Bacon. The
works are displayed in a series of glass-fronted corridors leading off the
original house, and reflected light from the sea fills the exhibition space.
The museum’s cafe
offers a tempting buffet of traditional Danish specialities, a picturesque terrace
and a gorgeous view of the sparkling sea. In addition, the Louisiana hosts the
most prestigious classical chamber music concerts in Scandinavia, and the extensive
museum shop is irresistible. Peruse some of the best of Danish fashion and
design, and bring home an immaculately tasteful exhibition souvenir.
About 12km north of Humlebaek is Helsingør, a town known
for being the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
The legendary play was set in Kronborg,
the huge baroque castle that dominates the town. A moat surrounds the fort-like structure, and modern-day
visitors picnic on the extensive grassy battlements where Hamlet saw his
When touring the
vast spooky dungeons you may hear the moaning foghorn of the ferries to Sweden
– a sound that can make “each particular hair to stand an end, like quills upon
the fretful porpentine." One wing houses a huge Knights' Hall, hung with
tapestries that Shakespeare wrote into the plot of the play. Polonius, for
example, is murdered by Hamlet as he hides behind an arras (wall hanging).
Dine at the Ophelia
Restaurant (Bramstraede 5; 0045-4921-0591) and visit during the annual Hamlet
festival in August.
The Danish Riviera
The most inviting stretch of the Danish Riviera is another 13km
north, around the quaint town of Hornbaek, with its soft white dunes and
deep-pink wild roses. Eat at Gamle
Humlebaek Kro, which overlooks the sea.
along the coast is Gilleleje, an active fishing port. Historically, it is where
the Jews from Copenhagen fled when the Germans invaded. They hid in the roof of
the Gilleleje church and on nearby
farms until Gilleleje's fisherman ferried many across to Sweden. It is now the
regional centre of the Danish antique trade, with both extremely pricey
showrooms and scruffier places to browse.
The town is also good
for Danish fish and chips or fiskefrikadeller
(fried fish cakes) and fishy smorrebrod
(open sandwiches). It is perfect
countryside for cycling, with miles of flat woodland, and there are plenty of
bike-hire shops with maps of cycle routes.
For an off-the-radar gastronomic treat, visit -- or even better
-- stay at the reputedly still haunted Dragsholm
Castle, which dates back to the 13th Century. It is about an hour from Copenhagen, on the
edge of Lammersfjord, an islet in northwest Zealand that was only drained some
70 years ago and has the most fertile soil in the country.
head chef is Claus Henriksen, former sous chef at Noma,
for whom vegetables and terroir are at the heart of the cuisine. Henriksen
personally forages for wild herbs, seeds and even wild strawberries on the
banks of the castle's moat and in its fields and forests. Interested guests may
tasting menus are served in the white brick vaulted cellar dining room,
formerly the castle's kitchen, and Henriksen could honestly say that his
ingredients travel from soil to plate far quicker than is possible at any of
Copenhagen's top restaurants. A favourite dish is local Havguscheese, crushed nettle, wild mushroom and buckwheat with
aromatic mushroom sauce. For dessert, try the smoked milk ice cream with fir
tree oil and wild herbs served with red nettle-infused rum. Upstairs, the
Lammerfjord eatery serves more homely Danish dishes, including a creamy fish
soup and malt ice cream with raw liquorice and wild sorrel.