The coolest, most cosmopolitan, most exciting and, yes, Danny Kaye was right, the most wonderful city in Scandinavia (don’t argue Stockholm): welcome to Copenhagen (København). These days the Danish capital is blossoming. There is a spring in its step borne from a mixture of some brave new architecture, continued prosperity and a burgeoning confidence in its own charms.
It is well worth taking some days out from the hectic pleasures of Copenhagen to explore the rest of the island of Zealand (Sjælland). Head north along the so-called ‘whisky belt’ beside the Øresund coast and you pass grand villas and posh yacht harbours until you come to Helsingør, the closest point to Sweden (there are ferries).
The sunniest part of Denmark – it’s official – lies way out in the Baltic Sea, 200km east of Copenhagen. In fact, Bornholm is so far from Copenhagen and the rest of ‘mainland’ Denmark that it doesn’t fit on the weather maps (although perhaps that would be too demoralising for the rest of Denmark).
Funen’s 1000-year-old capital is a cheerful place, welcoming to pedestrians and cyclists. The city makes much ado about being the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen – although Andersen fled the city after his poverty-stricken childhood here – and fairy-tale fans will be delighted by the preponderance of Andersen-related attractions.
The main sight at the busy port town of Helsingør (Elsinore) is imposing Kronborg Slot, a brute of a castle that dominates the narrowest point of the Øresund. It was made famous as Elsinore Castle in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, although the intimate psychological nature of the play is a far cry from the military colossus squatting on the shore.
We found it hard to get a handle on Aalborg, sitting at the narrowest point of the Limfjord (the long body of water that slices Jutland in two). It’s Denmark’s fourth-largest city but feels somehow larger, more industrial and more impersonal than Århus (strange, given that Århus is more than double its size).
The country’s largest town square sits at the heart of Køge, creating an open, relaxed feel from the off. The main joy here is to wander the narrow cobbled streets containing Denmark’s best-preserved 17th- and 18th-century buildings. Add in a decent array of independent shops and tempting restaurants, and your maximum walking speed will be a lazy amble.