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).
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 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).
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).
A thoroughly appealing island, Møn is best known for its spectacular white cliffs, Møns Klint. The scenery is dramatic, and there’s a brilliant new geological centre on the cliff top. Møn has good beaches, from popular sandy expanses regularly brushed clean of seaweed to small secret coves that take some seeking out.
The crooked cobblestone streets of Ribe (pronounced ree-buh) date from 869, making it Denmark’s oldest town. It’s easily one of the country’s loveliest spots in which to stop and soak up some history. It’s a delightfully compact chocolate-box confection of crooked, half-timbered 16th-century houses, clear-flowing streams and lush water meadows.