While northern Zealand lays claim to most of the island’s must-see sites, the island’s south is not without its drawcards. Old half-timbered houses give Køge plenty of charm, and the Unesco World Heritage–listed cliffs at Stevns Klint seem to confirm the popular dinosaur die-out theory thanks to a thin layer of rather special 'fish clay'.
For decades, Roskilde has been known in musical circles for its rock festival, which vies with Glastonbury for the title of Europe's biggest. This reputation has now been cleverly parlayed into a year-round attraction: the excellent new Ragnarock experiential museum of modern music.
Pretty Køge (koo-e) is well worth a look if you're taking the ferry to Bornholm or driving via Stevns Klint towards Denmark's southern islands. The one-time medieval trading centre retains a photogenic core of cobbled streets flanked by some well-preserved 17th- and 18th-century buildings. At its heart, Torvet is claimed to be Denmark's largest square.
The largest city in the region, Næstved has a thousand years of history, but despite a scattering of medieval buildings, including two splendid 13th-century churches, the attractions are too diffuse to create a memorable impression. On the western edge of town there's a decent zoo (www.naestvedzoo.dk) and the impressive island estate house of Gavnø Slot (www.gavnoe.dk).
Summer visitors flood to Gilleleje (gi-le-lai-ye), mostly to eat at unpretentious seafood restaurants serving fish that's still unloaded fresh each morning from the harbour. The bobbing boats are backed by a triangular arc of lawn, a big 1750 anchor and a pretty mix of tiled and thatched old houses stretching east from the port area.
Fredensborg is its royal palace…with parkland gardens stretching along Denmark’s second-largest lake and the town tucked inconspicuously away like an afterthought. The palace is only open to the public in July and early August, but it’s well worth a day out here anyway for peaceful greenery, swimming, boating and fishing opportunities.
A vision of copper turrets, lake islands and baroque gardens, Hillerød's glorious Frederiksborg Slot is one of the most impressive attractions in the region. Otherwise largely forgettable, Hillerød is also a handy transport hub for north Zealand, with train connections for the north coast beaches.
Tisvildeleje is a glorious sweep of golden-sand beach backed by hills, forests, nature trails and a ribbon of inconspicuous township. You could easily spend several relaxing days here, sunbathing, swimming, strolling through the woods, poking around the scattering of boutiques, and generally taking things very, very easy.
A Unesco World Heritage Site since June 2014, Stevns Klint is a fossil-rich cliff at the south end of Køge Bugt (Køge Bay) where a very narrow layer of grey clay between the chalk and limestone deposits presents important geological evidence supporting a popular dinosaur die-out theory.