Denmark's newest museum invites you into a world of dreamlike design, where the fairytales of world-famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen come to life in various fantastical forms.

After a seven-year renovation and a soft launch last summer, the redesigned H.C. Andersen Hus museum fully opened last week in the author's hometown of Odense. At 18,000 square feet, it’s one of the largest museums in Denmark and houses an underground museum, a children's cultural center, and a labyrinth garden.

Why Odense, Denmark, should be on your future travel list

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Two-thirds of the museum are located below ground © Laerke Beck Johansen

Japanese architects Kengo Kuma (the same people behind the new Olympic Stadium in Tokyo) have taken inspiration from the fairytale, The Tinderbox, for the museum's design, which appears small and unassuming at first before opening up into a sprawling complex. Visitors enter through the tiny yellow cottage where Andersen was born in 1805 and journey below the streets of Odense's medieval Old Town to the underground museum filled with exhibition spaces, animations, and music.

"The idea behind the architectural design resembled Andersen’s method, where a small world suddenly expands to a bigger universe,” explains Kengo Kuma.

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Visitors can explore the themes of Andersen's work through architecture, sound, light, and installations © Rasmum Hjortshøj

Andersen died in 1875 and is known for timeless tales like The Ugly Duckling, The Nightingale, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina, and The Little Match Girl. Though younger generations continue to discover his work through the Disney movies they inspired such as Frozen, The Little Mermaid, and The Emperor's New Groove.

The new museum aims to rethink how the story of the fairytale writer's life and work is told and explores his themes through exhibitions that are not just geared towards children, but visitors of all ages.

What's inside the museum?

The museum is full of award-winning art and items from local and international artists including the American writer Daniel Handler (best known as the author Lemony Snicket), Spanish illustrator Sandra Rilova, paper artist Veronica Hodges, and puppet maker Andy Gent (who has previously worked on projects for filmmakers Tim Burton and Wes Anderson), who each explore the themes of Andersen's work through interactive exhibitions, architecture, light, music, and images.

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The museum is geared towards visitors of all ages © Rasmus Hjortshøj

”Hans Christian Andersen’s artistic universe is fantastic, because it reverses how you imagine this world you thought you knew, but without putting anything else in its place," says the museum's creative director, Henrik Lübker. "His fairytales do not point towards a universal truth, but rather into the open – towards the peculiarity and multiplicity of the world.

"In the new museum, we maintain this ambiguity by using Andersen’s own artistic strategies as the starting point for how the garden, the house and the exhibition have all been shaped, as well as for the many artistic contributions that will also be part of the museum.”

The main building houses a cafe and visitor facilities, while the exhibition spaces are located below ground. There's also a children's cultural center and labyrinth garden to be explored.

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Entrance also includes same-day access to Andersen's childhood home and Odense's history museum © Laerke Beck Johansen

What does your museum ticket cover?

Tickets cost 165 Danish Krone (£19 / US$24) for adults, and entry is free for children. A ticket gives you same-day access to H.C. Andersens Hus, H.C. Andersen's Childhood Home and Møntergården, the city's history museum.

H.C. Andersens Hus museum is closed on Mondays.

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Odense is Denmark's third-largest city © Bjørn Koch

What to see in Odense

Cobbled streets run between pastel-coloured houses in Denmark's third-biggest city that feels like a fairy-tale location itself. Odense is home to lots of Andersen-themed attractions (even the traffic lights have green and red images of the author), as well as several great galleries and museums, including BRANDTS Art Museum and the most Michelin-starred restaurants in Denmark outside of the capital.

Odense is located on the island of Fyn and can be reached from Copenhagen in about two hours by crossing the suspension bridge Storebæltsbroerne.

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This article was first published Feb 10, 2021 and updated Apr 11, 2022.

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