In 2020, we're taking a look at a few of the Northern European destinations we can't wait to visit.
Today, we're highlighting Denmark.
Cheerful, contemporary, and content. There's a reason travelers are drawn to delightful Denmark. It's one of the happiest countries on Earth; a place where the quality of life is second to none and day-to-day living can feel like something out of a fairytale. It's also home to rich history, a fantastic culinary scene, and an aesthetic that captures the hearts and imaginations of everyone who comes ashore in Denmark's colorful harbors.
Perhaps most importantly, Denmark has a well-earned reputation as a country that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone. Cities are pedestrian and bike-friendly, people are helpful, there's plenty to see and do, and that feeling of hygge is real.
Before We Go Any Further, a Quick Note on Hygge
You've probably heard people talking more and more about hygge in recent years, but we wouldn't blame you if you weren't entirely sure what it meant. It's a concept that can be difficult to nail down. After all, the word doesn't really even directly translate into English, but, in the simplest terms, hygge is a distinctly Danish feeling of coziness, wellness, and camaraderie. It's a feeling that's embedded into the Danish national character and, for many, is the secret to a happy life.
Ready to feel a little hygge of your own? Here are seven things to do in Denmark when you travel there with us.
Stroll Tivoli Gardens
A Scandinavian staple, Tivoli Gardens has been entertaining locals and travelers alike for well over 150 years — making it the second oldest amusement park in the world. But don't worry, Tivoli is no tourist trap — far from it. Many people refer to it warmly as the heart of the city. In fact, Walt Disney once told his wife that "[Tivoli] is what an amusement place should be!" It's tranquil and cozy, with gardens and greenspace to stroll, fountains to admire, and plenty of places to eat. And if you're looking for thrills, Tivoli is where you can ride Rutschebanen — the oldest operating roller coaster in the world.
You'll also find plenty of entertainment venues here, including the iconic open-air Pantomime Theatre, which was designed by the architect Vilhelm Dahlerup and built in 1874. Here, theatre in the classic commedia dell' arte tradition is performed daily. In the Tivoli Concert Hall, Symphony orchestras and ballet troupes from around the world routinely perform, as do popular touring acts. Even the Beatles performed at Tivoli in 1964!
Tivoli Gardens holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Denmark. So much so that when forces attempted to burn it down in 1944, the Danes rebuilt and reopened the park within a matter of weeks. You just can't keep a good national treasure down.
Visit Fairytale Castles
Denmark is well known for its fairytales. After all, Hans Christian Anderson was born here. Throughout his prolific career, he wrote several iconic fairytales, including The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, and Thumbelina. Anderson is such a beloved figure in Denmark that one of Copenhagen's busiest boulevards is named after him. It's also where you'll find a large bronze statue of his likeness.
In many ways, it makes sense that one of the greatest spinners of fairytales the world has ever known came from Denmark. The country is home to a seemingly endless assortment of enchanting castles — some of which you can visit when you travel to Denmark with us. In Copenhagen, you can join us on shore excursion to explore the castles of North Zealand. We'll take you north of the city, where you'll visit Kronborg Castle, which was immortalized in Shakespeare’s iconic play, Hamlet — Prince of Denmark. Kronborg grew out of a Krogen, a fortress built in the 1420s by Eric of Pomerania, the Danish king. 150 years later, King Frederick II undertook work that transformed the fortress into a Renaissance-style castle. After a fire damaged much of the castle in 1629, it was rebuilt, and today, it is considered one of the most significant Renaissance castles in all of Northern Europe.
In Fredericia, you can explore Egeskov Castle, the best-preserved Renaissance water castle in all of Europe. Constructed in 1554, the castle sits in a small lake atop oaken piles. Egeskov means "oak forest" — a name that is rumored to have been chosen because it took an entire oak forest to build the foundation it stands upon. There's more to Egeskov than just a castle, however. Walk beyond the walls, and you'll discover a 49-acre park that is known as "Denmark's most beautiful garden". Here, you'll find a variety of different styles of garden, including a renaissance garden, an English garden, a bondehave, and a fuchsia garden. There are also four hedge mazes, including the world's largest bamboo hedge maze.
Oh, and while you're in Fredericia, be sure to stop by the Hans Christian Anderson Home and Museum. You never know — you might be inspired to create some fairy tales of your very own!
Cycle Through City Streets
It's been said that the bike is a Dane's best friend. After all, with a series of interconnected bike lanes and highways (yes, highways), it's the easiest way to make your way through the cities and country at large. And yes, it helps that the country is predominantly flat, but beyond that, biking seems to be in the DNA here. Nine out of 10 people in Denmark own a bike, and, on average, they cycle 1.6 km a day.
You can see Copenhagen like so many Danes do when you join us on a cycling tour shore excursion. This tour will take you along the harbor front, through green urban parks, and past Amalienborg Palace, Nyhavn Canal, and the Royal Theatre. Of course, along the way, you can also stop to peruse markets, local shops, and more. There's really no better way to experience what life is like in Denmark than pedaling through the streets.
But biking isn't for everybody, which is why we offer plenty of other ways to see this fantastic city. Prefer to be on the water than in the streets? Come with us on the Copenhagen by Kayak shore excursion, which starts in the harbor before making its way through the historic waterways of the Danish capital. And if you prefer a walking tour, we'll take you on an unforgettable stroll through Copenhagen's streets — and history. You'll see countless landmarks on this walk, including King's New Square, Christiansborg Castle, and Our Savior's Church.
Sample Danish Delicacies
Whether you're biking, kayaking, or walking, you're bound to work up an appetite. Luckily for you, Denmark has come to be known as a bit of a foodie paradise over the years, with authentic Danish fare being served alongside a smorgasbord of international flavors. You'll find several Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen, including the three-starred gastronomic heavyweight, Geranium. In 2019, this restaurant was ranked the 19th best in the world, and is run by Chef Rasmus Kofoed, a triple winner of gold, silver, and bronze medals in Bocuse d'Or.
But you don't need to see stars to enjoy a delicious meal in Copenhagen. Just head to the Torvehallerne KBH food market and sample everything from herbs and berries to smoked meats, fresh local seafood, and, of course, smørrebrød — the essential Danish open sandwich. Stroll the stalls, or sit down for a meal. Either way, you're certain to leave full and happy. Best of all, if you join us at the Copenhagen Market Halls on shore excursion, an expert will highlight Danish delicacies and locally-sourced specialties to sample. Then, you'll enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by your Azamara Chef when you return to the ship!
In Ronne, on the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, we'll showcase regional specialties for you to enjoy, including Flødeboller, a chocolate-covered marshmallow puff that tastes as good as it sounds. We'll also take you to a herring smokehouse to learn more about distinctly Danish curing techniques. While here, be sure to sample some freshly-smoked herring prepared by a master smoker. You'll also meet a local butcher, who will share his secret spices for flavoring his meats (and let you sample a few of his favorites as well).
Visit Denmark's Oldest Town
Southwest of Fredericia, you'll find the town of Ribe, which holds the distinction of being the oldest extant town in all of Scandinavia. For more than 1300 years, beginning in the early eighth century in the Germanic Iron Age, Ribe has been here — and today, the entire town feels delightfully out-of-step with the rest of the world. Here, you'll see 16th-century houses (considered "new builds" by Ribe standards) lining crooked cobblestone streets, all overseen by the skyline dominating Ribe Cathedral — unsurprisingly, the oldest in Denmark.
You'll find several museums here, each of which tells the story of a town that has seen an unbelievable number of changes over the centuries. In the Museum of the Viking Ages and Middle Ages, discover a detailed look at the town's history between 700 and 1700. Then, in the Ribe Viking Centre, you'll find yourself transported back to the Viking era for an unforgettable exploration of life in 825 Denmark.
So what's the best way to visit Ribe? On shore excursion, of course! Let us handle the details while you immerse yourself in Denmark's amazing history.
Go Museum Hopping in Copenhagen
If you're a lover of art and history, you'll undoubtedly find yourself right at home in Copenhagen. The city's many museums tell the stories of Denmark, bask in classic, as well as modern works of art and design, and even make space for sharing the truly bizarre.
Art aficionados will love Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark's National Gallery. Home to an impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance works by the likes of Rembrandt and Breughel, the gallery also boasts an impeccable collection from Danish artists, including Vilhelm Hammershøi and Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg.
You'll also want to make your way to Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, where you'll find the most extensive collection of Rodin sculptures outside of France. And remember we mentioned the bizarre? This is where you'll find it — in the form of the Nasothek. Taking its name from the Latin for “nose” and Greek for “container”, Nasothek is a curious collection of more than 100 plaster noses from throughout history. What are they doing here? Well, if you're feeling nosey, we have the answer for you. The Glyptotek is home to a large collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, which, over the years, have seen their fair share of bumps and accidents — often resulting in cracked or broken noses. At one time, it was common for conservators to replace missing noses with a reasonable facsimile. However, we now find ourselves in an era of "de-restoration", with museums like Glyptotek preferring to showcase their sculptures as authentically as possible. This trend has resulted in the careful removal of dozens of fake noses. And where do these noses go? The Nasothek, of course. Beautifully bizarre, this collection also provides an opportunity to reflect on authenticity, both in art and the world around us.
If it's a look at the history of Denmark you crave, spend some time at Nationalmuseet. If something of note has been uncovered on Danish soil, there's a good chance you'll find it here — from ancient tools and weapons to musical instruments and jewelry. Some of the artifacts on display date back over 3000 years!
One of our favorite exhibitions at Nationalmuseet is Stories of Denmark (1660-2000). This fascinating look at Danish history opened in 2001 and traces the evolution of life in the country from gatekeeper of the Baltic to a key figure in broader European alliances. More than 5000 unique objects are on display here, each revealing the stories of local lives. Just like the title of the exhibition suggestions, there are many stories to tell here, and they're all presented with incredible care and consideration.
Visit the Mermaids… and the Mermen
It would be hard to visit Copenhagen and not say hello to the city's most famous resident — The Little Mermaid. For over a century, this mermaid sculpture by Edvard Eriksen has been basking in the sun atop a rock in the harbour. And in this time, she's become a sort of mascot for the entire city (like a smaller, water-loving Statue of Liberty). And, like many mascots, she's drawn acclaim and ire in equal measure.
Since the 1960s, The Little Mermaid statue has been met with a surprising amount of vandalism. Its head has been cut off, arms stolen and returned, and it's been doused in green, red, blue, and white paint. In 2003, it was even knocked off its base by explosives and found floating in the harbor. Much like the fire at Tivoli, however, the Danes always restore the statue quickly, ensuring visitors are able to enjoy her haunting beauty.
You may be surprised to learn that this isn't the only mermaid in Copenhagen. In fact, not far from the original Little Mermaid statue, you can visit The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid — a post-modern take on the classic original by Bjørn Nørgaard, a professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Much like her older inspiration, The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid sits on the rocks in the water, but her appearance is certainly a little more jarring. She's part of a larger body of work, titled The Genetically Altered Paradise, which also includes abstract sculptures of Adam and Eve, Mary Magdalene, a pregnant man, and a 15-foot Madonna statue on a sandstone arch.
While Copenhagen Harbor is populated by mermaids, near the city centre, under the Højbro bridge, you'll find mermen! Eight of them, to be exact. They are part of Danish artist Suste Bonnén's underwater sculpture, Agnete and the Merman. Inspired by the Danish ballad, Agnete og Havmanden, the sculpture depicts Agnete's husband, a merman, and their seven children in mourning after she decides to live a life on dryland without them. Truly, this statue is what expressions like "blink and you'll miss it" are made for. With no markers, save for a tiny plaque, discovering this sculpture is like sharing a secret with Copenhagen itself — one that will always be a reminder of the time you spent there.
Discover Denmark With Us
Whether you're strolling beautiful gardens, exploring bustling cities, or enjoying the contentment that can only come from time spent in one of the happiest countries on Earth, we think you're going to find your own version of hygge here in Denmark.
Check out our upcoming voyages to Denmark — including these Country-Intensive Voyages — to start planning your adventure, or learn more about our 2020 Northern European cruises.