Denmark is one of my favorite countries in the world. With its beautiful landscape, charming medieval like towns, clean air, bike lanes, and locals love to have a good time (Danes frequently stay out until dawn), I can never visit Denmark enough.
The Danes have a very ordered but happy lifestyle. To them, life is meant to be lived — not spent in an office. Most tourists only spend a few days in Copenhagen before the high costs of the country make them move on. However, those people miss out on so much more (and there’s plenty of ways to save money here). Don’t just go to Copenhagen! Be sure to explore the coastlines, tiny cities, and beautiful parks that fill this small but wonderful place.
This travel guide to Denmark can help you plan your adventure while helping you lower costs!
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in Denmark
1. Visit Copenhagen
2. Explore Aarhus
3. See Roskilde
4. Go hiking
5. Hit the beach
Other Things to See and Do in Denmark
1. Visit Kronberg Castle
Located along the coast in Helsingør and built between 1220-1230, the castle was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. It is also the castle where Shakespeare set his play, Hamlet, in 1609. it’s a great place to wander and explore, and it’s only an hour from Copenhagen. You can tour the castle and see the royal apartments (which date to 1576) as well as the dining hall (home to 40 tapestries depicting 100 different Danish kings) and the chapel (which was inaugurated in 1582). Tickets are 95 DKK.
2. Go wild in Dyrehaven
Known commonly as ‘The Deer Park’, this park was built in 1669 is just outside Copenhagen. Spanning over 11km, you can cycle, hike, and horseback ride here. Be sure to check out the Bakken Amusement Park also within the park, which has all kinds of rides (there are five roller coasters as well as classics like bumper cars and a Ferris wheel), carnival games, and slot machines. Admission is to both the park and amusement park is free.
3. Explore the Skagens Museum
This museum features an extensive collection of works by the Skagen Painters, a group of artists who lived in Skagen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Opened in 1908, the collection has almost 2,000 works of art (predominantly paintings) and also features a rotating list of temporary exhibitions as well. Admission is 100 DKK.
4. Visit Randers
A small town located in the harbor of the Kolding fjord on the Jutland peninsula, this is a nice place to base yourself if you want to hike, bird watch, or cycle. The cobbled streets and crooked alleys will transport you back in time. Clausholm Castle is one of the country’s last remaining castles. It was built in the 1690’s and is one of the oldest Baroque estates in Denmark. Many of the rooms remain in their original condition. The surrounding grounds are home to 1,000 linden trees and it’s the perfect place for a picnic on a warm sunny day after exploring the castle. Admission to just the grounds is 50 DKK, while access to the park and the castle is 110 DKK. The main tourist attraction here is the Randers Rainforest Zoo (the largest artificial rainforest in Northern Europe), which houses native plants and free-roaming animals from the rainforests of South America, Asia, and Africa. Admission to the zoo is 195 DKK.
5. Visit Svendborg
Located on the island of Funen in southern Denmark, Svendborg is a town entrenched in history. You can visit Vlademars Slot, a palace that was constructed by King Christian IV for his son, Vlademar. Some parts of the grounds, including three museums and a lovely cafe, are open to the public (admission is 110 DK). While you’re in Svendborg, don’t miss Naturama, a wildlife museum with tons of interactive exhibits, as well as the Forsorgsmuseum, a ‘welfare’ museum in the city’s old poorhouse. It highlights the horrific working conditions of the city’s poor prior to Denmark becoming the equitable welfare state it is today. Be sure to also spend some time wandering around Svendborg and taking in the historical architecture. There are all kinds of charming narrow lanes and historic houses and shops in town.
6. Meander through Tivoli
Just adjacent to Copenhagen Central Station, Tivoli is the city’s famous amusement park. Complete with a Ferris wheel, games, roller coasters, and a concert hall, this is an awesome place to spend an afternoon. It’s not cheap but it’s certainly fun. Avoid the weekend and school holidays when the place is overflowing with families. Weekday admission is 135 DKK and weekends cost 145 DKK.
7. Head over to North Zealand
Just a train ride away from Copenhagen, North Zealand features an idyllic coastline, beautiful landscapes, and the Shakespearean setting of Kronborg Castle. The region is often called “The Danish Riviera” due to its plentiful sandy beaches and numerous cultural icons. Don’t miss Tisvildeleje, Dronningmølle, and Gudmindrup beach if you’re looking to lounge and enjoy the sunshine. If you are looking to get away from the city for a day or maybe more, this is an awesome place to head to and one not often visited by tourists. Visit the 17th-century Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, which is considered Denmark’s Versailles. The Maritime Museum of Denmark and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art can be found in North Zealand as well. Helsingør and Hillerød make for good bases in the region if you plan on exploring.
8. Visit the Jelling stones
The Jelling stones are massive runestones (raised stones with runic inscriptions) dating all the way back to the 10th century. They were declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1994, and are worth checking out if you are in the area (they are located in Jelling, which is just 25 minutes by car from Legoland). The oldest runestone was raised by King Gorm the Old in memory of his wife and the largest stone was left by Harald Bluetooth to celebrate his conquest of Denmark and Norway (our wireless Bluetooth is named after Harald). You can reach Jelling by train from Aarhus. The ride takes just over an hour. Admission is free.
9. Watch the Hans Christian Andersen Parade
Famous for his fairy-tales, this parade is a performance featuring over 30 characters from Hans C. Andersen’s literary works. Held every day during the summer behind the Andersen Museum in Odense (Andersen’s hometown) on the southwestern island of Funen, this is a neat event to check out, especially for children.
10. Attend a music festival
Roskilde is the Danish music festival with the biggest international reputation (80,000 people take part), but it only offers a taste of the music scene in Denmark. Other big events include the Smukfest (August), Copenhagen Jazz Festival (July), Tønder Festival (August), and the Skive Festival (September). Danes love a good festival so be sure to book your tickets and accommodation early as things sell out fast.
11. See Den Japanske Have (Japanese Gardens)
Located in the town of Aarhus, this beautiful and sophisticated Japanese garden includes a tea house, shop, café, several sub-gardens, and a Japanese house. The garden took two years to construct and is designed in the “kaiyu” style, with circular walking paths to take in the scenery of waterfalls, native Japanese trees and flowers, koi ponds, and miniature mountains. And best of all, the garden is free!
Denmark Travel Costs
Accommodation – Rates can vary a lot depending on what city you’re staying in (prices will be higher in Copenhagen). On average, you’ll wind up paying about 200 DKK for a dorm room at a hostel with 6-8 beds. For a private room, prices start around 675 DKK per night. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have self-catering facilities. Free breakfast isn’t that common here though.
For a budget hotel room, expect to pay around 500 DKK per night for a two-star hotel.
Airbnb is pretty expensive when not booked early (especially in Copenhagen). Expect to pay an average of 500 DKK per night for a private room (though if you book early you can find them for 300 DKK), while entire homes/apartments cost you around 700 DKK.
If camping is your thing, you’ll have plenty of options all across the country. Wild camping is illegal, but you can look for “free-tenting” zones in public forests and pitch a tent there! The only catch is that you can only stay one night per camp spot. For paid campsites, expect to pay between 60-100 DKK for a basic plot without electricity. Many of the major campgrounds sell out early so be sure to book in advance during the peak season (June-August).
Food – Danish cuisine leans heavily on meat and seafood. Cod, herring, and beef are never far from any meal. Dark bread and open-faced sandwiches known as smørrebrød are a staple for both breakfast and lunch. Liverpaste is a local favorite, as is shrimp on bread. Most traditional dinner meals revolve around meat and potatoes.
Eating out — like everything in Denmark — is pricey. A meal out at a restaurant serving traditional cuisine costs around 125 DKK. Cheap takeaway sandwich shops cost 70 DKK while a fast food combos (think McDonald’s) are around 80 DKK. For a three-course meal and a drink, expect to pay at least 300 DKK. Chinese food and Thai food can be found for as little as 75 DKK. Expect to pay around 60-80 DKK for a pizza.
Food trucks and food halls are popular in the country’s larger cities. Don’t miss Torvehallerne and Tivoli Food Hall in Copenhagen, which offer everything from tapas and drinks to fresh produce and local cheeses. Expect to spend at least 100 DKK for a meal. In Aarhus, head to Aarhus Street Food, where a collection of food trucks offer everything from Turkish and Korean food to fish and chips to sweet treats.
Beer is 45 DKK while a cappuccino/latte is around 40 DKK. Bottled water is 20 DKK.
If you are going to cook your own food, expect to pay around 400 DKK per week for basic stapes like vegetables, pasta, rice, and some meat.
Activities – Denmark has a lot of outdoor activities; hiking, cycling, kitesurfing, horseback riding, boat rides/tours are just some of the many options available. Prices start around 350 DDK for most rentals (canoes, kayaks, etc.). Castles, museums, and historic sites are plentiful around the country with entrance fees starting around 115 DKK.
Backpacking Denmark Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget of 450 DKK, you can expect stay in a hostel dorm or campsite, cook all your meals, use local transportation to get around, limit your drinking, and do free activities like free walking tours and hiking. If you want to eat out or drink, you’ll need to add another 100-200 DKK per day at least.
On a mid-range budget of about 950 DKK, you’ll be able to stay in a private Airbnb, have an occasional cheap meal out (cheap sandwiches, Chinese/Thai food), enjoy a couple drinks here and there, do some intercity bus travel, and do some paid activities like museums and castles.
On a “luxury” budget of 2,150 DKK or more, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for all your meals, take the train between cities, drink more, do as many activities as you’d like, and take taxis (or rent a car) to get around when you need to. This is just the ground-floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit after that!
Here are some suggested budgets to help you plan your trip. Prices are in DKK.
Denmark Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Denmark can be a very, very expensive country to visit. If you aren’t careful, you’ll blow through your entire budget in no time! But, while it is hard, it’s not impossible to save money here. Here are some ways to save money when you visit Denmark:
- Go orange – The Danish rail system offers cheap tickets via their website called “Orange tickets.” They are only available online, and you have to print out the ticket before you board the train. These tickets are a third of the cost of what you can buy at the railway station.
- Get a city tourism card – If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing and visit a lot of attractions then I highly recommend you get one of the city passes that offer discounts and free admission to museums and attractions. They also come with free transportation. If you plan on seeing a lot, these can save you money. Both Aarhus and Copenhagen have city passes.
- Refill your water bottle – The water in Denmark is safe to drink and is held to very high standards. Skip buying bottled water here and refill your bottle instead. LifeStraw makes a reusable bottle with a built-in filter so you can always be sure your water is clean and safe.
- Eat on the street – Street stalls, such as hot dogs and sausages cost around 35 DKK. If you want to eat cheap, stick to them.
- Get a Hostelling International card – Danhostel.dk is the national accredited Hostelling International network. They operate 60+ hotels throughout the country so you’ll want to get an HI card if you plan on staying at their hostels during your stay. If purchased in Denmark, HI cards are 160 DKK.
- Stay with a local – Accommodation in Denmark is pricey. If you plan ahead, you can usually find Couchsurfing hosts throughout the country. This way, you not only have a place to stay but you’ll have a local host that can tell you the best places to go and things to see.
- Hitchhike – Hitchhiking in Denmark, like the rest of Scandinavia, is easy (albeit slightly uncommon). Since most of the population speaks English you won’t have a hard time communicating. Having your destination written on a sign will go a long way to help you secure a ride, as will showing a flag of where you’re from (people are more likely to pick up visitors). Use Hitchwiki for more information.
- Cook your food – Eating out in Denmark is not cheap and, since Danish food isn’t going to win any great culinary awards (ok, it does but you’re spending a lot of money for that food), you won’t miss much by cooking most of your meals.
- Eat out for lunch – If you must eat out, do so during lunch when specials and buffet deals make restaurants reasonably priced.
- Book in advance – Booking train and bus tickets a month in advance can save you up to 50%.
Where To Stay in Denmark
I’ve been a backpacker here for ages and have accumulated a long list of places to stay. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Denmark:
How to Get Around Denmark
City Transit – Public transportation in Denmark is clean, reliable, and safe. Tickets for public transportation in Denmark cost around 22 DKK for a single fare. Unlimited tickets are also available, usually costing around 80 DKK for 24 hours, 150 DKK for 48 hours, and 200 DKK for a 72-hour pass.
A ticket from downtown Copenhagen to the airport is 36 DKK each way.
Air Travel – Denmark is a small country so domestic flights are unnecessary. You can travel by train from Copenhagen to Aarhus in 3 hours. A flight will be just 35 minutes, however, once you add on getting to and from the airport it doesn’t save any time (and a flight will cost you over 1,200 DKK — four times more expensive than the train!).
Bus – Flixbus is the most common way to travel around Denmark on a budget. A bus ride from Copenhagen to Aarhus starts at 430 DKK and takes 4 hours. A ride from Copenhagen to Odense starts around 270 DKK and takes just a little under two hours. A bus ride from Roskilde to Hamburg, Germany starts at 670 DKK and takes a little over 7 hours. Book early to secure a seat — especially in the summer.
Train – The train is a bit more expensive than the bus but will take less time. A train ride from Copenhagen to Aarhus starts at 375 DKK and takes 3 hours and 15 minutes, while a ride from Aarhus to Alborg starts at 500 DKK and takes about 2 hours. From Copenhagen to Berlin, the 7-hour ride starts at around 1,000 DKK.
Car rental – If you’re staying a while in Denmark and doing a lot of city-hopping, a car is likely a cheaper alternative to buses and trains. You can find rentals for as little as 130 DKK per day. To rent a car in Denmark, you need to be 21 and have had your license for at least one year.
Hitchhike – Hitchhiking in Denmark is easy (albeit uncommon). Since most of the population speaks English you won’t have a hard time communicating. Having your destination written on a sign will go a long way to help you secure a ride, as will showing a flag of where you’re from (people are more likely to pick up visitors). Use Hitchwiki for more information.
When to Go to Denmark
Since Denmark is a peninsula and also has a few islands, the temperature is heavily influenced by the sea. Summers are mild and winters are cold. As with the rest of Scandinavia, expect long days in the summer and extra darkness in winter.
Winters average to about 0°C (32°F), so dress warm. Sunset is around 3pm so pack in as many outdoor activities as you can during the day if you plan on going then! While not the best time to visit, there is still plenty to do and prices will be cheap.
July and August are the most popular times to visit. Temperatures sit around 22°C (72°F) so the weather is perfect for outdoor activities and urban exploring. Book in advance if you visit during this time (especially in Copenhagen) as things can sell out. Expect prices to be a little higher during the summer as well.
The best time to visit is in the shoulder season. The late spring and early autumn both offer decent weather with fewer crowds. It might rain a little, but you’ll find prices to be cheaper.
How to Stay Safe in Denmark
Denmark is a safe place to backpack and travel – even if you’re traveling solo. Denmark is the 5th safest country in the world so incidents are rare. Your only real concern is petty theft — which is uncommon. Keep your valuables secure and don’t wave around wads of cash or jewelry and you’ll be fine.
While cannabis used to be openly sold in Freetown Christiana, an intentional community in Copenhagen, since a shooting in 2016 the trade has been more or less forced out of sight. Avoid buying drugs here and make sure you do not take photos of anyone using or selling drugs either.
In an emergency, dial 112. It is the number for police, ambulance, and fire departments.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Denmark Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Denmark. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are always my starting point when I need to book a flight, hotel, tour, train, or meeting people!
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Denmark, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. Just enter your departure and arrival destinations and it will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost. One of the best transportation website out there!
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Denmark Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Denmark Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
How to Be Danish, by Patrick Kingsley
This book is part travelogue, part overview of Danish society. It offers a fascinating look at life in Denmark and how their culture has changed and evolved. As their cultural staple hygge sweeps the world, Kingsley sheds light on how the Danes are different and what we can learn from these almost-perfect people and the society they’ve created.
The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking
Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? The answer is hygge. This book dives into what hygge is, how it developed in Denmark, and how you can embrace and implement it in your life. Not only is it an eye-opening read that sheds light on Danish culture but it’s a practical guide to creating a more calm, enjoyable life.
We, the Drowned, by Carsten Jensen
In 1848 a motley crew of Danish sailors set sail to fight the Germans. Not everyone returns, launching a generational saga of epic proportions. War, shipwrecks, adventure, and a look at the fragility of life at sea are all swept up in this massive 700-page adventure. If you’re looking for a novel to read about life in Denmark before the turn of the century, this is it.
The Songlines, by Bruce ChatwinA Year of Living Danishly, by Helen Russell
When her husband gets a job at the Lego offices in Jutland, Helen Russell decides to head to Denmark with him, freelance write, and try to figure out why the Danes are so happy. From childcare, education, food, and interior design to taxes, sexism, and everything in between (turns out the Danes love to burn witches), Helen’s funny, poignant story kept me enthralled from start to finish. It’s informative, hilarious, self-deprecating, and tells a great story of someone trying to fit in.
Denmark Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Europe travel and continue planning your trip: