Spring Roadtrip to Denmark

With Charlotte Richmond from Freckles in the Sun

As we had to cancel our trip to Denmark last year owing to the Icelandic ash cloud and with the ever increasing concerns of the harmful effects that flying has on the atmosphere, we decided to try the overnight ferry to Denmark to start our trip before continuing by car to explore the joys of this Scadinavian country. Aside from being able to take our car and fill it with delightful Danish design, we also thought it would be a fun way to travel and arrive into Denmark. We were not wrong!


Day One – London to Esbjerg

Esbjerg is a couple of hours drive from Central London and as the ferry leaves at 5.45 we leave after a leisurely lunch. After driving through passport control and straight onto the car deck we are soon exploring the ferry and our four bunk cabin. Ideally we would have a sea view but it is much nicer than I thought.

Live music, a bar (very expensive) and restaurants, there is plenty to do to keep you all entertained. If it is sunny then the sun deck also serves up beers and soft drinks. Wi-Fi is available onboard too. For small children a pirate entertains and takes interested parties up to meet the ‘Captain’.

Top Tips – Look online at the restaurant options and book in advance bearing in mind that the boat always operates under Danish time, even whilst you are in the UK. The North Sea can be choppy so to avoid the obvious motion sickness take some travel sickness pills in advance.

Day Two – Esbjerg to Ebeltoft via Ribe

We are travelling North through Jutland to Silkeborg which is about a three hour drive, so to break up the drive we head for Ribe. Ribe is only half an hour away from the port and as Denmark’s oldest town is well worth visiting. It is a lovely town with cobblestone streets and traditional buildings harking back to Viking times.

We find a lovely restaurant for lunch – Kolvig – perched on the side of the river serving delicious sandwiches and soups. After lunch take a five minute stroll over the river to Isvaflen where you can buy delicious ice cream served in a hand made waffle cone (made in front of you as you choose your ice cream flavour of choice).

After a good walk around Ribe we head for Ebeltoft and our first stopover – Hotel Ebeltoft Strand – a long low rise hotel set on a long white beach with views over the Ebeltoft Bay, beautiful. The hotel also has a great indoor swimming pool which pleases the ‘freckles’ no end.

Top Tips – When in Ribe look to the top of the Den Gamle Radhus. Each year around April 1st a pair of storks return to Ribe and built their nest which spans a couple of meters in diameter at the top of the Town hall – you will not miss it.

Day Three – Ebeltoft to Silkeborg

One of the reasons for visiting Ebeltoft is to visit the Glass Museum – not only are the exhibitions fantastic but the shop sells some fantastic glass creations too, plus a studio in the corner of the museum garden houses a talented glass design company called Studio Strange where you can watch glass blowing and buy their innovative pastel coloured glass robots and creatures.

We are heading off early to Silkeborg where we are staying at the SAS Radisson – a converted paper factory – www.radissonblu.com/hotel-silkeborg. After checking in we drop our bags and head into Silkeborg centre for lunch where fantastic shops line the quaint streets. Do not leave without visiting T.I.N.G. – www.ting-shop.dk

We hire bikes- Denmark really is the place to hire bikes, large bicycle lanes and beautiful scenery – then head to the aquarium to hand feed otters, see raccoons and lots of fish! The aquarium currently has no website so call for opening times: Aqua T: 89 21 21 89

Next to the Silkeborg Museum to see Denmark’s oldest man. The Tollund Man strolled the outskirts of Silkeborg in 400 BC during the Iron Age, and his remains were found in 1950. www.thetollundman.dk. The museum is yet another stunning example of Danish design – look at the floor as you walk around – simple yet so stylish. There is a fantastic Greek restaurant in Silkeborg called Zorba – www.zorba-silkeborg.dk – book a week or two in advance as it can get very busy.

Top Tips – Hire boats in Silkeborg, located in Indelukket – www.gudenaaenscamping.dk – and next door to the best mini (crazy) golf course – www.indelukketsminigolf.dk – this leafy riverside location is a must for an afternoon of fun. After the mini golf and the canoeing there is a ice cream and snack shop. You can book onto a wonderful paddle steamer Hjejlen (T: 86 82 07 66) to cruise you to Himmelbjerget, Denmark’s highest point. Himmelbjerget translated into english means Sky Mountain and is 147m high. From the boat, it is a five minute walk to the top.

Day Four – Silkeborg to Kolding

Visit Almindso swimming lakes, Denmark’s cleanest lakes – www.visitdenmark.com – it was too cold for us on this trip but we have been on previous trips and in July-August, it really is an amazing place to swim with stunning scenery. We drove by the crystal clear lakes on the way to Kolding.

In Kolding we head straight to the Trapholt Modern Art Museum – www.trapholt.dk – great exhibitions on Danish chair designers, past and present and an amazing secret summer house, designed and used by Arne Jacobsen, really lovely. Our hotel for this evening is First Hotel Kolding, a modern hotel with a nice cafe/restaurant where we have lunch.

After lunch we head to reason we are in Kolding – www.koldinghus.dk– Koldinghus is the town’s stunning showpiece, a fortress once occupied in 1248. In 1808 the castle was virtually devastated by a fire but some parts remained. These remains have been transformed with the help of ultra modern timber and steel supports that not only support the original frame but also reinvent the cattle into a stunning place to visit. Climb to the top to see spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Top Tips – If staying in Kolding and eating or drinking in Berg, be warned that drinks are charged by how long they take to prepare. If you order a non alcoholic cocktail for it will cost the same as an alcoholic one, owing to the bar tender’s time.

Day Five – Kolding to Odense

Today we are driving over the bridge from Jutland into Funen as we are heading to Odense – the home of Hans Christian Anderson. Not only does it house a lovely Museum tracing the life and works of Hans Christian Anderson but it also takes you back in time as you walk the cobblestone streets and view old Danish houses in delightful quiet tree lines streets. Bronze ‘Hans Christian Anderson’ statues are everywhere but they do not feel out of place – our favourite was the bronze paper boat floating in the lake in the park.

Odense is a really special place, not only for the history but also for the squares with cafes and bars offering food and drink on outside tables with rugs to wrap around you and outdoor heaters that seem to draw you in.

Top Tips – Try not to visit on a Sunday as all of the shops are shut and it looks as if there are some lovely shops to peruse in. Stay at First Hotel Odense, a really lovely hotel with a great bar and restaurant (also closed on a Sunday!). A great place to eat and next door to the hotel is Goma – www.goma.nu – serving amazing sushi. Also shut on Sunday and Monday but their sister restaurant, also serving sushi is open every day of the year (except 24th/25th December) – www.barsushi.dk

Day Six – Odense to Copenhagen

Copenhagen is two hours away and we are keen to get there early, driving over Europe’s longest suspension bridge from Funen over to Zealand. The bridge is called The Great Belt Fixed Link and is 6,790 metres in length – an amazing bridge with some amazing views too – and a toll bridge so have your Danish Kroner ready!

We arrive in Copenhagen and check into the Admiral Hotel – www.admiralhotel.dk – situated opposite the Opera House and a two minute walk away from Nyhavn. It is the perfect place to spend a few nights when in Copenhagen. They are currently building an outside decked terrace overlooking the waterfront which will be a superb addition.

After a stroll around the centre and some of our favourite shops, we head back to Nyhavn for the last canal boat trip. Sitting in the sunshine as we are taken past some of Copenhagen’s finest sights – it is such a great way to see and hear some of the history and interesting stories of the city. The Little Mermaid, The Black Diamond, named as the shimmering water reflects the sunshine making the buildings shimmer and twinkle like a diamond. Christianshavn, Christiania and many more roll by as we sit in awe. Brilliant.

Top Tips – Although Nyhavn is full of restaurants, the Italian on the corner of Toldbodgade and Nyhavn, L’Olivio is really great for pasta, salads and sandwiches. Opposite is a fantastic ice cream shop called Vaffelbageren, serving soft whippy ice cream, dipped in either chocolate sauce or chocolate dust and placed on a freshly cooked waffle – either follow your nose or look for the huge ice cream outside the shop door. To avoid the queues for the canal boat tours, either take the first or the last boat out and pack a coat too as it can be chilly when the boat is not in the sun.

Day Seven – Copenhagen

Today is a day for the ‘Freckles’ and we agree to spend the day at Tivoli – www.tivoli.dk. This amusement park has rides for all ages and fear levels, from corkscrew roller coasters to the worst ride I think I have ever seen, Vertigo. Everyone had a great time here, be sure to get the multi-ride ticket to go on all rides as many times as you wish (otherwise it will be incredibly expensive!).

After Tivoli we head for the Rundetarn (Round Tower) – www.rundetaarn.dk – a vaulted 35m high brick tower built by Christian IV in 1642 as an astronomical observatory. The king wanted to take his beloved horse up the tower so the way to the top is by a 209m spiral walkway, great views from the top. As we are close to some great shops we all enjoy a little retail therapy. Some of the shops not to be missed are Illums Bolighus – www.illumsbolighus.dk – for the most stylish design items, Hay – www.hay.dk – fabulous fabrics and more home style and Cinnober – www.cinnobershop.dk – cute stationery and great art books.

Top Tips – Unlike most amusement parks, the food at Tivoli is surprisingly good – we went to Wagamama. Everything is in the centre of Copenhagen, even Tivoli, so everything here is easy to visit either on foot or by bike, (Copenhagen have a bike hire system similar to the Barclays bike in London, in fact it was used in the development of the London bike system).

Day Eight – Copenhagen

Today we are going to explore Christianshavn. We walk along the water’s edge and after Nyhavn we approach Custom House. Noma is opposite on the other side of the water. Custom House was once a customs house and later a passenger terminal for travellers across Oresund. Now it boasts three Conran restaurants. We head in and book a window table in Bacino for the evening. The menu looks great, Italian food and great desserts. There is also a Japanese restaurant and a steak house – www.customhouse.dk

After here we walk over the bridge into Christianshavn. This is a really lovely part of Copenhagen, smaller streets with lots of charm. Plenty of great shops here but less crowded and as the canal runs through the middle it has a relaxing atmosphere. The entry to the Church of Our Saviour, with its corkscrew spire and external winding staircase, are here too but get there early if you plan to climb to the to the top as queues do form to see the views from the top of this unique spire.

Next to the church we found an amazing clothing store called Yo-Yo. Owned by Elza Christensen (Helena’s Mum), the shop is a treasure trove, full of vintage fashion, some from Helena Christensen’s New York store and some cast offs from the supermodel herself. If you love fashion, you will love this shop, and if like us you are lucky enough to visit when Elza is in the shop, her enthusiasm to tell you about her shop and the story behind the garments is fascinating. So many bargains to be found here, a must visit if in Copenhagen. (Open Wednesday-Friday)

Part of the same shop but on the other side from Yo-Yo is a designer children’s clothes store owned by Helena’s sister! Find these gems at Sankt Annae Gade 31, Christianshavn.

In the afternoon we head to Charlottenlund to see the hilltop fort and also to walk along the pebble beach. On a clear day you can see Sweden as you grab a coffee in the picturesque restaurant raised above the beach – www.charlottenlundfortet.dk – delicious lattes here.

Top Tips – Lagkagehuset is our lunch spot of choice in Christianshavn, perched perfectly next to the canal (Torvegade 45), serving delicious sandwiches, salads, pastries and coffees. You can eat in or on the side of the canal watching the boats pass by – www.lagkagehuset.dk. The outdoor Veuve Clicquot champagne bar, outside of Custom House looks great for a pre or post dinner drink. Lit up at night, these padded cocoon style seating pods have yellow fleecy Veuve Clicquot branded blankets to keep you stylishly warm as you sip your champagne at this waterside venue.

Day Nine – Copenhagen to Esbjerg and back to UK

Today is our last day and we are keen to fit in a museum that has been highly recommended to us by family and friends so we head toward northern Zealand (approx 45 minutes from Copenhagen) to the Louisiana Museum. Panoramic views across the Oresund are enjoyed from the museum as both the main building and the sculpture garden face the sea. When we visit there are some excellent exhibitions, a Picasso and also a brilliant David Hockney ipad art collection, superb.

As you walk around the gardens, filled with Henry Moore and Giacometti sculptures, you can not help but marvel at the stunning design of the museum itself and the views surrounding you. The cafe and the shop are both fantastic too. I urge you to keep half a day free to enjoy this museum – www.louisiana.dk

It is a long drive from here back to our starting point, Esbjerg. It has been a fantastic trip!

Top Tips – Listen out for news from the captain who will let you know what weather conditions and sights to expect. We were told what time the sun would be setting and that North Sea dolphins had been seen that day. True to his word, as we sat watching the sunset we saw a few dolphins swim right past us, another great reason to go by boat.

Top Trip Tips

Here are a few things that we have enjoyed on previous trips to Denmark but unfortunately could not fit into our itinerary on this trip:

Aarhus is a great town to visit, is is compact so easy to navigate and is filled with great bars, massive museums and sandy beaches. The art museum here is fantastic and houses a 5m high Ron Mueck sculpture of a crouching boy. Both the ‘freckles’ and adults love this one – www.aros.dk.

Randers dome enclosed tropical zoo is amazing. Here you can visit the Asian, African and South American domes to see crocodiles, monkeys, manatees, flying foxes, etc, etc. Monkeys jump past you and you can hand feed them when the helpers are nearby. With treetop walks, the petting zoo and the aquarium, this unique zoo is a must for the family and needs a whole day to see it at its best – www.regnskoven.dk/en/frontpage/

Visit the Monsted-Kalkgruger Limestone Mines near Viborg and Skive to see the world’s largest limestone mine and around 12-14,000 bats in hibernation. Walk around with a hard hat and a torch to see an endless maze of galleries and caves as large as cathedrals and narrow passages where a grown man cannot walk upright. Very cold though so do pack a sweater or two!

See www.dfdsseaways.co.uk, www.noma.dk, www.kolvig.dk, www.ebeltoftstrand.dk, www.glasmuseet.dk