This ultimate Denmark 5 day itinerary will whisk you through all the highlights of the country, going from the hubbub of ultra-cool Copenhagen to the windswept beaches that line the Jutland coast on the North Sea. It’s the perfect, whistle stop 101 of the Nordic nation, giving you history and culture and nightlife in the same session.
Yep, we’ve aimed to whittle down all the top sights and attractions of Denmark into one quick five-day jaunt here. It’s not been easy because there’s just so much to see. Viking ships, flower-strewn summer villages, meadowlands, fjords, wild beaches, edgy design museums – you name it, it’s here!
Our plan starts in the sprawling capital of Copenhagen. That’s a good place to begin since it’s got loads of flight connections from all over Europe. However, you can also flip the trip to reverse it all if you’re planning on driving up from Germany. Talking of driving…your own set of wheels is a great idea here, although buses and public transport can also work.
Day 1: Copenhagen
We think it’s best to start your travels in the capital of Demark. Copenhagen isn’t just the most bustling and the biggest city here, but also the most accessible part of the nation. It’s home to Copenhagen Airport, which is served by loads of cross-Europe low-cost carriers and even long-haul connections. There’s a convenient metro link in the terminal that can take you to the city in about 20 minutes, but also car hire places (and this Denmark 5 day itinerary is better if you have your own car).
Once in the downtown, plan a walking route that crosses the old city. It’s called the Indre By (the Inner City) and has cobbled alleys and fairy-tale homes. There are also big sights to check off the list, including the Amalienborg (the Danish royal residence), the grand Radhuset city hall, and the Vor Frue Kirke (an aged church with a soaring tower). Oh, and charming coffee stops and design shops are worked into the mix, too, including plenty of museums if the weather’s not so great – the Dansk Design Center and the Glyptoteket are two of the best.
After that, head south across the harbor to explore Christianshavn. Once a workaday area, it’s now a boho district with great bars. It’s also home to the curious artist’s colony of the Freetown of Christiania (great for jazz joints and bookstores) and the now-buzzy walks of Holmen on the quays. Talking of quays, there’s an open-air swimming spot at Havnebadet Islands Brygge that’s worth a dip when the weather is warm in midsummer.
At night, cross over to the happening area of Norrebro on the northern side of town. This one’s a top area for dining and drinking, as multicultural eateries serving everything from falafel to Neapolitan pizza pop up on the long road of Tagensvej. There are award-winning brew houses like industrial-chic BRUS just around the corner for when you want a tipple, too.
Day 2: Roskilde
Our ultimate Denmark 5 day itinerary moves west to Roskilde next, so we hope you didn’t have too many beers in Norrebro, because an early start will help. The drive isn’t a long one – it’s 40 minutes down the 21 highway. However, there’s plenty to see in what’s said to be one of the most ancient towns in the country, and a hub for Denmark’s long Viking history.
Roskilde is tucked deep into the base of its own protected fjord. Right by the lapping water is the main attraction: The Viking Ship Museum. It hosts a series of five incredible vessels that date back more than 1,000 years and tells the story of Viking seafaring and explorations across several centuries. As you go, you’ll learn about the foundation and expansion of the Scandinavian countries, and all about the warring lives of the feared Nordic raiders.
Roskilde isn’t just for channeling your inner warrior, though. It also worth the pitstop because of the legendary Roskilde Cathedral. A UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s been the location of coronations for Danish kings and queens for more than a millennium, it’s known for its needle-like duo of spires and colossal construction.
Hit the Byparken for a picnic lunch and a stroll when you get hungry. That occupies the heart of the town, connecting the shoreline to the central district. It’s popular with everyone from students to dog walkers and often turns into an ad hoc music venue in the warmest months.
When it comes to hotels, check out lovely little Svenskebakken Bed & Breakfast. It’s located outside of town to the west, which is perfect for carrying on our itinerary on day three (AKA tomorrow). The location also gets you a taste of the local countryside, and you can drop by the flower meadows and rolling hills of the National Park Skjoldungernes Land on your way in if there’s still time.
Day 3: Funen
Welcome to Funen (also known as Fyn), considered the garden of Demark. A land of blooming wildflower meadows that come to life in spring and summer, scented pine woods, rolling forests, and glistening lakes that invite the wild swimmers, it’s the perfect antidote to Copenhagen’s city living. We hope that the weather’s good when you arrive because a lot of this part of the journey is about escaping to the great outdoors.
Make first for the mid-sized city of Odense. Known across the globe as the birthplace of the prolific fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson, it’s a must for literary buffs. Be sure to drop by the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which is housed in the place where the writer was born. There’s also Hans Christian Andersen’s Garden, where you’ll find a statue of the man himself.
Now it’s time to get into the countryside. Go south on the 9 highway to find the fantastical Egeskov Castle. Soaring turrets meet crenulated walls there to make something that would look right at home in Hogwarts. The fortress is actually said to be the best example of a Renaissance water castle, so be sure to notice how it reflects beautifully in the surrounding ponds.
After that, scoot over to the coast. There’s a series of uber-charming villages in wonderful settings in those parts. Check out the handsome harbors of Faaborg or the narrow lanes of little Svendborg on the south coast. There’s also a Viking burial ground at Ladby, along with the untamed swathes of beech forest at Afgrunden.
Day 4: Aarhus
Another 1.5 hours on the motorway heading first west and then north will bring you to the hip and happening city of Aarhus. Before we get into that, though, there are plenty of things to see on the drive…Rainy weather might make a stop at the Industrimuseet in Horsens a good pick, where you’ll get info on local light industry and agriculture. Or there’s the pebbly beaches of Tirsbaek Strand on a fjord roughly midway through the ride, perfect for bracing swims and blustery coast walks.
Now: Aarhus itself. This student-filled city is one that lots of people even prefer to Copenhagen. It’s got history, thanks to the Den Gamle By open-air museum that preserves the old architecture of Denmark in the midst of wonderful botanic gardens. It’s also got creative energy, thanks to things like the strikingly modernist and Brutalist Aarhus City Hall and the ARoS Kunstmuseum, which has a good focus on contemporary artworks.
It’s impossible to ignore Aarhus’s rep as one of the culinary capitals of Scandinavia. This is a top place to sample experimental New Nordic cuisine, a style of cooking that’s heavy on foraged goods and seasonality. Head to Restaurant Hærværk to get your fix. There, the menus read beer-smoked salads and halibut in herring roe. The Nordisk Spisehus is a fine alternative, what with its sommelier-matched food cards. (One thing: New Nordic cooking isn’t cheap, so be sure to have some budget behind you!).
Day 5: Skagen – finish our Denmark 5 day itinerary by the sea
The grand finale of our Denmark 5 day itinerary is the sea-breezed resort of Skagen. This has been a getaway for northern Europeans for decades. It sits smack dab at the northern end of the Jutland Peninsula, gazing out to where the North Sea collides into the icy waters of the Baltic.
The star of the show is the coastline, which has been a muse to writers and painters since anyone can remember. The most famous is probably the Skagen Nordstrand. It’s a huge scythe of yellow-white sand and pebble backed by oat-clad hills and washed by rollers coming off the North Sea. It’s top for bird watching and beachcombing. You’ll also find long and untouched nature reserves rolling around the area, complete with whitewashed lighthouses that are a photographer’s dream come true.
The Skagen Sonderstrand is better for lazing in the summer months, because the waters there are more protected from oncoming swells. Then there’s Grenen, where you can walk the sand spit to the very northernmost point of Denmark and see the currents of two European seas mingling together in the distance.
Off the beaches and Skagen will enchant with its sun-kissed town center. That’s a place where Danish seafood kitchens churn out the best smoked herring you’ve ever tasted and where beer bars spill out from green gardens to look at the yachts that gather in the marina. Try to stay somewhere near the middle of town to feel the buzz of it all – we especially like the three-star Skagen Hotel, which is clean, comfy, and close to both restaurants and sands.