Denmark and its numerous islands are brimming with sites, history, and culture, but amidst the cobbled streets of Copenhagen and art museums of Aarhus, there’s also a host of hidden gems waiting to be explored.
The Scandinavian country in Northern Europe is known as a hub for design and architecture, a birthplace of fairytales, and for having the happiest population on the planet. It won’t take long to convince you that Denmark deserves a place on your travel bucket list, but you don’t want to spend your whole vacation caught up in tourist crowds. Sometimes you want to mingle with locals and do as they do, or even venture to places that the Danes themselves didn’t know existed.
Our guide explores just nine of the hidden gems in Denmark that we think are worth visiting, from the remote islands and northern towns to right under your nose in the capital. Let’s get into it.
Located less than two hours south of Copenhagen, the cliffs of Møn, also dubbed “the wonder of the cold Caribbean” are one of Denmark’s most surprising hidden gems. The limestone and white chalk cliffs stretch for over three miles on the eastern coast of the island of Møn and reach up to 400 feet (120 meters) above sea level. They are 70 million years old and are slowly crumbling into the Baltic Sea, making the crisp waters even more clear and inviting.
The area is surrounded by greenery with trees, lakes, hills, and walking trails for visitors to enjoy. Several species of rare plants also populate the island, such as the Orchis Purpurea, making the island a real treat for nature buffs.
The cliffs are best enjoyed from the Møn Lighthouse to the southeast, with great views over the Baltic, large, green fringed gardens, and private steps down to the beach where you can fossil-hunt and even swim beneath the majestic Klint.
Check out Liselund Park while you’re on Møn for walking and cycling. The 18th-century landscaped gardens are home to several historic buildings and monuments with a small palace, the Kilntholm Estate, located on the grounds.
Nestled just north of the capital, Jægersborg Dyrehave is a nature park covering around 11 square kilometers of forested land with ancient oak trees and a sprawling population of red and fallow deer.
Jægersborg Dyrehaven is unsurprisingly also known as “The Deer Park” thanks to the 2,100 hoofed species that call it home. The forest park was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 and visitors can also catch a glimpse of Denmark’s history amid the great landscape and nature.
The late-Baroque Hermitage Hunting Lodge, built when Christian IV ruled Denmark in the 16th century, still stands proud on the property. The dramatic house that sits in the center of the deer park, on top of a small hill, has been used by Danish royalty over the years and as a movie location several times.
While you’re at Jægersborg Dyrehaven, be sure to check out Bakken on the other side of the forest, the oldest amusement park in the world. Bakken has been open since 1583 and is still in operation. Families flock to the park and its surrounding woodland in the summertime to enjoy the great rides, games, food stalls, and entertainment for all ages, most of which, luckily have been updated since the 16th century.
Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse is located on the far northwest coast of the Jutland Peninsula in Hjørring. The structure was built and first lit in 1900, and although it’s not safe to enter due to shifting sands and cliffside abrasion, this makes the scenery even more fascinating.
The lighthouse stands on a 200-foot cliff, with a 30-meter-high migrating dune to its side. Strong winds have transformed the area over the years, with sands encroaching the structure, but this gives the area a lunar-esque atmosphere that adds to the unique appeal and history.
Bushes and trees were planted in the 1920s to help improve the landscape but the sea and sand swept them all away by the 1950s. Sand dunes around the lighthouse actually blocked the light from reaching out to sea, so it shone for the last time on August 1st, 1968. The lighthouse remained empty throughout the 70s until the Vendsyssel Historical Museum, or “sand-drift museum” was erected next door to tell the story about the lighthouse’s battle against nature. Ironically, the museum stood no chance against the dunes itself and was closed in 1992 as sand engulfed the building.
The tower was predicted to tumble into the sea by 2023, until it was moved to safety, 70 meters inland, in 2019. Still, nature is unpredictable, and you’ll have to move quickly if you want a glimpse of this hidden gem and pocket of history.
Situated near Kværndrup, on the south side of Funen Island, Egeskov Castle is the best-preserved Renaissance water palace in all of Europe. This hidden gem in Denmark is actually somewhat of a pull factor to Odense and there’s even a chic music festival, Heartland, hosted on its grounds. Still, little is known of its consequential stature outside of Denmark.
One of the reasons Egeskov Castle has remained under the radar despite its rich history is that it still serves as the official residence of Count Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille and Princess Alexandra of Saayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. The palatial structure is a turreted red-brick wonder, encircled by a dramatic moat, giving the appearance that the castle is floating. It will come as no surprise that renowned storyteller, Han Christian Anderson, grew up nearby in Odense because Egeskov really is the stuff of fairytales. In fact, the author is thought to have been greatly influenced by the building in his writing.
Egeskov was completed in 1554 and designed, like most castles, for defensive purposes. It’s been a family home to royalty over the centuries but was also opened up to the public in 1959. There’s a café on site, a playground for children, and plenty of picnic spots on the vast grounds. Each floor houses a different exhibition, including Titania’s Palace on the second floor, a spectacular doll’s house with 3,000 individual components.
On top of the moat, leafy archways, and dense birch forest, there’s even a 100-meter-long treetop walkway. Be sure to visit the 700-year-old oak tree when you’re here, which witnessed the building of the castle.
Den Gamle By
Aarhus’ rustic old town is an experience like no other, offering visitors the chance to walk through time and get a glimpse at Danish town life throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Half-timbered houses punctuate the cobblestoned streets and people dressed in period clothing, traveling by horse and cart, make it feel all the more realistic.
Den Gamle By is an open-air museum in and of itself and is located in Aarhus’ Botanical Gardens. Stroll the streets and even enter some of the houses to get a taste of 1970s life in Denmark from the actors who bring the town to life.
If you’re lucky enough to visit in the wintertime, Den Gamle By also becomes the site of Aarhus’ most popular Christmas market. In Denmark, locals celebrate something called ‘Julehygge’ around the festive period, when Christmas spirit and cheer are embraced from mid-November until the new year. Den Gamle By is a great place to experience it. Peruse the stalls of traditional snacks, grab a historical wooden toy or knitted hat as a souvenir, and be sure to enjoy plenty of servings of Gløgg, Denmark’s mulled wine.
Men by the Sea
Located on Denmark’s southwest coast, overlooking Sædding Beach in Esbjerg, this majestic structure does exactly what it says on the tin. Somewhat of an “Angel of the North” meets Easter Island’s monoliths for Denmark, this nine-meter tall white monument features four statues of anonymous seated males looking out over the Baltic in angelic tranquility.
The giants are constructed out of alabaster, or white concrete, and were designed to depict the meeting of pure, unspoiled mankind with nature. The monument was designed by Svend Wiig Hansen, a Danish sculptor, painter, and graphic artist. The statue was erected just two years before Wiig Hansen’s death, making it even more poignant.
Men by the Sea is situated opposite the Fisheries Maritime Museum and the statue welcomes all who arrive and leave the Esbjerg Harbor. It’s one of the area’s biggest tourist attractions and a symbol of Esbjerg, which otherwise serves as a sleepy port town, 164 kilometers from Aarhus.
Hammeren at Bornholm
Nestled at the northernmost tip of Bornholm, Hammeren is a protected area and one of the most picturesque hidden gems in Denmark. Bornholm is a quaint and rustic island, lying off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea. Fishing villages and smokehouses punctuate the landscape and it truly is a destination where visitors can do as the locals do.
Bornholm Art Museum, tucked away by the jagged Helligdomsklipperne rocks near the small town of Gudhjem, demonstrates the work of painters who’ve been drawn to the natural light of the island over the years. Bornholm is also known for its four round churches, with Østerlars Church being the largest and oldest, but they’re all stunning inside.
In the port village of Rønne, you can learn about the 10,000 years of local history including the WWII occupation of Bornholm. Still, the north is one of the most spectacular parts of the island to visit. The clifftop remnants of Hammershus, a medieval castle partially destroyed in 1750 and restored in 1900, are the largest castle ruins in Northern Europe. The fortifications also sit within Hammeren, with its rocky bays, lakes, and historic structures.
Sæne Bugt Bay lies in front of the rugged cape, with crashing waves and diverse flora. There’s also Hammer Odde Lighthouse at the northernmost point of Hammeren atop the 86 feet cliffs, and Hammersø, the largest lake on the island, is embedded into the landscape. Hammeren is dynamic and remarkable. It’s a popular summer haunt for Danes but an understated tourist destination.
How many days do you need in Copenhagen?
The capital city of Denmark is definitely worth visiting, but don’t neglect the diverse islands, fishing towns, lakes, and wilderness of the country to prioritize the tourist sites. Three days is enough to enjoy the museums, galleries, palaces, and green spaces, while dipping in and out of the cozy coffee shops, savoring the local cuisine, and pursuing the designer stores. That said, you could spend months in Copenhagen and still not uncover all of its mysteries. The city is very liveable and it’s hard to get bored.
What things are free in Denmark?
Denmark is a notoriously expensive country, but if you want to stick to a budget, making the most of the abundance of free activities is a great idea. Many national parks and palace grounds are free to enter and walk around, with extra charges usually incurred for entering houses and museums. The deer park is a renowned free attraction, although you’ll have to pay to enter the nearby Bakken amusement park, the oldest in the world. Nyhavn Harbor in Copenhagen and the ice rinks in Frederiksberg are also great free attractions in winter.
Where is the prettiest place in Denmark?
One of the prettiest places and hidden gems in Denmark are the white cliffs of Møn. The island is the only place in the country where you can see high chalk and limestone cliffs, similar to that in Dover, England, along with the unique flora and fauna in the area. Rare plants like the Orchis Purpurea grow here, and the site is also a hotspot for birdwatching.