With its charming cobblestoned towns, colorful harbors, and impressive galleries, Denmark has been a tourist favorite for generations, but people often overlook its enthralling neighboring islands. Odense, the scenic capital city of the eclectic Funen island, is particularly worth visiting. It’s the ideal place if you’re looking for a metropolitan experience with manageable distances, and it’s also Denmark’s greenest city.
From its fascinating museums to its historic landmarks, and exceptional nightlife, there are many reasons to pay Odense a visit besides its picturesque surroundings. There are also plenty of family-friendly activities on offer, as well as a castle and zoo to explore, and don’t get us started on the local markets. Truth be told, we think you’re unlikely to find a more endearing metropolis in the Scandinavian archipelagic.
If you need even further convincing, these seven reasons to visit Odense are sure to turn the tides in this underrated gem’s favor. Let’s get into it.
The city of Odense has an undeniably rich history, and paying a visit to one of its fascinating museums can be a truly enriching experience. You won’t struggle to find amazing options either.
One of the most unique is H C Andersens Hus, which is a small yellow house, operating as a museum documenting the life of famous 19th-century poet and writer Hans Christian Andersen. The house, which was the birthplace of the author, is located on the corner of Hans Jensen’s Stared and has served as a museum since 1908, which makes it one of the oldest literary museums around. If you want to get even better acquainted with his history, you could also visit the nearby H. C. Andersens Museum, where you’ll find a vast collection of memorabilia linked to the iconic author.
Another option is the Railway Museum, which houses a diverse collection of 19th-century locomotives, ranging from steam trains to more contemporary diesel trains. There are regular visiting trains as well. Best of all, it’s less than a mile away from the gorgeous Odense Cathedral, so you could tour both in a few short hours for a memorable day trip.
Last but not least, don’t forget the Møntergården city museum, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Odense, and the island of Funen. One of the undeniable highlights is the row of historic houses in the back courtyard, which were once occupied by some of the city’s poorest residents, and provide an insight into their daily lives.
From towering cathedrals dating back to the early middle ages to the majestic Renaissance castles, Odense really doesn’t hold back when it comes to architecture. These incredible structures offer a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past and are sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitor.
For starters, you could visit the Gothic St. Canute’s Cathedral. This structure dates back as far as the 11th century and houses the remains of historic figures St Knud, his brother Prince Benedict, as well as Kings Hans and Christian II, in an underground crypt. It’s also home to a stone commemorating Hans Christian Andersen’s confirmation at the church in 1819. Next, you could check out the Italianate, Gothic, modeled Town Hall, which was built in the late 19th century and displays many incredible artworks on its walls.
You could also explore the dazzling Egeskov Castle, just outside the city. This unforgettable Rennaisance-style building was completed in 1554 and is one of the most well-preserved palaces in Northern Europe. Originally built as a defensive structure in the middle of a lake, with thick walls, and a water well, it now houses a car museum, banqueting hall, treetop walk, and Segway tours.
The Relaxed Vibe
Due to the booming tourism scene and size of Copenhagen, navigating the city can be challenging and popular spots tend to be fairly crowded. Naturally, this won’t be a problem for everyone, but if you’re looking for that big city feeling without the chaos, nearby Odense has got you covered.
It’s become a firm favorite among architecture lovers, and those who enjoy a more leisurely pace. While its small size means most things are accessible on foot and there’s more than enough space for tourists to explore the city’s cobblestoned streets to their heart’s content.
This makes it the ideal choice for anyone who’s craving a laid-back holiday or looking to get better acquainted with a different side of Denmark that the modern capital might not communicate. Plus, it’s an exceedingly safe travel destination, thanks to its low levels of crime and corruption, adding to the cozy atmosphere.
The Nature Parks and Zoo
Odense doesn’t have any shortage of enchanting national parks. If you’re craving a little light relaxation, one of the best options is to pay a visit to Munke Mose Park, which was once part of a factory’s grounds, and now operates as an unforgettable waterside recreation space.
It’s a great place for running, as well as hiking, and the park offers everything from a fragrant flower garden to boat cruises, and a playground for the younger ones. If you visit during summer, you could even catch a performance of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale play.
The magical Odense Zoo is another highlight and is rated as one of the top ten in Denmark. It has been in operation since 1930, and houses over 147 different animal species, in addition to camping grounds in summer, and is regularly updated with new enclosures. Visiting makes for an excellent day trip, and it’s sure to be a hit with the little ones, since they’ll have the opportunity to get up close with giraffes, tapirs, and lemurs, to name just a few.
You could also visit the Cultural Botanic Garden, which contains many indigenous Danish plants and shrubs like buckthorn, yew, and hornbeam. You’ll find foreign species like Chinese water fir, linden, and a Hungarian chestnut there as well. The park also offers botanical training and there are plenty of plants for sale in the nursery if you’re looking for a souvenir – and there’s space in your suitcase.
Odense is something of a shopper’s haven, and we can confidently say that you won’t have a hard time finding unique souvenirs to remember your trip by. There’s more than enough variety to satisfy every taste and age, from designer labels to locally made handicrafts.
Visiting Brandts Klædefabrik, in Odense’s Latin Quarter, is an excellent choice if you’re after a local shopping experience. Originally a textiles factory complex, it’s now an ever-changing shopping and cultural destination, with the area being renowned for its bohemian boutiques, cafes, and workshops.
The local flea markets near the town center are well worth a visit too. They typically have very homely atmospheres and the stalls sell beautiful crafts, clothes, antiques, and upcycled items for your house, garden, or children.
We recommend starting with the charming Bogense Flea Market, which sells everything from vintage memorabilia to fishing equipment, and stocks over 500 new items every week. You’ll find it at the old dairy in Guldbjerg close to Bogense.
Odense may be small, but you can rest assured that this quaint city has dynamic nightlife and there’s something for everyone. Plus, since there isn’t a big metropolitan area, most of the local watering holes are within walking distance of each other, which means you could visit several in one night and make a bar crawl of your evening.
For starters, you could have a drink at Christian IV in Vintapperstræde, arguably Odense’s most vibrant street. The bar has a laid-back ambiance complete with over 20 taps, as well as an excellent selection of whiskey, rum, and beers. Visiting Amy’s Bar & Winehouse is another must, and makes for a great resting point after a day trip.
This homely pub is located in Gråbrødre Torv and serves wines, cocktails, and draft beers in addition to local bread and tapas. Plus, their knowledgeable staff is known to be more than happy to help you find your new favorite wine by pairing cultivars with your specific taste buds.
Last but not least, the galleries in Odense cannot be left out. Odense is an artsy city, and it with its long history dating back to the 11th century, it should come as no surprise that it plays host to a wide variety of brilliant art galleries exhibiting prominent Danish and international artists alike.
The Studio Gallery on Vesterbro, not to be confused with the Copenhagen district of the same name, should be at the top of your agenda if you’re looking to explore the local art scene. The Gallery Galschiøt on Banevaenget is also a unique opportunity to visit artist and sculptor, Jen Galschiøt’s, workshop, with 8,000 square meters of space and plenty of her work and the work of other Danish authors exhibited here.
Still, you can’t miss out on the chance to see Søndergade’s famed Kunstgalleriet’s ever-changing modern exhibitions either that have drawn revelers since 1990.
What is Odense known for?
Odense is known as Denmark’s garden island and its scattered with grand palaces, green spaces, historic buildings, and galleries and museums. However, Odense is best known as the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, the iconic author of some of the most cherished fairytales, not only by Denmark but the world at large. Andersen wrote a number of plays, travelogues, and novels but his literary fairy tales are his most notable works. Some of his well-loved titles include “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Ugly Duckling”, and “The Little Mermaid”, to name but a few.
How many days should I spend in Odense?
You could spend weeks in Odense and it still wouldn’t reveal all of its charms, but two or three days is enough time to enjoy most of its iconic sites, museums, cafés, and local cuisine. We recommend adding an extra day if you want to tour Egeskov Castle with its treetop trails and host of museums, as well as the surrounding picturesque regions of Funen Island.
When is the best time to visit Odense?
The warmest months in Odense are June, July, and August with average daily highs of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and plenty of blue skies. Funen Island is never particularly warm and rainfall is common, with heavy snow coming in the wintertime. Still, Denmark is a magical place around Christmas and Odense is just as enjoyable in the snow as it is in the sunshine. However, if you’re on a budget, we recommend heading in the shoulder seasons in May or September for mild weather and discounted hotel rates.