Backpacking in Denmark
Where would be your top five dream destinations for a European backpacking trip? Does your answer look something like Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Croatia, Italy? These locations are of course undeniably fantastic backpacking routes, but today we are turning our attention to a little bit off the beaten backpacker track… Let us take you up north and discover everything the Nordic gem Denmark has to offer adventure-hungry travellers.
It may not have the most purse-friendly reputation, but Denmark offers charming cities, fantastic landscapes, and Viking history to boot! In this article, we’ll introduce you to the country’s highlights and reveal our tried and tested secrets on how to best travel it with a backpack: how to travel within the country, which accommodation options won’t break the bank, and where to find delicious and budget-friendly bites!
An Introduction to Denmark
The peninsula and archipelago traditionally thought of as Denmark are located in northern Europe, bordering Germany to the south and connected to the other Nordic countries via the Øresund Bridge which leads to Sweden. The famous capital, Copenhagen, lies on the east coast, split across the islands of Zealand and Amager. With its 7,031 square kilometres, Zealand is the largest of Denmark’s 1,1419 islands. The Kingdom of Denmark also includes autonomous regions, including the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark has 1,419 islands, 74 of which are inhabited.
Denmark is a country of fantastic nature. Despite deforestation’s deadly effect on biodiversity, seals and nearly 400 different species of bird can be spotted along the coast. Denmark is home to six national parks, which protect the ecological diversity of the country.
Danish Attractions Not to Miss Out On
Denmark’s coastline stretches over 7,400 km, so there are certainly more than enough beaches to explore. In summer, the sandy beaches are perfect for relaxing, despite the weather not being Mediterranean standard. At sunset, the light of the vanishing sun over the ocean makes for amazing photo opportunities.
Denmark offers backpackers a host of different hiking opportunities. Mols Njerge National Park with its rolling sand dunes is a heavenly escape. Likewise, the Paradise Hills of Bornholm in all their rocky glory are a sight to behold. The island is well-equipped for cyclists, horse riders, and hikers.
The country’s capital is a compact, welcoming city that buzzes both day and night. With friendly locals, vibrant nightlife, and impressive architecture, you simply cannot miss Copenhagen on your Danish adventure.
Perhaps the most famous, postcard image of Denmark are the colourful houses of Copenhagen’s Nyhavn. Once a working-class neighbourhood, Nyhavn has risen to international fame thanks to its iconic, eye-catching facades. The Tivoli amusement park in the city centre is sure to inject a boost of fun to your Copenhagen trip.
Though it is inarguably beautiful, Copenhagen is relatively pricey. One or two days should be enough to explore the city while sticking to a backpacker budget. Once you move away from the city, other fascinating Danish spots are much easier on the wallet.
Affectionately called the “city of smiles,” Denmark’s second-largest city has a lot to offer keen backpackers. The former Viking settlement and medieval maritime trading town has become a bustling economic and cultural hub over time. The city is home to one of the largest art museums in Northern Europe, the ARoS, as well as Den Gamle By – one of the first open air museums in the world! The Moesgaard Museum and the Botanic Garden are ideal for nature and history lovers. Of course, Aarhus also hosts festivals and other cultural events throughout the year, such as Internet Week Denmark or Aarhus Pride.
Step back in time with the long history of Roskilde, Denmark’s tenth-biggest city, located just 30 kilometres from Copenhagen. A settlement dating back to the Viking Age, Roskilde boasts a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its cathedral, the resting place of Denmark’s monarchs and one of the earliest Scandinavian examples of Gothic architecture built in brick. The Viking Ship Museum is also sure to amaze – you can almost see the ancient warriors sailing through the nearby 40-kilometre-long fjord and the numerous small islands.
Insider Tips for Backpacking Denmark
If you’re looking to discover sides of Denmark without the tourist hubbub of Copenhagen, the charming city of Helsingør is well worth a visit. The castle of Kronborg is typically accepted as Shakespeare’s inspiration for this play Hamlet. The island of Fanø is also ideal for slowing down and relaxing. It is home to Sønderho, voted one of the most beautiful villages in Denmark. The soft white sand and gentle dunes of Slettestrand are also not to be missed.
Cuisine in Denmark
In Danish cuisine, great emphasis is placed on local produce and locally sourced ingredients. Denmark has a long history of alcohol production, with beer and spirits remaining some of the most popular drinks to this day.
Smørrebrød is a traditional Danish delicacy consisting of dense, buttered rye bread and various toppings. Pick from cold cuts, pieces of meat or fish, or cheese and spreads.
Denmark’s architectural style follows the examples of France and Germany. Some buildings date back to the 13th and 14th centuries, embracing the Gothic style. This is complemented by Renaissance buildings, forming a rich architectural patchwork.
Surely you’ve heard the name Hans Christian Andersen many times before. But did you know he was a Dane? He left behind some of the most popular fairy tales in the Western world, such as “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Ugly Duckling” as his legacy. Possibly the most famous attraction in all of Denmark is the mermaid sculpture at Copenhagen harbour, which pays tribute to his work “The Little Mermaid”.
World Cultural Heritage
Alongside the Roskilde Cathedral, nine other Danish attractions have been recognised as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The North Zealand landscape, Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones and Church as well as Kronborg Castle on the Øresund have all earned the accolade.
Tips for Backpacking Through Denmark
From A to B – Getting Around in Denmark
Denmark regularly ranks as the most eco-conscious country in the world according to the Environmental Performance Index. Cycling is one of the most popular forms of transport, particularly within larger cities which offer extensive bicycle infrastructure. So-called “cycle superhighways” are even in development to increase access in urban areas. Public transport in Denmark is also generally clean and relatively inexpensive.
If you’re looking to see top sites in Copenhagen without breaking the bank, it might be worth investing in the “Copenhagen Card”. With this card, you gain access to over 80 attractions in the Copenhagen metropolitan area.
All of the classic options like hotels, hostels, Airbnb apartments and many other types of accommodation are available in Danish cities. Jutland country houses will certainly add that Danish flair to your trip. But what can you do to make that budget stretch a bit further? We have a few solutions for this too!
How about living and working on an organic farm for a while? Visit the WWOOF Denmark Website and you will find many farms where you can help out (usually a few hours a day) and receive food, lodging and cultural exchange in return.
Another way to save money is volunteering in the Roskilde Festival where you’ll get to spend the night free of charge and enjoy the festival, while doing a bit of light work.
Happy campers will be glad to know that Denmark has a whole host of fantastic campsites. However, keep in mind that wild camping is not allowed.
Fantastic Budget-Friendly Food in Denmark
When travelling, eating out can be a major budget drain. Want to dine at a restaurant without the huge cost? Then we recommend one of the country “kro” inns for hearty, rustic cuisine. You can also save money by making one of the country’s many farm shops your first port of call for essentials. Just look out for a street stand or shop with the sign “Grønt, æg, kartofler” – it means “vegetables, eggs, potatoes”.
Good to Know
A very special route in Denmark is the Margueritruten (Marguerite Route) that traverses all of Denmark, with the exception of Bornholm and the islands in the Kattegat. As soon as you spot a road sign with a white daisy, you know you’re on the right track, somewhere along the trail’s 3,500 kilometres.
With more than 400 islands, Denmark offers the perfect opportunity for a spot of island hopping. Are you in Ribe from May 2nd to May 8th? Then stop by the International Viking Market.
Culturally, people in Denmark are generally sincere and open-minded. It’s customary to greet each other, so expect a few friendly “hej”’s on your way and remember your “vær så venlig” and “tak” (though Danes generally speak English very well)! Gratitude is also particularly valued in Danish culture. In fact, the people of Denmark make up one of the happiest populations in the world. Let their good mood pass on to you!
The weather in Denmark can be capricious, so come prepared. Wind, sunshine, and rain demand functional clothing. So, bring a rainproof wind jacket and make sure you have good footwear. You can never go wrong with comfortable clothes either. Always bring a spare change of clothes with you, and don’t forget about sunscreen.
One last tip: tap water in Denmark is very clean, so you can safely drink it and save yourself a little money by not having to buy water. In Denmark’s restaurants, it is not customary to tip, but you should definitely be polite!
Are you looking forward to a backpacking holiday in Denmark? Visit the wonderful beaches, hike one of the many routes, or stay in the cities and experience great sights and history. Copenhagen, Aarhus, and Roskilde should not be missed out on your trip! A car is a good way to get around, but environmentally friendly alternatives are also very accessible in Denmark. Accommodation and food can be areas to save on, so you have more to splurge on the activities side of your backpacking trip. Denmark has a lot to offer, you’ll certainly feel the reward for breaking away from typical backpacking routes!