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Five great Danish cities to visit that aren’t Copenhagen

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Five great Danish cities to visit that aren’t Copenhagen
Aarhus' "Infinite Bridge" at sunset. Photo by Jeppe Mønster on Unsplash

Copenhagen may be a world-class city but if you’re looking for a destination different to the capital, Denmark has plenty of other options.



It’s an obvious choice but that’s no reason not to include Denmark’s second-largest conurbation Aarhus on a list of recommended Danish cities.

Arguably the only town in the country that can compete with Copenhagen for dining options and diverse city atmosphere, Aarhus has a personality distinct from the capital.

There are plenty of corners of town to be explored, such as the Latin Quarter, Mejlgade or Jægergårdsgade, all of which offer a range of places to stop for a meal, coffee or to have a cocktail or three. There’s a sprawling street food “market” (more polished than an actual market) near the main rail station, where sustainable takeaway meals from various cuisines are available. If you venture further into town you can find anything from ramen to fish and chips.

Tourist attractions include the Aros art museum and the instantly-recognisable, circular “Your Rainbow Panorama” that sits atop it, offering multicoloured views across the city. If you’re a fan of walking around in circles, you can also try Den Uendelige Bro (The Infinite Bridge).

Take a walk towards the harbour and the new Aarhus Ø development to see how the city is growing and if you want to venture further, you can follow the path that splits the Riisskov forest and the sea, until you reach a small but popular beach, Den Permanente.


READ ALSO: Aarhus versus Copenhagen: The differences (and similarities) between Denmark’s two largest cities


Vejle's "Wave" building is located near the Jutland town's harbour. File photo: Mikkel Berg Pedersen/Freelance/Ritzau Scanpix

Vejle is most recognisable for its “Wave”, a residential building facing the fjord that has won several architectural awards and can be seen as you pass the town via the high-standing bridge on the E45 motorway.

Located in the central Denmark trekantsområde (“triangle region”) of mid-sized towns in Jutland and on Funen, Vejle has a surprisingly international feel which is probably thanks to large companies like Lego and Siemens Gamesa which are major employers in the area.


If you walk along its pleasant and calm central shopping street you’re likely to hear passers-by speaking English on more than one occasion. You can drop into friendly independent cafes like BRYG Coffee House and Byens Forlag & Bogcafe or stop for brunch at the popular Onkel A (where you might need to book ahead).

What really sets Vejle apart though is its natural surroundings. Being located at the mouth of a fjord gives it a geography not typical of Denmark and you can walk up steep hills, through forests and along beaches. Cyclists need not be put off by the terrain, with flat bicycle routes following the path of the Vejle Ådal valley and linking the town to cycle trails that zigzag across Jutland.

READ ALSO: Denmark launches website in English mapping country’s bike routes


The Frigate Jylland ("Jutland") is one of Ebeltoft's most popular attractions, but the medieval coastal town has plenty more. Photo by Alin Andersen on Unsplash

It’s less than an hour by car from Aarhus, but Ebeltoft can feel surprisingly remote once you’ve driven across the rolling hills of the sparsely populated Mols Bjerge region to arrive at this cobbled town.

Ebeltoft is also one of the easiest places in Jutland to reach from Copenhagen, with regular ferry departures crossing to the Sjællands Odde terminal on Zealand’s west coast, which is a 90-minute drive from the capital.


The old town is characterised by slanted timber houses and winding streets paved by cobblestones. A sloping square fronts the old town hall building and you can walk along the coast to visit the museum on board the Frigate Jylland.

In the summer, an overnight stay can be rewarded with the sight and sound of the Ebeltoft nightwatchmen, who walk around town starting from the town hall. Their voices echo through the medieval streets.

Ebeltoft, located on the east coast, has a west-facing beach due to the curvature of the Mols peninsula. This can result in spectacular sunsets and there are several beaches and plenty of water activities in the vicinity for kids and adults.


Denmark's world-famous Kronborg Castle in the town of Helsingør. Photo: Kronborg Slot

Also known as Elsinore, Helsingør is famously the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the magnificent Kronborg Castle is a dramatic sight, perched imposingly off the town’s coast.

The castle was once used to demand tolls from ships passing between Denmark and Sweden down the Øresund straits. You can read about this history as well as the castle’s relationship with various Danish monarchs down the years.

Its chambers and halls have been preserved and restored, and you can view the coastline (and Sweden) from the roof and visit the mythical Holger Danske in the castle’s foundations.


Summer time brings the arrival of outside theatre productions if you want to see Shakespeare in an authentic location.

Near the castle, the Maritime Museum of Denmark illustrates 600 years of Danish seafaring history. It is mostly underground in an old dry dock and its architecture, designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group, is noteworthy on its own.

In the town of Helsingør itself, you can see some of Denmark’s oldest streets and buildings, with many surviving from as far back as the 16th century.

Keep an eye out on the harbour for the sculpture HAN – a male version of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid.

READ ALSO: How to get married at a world-famous Danish castle 


An impressive shot of the Himmelbjerget peak near Ry. Photo by Malik Skydsgaard on Unsplash

We’re stretching the term “city” a bit with Ry, a small town located on a branch rail line out of Aarhus. But the Danish words for city and town are the same (by), so it kind of qualifies. Plus by rhymes with Ry. So, there’s that.

Ry might be diminutive but some might argue has the closest to a “Copenhagen” vibe of any of the cities on this list. That is because it has become a popular choice in recent years for Copenhageners looking to relocate to a slower pace of life in a different part of Denmark.

Because of the above, a number of businesses in Ry’s high street look like they would fit in seamlessly in fashionable Copenhagen districts like Vesterbro or Frederiksberg. These include artisan cafes and small specialist stores.

Its location in the Søhøjlandet (literally “Lake Highland”) region means there are beautiful natural landscapes on Ry’s doorstep. You can explore the lakes on tourist boats which depart from jetties in the town. The nearby Himmelbjerget is a modest 147-metre peak which is nevertheless one of Denmark’s highest and has its own visitor centre and lookout spots.

When the weather’s good, this spot buzzes with families and visitors and the views of the wooded, lake-specked landscape are hard to top anywhere else in the country.


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