North Sealand – The Danish Riviera
I kid you not, I once heard Birmingham described as the Venice of Britain, so you can understand why I was a little bit dubious when my husband said he’d booked us a holiday to the Danish Riviera.
(Incidently, I wonder if anyone ever says ‘Ah, Venice : the Birmingham of Italy’!?)
However, my fears were short-lived. This relatively small area of North Sealand kept us going with ‘oos and ahhs’ (and a few snorts at the Danish road signs which translate hilariously into English) for our whole trip. The coastal road from Copenhagen airport winds around little towns like Helsingor, Hellebaek and Hornbaek at a pace only the bohemianly chic Danish could have instituted : life should be enjoyed and absorbed, not rushed or missed. Slow down and admire the views across the 4 mile strait to Sweden – the land of Moomins and cinnamon buns, but not before you’ve seen everything Denmark has to offer.
Hansel and Gretel cottages with thatched rooves sit on the roadside, hugged by the woods which probably shelter ginger-bread houses too. Little bakeries and independent hardware stores neighbour dozens of designer interior shops – its little wonder the locals walking by in their on-trend pantalons look like they invented the word ‘swank’, have you ever sat in a Arne Jacobsen or Panton chair? – It’s impossible to not look cool!
And the beautiful beaches…
Fine white sand, framed by pink wild roses and crowd free, this is where those in the know come to spend their summers. Hornbaek and Tisvildeleje are the better known beaches in North Sealand but are certainly not exclusive; there are plenty of places to park along this coastline, for free, and once you make your way through the grassy dunes with your lilo and (open)tuna sandwiches you will be greeted by the lapping waves of the Baltic Sea and the odd German naked bather. Basically, it’s just you and the ocean.
Sitting proud in the town of Elsinore (or Helsingor) is Kronborg Castle – home to the Prince of Denmark of the Sixteenth Century who was immortalised in the Shakespeare tale of Hamlet. Whether the crazy long-socked writer ever visited the castle or not remains a mystery, but this detailed piece of architecture has more than a poetic history – there are guided tours daily which speak of its elaborate past and connections with the rest of the world. And you mustn’t miss the crypts and catacombes where Holgar the Dane sits fossilized on his throne waiting for a future date when Denmark needs a hero (aka Holgar, obvs) to awaken and save the day.
For more information about Kronborg Castle click here
The local town of Helsingor is worth a day of your time too, if only to wander the quaint cobbled streets and view the lighthouses.
North Sealand was always the playground for Kings and Queens of yesteryear but the fun hasn’t stopped. Wrestling and funny-hat-throwing got them the wrong kind of following on Tinder so nowadays they stick to cycling and walking holidays, fun on the Fjords, museums of Art, Literature, Maritime, Science and Technology. And if you’re still chomping at the bit then get yourself into the capital, Copenhagen, for a day or two of hygge and happiness (read my post Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen) But, if you’re after a day of kicks and thrills then Dyrehavsbakken is your answer. You don’t have to be able to pronounce it to get in, in fact, you don’t even have to pay! Ten minutes north of Copenhagen, and open March till August, it is the worlds oldest amusement park (Bakken for short) – 431 years old! Sir Isaac Newton probably had a season ticket to this wonderland of gravitational entertainment and today you can ride till your heart’s content in Scandinavia’s biggest theme park : 33 rollercoasters (not 400 year old I might add), ferris wheels, bumper cars, drop towers etc. etc. And, half price fares on Wednesdays!
Want more information? Click here.
What To Eat…
Gilleleje is a little fisherman’s town famous for its Fish and Chips and if you can’t quite decide which place you want to order from then just follow the crowds – those in the know will soon lead you to the esteemed battered delicacies.
Obviously, now that you’re in Denmark, it would be insane to leave without trying the Scandinavian culinary delight that is the open sandwich. Made with traditional rye bread and often a choice of smoked or pickled fish, meats and cheeses with some sort of relish, they come presented beautifully. A doppel-reason why the Danes are so thin; they forgot the top piece of bread, and they’re pretty expensive (for what they are), but they are delicious, in a wholesome “I only eat organic, darling” kind of way.
And the ice cream. The Danes seem obsessed with ice cream, but it has to be the good stuff. Always a winner for the kids but I too was taken back to my school days when the god-fathers of Hartlepool, Amerigo’s, parked their vans and served up the creamiest soft-scoop this side of Napoli. Like I said, the Danes take their icecream seriously.
So, there you have it, a brief compendium of North Sealand, The Danish Riviera – a little secret kingdom which the Danes would rather keep to themselves. However, with flight prices to Copenhagen pretty low (try £19.99 return with RyanAir) and some well designed holiday homes on offer, why wouldn’t you visit this pleasant and good-natured land!?
So, have you been? Did I forget anything? Drop me a line…
And, if you’re after some more info. Erin over at OregonGirlAroundTheWorld put together an awesome post about what to expect when booking a Danish Summer House in the Riviera, check it out here
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