Let me start by being straight-up honest with you. When I learned I would have to live in Denmark for six months my first reaction was, “Where’s Denmark, again?” Shameful, I know. Especially for someone who takes pride in her wanderlust and love of Geography. Back in 2016, my first and only experience in the Old World had been in Germany and well, let’s just say the first impression wasn’t great– but that’s a tale for another time. The Danes introduced me to a concept that I’m sure everyone has experienced at some point in their life but have never been quite able to describe it: Hygge (pronounced hue- guh). It’s a non-translatable term that means that cozy feeling when you spend quality time with your loved ones. It means the snuggly warmth of the first sip of a hot chocolate cup after a long walk in the rain. I personally describe it as what hugs feel like. I didn’t really see the logic behind it until October arrived. I’m talking entire weeks with no glimpse of the sun. None at all. I’m talking nine a.m. sunrises and three p.m. sunsets. Folks, I can’t begin to explain to you how dreadful it was to a Californian such as myself. Hygge suddenly made all the sense in the world, and in a quest to find it in all its presentations (and not die from sheer environmental depression), I decided to go on a road trip with some friends.
Like with the rest of my interaction with Denmark, this road trip was not quite what I expected but hey, that’s the point of travelling, right? I was still getting used to the M.O. of Danish and European culture, so as an American it was quite the experience. Denmark is not the kind of place to have those iconic, up-in-your-face monuments. It’s not a Paris or a Rome, but it’s definitely just as worthwile. You take your time when it comes to Denmark, you savor it. Wander off the main streets and you will always find some unexpected, charming little cranny where you can sit down to watch the rain. As endearing as it is however, it can be daunting to plan a trip there. Translated information about anything else than Copenhagen is a little hard to come by sometimes, and there’s quite a few things about travel logistics and tips that I wish I had known in advance. So if you have this Viking land on sight for your next getaway, here are some good bits of information for you:
Orange tickets are your friends
Denmark is not a cheap country and one of the glaring examples of this sad truth is its transportation. Unless you plan to stay in one city, you are going to need some regional transportation to visit other landmarks. If you’re navigating sans wheels or on a budget, the DSB Orange Ticket is going to be a lifesaver for your pocket. Danish train tickets are quite expensive in general but if you purchase in advance and online you can buy Orange Tickets, which reduce the price significantly. All things considered, renting a car or using Bla-Bla-Car might be more convenient though. Denmark is small and quite driver-friendly, driving 5 hours to get to the next city is nothing if you’re used to America or Australia.
Last minute, one-way tickets from Copenhagen to Aarhus: 388 DKK/50 EUR
Orange tickets bought 2 weeks in advance: 99 DKK/13 EUR.
Nordic winters are not for the faint of heart
Do yourself a favor and travel in summer. This could be considered as a general rule of thumb when it comes to Europe, but it’s particularly advisable when it comes to Scandinavia. If you, like I, venture into the unknown mid-January you will only be thinking about when you get to be indoors again instead of enjoying the trip, not to mention if you visit Denmark during winter there are less daylight hours. Plus, northern Europe is absolutely spectacular in summer months.
One of the best experiences I had in Denmark was travelling to Skagen, the northernmost point in the country. Skagen is a satisfying combination between quiet beach town, odd liminal space, and a force of nature. It’s dotted with elderly inhabitants, oh-so-quiet cafes, and most importantly: German bunkers from the second World War lying around the beach. They give this eery feeling to it, some of them are cracked and if you feel brave enough, you can climb in to see what they look like inside. Another impressive thing about Skagen is the fact that the Baltic Sea and the Northern Sea meet in the very northernmost point of this beach with the bunkers. Now, what’s impressive about water, you ask. Well… both seas clash and make a foam barrier several meeters into the water. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, it’s not allowed to swim in these waters. They’re gelid and the force of the waves is enough to drown you. You can, however, soak your toes along the shore and of course, where the two seas meet.
Get to Skagen using the NT regional train from Frederikshavn
Round trip ticket: 120 DKK
Finally, there’s more to Denmark than Copenhagen
Granted, it’s a small country and the famous CPH is about as metropolitan as it gets, but if you’re into city tourism you should consider looking at Aarhus, too. I personally enjoyed it better than Copenhaguen. They have a killer contemporary arts museum called ARoS with a pretty neat rainbow glass tube on top of the building that you can walk in. Perfect spot for landscape viewing and some snazzy no-filter pics for your IG profile. Aarhus also has what is to date my favorite food garden: Aarhus Street Food. It’s this vibrant compendium of foods from all walks of life and it’s quite cheap, too, at least for Denmark. I’m talking Danish hot-dogs, Thai fussion, French crepés, Mexican tacos, locally brewed artisanal beer… In short, the foodie’s dream. Definitely worth the trip into the mainlands.
ARoS museum entrance: 130DKK or 100 DKK if you are under 28 or a student
Dinner at Aarhus Street Food: 120 DKK
So there you have it, folks! Whether it’s for a quick weekend getaway or a couple of weeks, Denmark will not disappoint you, especially if you’re the kind of person that likes to dig for their own little treasures. Denmark is full of them. These unexpected little moments of comfort, the sights, the chilly wind. I cannot advertise it enough, go to Denmark and embrace the hygge in life.