Updated: Jul 25, 2020
I have now been living in Denmark for over a year, and I feel like I need to show the little cities some love. Before marrying a Dane and moving to Denmark, I honestly don't know if I could name a single city or town in Denmark beyond Copenhagen. I love Copenhagen, but there are some other neat places around the country worth visiting to get the full Danish experience. Denmark is basically broken into three islands: Jutland, Fyn and Sjælland. And at any given time you are no more than 30 miles from the sea.
Personally, I am seeking out small cities for my own travels. Last year I hit the main Pinterest attractions like Amsterdam, Paris and London. But this year, I am ready to go off the beaten path and stretch myself a bit. I grew up in a small town and love the small-town vibe. Here are some alternative Danish cities I recommend visiting while touring Denmark!
Rasmus and I live in Denmark’s sixth biggest city, Randers. The total population is roughly 60,000. To Danes this city is known for being a little rough around the edges. Mostly, I think the city is made up of working-class people and commuters, so it can be hard to find the heart of the city. For me, coming from Albuquerque, our city seems quaint and charming.
In medieval times, this was a market city. And our iconic church downtown, St. Martins Church, was built in the 15th century. Last year we didn’t have a car, so I spent most of my time walking and working in the heart of the city. The downtown area is lined with cobblestones, small restaurants and coffee shops. You won’t find a Starbucks, or any chains. But you’ll definitely be able to find some authentic Danish food like smørrebrød, flæskesteg, and frikadeller to go along with your Danish beer — a Carlsberg or Tuborg.
I love this city; it is on the outskirts of Copenhagen and has a nice easy-going vibe to it. It is most well-known for the Roskilde Festival which is the largest music festival in Northern Europe. The festival is known for drawing hippies and mirroring Woodstock; last year the festival drew over 300,000 people.
When we were there in February, we visited the Roskilde Cathedral which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the earliest Scandinavian Gothic Brick cathedrals, built in the 12th century. The Danish Royals are buried here, and you can follow the royal line back to 1448.
Last Saturday Ras and I had brunch at an adorable little spot downtown called Café Korn, which I would highly suggest if are in Roskilde. Rasmus was actually born here, pictured below is him and his mom, Janni, on the street he grew up on "Lille Grønnegade" meaning little green street.
We were lost and trying to find a park when Rasmus and I stumbled on this town, and it was such a treat. This town sits on the Mariager Fjord. The city center overlooks the large water mass and looks like it would be a great place for water sports.
Mariager, we discovered, has been marked by an organization called “CittaSlow” which was founded in Italy and inspired by the slow food movement. Cittaslow's goals include improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace, especially in a city's use of spaces and the flow of life and traffic through them. This town feels slow, the slow that makes you want to throw your iPhone 8 into a stream, I love it!
Hanging out in Mariager is like taking a step back in time. The cobble stone is clearly hand-laid, the houses lean to the side, and the flowers and vines pour over everything. We really enjoyed our Saturday afternoon here. There is a beautiful church in the middle of town that borders an awesome park.
Arhus is the closest big city to Randers. As the second biggest city in Denmark, they have a population of about 330,000 and the city is known for its world-ranked university, Aarhus University, and being an international hub. When walking down the streets you can find food from any country. I found a sushi place unlike any other—A+ Sushi! And there is American food galore, which is great when I’m craving food from home.
The city is the definition of trendy. The Danish newspaper released an article in September which said that over half of the people residing in the central Aarhus post code area are in their twenties, according to official figures. The city has a super young and fun feel to it. There are lots of bars, clubs and hipster shops.
There is lots of street art and murals, and the ARoS Art Museum is a great way to check out the latest in modern as well as historic art. The coffee shops here are totally my jam, there is one around every corner fully stocked with oat milk and Ikea themed Scandinavian furniture.
Lejre is about half an hour outside of Copenhagen and has a very cozy farm town feel. Rasmus’ has family here, so we have been lucky to discover this area. This town only has about 2,000 residents, but what I love most about it is the rolling hills. The majority of the countryside in Denmark is flat and green, and Lejre is a great place to tour the countryside.
Springtime in Lejre is the best. The fields that were once green are littered with mustard flowers turn yellow for as far as the eye can see! We were there a few weeks back and encountered a few farm animals while out on a walk. I raised pigs for 4H while growing up and being around farm animals somehow always takes me home. This town is a great place to go to escape the city and find a haven in the hills.
Esbjerg is a seaport town in southwest Denmark, which we discovered with family while on Christmas vacation last year. This is the fifth largest city in Denmark with about 70,000 residents. It is said to have the largest fishing port in Denmark and is Denmark’s trading gateway to the west. Christmas time in Esbjerg promises lots of sparkling lights and an ice rink the middle of town square!
I always tell Rasmus that if Esbjerg had a basketball team, we would be there. It seems different from other Danish cities in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on, maybe it was the Christmas spirit or the hot chocolate we had, but Esbjerg won my heart last year. The soft, cool colors of the buildings and calm that I felt in Esbjerg puts this high up on my list.
What are your favorite small towns in Denmark? We hope to tour lots of other small towns this year if we can find the time.