There are many options for day trips from Copenhagen, and the excellent transport infrastructure in the Greater Copenhagen area means spending the day at the beach, in the forest or in a historic market town couldn’t be easier: There’s at least a dozen excellent options all less than 45 minutes away by suburban S-train or local rail line.
Close at hand beaches include Bellevue Strand or even pretty Hornbæk, on Zealand’s north coast, while out-of-town art museums Louisiana and Ordrupgaard are both framed by gorgeous landscapes that make an afternoon visit a pleasant combination of outdoor recreation and culture. Here, however, we’ve chosen to concentrate on two market towns just 30 minutes from Copenhagen that, although they share a common historical significance, both have their own distinct character.
City of kings and Vikings – Roskilde
Roskilde was once the capital of Denmark and its importance is evident in its magnificent cathedral, Roskilde Domkirke, which stands at the top of the long hill that stretches down to the attractive fjord area. The traditional burial spot for Danish royals even today, the cathedral’s interior is worth checking out before taking a leisurely stroll through the public park to the waterfront, where Roskilde’s Viking Ship Museum displays the replicas of actual Viking long boats found in the town’s fjord.
Hamlet and Holger Danske – Helsingør
An equally attractive town is Helsingør (Elsinore), north of Copenhagen and overlooking the Øresund Sound. Helsingør is best known as the site for “Hamlet’s castle” Kronborg, a fantastic example of a Renaissance castle, but its worth sticking around a little longer. Dating from the 13th-century, many of Helsingør’s medieval buildings have been well preserved; the cathedral, Sankt Olai, dates back to the 1559 (and earlier) while Carmelite monastery Sct Mariæ was founded in 1430. Watching over Elsinore and Kronborg is the large statue of folk hero Holger Danske, who legend has it will turn to flesh and blood when his kingdom is threatened.
Photo of a street in Helsingør courtesy of Jonas Tegnerud/ Creative Commons.