Travel Destinations

Monday, June 30, 2014

5 Top Sites to Visit on a Denmark Road Trip

Egeskov Slot Denmark
Egeskov Slot
A great way to really discover a country is to plan a road trip.  Driving isn’t always the easiest option when traveling around the world, but some countries are best seen from the road.  Some of our favorite times in Denmark were during our road trip around the country.  We visited a few great cities and towns during our road trip, including Odense, Aarhus, Ribe, and Roskilde, but the following sites were not found in these cities and towns, but rather were scattered throughout the Denmark countryside and can only be conveniently visited with a rental car. 

1. Trelleborg Viking Ring Fortress

Trelleborg Viking Ring Fortress Denmark
Trelleborg Viking Ring Fortress
Trelleborg is the best preserved Viking ring fortress in Denmark.  Trelleborg is on the island of Zealand, which is the same island where Copenhagen is located, but on the opposite side near the beginning of the Great Belt Bridge.  We visited Trelleborg on our way from Copenhagen to Odense.

Related: Odense: The Birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen

It is believed Trelleborg dates back to approximately 980 AD and was most likely commissioned by King Harold Bluetooth to be erected as a military stronghold.  The ring fortress is a high earthen ring inside of which hundreds of people lived in houses.  Four tunnel-like gates allowed passage in and out of the ring fortress.  There were also buildings outside of the ring which were probably storerooms and workshops.  The original wooden buildings are no longer there, but the postholes are filled with concrete to mark where they once stood.

Trelleborg Viking Ring Fortress Post Holes Denmark
Concrete-filled postholes mark where Trelleborg's wooden buildings once stood.
Outside the Trelleborg ring fortress stands the Trelleborg hall, which was built in 1941 as a reconstruction of one of the bailey houses.  The reconstruction is very well done and gives a sense of what it was like to live in the Viking age.

Trelleborg Ring Fortress Reconstructed Hall Denmark
Living like a Viking in the reconstructed Trelleborg hall.
Trelleborg is a great place to visit with children.  The ring fortress is outdoors, allowing kids to run around freely, and there are also sheep grazing nearby.  But the most enticing aspect of Trelleborg for young travelers is the reconstructed settlement near the entrance.  Trelleborg employees dress in costumes from the time period and demonstrate life as it was lived in Viking times.  Kids can take part in a Viking battle, watch blacksmiths forge iron, witness food being cooked over fires, and learn how to shoot a bow and arrow.  Pick up some Viking currency at the entrance to pay for archery lessons.  I was pretty excited to shoot a bow and arrow for the first time.  I even hit the target on my last attempt.

Trelleborg Viking Ring Fortress Sheep Denmark
Sheep roam freely through the Trelleborg Viking ring fortress.
Admission to Trelleborg is free except for during the Viking Festival.  Visit Trelleborg’s website for opening days and hours.

2. Egeskov Slot

Egeskov Slot Hunting Trophies Denmark
Hunting trophies displayed in Egeskov Slot.
Egeskov Slot is a large manor house in the southern part of Funen, the island west of Zealand.  We drove to Egeskov Slot after visiting Trelleborg and before arriving in Odense.  Egeskov Slot is not only a manor house with a moat and drawbridge, but also has a huge garden to explore plus museums containing antique cars, antique motorcycles, horse drawn vehicles, and a wartime grocery shop. Egeskov Slot is another great site for kids as it has a playground, a tree top walk, a maze, and a Segway course.

Egeskov Slot Car Museum Denmark
How would you like to road trip with this setup exhibited in the car museum?
Egeskov means oak forest.  The castle was built in 1554 on a foundation of thousands of upright oak trunks.  There are 13 rooms open to the public as well as the attic.  Rooms are those you would expect in a castle including parlors, banquet halls, and a music room.  The Deer Hallway is covered with hunting trophies.  Be sure to visit the wooden man in the attic.  Legend has it that if the wooden man is moved, the castle will sink into the moat.

Egeskov Slot Wooden Man in the Attic Denmark
The wooden man will never leave his pillow for fear the castle will sink into the moat.
One of the most fascinating objects on display at Egeskov Slot is Titania’s Palace, an astonishingly detailed doll house on loan by the LEGO Fund.  The doll house was built in 1907 by a father for his daughter because she thought the fairies in the garden deserved a fine house to live in.  It took 15 years to complete and was built with the help of skilled craftsmen.  Titania’s Palace contains 3,000 unique objects from around the world including the world’s smallest working organ.

Titania's Palace Egeskov Slot Denmark
One of the many intricate rooms of Titania's Palace doll house.
Egeskov Slot is open to the public from April through October.  Count Claus Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille and his family still live in the castle.  Visit Egeskov Slot’s website for opening hours and admission prices.

3. Hindsholm Peninsula

Fyns Hoved Hindsholm Peninsula Denmark
Cows and swans seen on our walk through Fyns Hoved.
Exploring the Hindsholm Peninsula is all about driving through tiny villages and along quiet roads.  The Hindsholm Peninsula is in the northeastern part of Funen about a half-hour drive from Odense.  We began our tour through the Hindsholm Peninsula by driving to Fyns Hoved at the northernmost tip.  There is a lovely trail around the tip where we walked along the cliffs rising above the ocean.  We saw cows, sheep, and swans, and had just missed a sea lion basking on the rocks.

Mårhøj Hindsholm Peninsula Denmark
Mårhøj passage grave.
Driving back south through the Hindsholm Peninsula we stopped at Mårhøj, a single-chamber passage grave from 200 BC.  Mårhøj looks like a grass mound in the middle of farmland.  We climbed atop the mound to take in the view and then made our way into the passage grave.

Viby Windmill Hindsholm Peninsula Denmark
Viby's old windmill.
Further south is the tiny town of Viby.  There are a lot of cute towns on the Hindsholm Peninsula, but Viby is unique because it has a small church and an old windmill.  Denmark is riddled with modern windmills, but we didn’t see many of the old windmills, so visiting Viby’s windmill and seeing it up close was a real treat.

Related: 5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Roskilde

Viby Church Hindsholm Peninsula Denmark
Viby's church with the customary ship hanging from the ceiling.

4. Vikingemuseet Ladby

Vikingemuseet Ladby Denmark
Denmark's only Viking ship grave with
remaining horse skeletons.
Just south of the Hindsholm Peninsula is the Vikingemuseet Ladby.  Vikignemuseet Ladby is a burial mound containing Denmark’s only ship grave from the Viking era.  It is also the only Viking ship in the world that can be visited where it was last placed by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago.  Around 900 AD a Viking chieftain was buried in his 21.5 meter long ship.  Along with his body, many of his possessions were loaded into the ship as well as his 11 horses and three or four dogs.  The ship was then covered by a burial mound.  

Today the wood of the ship is gone, but visitors can see the imprint of the ship along with the rivets, shroud rings, anchor and chain, and the 11 horse skeletons.  The museum exhibits a grisly reproduction of how the ship would have looked filled with the bodies of the deceased human and animals before burial.

Visit Vikingemuseet Ladby’s website for opening hours and admission prices.

5. Gammel Estrup

Gammel Estrup Denmark
Gammel Estrup
Gammel Estrup is in the Djursland region of Jutland north of Aarhus.  Gammel Estrup is a manor house surrounded by a moat and was originally built in the 14th century, though the oldest part of the present building was completed in 1490.  Not only is Gammel Estrup an interesting display of old architecture and room interiors, it also has some informative displays about Danish nobility.  One interesting factoid is that being of Danish nobility had its downsides.  In times of war, Danish nobles had to be at the disposal of the king and gather a military force, horses, and military equipment with which to serve the king.  It is believed the invention of firearms was partly to blame for the fall of European nobility as a military class, as all of a sudden knights who had trained for years with a sword and armor could be taken down with a single shot.  Now that the nobles were out of a military job, they had to find something else to do with their time and make themselves seem important, so they turned to building impressive buildings, wearing fancy clothing, and throwing outlandish parties.

Related: From Old Town to Contemporary Art, Things to Do in Aarhus

Gammel Estrup Great Hall Denmark
Gammel Estrup's Great Hall with faux marble floor.
The rooms illustrate life at the manor throughout time with furniture, tapestries and wall hangings, china, and other objects.  The Great Hall was recently restored to the condition of the 18th century interior, including the wood floor that looks as it did then, painted a faux marble.  We noticed throughout Denmark after visiting Gammel Estrup that many churches and buildings have wood columns, walls, and floors painted to look like marble.  There is also a green wallpapered room in the tower which gets its vibrant green color from the dye’s poisonous ingredient, arsenic.  A warning is posted for visitors to not touch the wallpaper, especially in damp conditions which can create a garlic-smelling poisonous gas.

Gammel Estrup Arsenic-Laced Green Room Denmark
Gammel Estrup's arcenic-laced green room.
Visit Gammel Estrup’s website for opening hours and admission prices.

Every time we got into our rental car while in Denmark, we didn’t just look forward to our next destination, but also to the stops we would make along the way, discovering fun facts and beautiful places throughout the Danish countryside.

Thank you to SiXT rent a car Denmark for providing us with our rental car and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own. 

Travel the World: 5 top sites to visit on a Denmark road trip.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.