The Danish Riviera

The Danish Riviera

Nord-Sjælland (North Zealand), north of Copenhagen, has been named the Danish Riviera. There are many reasons for this. Stunning landscapes, castles and museums combined with endless sandy beaches make North Zealand an all year-round favorite. When you add the world-renowned culinary scene and countless cultural lures, the name ‘the Danish Riviera’ is well and truly earnt.

Both locals and visitors enjoy the world-famous Louisiana Museum of Modern art as well as the traditional thatched cottages along the way. Zealand is Denmark’s biggest island and it is easy to fall in love with the northern part with scenic villages like Gilleleje, Helsingør and Hillerød. This part of Denmark has so much to offer; in addition to top art museums and historic castles you can enjoy award-winning restaurants and chic shops.

The Danish Riviera
Fredensborg Castle. Photo: Kim Wyon/Visit Copenhagen

Related: Exploring North Zealand, Denmark

Louisiana Museum of Modern art is situated on Road 152 in Humlebæk. It is the most visited museum in Denmark, built in the 1950s. It displays artworks by renowned Danish and international artists with both permanent and temporary exhibitions. Its unique location is a reason on its own to visit the museum.

The Danish Riviera
Boats at Tisvilde beach. Photo: Visit Denmark

Related: The Colorful Zealand in Denmark

Three of Denmark’s most spectacular castles are nestled here; Fredriksborg Castle is called Denmark’s Versailles. Another spectacular building is Fredensborg Palace with its Baroque Gardens and the Valley of the Norsemen. And not least the UNESCO World Heritage site Kronborg Castle, widely known for being the set of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In the summer there is the annual Shakespeare’s Theatre Festival.

The Maritime Museum of Denmark (adjacent to the Kronborg Castle) offers a unique experience to its visitors. The several exhibitions and installations that present the 600 years of Denmark’s maritime story must be seen from a subterranean showroom, conceived in 2013 by the renowned architects the Bjarke Ingels Group.

Related: Zealand Coast Around Copenhagen

The old shipyard in Helsingør has been repurposed into a sprawling library and arts space, the Culture Yard.

The Danish Riviera
Frederiksborg Castle is a structure built in the first decades of the 17th century by the Danish king Christian IV, is situated in Hillerød, just north of Copenhagen. Photo: Courtesy of Frederiksborg Castle/Daniel Rasmussen

On summer Saturdays, artisans, craftspeople, and farmers sell their handmade and homegrown goods at the Tisvilde flea market.

Beaches, Lakes and Forests
On the northernmost coast you find three of Denmark’s most popular beaches; Tisvildeleje Beach, Dronningmølle Beach and Gudmindrup Beach. The largest beach in North Zealnad is Hornbæk Beach.

Two beautifulk gems worth visiting are Denmark’s second-largest lake, Esrum Sø surrounding Fredensborg Castle and Hornbæk lake which is in the homonymous city.

Denmark’s fourt-largest forest is Grib Forest at Bribskov. Here you should discover the hidden paths of Troldeskoven (Troll’s Forest). Enjoy the wooed nature trails in Teglstrup and Hellebæk Forest.

Where to stay
The star of North Zealand is Helenekilde Badehotel, located in the charming seaside town of Tisvildeleje overlooking the Kattegat. It was built as a private summer home by a construction magnate in 1896 and acquired in 2001 by former ballet dancer Alexander Kølpin. It underwent a complete renovation in 2008 and is famous for its dynamic restaurant serving modern Nordic cuisine.

The elegant but understated inn Tisvildeleje Strandhotel offers an enjoyable stay for couples as well as for families.

Originally constructed in 1904, Hotel Hornbækhus is a beloved seaside sanctuary with 36 recently renovated whimsically decorated rooms by Danish design studio EEN. The hotel’s sister property Villa Strand with 15 rooms offers direct beach access.

Blink and you’ll miss the quaint town of Tisvilde. The sleepy hamlet has two elegant but understated inns, the Tisvildeleje Strandhotel and the Helenekilde Badehotel. The latter is the sister to Copenhagen’s buzzy Hotel Sanders.  Curl up on the sprawling back deck to watch the sunset over the waves.

Cafe Hammermøllen

Wining and dining
Restaurant Sletten in the idyllic town of Sletten is helmed by the chef duo behind the Michelin-starred Formel B. It offers an inventive a la carte menu of small plates that showcase seasonal local ingredients. Enjoy seasonal dishes like poached oysters, white asparagus and cod.

In a pink building standing on top of the hill in Tisvilde, you find Restaurant Tisvilde Kro. This restaurant is the work of Danish entrepreneur and multimillionaire Thorvald Stigsen (known for founding travel brands Skygate and Momondo). Two years of painstaking renovations saved this dilapidated building from demolition and made it into a swanky restaurant. On the menu: fresh-shucked oysters; zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies; burrata panzanella; white asparagus with fjord shrimp; and lingonberry sorbet.

The Danish Riviera
Christmas at Rabarbergården

Try the warm cinnamon rolls from Brød & Vin bakery.

Rabarbergaarden has a constantly changing limited menu based on produce harvested from the restaurant’s organic farm. Meat and fish dishes are available throughout the season.

Café Hammermøllen in Teglstrup is housed in a 1765 water mill in the park.

Unlike the French and Italian Riviera, the ‘Danish Riviera’ isn’t as touristic so prices haven’t hit the roof yet. It is also always the choice of finding a quieter place away from the crowd.

The Danish Riviera, compiled and written by Tor Kjolberg