Beyond Copenhagen’s compact city centre lies an abundance of unique landscapes, idyllic towns and historical treasures. While many choose to focus on the central neighbourhoods of the Danish capital, renting a car to explore further afield reveals a mix of old world and new.
Hire a car and head out of town. It doesn’t matter if your family are all outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs or inventors in the making, you’ll find there’s scope for endless entertainment on a variety of days out within driving distance of Copenhagen.Car hire copenhagen
Only 25 minutes’ drive north of Copenhagen centre, along the scenic coast between Denmark and Sweden, lies the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage woodland that instantly transports you from the commotion of city life. Children and adults alike will be delighted to make acquaintance with some of the 2,000 deer that inhabit the fertile parklands, grazing in open pastures or relaxing by small lakes. Trade motorised wheels for a slower-paced tour of the area in a splendid horse-drawn carriage, or take some time out and enjoy a midsummer picnic among green hills.
Just a stone’s throw from Dyrehave is the world’s oldest amusement park. If the kids are full of beans and need to burn off some energy before you drive back to the city, thrill them with rollercoasters, drop towers and adrenaline-inducing extreme adventures at Dyrehavsbakken. Those looking for more tranquillity can enjoy a bird's-eye view from the ferris wheel.
Make time travel a reality at Frilandsmuseet. Drive a mere 20 minutes north of central Copenhagen to step back in time and explore the way of life for those living in Denmark between the 17th and mid-20th centuries. Seemingly a world away, set among 86 acres of picturesque countryside are more than 50 farms, mills and houses that form one of the world’s oldest and largest open-air museums.
The museum provides visitors with a look into traditional life across regions from Denmark and the Faroe Islands as well as the former Danish provinces of south Sweden and north Germany. Children will enjoy various pantomimes and talks from farmers, while adults will appreciate a snapshot into the homes of people of the past, from the wealthy miller to local peasants.
Get acquainted with the former pirates of the north, the Vikings, at The Viking Ship Museum. The fierce warriors who sailed oceans on wooden ships and conquered lands have become a symbol of ancient Scandinavia.
30 minutes’ drive due west of Copenhagen rests the Roskilde Fjord, home to five well-preserved Viking ships that were pulled from its inky waters after being sunk in the 11th century. In summer, you can set sail on a replica ship to experience what life was like on the high seas nearly 1,000 years ago.
Behind the wheel again, you can make your way to the town centre of Roskilde, the former capital of Denmark, to explore the UNESCO-listed cathedral, which houses the tombs of many former kings and queens of Denmark.
Surround yourself with seven million litres of water at northern Europe’s largest aquarium. For a day trip just outside Copenhagen's centre, drive 15 minutes south along the coast towards the airport to discover a truly unique experience for the whole family. Ideal when the weather turns less than favourable, immerse yourself in a round-the-world encounter with life below the surface at Den Blå Planet.
Set within a whirlpool-inspired five-arm structure, the aquarium’s 48 tanks allow visitors to explore exotic sea life in watery tunnels. Watch hammerhead sharks and moray eels swim above you, or head to the Amazonas area to find yourself surrounded by hundreds of bird and butterfly species as you watch frenzied piranhas beneath the waterfall.
If you have more than a day to spare and want to explore more of Denmark’s scenic countryside, make a weekend of it and drive to Billund for a family adventure to Legoland. The Lego Company put Billund on the map with the city being a new town by all rights. The drive to Billund, located in Jutland, will take you through impressive Danish landscapes, crossing the Great Belt Bridge, which links the islands of Zealand and Funen.
Children will marvel at the Lego displays, including a large tree made of 6.5 million of the colourful bricks in the central indoor square, while parents will enjoy the nostalgia of the family-favourite toy. If you have the whole weekend, a visit to Odense on the return journey will uncover the home of Hans Christian Andersen, one of the world’s most famous fairytale authors. An idyllic town lined with cobbled streets and colourful facades, you’ll easily see why one would find inspiration for children’s stories there.