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Savor West Denmark and Its Foodie Wonders
From hands-on foraging adventures and rich food traditions to vibrant markets and Michelin-starred restaurants, West Denmark is a gastronome’s dream come true. On this trip, you’ll dig into the region’s many diverse dishes and explore lesser-known culinary adventures that remain undiscovered by many travelers. Dine in the nation’s oldest national park on a locally-sourced lunch of fruit, fish, and wild clams from the North Sea. Learn some slow cooking skills, Viking style, in Scandinavia’s oldest town. Fill up on a traditional South Danish kaffebord of 21 different cakes at a 16th-century castle. While we suggest around 4-6 days to get a true taste of the culinary scene (which pairs perfectly with a stopover in Amsterdam for a dreamy European trip), you could—and probably will want—to spend a lifetime savoring West Denmark’s flavors.
  • Original copy of 1245x660 day1 aalborg ditte isager.jpg?1635738460?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Aalborg
    Photo By Ditte Isager
    Day 1
    Arrive in Aalborg
    The adventure begins in Aalborg where you’ll arrive by plane (Aalborg International Airport offers connections to many European cities, including Amsterdam) or by train. Before checking into your hotel, pick up a car for later in your journey—though you won’t need it today. Denmark’s fourth largest city, Aalborg, is easy to navigate on foot or by using the public bike sharing initiative—plus, you’ll want to work up an appetite for all the delicious dishes in your near future. 

    Start your day with a visit to the Utzon Center. A must-see for architecture and food fans, it’s the final masterpiece by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who designed the Sydney Opera House. In addition to exhibitions about architecture, design, and art, you’ll find a critically acclaimed restaurant, Restaurant Jørn. Pause for a lunch of roasted herring or pulled pork with spectacular views over the Limfjord, the scenic, shallow channel that runs through Aalborg, and linger awhile to enjoy the social experience like Danes do.  

    You may also want to see the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, designed by famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. The recently renovated museum displays modern and contemporary pieces from around the world. Brasserie Kunsten, which overlooks the museum’s sculpture garden, is an idyllic spot for an afternoon pick-me-up. 

    Later, go by Hjelmerstald, one of very few preserved neighborhoods in Aalborg. Its charming cobblestone streets lined with colorful crooked houses are a picture perfect example of “hygge.” Continue your stroll along the revitalized waterfront to Restaurant Tabu, where you can enjoy a taste of New Nordic Cuisine, a movement that takes the concepts of seasonal and farm-to-table to the next level with a focus on “purity, simplicity, and freshness.” Take a culinary tour of the region through fresh local ingredients like apples from plantations in North Jutland, cheese from Sønderhaven, and oysters from Limfjorden.
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    Fishing in West Denmark
    Photo By Richard Clark
    Day 2
    Journey to Skagen
    In the morning, depart for Skagen (a 1.5-hour drive) where you’ll enjoy some of the region’s fresh seafood and other local delicacies. While known for shrimp, herring, sole and other fish caught in its waters, the town’s reputation for ham, a popular item to pick up among other specialties at the butcher Slagter Munch, is something carnivores to look forward to enjoying there. Along the way, stop at Lindholm Høje, an ancient settlement and burial site with several hundred stone circles indicating tombs from both the Iron and Viking Ages. The location—one of Scandinavia’s best preserved Viking monuments—was once blanketed in sand, keeping the Lindholm Høje intact and hidden for thousands of years.

    Once you arrive in Skagen, notice the postcard-worthy yellow houses and ample natural light that have inspired a thriving artist colony since the end of the 19th century. Denmark's northernmost point, Grenen or “land’s end,” marks the top of the country where you can stand with your feet in two different seas: Skagerrak and Kattegat. This is also where you’ll find Denmark’s northernmost restaurant, Restaurant De 2 Have and its ocean views.

    Enjoy a classic Danish lunch of dishes like warm shrimp with lemon, homemade fresh bread, and aioli or herring with pickled onions, hard-boiled eggs, and homemade mayonnaise and rye bread. Afterward, explore the harbor, where the former red fish warehouses have been transformed into dining establishments, such as Restaurant Pakhuset, and shops. Try a local organic beer at Skagen Bryghus, a vibrant pub with live music.
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    Foraging
    Photo By Richard Clark
    Day 3
    Explore Råbjerg Mile and Thy National Park
    Continue your delicious journey with a pilgrimage to Svinkløv, an award-winning coastal restaurant focused on local seafood, fish, and vegetables, with plenty of scenic stops along the way. Head one hour along the west coast to Råbjerg Mile, where you’ll discover the largest migrating sand dune in the country in addition to Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, which has served as a guiding beacon for sailors for almost 70 years. Due to ongoing erosion on the coastline, the lighthouse and several other nearby historic buildings were moved further inland in 2019 to prevent them from falling into the North Sea.  

    One building that did not survive is the St. Laurence Church (now known as The Sand-Covered Church). Built in the second half of the 14th century, sand migration began to reach the church at the end of the 18th century. The congregation had to dig their way into the church when they wanted to attend services. The struggle continued until 1795 when the church was closed by royal decree. Today only the tower stands as a reminder of mother nature’s force. 

    Afterward, head further south (about two hours) to Thy National Park, Denmark’s oldest national park containing some of the country’s wildest land and traditional seaside villages. But first, stop at Stenbjerg Kro for a fresh lunch based on the nature that “lives and grows by the North Sea,” including the area's natural supply of fruit, fish, and wild clams. 

    In the afternoon, get your fill of thrilling outdoor activities. Thy National Park has it all; wander windswept forests and untouched dunes by foot or bike—pausing to dip your toes into Øsrum or Flade Lake—or saddle up for an exhilarating horseback ride along the beach. Surfers also flock to this area, aptly named Cold Hawaii, for its excellent waves. 

    Tonight, stay at Svinkløv Badehotel, set right on the dunes. Having recently undergone a stunning renovation, the historic hotel features warm, inviting rooms that open onto the sand, the forest, and the North Sea. Svinkløv is also home to one of the world’s best chefs, Kenneth Hansen, winner of the Bocuse d’Or in 2019. The menu changes day-to-day, using the freshest organic ingredients available from local purveyors in preparations that “present them in their simplest and most natural form on the plate.” You’ll savor unpretentious-yet-refined dishes like grilled sole and fish cakes with a view of the sea.
  • Original 1245x660day 3 oyster safari wadden sea%c2%a9jacob hansen.jpg?1635740267?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Oyster picking in Wadden Sea National Park
    Photo By Jacob Hansen
    Day 4
    Check out Wadden Sea National Park, Mandø Island, and Ribe
    Today, you’ll immerse yourself even deeper in West Denmark’s food culture with a visit to the VikingeCenter to learn about its origins, followed by a stop at a brewery that uses traditional methods. But before you experience what hygge (cooking and eating together over conversation and togetherness) is all about, work up an appetite by experiencing the outdoors and some of the sources of the region’s food and drink.  

    Wake up early to explore Wadden Sea National Park, which features the largest unbroken system of tidal flats in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park’s diverse ecosystem serves as breeding ground for birds and seals. In the spring and fall, millions of migratory birds, including mallards, lapwings, and European golden plovers, use the North Sea’s coastal wetlands as a roosting and feeding area. Be sure to visit the Wadden Sea Center whose thatched roof and timber siding pays tribute to the traditional craftsmanship of the area. 

    Afterward, head to Mandø, a small island in the Wadden Sea that’s only accessible during low tide via a road that is placed on the very bottom of the sea. This ranks as the best place for oyster picking in Denmark. Strap into some waders and learn how to pluck oysters from the seabed and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Or, if you prefer earthier culinary delights, arrange a guided walk with Vester Vedsted Vineyard on the island of Rømø where you can learn about local foraging. 

    Next, drive three hours to Ribe for an evening in Scandinavia’s oldest city. Walk along the cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered houses and soak up the fresh air and charming, vibrant ambiance of the area’s Viking past. Climb to the top of the Ribe Cathedral—an architectural marvel and the first Christian church in Denmark dating back to 1150—for breathtaking views and go by Ribe VikingeCenter to learn some medieval cooking like baking flatbread over an open fire or brewing skills or all about Viking herbs. Finish up with a pint at Ribe Bryghus, which continues the long Danish tradition of brewing artisanal beer and where you can sample everything from a Viking-inspired red bock to a lager made using flowers and berries from the Wadden Sea area that you visited earlier in the day.
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    Delicious pastries, fresh from the oven
    Photo By Richard Clark
    Day 5
    Experience Odense
    Today, drive just under two hours to Odense on the island of Funen. Known as Denmark’s pantry, you’ll find a bounty of gardens and orchards. Along the way, stop for Sønderjysk kaffebord—or coffee table—at Gram Castle, an excellent example of Danish architecture made with bricks, a red roof, and white cornices. The Sønderjysk kaffebord tradition, even more extravagant than classic afternoon tea, involves preparing a “full” table of 21 different cakes (seven dry, seven soft, and seven hard). Because these tables helped bring people together for political and community meetings when Southern Jutland was under Prussian control, they have a strong historical connection going back to the Prussian War of 1864. 

    Next, continue to Odense where you will explore the new H. C. Andersen’s House. Step inside your own fairytale, wander through whimsical gardens, and see the original birth home of the author of beloved stories like The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling. Later, follow in the great writer’s footsteps and try a hindbærsnitte at a local bakery—these raspberry bars were his favorite sweet. While you’re there, be sure to also taste the brunsviger cake, a local delicacy baked with brown sugar topping. 

    Tonight, keep it casual at one of the city’s food markets, Storms Pakhus or Arkaden Food Hall, where you can dig into duck leg confit, samosas, dumplings, falafel, and more. Of course, a trip to Denmark is not complete with sampling smørrebrød, open-face rye sandwiches piled high with pickles, meat, fish, or eggs.
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    Dining in Aarhus
    Photo By Mette Johnsen
    Day 6
    Discover Aarhus
    Set out on the two-hour drive to Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city with a reputation for sustainable food initiatives and high-end dining. Aarhus Street Food, a lively market with more than 30 kitchens and bars serving up everything from Vietnamese banh mi to pulled duck burgers, is housed in an upcycled warehouse full of containers, while Moment, a Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant, gets most of its produce from their own greenhouse and garden. Savor a decadent lunch of baked onion with mascarpone, vegetable bao with sauerkraut, and fermented pumpkin.

    In the afternoon, book a driver to take you outside the city to visit Ebeltoft Gårdbryggeri, a local brewery that handmakes craft beer and fruity sodas. If you prefer wine, you can opt for Cold Hand Winery instead. Produced with high quality apples, cherries, pears, blackcurrant, and plums, these complex, prize-winning bottles sell to top restaurants throughout Europe—a far cry from your typical cider. With a driver arranged to bring you back to your hotel in Aarhus, you can indulge without worry. Get a good night’s rest—tomorrow, you catch your flight home at Aalborg Lufthavn.

    For this itinerary and other wonderous West Denmark trips, let the trusted travel advisors at Exeter International plan your journey. Book now.