Whimsical New Museum Will Bring Hans Christian Andersen’s Imagination to Life

The museum is being built at the birthplace of the mind behind “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling.”

Whimsical New Museum Will Bring Hans Christian Andersen’s Imagination to Life

H.C. Andersen’s House will open in Odense in summer 2021.

Courtesy of Kengo Kuma and Associates, Cornelius Vöge, MASU planning

“Fairy-tale” might be an overused travel adjective, but a new Hans Christian Andersen museum opening in Denmark this year really will deserve the description. H.C. Andersen’s House, in Odense on the island of Funen some two hours’ drive from Copenhagen, is set to showcase the life and work of the famous spinner of fantastical yarns.

Andersen was a prolific author, playwright, and poet, but his legacy lives on through his children’s stories beloved worldwide. Disney has delved deep into his catalogue for animated recreations of “The Snow Queen (aka Frozen), “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” to name a few. But there has never been a dedicated museum to his work quite like this (although there is one in Solvang in California).

The idea for the museum in Denmark, according to Torben Grøngaard Jeppesen, head of Odense City Museums, is “not to retell the stories, but rather to communicate their familiarity and inspire further reading of Andersen.” Or as a recent press release puts it, the museum “will not simply communicate about Andersen, but as Andersen.”

That means the curators and designers are using the author’s “own artistic strategies as the starting point for how the garden, the house, and the exhibition have all been shaped, as well as for the many artistic contributions that will also be part of the museum,” according to the museum’s creative director Henrik Lübker.

Sounds intriguing.

Design-wise, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and his team are responsible for making this all a reality. (They also worked on Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium for the will-it-or-won’t-it-happen Summer Games.)

The architects’ starting point was Andersen’s tendency to let small worlds expand into bigger worlds. For Kuma, that particularly found expression in a lesser-known fairy tale, “The Tinderbox,” which sees a tree revealing a more expansive subterranean world. H.C. Andersen’s House will feature a children’s house and an underground museum set among gardens ripe for exploration. It all leads to the writer’s actual childhood home.


Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and his team also worked on the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.

Courtesy of Kengo Kuma and Associates, Cornelius Vöge, MASU planning

Visitors to the museum can expand their trip into Andersen’s world by exploring some of the 15 castles and manors that dot the surrounding Fyn region. They’ve been rounded up into a comprehensive Hans Christian Andersen trail.

>> Next: A Rare Exhibition of Gold Treasures Will Debut in the U.S. This Year

Tim Chester is a deputy editor at AFAR, focusing primarily on destination inspiration and sustainable travel. He lives near L.A. and likes spending time in the waves, on the mountains, or on wheels.
More From AFAR