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Eco island hopping, world-class food and Vikings: Denmark’s 2024 cultural highlights | The everyday wonders of Denmark

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Stargazing, seals and sandbanks in Mandø
Denmark’s wilderness zones and sparsely populated isles have long been havens for nature lovers and stargazers. Mandø, on the south-west coast of Jutland, is the most recent addition to the country’s four Dark Sky Parks. A small island in the Wadden Sea National Park, Mandø is most easily accessed at low tide via tractor bus over the causeway from the mainland – adding to the adventure and reducing the chances of latecomers’ annoying car headlights ruining your night vision. By day, you’ll likely want to visit the lovingly preserved, thatched and white-walled Mandø House museum (an early 19th-century shipmaster’s home), not to mention the island’s landmark windmill and church. Observe thriving seal and migratory bird species on a bike ride around the marshes and sandbanks.

Watch the stars on the island of Mandø, the country’s most recent Dark Sky Park. Photograph: Lars Roed

Raise a glass to (probably) the world’s best beer
Not content with producing, probably, the best beer in the world, Carlsberg has created the impressive Carlsberg City District in one of Copenhagen’s most historic quarters. The recently completed Home of Carlsberg is the result of an extensive five-year museum revamp to bring history to life through interactive displays and guided tours of the old cellars. With a beautifully appointed gallery of vintage bottles, a stable with draught horses that hark back to the days of carts hauling barrels through Copenhagen’s cobbled streets, and tasting sessions too, if you’re in Copenhagen and you love beer, this is one not to be missed. Definitely.

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Denmark’s new music trail
Pictured on the 100-Kroner banknote for many years, the great classical composer Carl Nielsen is a household name – and face – in Denmark. While the Carl Nielsen museum in Odense celebrates his life, there’s now a more kinaesthetic way to experience the man and his music. Carl’s Camino, a 110km scenic sound walk on the island of Funen, begins in Odense and wends its way south-west to the old port town of Faaborg. Download the app (note, it’s in Danish), pop in your earbuds and let Nielsen accompany you through the beautiful countryside that helped form him. The entire route will be ready for hikers from June 2024, with the fjord and colourful old buildings of Faaborg the perfect spot to rest at the end – listen to the jaunty Sanguine from The Four Temperaments symphony and you’ll likely arrive just that little bit sooner.

World-class coffee in Copenhagen
With coffee culture very much a part of cool Copenhagen life, the capital’s a perfect choice to host the World of Coffee 2024. From 27 to 29 June, baristas will battle it out to make the perfect brew. The judges at the hotly contested world coffee championships award points for artistic expression, roasting profiles and innovative caffeinated cocktails. Follow the aroma and let your nose lead you to the Roaster Villages for tastings and displays by micro roasters. Want to take your barista dreams to the next level? Sign up for lectures and workshops, or even volunteer for shifts in exchange for free access to the entire show.

New electric ferries will transport you to the renewable energy island of Samsø. Photograph: Soren Lund Hviid/Alamy

Eco-friendly island hopping
Denmark’s been leading the way in sustainability for years, and is in the process of adding two new electric ferry routes. Travel with Molslinjen to the island of Samsø, the world’s first renewable energy island, by electric ferry from the start of 2025. Samsø is an area of natural beauty, known as Denmark’s vegetable garden, so it’ll be a triple whammy of green – eco-friendly travel, flora-filled environs and plenty of plant-based food. A second ferry route, to the island of Als, is scheduled to operate from late summer this year. Here, you’ll be able to experience picturesque coastal towns and upscale restaurants – great for foodies and culture seekers.

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Twenty years of ‘New Nordic’ food
Since “New Nordic” food exploded on to the restaurant scene 20 years ago with the signing of a food manifesto, foraging and fermentation have become part of the everyday global food conversation. Focused on seasonal, ethical and healthy eating, what the New Nordic scene also managed to do was deliver on flavour and innovation. The trailblazing restaurant, Noma is marking its 21st anniversary, having topped the list of the world’s best restaurants several times. Head chef René Redzepi, who is closing the restaurant at the end of the year, will continue to inspire a new generation of restaurateurs, with plans for a new food lab and test kitchen in 2025 that will take Noma into a new era.

Unesco Viking ring fortresses
No visit to Denmark is complete without a bit of Viking heritage. Straddling North Jutland, Funen and east and west Zealand are five monumental Viking ring-shaped fortresses. Characterised by their beautiful symmetry and built in the 10th century under King Harald Bluetooth (the man who, almost a millennium later, surprisingly gave his name to shortwave wireless technology), they have been awarded Unesco world heritage status. Close to one of the sites at Fyrkat, you can experience a bit of outdoor living yourself at Bramslev Bakker Camping, which has its own summer music festival in late June.

Hotels for seaside opulence and a little bit of hygge
Embrace hygge at two new eco-friendly Tiny Seaside resorts on the gorgeous Aabenraa beach in South Jutland. These small but perfectly formed houses offer everything you could want for a cosy stay, including a terrace and outdoor barbecue right on the beach. It’s a taste of Danish summer-house living in your own tiny wellness retreat.

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And other new accommodation is coming later this year, including a luxury waterfront spa hotel in the revamped former town hall hotel at Gilleleje, a picturesque coastal town less than an hour north of Copenhagen. In Lolland, a new high capacity Aiden by Best Western hotel will be perfectly placed for the Fehmarnbelt Link, the world’s longest immersed tunnel (set to open in 2029), connecting Denmark to Germany under the Baltic Sea, and slashing the 45-minute ferry journey to just seven by train.

Enjoy dinner with a view at the Aalborg Tower. Photograph: Kjetil Løite

Towering views and a new menu in Aalborg
Originally built in 1933 for a trade fair, the modernist 55-metre lattice steel Aalborg Tower, with a circular construction on top, has since been repurposed. Now, the tower offers the public immense 360-degree views of the forested North Jutland town, with the glistening Limfjord just beyond. A new menu is launching this spring, and the extended opening hours and extra daylight hours are sure to elevate your visit – just ring the bell and someone will come down in the external lift to fetch you.

Find out more about places to discover in Denmark here

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