Easy Escapes: North Sealand, Denmark

Fancy an easy, car-free seaside break mixing beaches, art and stylish hotels? Then head for the Danish Riviera

Fancy an easy, car-free seaside break mixing beaches, art and stylish hotels? Then head for the Danish Riviera

Why go? The Danes are often cited as the happiest people in the world thanks to their high quality of life, and their homeland is certainly easy to love. But it’s not just about cinnamon buns, clever-clogs design and candles galore – the Danish people are also impressively eco-minded, which makes this one of the best places near to the UK where you can enjoy a non-city break that doesn’t require hiring a car. If you’re happy riding on trains and buses, perhaps mixed with some cycling and walking, then you’ll have a fine time discovering the coastal delights of North Sealand (Nord Sjælland).

Danish delights: get some fresh air exploring the beaches of North Sealand

When? From spring onwards as things warm up. Peak season is July to mid-August, so late August works well for British families. Being on the coast it will always be windy, so take some warm clothes whenever you go.

Stay at: If you fly into Copenhagen Airport, you can then take a 40 minute train ride north to Kokkedal (on the line to Helsingør). From here, cross over the railway and after a 15 minute walk along an avenue lined with oak trees you’ll reach the splendid Kokkedal Slot Copenhagen (doubles from £122 with breakfast, kokkedalslotcopenhagen.dk). Dating from 1746, then remodelled in 1864, this majestic country manor is set in seven acres of parkland with views down to the Øresund, the yacht-dotted waters that separate Denmark and Sweden. The grounds include a golf course and equestrian centre (riding is not possible, but it’s very pretty) while the main building has a well-run spa featuring the Australian brand Sodashi. The most romantic of the 62 bedrooms are in the main building, mixing period features with beamed ceilings, elegant Nina Campbell fabrics and Acqua di Parma toiletries.

Grand design: sleep in style at Kokkedal Slot Copenhagen

You could have a very enjoyable short break at Kokkedal Slot Copenhagen, but for a longer trip walk back to Kokkedal station and take bus 377 to Hillerød station – don’t worry, this is Denmark where everyone speaks English and everything works like clockwork (no wonder they’re happy!). Here you can jump on a train north to the beach resort of Tisvildeleje then walk to the delightful Helenkilde Badehotel (from £156 with breakfast, helenekilde.com), which sits on the cliffs with a terrace and sun-trap gardens. Built in 1894 as a private residence, it became a hotel in 1904 and is now owned by a well-known Danish ballet dancer, Alexander Kølpin. The style is seaside shabby chic with old trunks, coir matting, original Arne Jacobsen furniture and lots of tongue-and-groove panelling. There’s no TV in the 28 rooms, 16 of which have a sea view over the Kattegat strait. All have an outside terrace and come with binoculars and a simple, homely style. The Helenkilde Badehotel has a 24-room sister hotel in the town centre, The Strand, (from £132 with breakfast, strand-hotel.dk), while Tisvildeleje is worth exploring with its well-kept summer houses, clifftop walks and Blue Flag beach. For a little adventure, jump on one of the hotel’s complimentary bikes and pedal off into the vast Tisvilde Hegn woods.

Seaside escape: homely comforts at Helenkilde Badehotel © imagepalace.co.uk

You really must: Get a Copenhagen Card (copenhagencard.com) which allows unlimited use of public transport in both the city and North Sealand, including to and from the airport. You also get admission to 72 museums and attractions – cards cost £35 for 24 hours, £49 for 48 hours, £57 for 72 hours and £78 for 120 hours, and you can order one for collection at the airport on arrival.

One sight not to miss, which you can reach using the complimentary liveried bicycles at Kokkedal Slot, is the Karen Blixen Museet at Rungstedland (blixen.de). Karen Blixen is best known for her memoir Out of Africa, which was made into a much-loved film in 1985 starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. This is the house where the writer, who used the pen-name of Isak Dinesen, spent most of her life after returning from East Africa in 1931. It’s filled with artworks, books, furniture and memories of her travels, and a short walk away you can visit the simple grave where she was laid to rest in 1962.

Pedal power: grab a bike and visit the home of author Karen Blixen © imagepalace.co.uk

Also accessible by train is the Louisiana Museum for Moderne Kunst (louisiana.dk). A 15 minute walk from Humlebæk station, this is a famous modern art museum set beside the sea with a large sculpture garden. The permanent collection includes work by Andy Warhol, Giacometti and Yves Klein, while the temporary exhibitions are always stimulating with the upcoming Africa (from 25 June) a highlight. It gets busy, so bear in mind that it stays open till 10pm Tuesday to Friday. In Helsingør (also on the train line), the National Maritime Museum (Museet for Søfart, mfs.dk) is a landmark museum that opened in 2013 inside a dry dock. The building is much admired, and its contents are an absorbing miscellany of items looking at Denmark’s long interaction with the sea.

Dine at: The Cellar Restaurant at Kokkedal Slot has grand vaulted ceilings and white-clothed tables but is not stuffy – unless it’s a special event Danes don’t dress up much. It offers a classic European menu with à la carte dishes or a set three-course menu for £38. Breakfast is also served here, a formidable Scandinavian spread with excellent jams, cheeses and cooked dishes that will set you up for the day. There are also plenty of dining options in the nearby harbour at Rungsted, from fish and chips to sushi and Thai. In Tisvildeleje, the restaurant at Helenkilde Badehotel is a warm and lively affair and only serves a three-course set dinner menu (£42), with an entertainingly minimalist choice of wine by the glass (please pick one of three – red, white or rosé). It’s good grub, though, as is the breakfast served in the same venue.

Boots to make you happy: pick up a bargain at the Ilse Jacobsen outlet in Helsingør © imagepalace.co.uk

Bring home: In Helsingør, check out the outlet store of popular Danish designer Ilse Jacobsen, who is well-known for her lace-up wellies and simply styled womenswear (Bjergegade 11, ilsejacobsen.dk). In Tisvildeleje, Uldepedulle (Hovedgaden 64) is a sweet little shop that sells knitting supplies including musk ox wool from Greenland. All the museums listed above have good shops, plus there’s also plenty of food and gift stores to enjoy in Copenhagen Airport.

Book now: You can fly direct to Copenhagen from many UK airports, for some options see skyscanner.com. To plan a journey using public transport see rejseplanen.dk. Inntravel (inntravel.co.uk) offers holidays cycling around the Danish Riviera, and you can book a cottage here through danishholidayhomes.com.

Info: Time Out Copenhagen (Time Out; £14.99) is an up-to-date guide to the capital with a small section on day-trips to the Danish Riviera. Useful websites include visitcopenhagen.com, visitnorthsealand.com, thedanishriviera.com and visitdenmark.co.uk.

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