A country of many hidden pleasures

Grenen, in Skagen, pictured from the air
Grenen, in Skagen, pictured from the air
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Imagine holidaying in Denmark and most people probably think of visiting Copenhagen or Legoland.

But the north of Jutland – just an hour and a half away from Gatwick – is a hidden gem and offers a few surprises.

For a start, it’s unusually warm and sunny during the summer – thanks in part to a microclimate which means that most of the rain falls on the Norwegian mountains across the North Sea.

It’s a land full of pretty rivers, harbours, sandy beaches, a fascinating mix of historic and ultra-modern architecture, and the warmest and most generous people you could hope to meet. It’s also home to the world’s largest sandspit and a church that has been half buried beneath sand.

My visit began in Aalborg, a beautiful waterfront city with some stunning Scandinavian architecture, including its baroque town hall and Denmark’s oldest social institution, the Monastery of the Holy Ghost.

I was impressed by how the city’s old power station had been transformed into an arts and cultural centre called Nordkraft.

Aalborg Distillery is a must for any visitor and I really enjoyed learning how snaps is made. The Utzon centre offers an insight into the work of Danish architect Jorn Utzon, who designed the Sydney Opera House.

My own highlight was visiting Lindholm Hoje, which is Scandinavia’s largest Viking burial ground, with more than 700 graves. The museum, featuring preserved skeletons and an insight into the Viking lifestyle, was incredible.

The city features a range of hotels to cater for all budgets. My stay at Helnan Phonix was very comfortable and Danish bacon is a real treat to wake up to every morning.

For anyone who loves tapas, a visit to Cafe Pingvin should be on the itinerary. The food was exquisite and served up in a beautiful setting, where functionality and design is paramount.

Kunsten, the museum of modern art, houses a permanent collection of Danish art from Naturalism to abstract art with more than 1,500 paintings and sculptures. I marvelled at a Frankenstein-inspired sculpture of the tennis player Anna Kournikova.

At night the city comes alive. There are excellent restaurants such as Mortens Kro, owned by Denmark’s very own Jamie Oliver, Morten Nielsen, who serves up mouth-watering cuisine in a luxurious atmosphere of Scandinavian design. I relished sampling Aalborg Beerwalk, trying six different speciality beers in six different pubs.

An hour’s drive or train ride away and bustling city life gives way to a land of pure relaxation. Skagen is a fishing village at the northern-most tip of Denmark, built on a sandspit and laced with cycling routes which mean getting round by bike is easy.

I stayed at Ruths Hotel, a stylish resort in the sand dunes. The beaches are truly breathtaking – so much so I couldn’t resist a dip in the North Sea. It was cold, but utterly worth it. I was blown away by the sheer spectacle of Den Tilsandede Kirke – a church abandoned in 1795 after most of it was covered by sand. The area fell victim to sand drifts in previous centuries before a concerted effort to plant grasses to stabilise the dunes.

Grenen is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and actually made me feel quite emotional. It’s the northern most point of continental Europe and I felt privileged to be able to put one foot in the Baltic Sea and one in the North Sea.

ESSENTIALS

Norwegian flies from London Gatwick to Aalborg from £36 per person.

Direct flights are on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

For more details visit norwegian.com or call +47 21 49 00 15.

Helnan Phonix offers a double room for £118 a night. Visit helnan.com.

A cheaper alternative would be Cabinn Hotel Aalborg at £73 a night for a double room. Visit cabinn.com

Ruths Hotel offers double rooms including breakfast for £205 a night. Call +45 9844 1124 or visit ruths-hotel.dk.

Hotel Strandvej is centrally located in Skagen and offers a double room for £48 per night and £100 for an apartment.

Visit hotelstrandvejen.dk

For more information about places to visit check out visitdenmark.com. Also check out visitnordjylland.dk