Hamlet's castle, Kronborg, in Helsingør

Day trips from Copenhagen: Zealand

Photo: Daniel Overbeck - VisitNordsjælland

Castles, beaches, history and world-class art await in an easy day trip from the city

The area around Copenhagen to the north and west has plenty to offer. It’s easy to navigate without a car: take a train from central station and in under an hour you can be in a fishing village, historical center or cultural gem. Trains run regularly every day of the week and it’s possible to buy tickets at machines on the station platform with English instructions.

Daytrip 1: The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

It takes an hour to get to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, north of Copenhagen. Take the train from central station in Copenhagen and when you alight at Humlebæk, walk 10-15 minutes to the gallery.

The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is Denmark’s foremost contemporary art gallery, and a must for any art-lover visiting Copenhagen. Set in parkland with views over the Øresund to Sweden, it has a vast collection of art from 1945 onwards, including works by Jean LeBuffet, Yayoi Kusama and David Hockney. The gallery also has a café, children’s wing and beautiful shop, and it’s easy to spend half a day to a full day there. In the summer, its programming includes music in the gardens and an international literature festival. 

Photo:Ulrik Jantzen - Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Daytrip 2: Castles & cobbled streets in Elsinore (Helsingør) 

It takes 55 minutes by train from the central station to reach Elsinore in North Zealand, a town full of history and culture. From the station, take a 15-minute walk towards the old harbor to find its key attractions, Kronborg Castle and the MS Maritime Museum.

Kronborg Castle is most famous for its connection with Hamlet: the UNESCO-listed castle is the setting for Shakespeare’s play, and holds a festival every August celebrating it. You can walk around the castle at any time of year, imagining ghosts on the rooftop and encountering a mythical Danish figure, Holger Danske, in the basement.

The MS Maritime Museum is nearby, a museum celebrating Denmark’s maritime history, from the Vikings to today, designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels.

There are plenty of places to eat and drink nearby, including a large indoor food market close to the Maritime Museum, and it’s a delight to stroll Kronborg’s 800-year-old town streets on the way back to the station as well. It can be a full or half-day trip.

Daytrip 3: Viking history & ancient kings in Roskilde

A 22-minute train ride from central station takes you to the ancient town of Roskilde, known as the burial place of kings. It’s a small town and easy to navigate on foot. From the railway station, a 20-minute walk through the old cobbled streets takes you to the edge of the fjord and the Viking Ship Museum. There, you can discover five thousand-year-old ships used by the Vikings, and find out more about their lifestyle and culture. A café serves Viking-inspired food, and workshops outside show how the boats were built. If you’re lucky enough to be there during the summer, it’s also possible to take a trip on a replica boat on the fjord.

Back in the town itself, Roskilde Cathedral is a UNESCO-listed site, and holds the graves of 40 kings and queens of Denmark in its dark vaults. It’s an atmospheric, history-rich place to wander.

Roskilde is also an access point for the Skjoldungernes Land National Park, a landscape of salt meadows, coastal bluffs, islands, islets and ancient history. It’s possible to book guides and activities through the National Park organization for those wishing to explore.

Find your inner Viking sailing a viking ship in Roskilde Fjord

Photo:Martin Heiberg - Copenhagen Media Center

Daytrip 4: Sandy beaches & coastal 'hygge' in Gilleleje

A little over 30 miles north of Copenhagen, the beach town of Gilleleje makes for a great day trip. From central station, take the train to Hillerød and then change for a train to Gilleleje. The journey takes around 1.5 hours.

Gilleleje has broad sandy beaches, a gentle, calm sea popular with families, and a working harbor. Stroll the cobbled streets, eat fish and chips on the quay and explore the coastal walking trails beyond the town. In the center, ice cream shops jostle for business in the summer, and vintage and thrift shops provide color. It’s a fun place for a sunny afternoon; this and many of the beach towns along the coast from here are very popular with weekenders from Copenhagen in the summer months.