If I had to sum up visiting Denmark with kids, it would be these eight words: ‘Traffic to your destination is light, as usual’. Our navigation system had never before (or since) uttered this phrase. But whilst in Jutland in Denmark every single one of our day trips started with them.
That ease applies to everything else about Denmark. It’s the perfect place to have a fantastic family break, with brilliant Lego-themed attractions, Viking history, immersive contemporary art and culture-rich cities, all with easy access to nature. Add in cheap flights from the UK, free museum entry for children, the lack of queues, the easy driving and widely spoken English and you can see why we’re already planning another Danish holiday.
In this guide I’ll highlight our favourite days out in Jutland, Denmark from the eight days we spent just outside Aarhus. All are around an hour or less drive from Billund airport, making for an effortless itinerary.
Pay a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the word’s favourite toy, Lego. Billund has lofty ambitions to become the ‘creative world capital of children’. It certainly has plenty of kiddy appeal with two brick-based attractions: Legoland Billund and Lego House. Both are less than 2km to the airport – in summer there is a free Billund City Shuttle between the attractions and Billund airport. And as it is Denmark’s second busiest airport there’s plenty of cheap flights to choose from.
The original Legoland, Billund opened in 1968 and remains a guaranteed fun family day out. It’s jam packed with rides, playgrounds, shops and Lego sculptures. Ninjago fan Museum Boy’s favourites were Lloyd’s Laser Quest and the 3D Ninjago ride. Us grown-ups loved the quaint Wild West themed Legoredo town, particularly the beautiful horse merry-go-round, and the plunging Lego canoe trip. The giant DUPLO playhouses were a fun way to take a break from the rides.
But our favourite part was definitely Miniland, recreating European countries and cities with 20 million bricks. There’s lots of detail, moving parts, and even water canons to squirt! Even with seven hours there we still managed to miss things – such as the monorail and the 36 metre high Legotop.
At only 1/5 of the size of Legoland Windsor, Billund is much easier to walk around, or double back if you’ve missed anything. I must admit I did find Billund a less charming site than Legoland Windsor. The latter has more greenery and beautiful views from its hilltop entrance. But I was happy to lose the queues that plague Windsor. We went on a warm day during both Danish and English school holidays, but the waits were much shorter than anything we’ve experienced in Legoland Windsor – mostly 10-15 minutes.
- Legoland Billund take their height restrictions VERY seriously. MG was 9mm too short to enter the ghost house, leading to a one hour crying fit. Give too big rides a wide berth.
- Rides close an hour before the park shuts, so save Miniland for the end of your visit.
I’ve been to three Legolands around the world, but I’ve never been anywhere like Lego House before. This is the ultimate destination for Lego fans, and a real celebration of imaginative play. Even the building looks like it is built from Lego. It’s pure fun: we literally spent eight hours playing together. The play activities are spread across four coloured zones, each designed to develop different skills such as free-building (red) or cognitive skills (blue).
There are bricks everywhere in Lego House: we sat under a giant multicoloured Lego waterfall spewing blocks into huge troughs. The activities are so varied – we commanded an Arctic explorer robot in the Robo Lab, had a go at urban planning, raced Lego cars, helped grow a Lego flowerbed, watched our brick critters dance and released Lego fish into a digital aquarium. But by far the most popular activity was Character Creator. The kids raked through the countless heads, torsos, legs, hairdos and accessories to make unique Lego people. And if they’re a little reluctant to leave their creations, they can save photos to download at home. In Mini Chef we ordered dinner using only bricks, delivered by serving robots.
If I had to choose between Legoland and Lego House, this wins hands down (and I haven’t even mentioned the Lego Museum in the basement).
- The best rooftop playgrounds are outside the building and can be freely accessed without a ticket.
- Keep an eye on the digital board for discounts in the Mini Chef restaurant – we saved 15% by eating after 5pm.
Denmark’s second largest city has stepped out from under Copenhagen’s shadow since being crowned European Capital of Culture in 2017. Aarhus is clean, green and home to both modern architecture and historic buildings with quaint cobbled streets. Here’s our favourite things we did on our four visits there.
ARoS Aarhus Art Gallery
If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to walk inside a rainbow, make a beeline for ARoS, one of the largest art museums in Northern Europe. At its crown is the unmissable Your Rainbow Panorama by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. A circular walk around its 150 metres rewards you with panoramic views of Aarhus, all filtered through its rainbow coloured glass. It’s a magical experience, well worth savouring.
Spiral down ARoS’s corkscrew staircase to reach the other nine levels of contemporary and historic art. Museum Boy was dwarfed by the larger than life Boy, crouching to squeeze in the gallery like a modern day Alice in Wonderland. In the basement we played ping pong whilst pondering big questions about the future. And in Team Lab’s ‘Tomorrow is the Question’ we stepped inside a digital waterfall and petal storm, the water parting around us.
- The exhibits change frequently so check with the front desk to see what’s currently best for families.
- Your Rainbow Panorama is a permanent exhibit and stays open until 9pm on Tuesday to Friday evenings.
Den Gamle By
Walk through two hundred years of history in the historic old town of Aarhus. Den Gamle By was the first open air museum in the world. Its cobbled streets are now home to historic buildings from all over Denmark, arranged in three key years – 1864, 1927 and 1964. Recreated interiors, hands-on activities and costumed interpreters really bring the place to life. Fires burn inside the homes, whilst in the shops, you can buy goods similar to those available at the time.
The nineteenth century is the largest and most rewarding part. It’s here that the children fed chickens, took part in Easter crafts including sweet making, and played traditional fairground games. In the 1960s area I loved exploring the retro flats, including a commune and a gynacology clinic, and I couldn’t get the kids to leave the toys alone in the kindergarten. The eye-wateringly expensive horse ride around the site had Museum Girl beaming with joy. There is so much for families to see and do there that we ended up visiting twice. We still didn’t see all of the little mini-museums housed within some of the historic buildings.
- If you only have a short time, the 19th century part was the most rewarding for the kids, although mid-century fans will love the 1960s section.
- The 19th century play area shut a couple of hours earlier than the rest of the site, so head there early on in your visit.
The Tropical Houses in Aarhus Botanical Gardens
Travel from historic Denmark to the tropics in only a few steps. Just uphill from Den Gamle By are four glasshouses, home to 5,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants. Each has a different climate, from desert to the Mediterranean. Our favourite room was the giant bubble-shaped Tropical dome with its tall wooden viewing platform and free-flying butterflies. The Museum Kids were delighted when butterflies landed on the apple slices they patiently held out. It’s free to visit and has a decent indoor cafe with a small play area. There’s plenty more room to roam outside in the beautiful Botanic Gardens.
- The glasshouses include a few poisonous plants, which are very clearly marked with alarming looking skull and crossbones signs.
Aarhus Street Food Market
Eating out with children can for us be a bit of a chore, but not so when we tried Aarhus Street Food Market. It’s an energetic, urban street food experience. Inside the industrial old bus depot is a riot of modified freight containers, food trucks and old hotdog stands. Prices are reasonable by Danish standards, and there’s a world of choice from the 30 street food caterers. With Vietnamese sandwiches, Chinese steamed buns, Danish comfort food and American classics, it was easy to find something for everyone. Inside was a little frantic for us, but the large decked terrace proved a calm place to catch the last of the daylight.
- Don’t miss the natural frozen lollies, sold near the entrance.
I think I found my new favourite museum. Just to the south of Aarhus lies Moesgaard Museum, the perfect mix of striking architecture, archaeology and nature. Climb the sloping grass roof for stunning views to the sea – or just to roll down after! Inside, the galleries tell the story of thousands of years of Danish history in a simple, compelling way. It’s wonderfully theatrical, skillfully blending lifelike people models, digital projections and interactives, Virtual and Augmented Reality, set dressing, and historic objects.
In the First Immigrants gallery, Museum Boy jumped aboard a river boat, ‘hunted’ animals in a forest, and had a VR tour of the earliest settlements. We were transfixed by Graubelle Man, a 2,000 year old human preserved so well in a bog that you can see his shock of red hair and even the stubble on his chin. And in the Vikings he steered a ship across the seas, explored the lands of different Viking invasions, and tapped a key chain to hear characters from the past talk to us. It’s an imaginative, world-class museum that works for all the family.
- It’s a large museum, so just pick a few galleries and allow time for a cafe break. We visited The First Immigrants, Grauballe Man in the Edge of the Bog and the Vikings, all of which really captured the children’s imaginations.
A day trip to Jelling
In the otherwise sleepy town of Jelling, the bloody history of Denmark’s Vikings is laid bare in Kongernes Jelling, Home of the Viking Kings. This free, state-of-the-art sensory experience tells families everything you need to know about Viking life, death and the importance of the Unesco World Heritage site of Jelling. Sit around a fire to hear Viking adventure stories, grab a weapon to find out how long it took for someone to die from its injuries, or spin the digital rune stone for a colourful reading. Enjoy great views of the Jelling monument complex, and peer through augmented reality binoculars to see what Jelling looked like a thousand years ago.
End your trip with a clamber up Jelling Mounds, a proper look at the runic stones and a stroll around the perimeter of the old Pallistrades, now marked with large white pillars.
- Look out for the robot chalkboard on the way in. If you’re very lucky, you may even spot the robot lawnmower in action outside!
A day trip to Himmelbjerget
This may be the only country where its highest point is completely doable for even the youngest visitor. That’s because Himmelbjerget, or ‘Sky Mountain’, is only 147 metres above sea level. Better still for little legs, the car park is just 200 metres away. At the top is a nineteenth century viewing tower. For a nominal fee, you can clamber its stone steps to get a stunning view over the Danish lakes. This traditional destination for Danes has facilities including shops, restaurants, a large lawn to picnic on, and a playground.
If you’re up for something more challenging, the area is criss-crossed with footpaths which weave through the woodland. Be warned, there are some with steep sections and steps.
- In summer you can catch a steam boat from Ry and Silkeborg and walk up from the river to Himmelbjerget.
If you’re looking for an effortless family holiday, I highly recommend visiting Jutland in Denmark. By all means go for the Lego, but stay for the culture. Let me know your thoughts on Denmark with kids in the comments below, or over on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
Disclosure: I’ve only recommended things we tried and enjoyed. We visited Denmark in April 2019 with Museum Boy (6) and Museum Girl (4).
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