Hidden Beach

Danish Riviera, denmark beaches, beaches in denmark

Hidden Beach of the Week: North Zealand Coast, Denmark

August 27, 2008
by Sarah Amandolare
On Denmark’s North Zealand Coast, clean, crisp breezes off the Baltic Sea waft through the quaint fishing villages and sandy beaches that compose the Danish Riviera. The serenity of coastal roads and the vibrant style of summer-loving locals lend a uniquely Danish feel to this coastal scene, which has drawn vacationers since the 19th century.

A Danish Dip

Zealand is the smaller of Denmark’s two parts—a mostly flat island that is home to the capital city, Copenhagen.

The North Zealand coast of Denmark is dotted with beaches and fishing villages, interspersed with the summer homes of Copenhagen’s vacationers. The water is shallow and a jewel-toned green, and the quiet roads that wend their way along the coast are “never more than a few blocks away from the beach,” making it easy to pull over for an impromptu dip, according to Rough Guides. If you’d prefer not to drive, take the train, which departs from Helsingor and travels to Gilleleje, with frequent coastal stops along the trip. There is also a bus (#340) from Helsingor, and a cycling route (No. 47), which follow the train’s path.

North Zealand is sometimes referred to as the Danish Riviera, covering the area from Ellsinore, 20 miles north of Copenhagen, to Roskilde, where the Viking government convened. The area has a carefree summery scene that draws free-spirited, sometimes nude, Danish sun worshipers.

Hornbaek Beach

Of all the beaches along the North Zealand Coast, Hornbaek’s may be the best, according to Condé Nast Traveler. Featuring “soft white dunes” and “hypnotic, deep-pink roses” that bloom throughout the summer months, Hornbaek also has comfortable bed and breakfast inns.

The Hornbaek Bed and Breakfast has modest accommodations not far from the beach. A country villa that used to house resort staff, this B&B has a cozy garden and offers bicycle rentals. The B&B homepage links to a full page of information about the Danish Riviera, including historical background, local attractions and day trips. Keep in mind that Hornbaek touts “about 55 more days of sunshine than elsewhere in Denmark,” making it a perfect place to enjoy beach activities like hiking and trail walking, traditional sports like golf, tennis and horseback riding, and windsurfing and boating on the water.

Sightseeing in North Zealand

Photographs of the coast of North Zealand show sunrises and sunsets, boats quietly sitting in Helsing Harbor, tall, wild sea grasses leading down to the beach, and woodsy trails lined with broad pine trees guiding beach-goers to the shore.

The Kronborg Castle in Ellsinore was built as a fortress in the 1420s, to be used for collecting tolls from ships passing through. But after suffering a fire, hosting the incarceration of the Queen of Denmark after her affair with the king’s doctor, and being converted into slave barracks, the fortress fell off the map. In the 1920s, Kronborg Castle was restored and now features a chapel and houses the Danish Maritime Museum. The castle was the setting for Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” and has also hosted performances of the play.  

The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is just a twenty-minute train ride from Elsinore, and is known for its scenic setting. The Museum features works by Jackson Pollack, Picasso, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, among others, and boasts more than 3,000 works of modern art. The museum also has The Lake Garden, an outdoor area with architectural works.

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