Denmark has excellent gardens to visit, mostly on the two islands of Zealand and Funen, as well as the peninsular of Jutland. The garden styles range from historic grand formality, to private plant collections, to pleasure and botanical gardens, to the modern Danish aesthetic. There is exceptional quality and interest for all garden lovers.
Garden Travel Guide to Denmark
written by Louise McDaid, garden writer, editor, designer – LSM Design
With Denmark being ranked as the happiest nation on earth, it’s no wonder it has so many great gardens. There is both quality and variety to visit, the magnificent Fredensborg Castle just one of the many wonderful Royal and palace gardens, and there are also themed gardens, private plant collections and botanical gardens.
Danish baroque castles were strongly influenced by French garden design, with many having beautiful formal gardens. One example of this, the private garden at the royal Fredensborg Palace is a ‘must-see’, and known as ‘Denmark’s Versailles’.
Danes have become known for their design sense and environmental awareness, so it comes as no surprise there is a garden culture in Denmark that reflects these qualities. There is innovative landscape design evident throughout parks and gardens, with booming urban farming communities growing food on rooftops and city gardens.
Getting to Denmark and around while you’re there
Copenhagen Airport on the island of Zealand is the largest in Denmark, and is the busiest in Scandinavia. Conveniently located near to Copenhagen city, it has direct flights from most major international airports around the world. Copenhagen is a 1:30 hour flight from London, 8:15 from New York and 6:30 from Dubai. Billund on the Jutland peninsula is Denmark’s second busiest airport, and is close to Legoland and Lalandia theme parks. Aarhus airport is the third busiest and is also on the Jutland peninsula.
The public transport in Denmark is modern, efficient and covers almost the whole country. The rail network connects all the major Danish cities and connects Denmark to the rest of Europe.
Driving in Denmark is easy and a good way to get around, especially in country areas; there are car ferries between the Danish islands, mainland and Germany, and the Oresund Bridge links Denmark to Sweden.
Denmark topography and vegetation
Denmark is located north of Germany in Northern Europe. It comprises the Jutland peninsula and offshore islands, linking Northern Europe with Sweden via the Öresund Bridge. Denmark’s coastlines are on the Baltic and North Seas. The topography of Denmark consists mostly of low and flat plains. The highest point is Mollehoj/Ejer Bavnehoj at 171m (561 feet), while its lowest point is Lammefjord at -7m (-23 feet).
About one tenth of Denmark is forested with remnant natural forest of oak, linden, and beech trees, with the remaining land mostly cultivated, or with some natural dune vegetation on the coastlines. Plantations of spruce and fir grow on reclaimed land in Jutland.
The climate of Denmark is changeable but could be described as mainly temperate. Summers are mild and sunny with episodes of cloudy weather with a mean temperature in July of 16 °C (60 °F). Lakes may freeze and snow frequently falls during winters (although it doesn’t stay long), yet the mean temperature in February is about 0 °C (32 °F) which is roughly 7 °C (12 °F) higher than the worldwide average for that latitude. Denmark’s average rainfall ranges from 405-810mm per year, falling mostly in mid-summer.
Best time to visit Denmark
Denmark is best in early summer, especially in June, when the days are the longest and the weather is warm. It’s a good time to enjoy the outdoors, as early summer avoids the wet weather that comes through July and August, which are also the busiest tourist times.
May and September are alternatives when the temperatures are still mild enough to be outdoors. Outside these months it is off-season and prices will be cheaper, but it will be much colder.
Best gardens to visit in Denmark
Best Gardens, Parks and Landscapes to see in and around Copenhagen
• Bernstorff Palace Garden, Gentofte – established at the end of the 1760s in the French rococo style, later remodelled with landscaped garden of wooded areas, open glades, copses and wooded fringes.
• Botanical Garden, Copenhagen – the 10ha gardens are part of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, at the University of Copenhagen, and hold the largest Danish collection of living plants with an extensive complex of historical glasshouses dating from 1874.
• Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Winter Gardens at this art museum, featuring tall palms, mosaic floors and modern and neo-classical statues.
• Frederiksberg Gardens & Søndermarken – romantic English-style gardens surrounding Frederiksberg Palace, transformed from its earlier formal baroque style during the early 1800s.
• Karen Blixen Museum, Rungsted – known as Rungstedlund, birthplace of the author and where she lived and wrote when she returned from Africa. House has 16ha of park set up as a bird sanctuary with flower gardens.
• Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (35km north) – 20th century seaside house turned museum for the arts with painting, sculpture, graphics, architecture and landscape. The Museum has become a Scandinavian work of art in its own right. Louise was the name of each of the former owner’s three wives.
• G.N. Brandt’s Garden, Ordrup – private garden of landscape architect G.N. Brandt was established in 1914. Split into sections by tall hedges, each garden room shows some of Brandt’s ornamental design. Next to the Ordrup Cemetery.
• Ostergro roof garden, Copenhagen – a 600 m² organic rooftop garden, five floors above an old car auction comprising 90 tonnes of soil spread over neat raised beds. One example of Copenhagen’s urban farming revolution.
• Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen – the gardens known as the King’s Gardens with spectacular summer flower beds are the oldest royal gardens from early 1600s. See the famous statue of Hans Christian Andersen, large herbaceous border, flower carpets, parterre rose-garden and Renaissance garden.
• Royal Library Gardens, Slotsholmen – a city oasis of cool pools (with an hourly fountain display designed by Mogens Møller), shady trees, colourful flowers, statue of famous philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.
• Superkilen, Nørrebro district – designed by Superflex and the Bjarke Ingels group with German landscape architects Topotek1 to bring quality landscape architecture to a neglected, ethnically-rich part of Copenhagen, this 3 hectare public park opened in 2012. It features vivid use of colour and innovative ground plane design.
• Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen – established 1843, amusement park with pleasure gardens in themed areas. Exotic architecture, historic buildings and lush gardens. Night lights create a fairy tale atmosphere. Includes the famous Nimb ‘bubble’ Water Fountain.
Gardens to see outside Copenhagen
• Fredensborg Castle, Fredensborg – known as Denmark’s Versailles and most magnificent formal garden, the elegant Baroque style palace has the largest historical gardens in the country including the royal private garden, the Orangey and herb garden which are open to visit in July. Surrounding castle gardens open year round.
• Frederiksborg Castle Gardens, Hillerod – Frederik IV’s Baroque Garden, restored during the 1990s, has Italianesque terraces with a cascade in the central axis and a large border parterre and topiary. The castle also has a landscaped, forested area with free-growing woodland, large grassy areas, lakes, streams and winding paths.
• Gavnø Castle Garden, Næstved – more than 500,000 flowering bulbs, a romantic rose garden with a unique rose maze, the sensory garden. The castle gardens bloom beautifully right up to autumn. Denmark’s largest tulip exhibition in May.
• Gisselfeld Castle, South Zealand – one of the best preserved Renaissance castles in Denmark in spectacular landscaped grounds and gardens. Paradise Garden in Hesede Forest – part of the large Gisselfeld estate, is an arboretum with a unique collection of rare trees.
• Tambours Garden, Varde (300km west) – known as Tambours Have, the result of nature lovers Gerhard Tambours passion to collect plants worldwide and watch them grow in his 2.5 hectare garden since 1939.
• Egeskov Castle, Kværndrup – water castle with multi-award-winning park, huge play area in the heart of the woods, baffling mazes, tree-top walk, exhibition of vintage cars, motorcycles, dolls’ houses.
• Erholm Park, Aarup – manor house park in the English romantic landscape style designed 1850 to 1854.
• Humlemagasinet, Harndrup – ‘the hop store’ has more than 20 themed gardens in parks covering 4 hectares (10 acres) of land amongst beautiful scenery.
• Medicine Gardens, Tranekær – these Physic Gardens have more than 450 different types of plants which are labelled, either used in folk medicine in the past or relevant to medicine today. Surrounded by an arboretum of trees with medicinal significance.
• Sanderumgaard Romantic Garden, Odense – at the Sanderumgaard Manor House, 15ha of romantic landscaped gardens with waterside walks, one of the first in Denmark dating from 1793-1828.
• The Japanese Garden – beautiful and immaculately maintained, consisting four gardens: the garden of life (also called the history garden), the view garden, the walking garden and the meditation garden. 4,000 trees and shrubs and 12,300 groundcovers. Open May to September.
• Botanical Garden, Aarhus – the largest park in town, with 3 lakes, streams, greenhouses, lawns you can walk on, trees, alpine beds, bog gardens, rose garden, and Danish Plant Society. Open year round.
• Clausholm Castle, Hadsten – the Baroque Park and Gardens is one of the earliest baroque gardens, acknowledged as one of the most significant and most preservation-worthy gardens in Denmark. Strict symmetry, symmetrical axis entire length of the park, fountains, terraced garden.
• Gammel Estrup Manor Garden, Auning – mostly a baroque garden last restored in 2002, as well as kitchen garden, herb garden, orchards, oak grove and carp ponds.
• Gråsten Palace Garden, Grasten – an English-inspired landscaped flower garden at this royal palace, integrated into the surrounding landscape. Winding paths, vistas of streams and lakes that mirror the beautiful palace. Blooming summer colour.
• Infinite Bridge, Aarhus – not exactly a garden, but a fascinating landscape. The bridge is a sculptural, walkable wooden loop built and exhibited for Sculpture by the Sea 2015 in a scenic coastal area.
• De Geometriske Haver, Herning – sculpture park where plants are laid out in geometric patterns and form tall enclosed spaces.
Denmark Garden Festivals, Shows and Fairs
• Garden Living Fair, Fredensborg, Denmark – a garden show with a Danish flavour held next to Fredensborg Castle. Exhibitors from Denmark and abroad with flower displays and floral art, show gardens, specialist plants, organic gardening, furniture and tools, handicrafts and the outdoor kitchen. Early August.
• Sofiero Garden Festival, Helsingborg, Denmark. Inspirational gardens, botanical experts, floral displays galore held late August at Sofiero Castle and Gardens.
• The Garden: End of Times, Beginning of Times, Aarhus, Denmark – this is an exciting new outdoor art project for June-July 2017 in a coastal landscape, replacing the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Aarhus. This new triennial festival will have garden and art installations stretching more than 4 kilometres along the Aarhus waterfront, covering 400 years – the past in the ARoS Museum, the present in the Aarhus city centre and future along the waterfront.
The new festival will be contribute to Aarhus as the 2017 European Capital of Culture. Jacob Bundsgaard, Mayor of Aarhus says:
”From its very first exhibition in 2009 Sculpture by the Sea has been a fantastic experience for the city’s citizens and visitors. But even the best projects need to be ‘rethought’ in order to stay vibrant and attractive to the public, partners and sponsors. The new ARoS project will be even larger and more spectacular in terms of contents, exhibition period and space. I’m convinced that The Garden will become one of the greatest experiences during the European Capital of Culture 2017.”
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