White sandy beaches, unspoiled nature and 'The Danish Riviera': 12 places to visit in North Zealand
While tourists often flock to the west coast of Denmark, North Zealand and its coast is a gem full of scenic landscapes, white sand dunes and charming places to eat for those that want to get off the beaten path. Get our recommendations for places to visit in the location where summer house culture started.
North Zealand is not far from Copenhagen and offers a true holiday paradise of beautiful beaches with white dunes much like we know them from the west coast, wonderful nature and small idyllic fishing villages. Along the north coast, you'll also find a string of Landfolk holiday homes that can provide a very special setting for your holiday. You can easily get there by train from Copenhagen, and if you hop on the local railway you can quickly get around the old seaside resorts.
Throughout history, the region has been home to both fishermen and artist colonies, and when the Danish state sold a small plantation area in North Zealand in 1886, the fishing village in Hornbæk became the starting point for the unique Danish holiday home culture that exists today. It wasn't long before holiday homes sprang up on the sandy beaches along the coast, and today we know the area as "The Danish Riviera" - a small Danish copy of the Amalfi Coast.
1. Explore the unspoiled nature of the moors and hedgerows
Tisvilde Hegn is Denmark's oldest dune plantation and is characterised by its magnificent nature - perfect for hiking and mountain biking, berry picking or mushroom hunting. But the fence also offers lots of special excursion destinations. Visit Troldeskoven, where insects and wind have moulded the pine trees into fairytale formations. If you need a dip, Tisvilde's sandy beach is waiting for you behind the dunes. You can reach Tisvildes Hegn by local railway from Hillerød to the terminus in Tisvildeleje, and from here it's just a 10-minute walk to the forest. By car, it takes just under an hour from Copenhagen – cjeck out this map for info on where to park.
2. Discover rare butterflies and wild plants at Melby Overdrev
If you head a little further towards Liseleje, you will reach Zealand's largest heathland, Melby Overdrev. For over 100 years, the heath was used as a military shooting range, and nature has been allowed to grow untouched. Take a walk through the heath's purple heather carpet, where almost 200 wild plants grow and rare butterfly species and insects live. Explore hand-picked holiday homes in North Zealand
3. Get lost in the Rhubarb Farm's summer universe
Rabarbergaarden exudes rural idyll. The roof is thatched and the food is home-grown and homemade with attention to the small details. Enjoy a delicious meal with ingredients fresh from the fields and indulge in the self-sufficient summer universe. After dinner, children and the young at heart can cuddle kittens and romp around in the vegetable garden, and you can find local specialities in the green grocery store. The sustainable farm is located in Vejby and can be reached by local railway between Hillerød and Tisvildeleje.
4. Take a swim form the coastal towns
Amongst plantations, dunes and historic seaside resorts, some of the country's best beaches can be found on the north coast, also known as the Danish Riviera. The beaches at Liseleje, Tisvildeleje and Dronningmølle are some of the best for lazing the days away, while the stretch between Asserbo and Tisvildeleje offers pristine dunes to settle down in. At Smidstrup Strand you can light a fire on summer evenings, while the candy-striped bathing houses at Rågeleje Strand set a special mood for a fresh morning swim.
5. Experience the ice age heritage in Rågeleje
As with the other seaside resorts on the north coast, Rågeleje is centred around fishing and is said to have had its heyday as a tourist town in the 1960s when a wider road was built and Restaurant Søstjernen opened. Visit the restaurant and enjoy delicious food in a historic setting.
If you head a little outside Rågeleje, you'll find more historical landscapes. South of Rågeleje is Maglehøjene, a beautiful cluster of burial mounds from the Bronze Age.
6. Spot kitesurfers at Heatherhill
A few kilometres from Rågeleje is the natural gem Heatherhill. Here you can get in touch with the powerful forces of nature in the hills and valleys of the glacial landscape and hike through the juniper and heather moorland. Heatherhill was named after the English landowning family Vincent, who had their summer residence in the heather hills. During the Second World War, the villa was occupied and vandalised by the Germans, and today the house's curved stone staircase is the only remnant of the family's beautiful Heather Hill summer house.
Enjoy the spectacular views from the cliffs over the Kattegat and watch the kitesurfers soar over the beach on windy days. If you need a refreshment on your walk, Il Terrazzo serves stone oven pizzas and Italian gelato. Heatherhill is only 60 kilometres from Copenhagen and can be reached by car or by S-train and local trains.
7. Visit the Greenlandic traveller's house
Between his Greenland expeditions, the world-famous polar explorer Knud Rasmussen stayed on the outer edge of Halsnæs. In the soft grassy hills of the entrenchment area, you can visit the Greenlander's House, which today houses a memorial room and a small museum. Enjoy the most beautiful views of the Kattegat and a special little piece of cultural history, complete with the scientist's study and typewriter. Hundested is easily reached by train from Copenhagen in about an hour and a half or by local railway from the coastal towns, where you can take your bikes on the train. If you get hungry on your trip to Hundested, you can enjoy a tasty meal on the harbour at Spisehuset Knud, named after the polar explorer.
8. Go on a bike ride along the fishing villages
If you've brought your bikes along on your summer holiday, you can follow the 20 kilometres of signposted cycle route 47 along the water from Hundested to Tisvildeleje. The first stop is idyllic Kikhavn with hollyhocks and half-timbered houses. If you continue on, you'll reach the cosy seaside resort of Liseleje, where you can settle down for a cup of coffee. You can also skip the coffee and just enjoy the open landscape with sea buckthorn, rose hips and sea holly.
9. Have lunch in the courtyard
A little further up country near Asserbo is the red farmhouse Tinggården, which offers delicacies in the farm shop and gourmet meals in the farmhouse parlours. If you get hungry on your bike ride, you can eat a sourdough pizza under the walnut tree in the garden, and during your holiday you can also take home the week's home cooking for the evening meal in the cottage - a tasty dish ready to heat up with homemade bread and a sweet treat with your coffee. And don't miss out on the country shop's homemade baked goods and speciality products from the region.
10. Settle down at the fishing harbour
Life at Gilleleje's fishing harbour is something very special. Think fishing boats chugging in, fishing auctions in the shipyard halls, fresh sea air on your face and the smell of ropes in your nose. Take a seat in the middle of the harbour and enjoy a delicious lunch at one of Gilleleje's delicious fish restaurants. You can get classic Danish open sandwiches at Brasseriet, or eat sushi and fish fillets on the terrace at the fishmonger Adamsens Fisk. At the harbour, you can also get freshly peeled prawns, homemade seafood salads or fresh fish to take home to your holiday home.
11. View bombastic art in the hills of Russia
In the middle of nowhere in an area named Russia lies the Rudolph Tegner Museum and Statue Park. The museum is a bunker-like building with an almost futuristic feel, housing around 250 of the sculptor's plaster and clay figures of mythical figures and muscular bodies. In the heathland landscape, soft heather carpets meet Tegner's bombastic bronze figures. Also visit Traktørstedet Sørens Café, which offers coffee and ice cream in the summer months. Tegner Museum is just over an hour's drive from Copenhagen, and there are good train connections from the local coastal towns.
12. Communal dining in a Swedish holiday home setting
If you fancy a delicious evening meal after your museum visit, you can visit the charming Hotel Hornbækhus in Hornbæk. The old seaside hotel is the sister of Folkehuset Absalon in Vesterbro, and here you'll find the same informal atmosphere and communal dining in the evenings. At the same time, the seaside hotel is decorated in true Swedish holiday home style, with red boards, old fashioned interiors, geraniums in the windows and uneven crockery. Check out the weekly menu and remember to book well in advance. It takes an hour and a half from Copenhagen to Hornbæk by train via Helsingør.
Winter swimming in the Kattegat, picnics in Tisvilde Hegn, and hiking along the North Coast Path. Get inspired for your next summer house holiday with our beautiful summer houses along the North Coast.