Photo: TristanPict, Flickr
Never heard of Odense, Denmark before? When most travelers visit Denmark, they hit up Copenhagen and then are on to the next country. Perhaps they also tack on a quick trip to Aarhus, Denmark’s “second city” known for its Insta-famous ARoS art museum. But many international travelers are probably not considering Odense – an underrated and often overlooked Danish city that’s worth a visit.
(Driving from Copenhagen to Aarhus anyway? Make a stop in Odense that only adds ~30 minutes of drive time).
Known as “the birthplace of fairytales” for being the home of Hans Christian Andersen, Odense is located on the island of Funen, about a 2-hour drive from Copenhagen and also easily reachable by train.
Ready to plan your visit? Read on for my Odense travel guide!
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Odense Travel Guide
My Top 3 Attractions in Odense, Denmark
Hans Christian Andersen Museum & House
By far Odense’s top attraction, the Hans Christian Andersen Museum lets you step into the house where HC Andersen grew up – complete with replicas of his furniture. Before going on to write The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling, Hans was the son of a poor shoemaker. One of the first things you’ll notice is that his childhood home is quite spare.
The attached museum gives travelers the chance to learn about the rest of his life, including his world travels and original manuscripts of some of his most famous work. It was pretty awesome to learn about how some of my favorite childhood stories came to be.
Oddly, the museum also includes HC’s dentures and a tuft of his hair… just in case you wanted to see that stuff.
Explore the Old Town of Odense
While the museum is great, don’t miss the chance to walk around the neighborhood it’s located in. Old Town is filled with tiny, colorful homes that line cobblestone streets. It’s quintessential Europe, and feels like you just stepped into a fairytale yourself.
St. Canute’s Cathedral (Odense Domkirke)
Odense is also home to one of the oldest examples of a Gothic church in Denmark: St. Canute’s Cathedral aka Odense Domkirke. If you’re only in town for one or two days, this is the attraction in my Odense travel guide you shouldn’t miss after the HC Andersen Museum!
Let me pause and say that visiting churches and cathedrals in Europe doesn’t usually get me very excited. Blame a 10-day Italy trip in high school where it felt like all we did was visit church after church. But after a while, I start to feel like they’re all the same. But even if you’re on the same page, Odense Domkirke is worth making an exception!
Here’s why: the bones of a king are in the basement. This isn’t lore or legend. The actual bones are there, and you can see them for yourself.
King Knud and his brother, Benedkit, were praying at another nearby church in the year 1086 when they were killed as martyrs. Then, they were buried in a crypt in the Odense Domkirke and completely forgotten about.
It wasn’t until 1870, when the cathedral was being restored, that their remains were again discovered. Today, their skeletons are preserved in glass-top caskets in the church’s basement.
Where to Stay in Odense
Given Odense’s proximity to Copenhagen and Aarhus, you can totally make it a day trip. But if you prefer to spend the night, there are plenty of local hotels. And prices are probably a little more affordable than Copenhagen!
The one I recommend in my Odense travel guide is Cabinn Odense. Cabinn is located right near the train station. The rooms are ship cabin-inspired, which is a fun touch. And it’s less than 10-minute walk from the HC Andersen Museum. Cabinn is one of the most affordable hotels in the area but still pulls 3.5 stars on TripAdvisor.
If you’re looking for something more luxurious, the new Hotel Odeon is probably your best bet based on traveler reviews. Also centrally located, the property offers upscale rooms, an onsite restaurant and modern amenities like flatscreen TVs, hair dryers, free wi-fi.
Bars & Restaurants in Odense
Dining out in Denmark is wildly expensive. Since Odense isn’t as big of a culinary destination as Copenhagen or even Aarhus, I suggest saving your splurge meals for those cities. Indulge in cheap (er, Denmark version of cheap) eats while in Odense.
- Soup Stone Cafe for a mix of healthy and satisfying soups and sandwiches, especially on a cold day where you’re craving comfort food
- Villa Paradiso for highly rated pizza
- Burger Anarchy, a local favorite for burgers and fries ordered via a window
- Riceteria for funky salads, baked goods, coffee and tea in a bright, colorful, cheery and definitely made-for-Instagram setting, complete with a gift shop
And if you are looking to splurge on a nice meal, top-rated restaurants in Odense include Gastroket, which focuses on sustainable, organic ingredients and Den Kamle Gro, which is located in a historic inn and serves a mix of French and Danish fare.
And that’s my Odense travel guide! Would you visit this city?