I am pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Elyse, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Elyse is from the United States and submitted the following report about her solo travels in Denmark. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo Travel Rating: 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages Spoken: Danish, English, German
Costs at Destination: Expensive (local transportation, dining, tours, events, and attractions)
Yep, Denmark is pricey, but it is a perfect destination for a novice solo traveler.
My situation is perhaps a little different from your typical solo female traveler—or perhaps not, maybe my situation is pretty common! While this was my first intentional solo trip, I had airline industry affiliations throughout my life until 2014, so I had a fair amount of travel experience and the vast majority of that experience was flying non-revenue, space available. Since you never know whether you'll get on a flight as a non-rev, you really build your go-with-the-flow muscle. So, this first trip may not have been as anxiety-ridden for me as it might be to other novice solo travelers.
Why Travel Solo in Denmark?
In May of 2021, the digital agency I work for decided to go permanent work-from-home. Since I could now work from anywhere, I tried a digital nomad experience for the month of September and chose Denmark for six reasons.
- Safe. It is a safe country, and while I feel up for sketchier destinations, since I still had to work 40 hours a week, I really didn't have the time to be hyper-alert to the safety environment. And it was safe in another way: COVID. With a high percentage of the Danish population vaccinated, they had removed all restrictions; being from the United States, where the Delta variant was causing cases to spike, it was a holiday just to be in a normal world.
- Accessible. As a small, flat country with an insanely convenient public transportation system, it is incredibly easy to navigate. Between trains, buses, and bikes, there's no need for a car.
- Comprehensible. The language barrier is a non-issue for several reasons. Most Danes speak necessary English, but beyond that, while spoken Danish is difficult to understand, written Danish is fairly easy for English speakers to read since it shares common roots with the English language. Bonus points if you know any German, because it shares roots with that language, too. If you can read both English and German, you'll get along easily.
- Reserved. Now, this is where I might lose some people. In my opinion, Danes are notoriously difficult to befriend and die-hard extroverts may struggle there. I usually enjoy fading into the background when I travel, so this was kind of a bonus. It took two weeks before I realized I hadn't had a single solid conversation with anyone, and I didn't really miss it until Week 3. There are several strategies I could have employed to be more social, but I did not get lonely to the point of trying them (plus, collaborating with colleagues virtually gave me a social outlet).
- Cordial. While they might not be lunging at you to become your best friend, when there is a reason to speak with you, the people are very cordial and warm. That might seem to conflict with my description of their standoffishness, but there is a difference between people who befriend strangers and people who are friendly with strangers.
- (Surprise!) Weather. Denmark has foul, windy weather much of the year, but not in September! Natives tell me it is usually nice the first week of the month, and when I visited, it was sunny for the first couple of weeks and then alternated cloudier and sunnier days in the last half. When the sun is out, it is out, so make sure to bring sunscreen. When the weather turns, it's not really the rain that gets to you (it's usually more of a heavy mist than a downpour) it's the biting wind. Dressing in layers is super important here, because there might be a chilly wind when you leave the house in the morning, but you could be sweating in the heat by the afternoon. Again, the weather caveat: I'm talking about the September I visited, in 2021.
The downside to all of this, of course, is that it is an expensive country. Since I am still working full time, I did not do any extreme budgeting and mostly chose to rent an entire place to myself. Also, I am not much of a planner and tend to wing it as I go; I am sure that a solo traveler in Denmark who planned in advance, mades a logical itinerary, stayed in shared accommodation, and didn't buy a daily flat white at a coffee shop, etc., could have trimmed expenses.
Aarhus, Odense, and Skagen
I spent only the first week of my monthlong trip in Copenhagen. Lots of people write about that city and what to do there, so I won't belabor it. At some point, to me, the biggest and most-visited cities in a country can kind of feel similar after you scratch the surface, and so I prefer to get out to the lesser-discussed places.
Aarhus is a vibrant university town. Most people could spend a week there and find plenty to do. There are more charming pedestrian zones than I can count, each filled with cozy cafes and shops. The arts scene is significant, and it is impossible to miss the 10-story ARoS museum (a godsend landmark for someone with zero sense of direction, like me).
Danes love a good historic recreation and Den Gamle By (the Old Town) is a can't-miss attraction with its many centuries-old buildings and people dressed in period clothing. On the modern side, Dokk 1 is a recent mixed-use redevelopment project that houses various cultural activities under one roof and is perfect when your feet need a break from cobblestones.
After a week in Aarhus, I visited Odense. This was backtracking, geographically, so I would not recommend that itinerary order, but hey—I’m not a planner. Odense is famous for being the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, and boy, they do not let anyone forget it! If you like charming, period villages lovingly maintained, this is the city for you. Since I went after the high tourist season (and chose a very drizzly day for the HCA walking tour) I had the place to myself. However, I can imagine it gets really packed in summer. While there is an arts and theater scene, there is probably a bit less to do here than in Aarhus.
I returned to Aarhus for my last week, partly because of the city, partly because I loved my rental apartment as it worked very well for working from home. But to mix things up, I did a day trip up to Skagen, the northernmost tip of Denmark. It's a 7-hour round trip train from Aarhus, so again, I probably wouldn't advise others to do the same itinerary. You’d be better off spending a night there. But it was all worth it to rent a bike and ride from Skagen to Grenen to see the point where the Baltic and North Seas meet. It was a sight unlike anything I'd witnessed, and after so much city life, it felt great to be outdoors. Skagen is 100% a resort town and charming in a resort town way, so if you love meandering along pedestrian boulevards lined with shops, meeting friends for meals at sunny outdoor cafes, and eating waffle cones, you'll love it.
I hope this helps anyone who is considering solo travel in Denmark, especially if they are wondering about options other than Copenhagen.
Solo Travel Rating
- Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
- Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
- Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
- Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
- Average Rating – 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)
Last updated: 4th July, 2021