Here is a list of 7 small towns in Europe with incredible history. Towns that definitely is worth travelling for. Small towns that have been former capitals at some point. As always, I only write about places that I have visited myself, so these seven towns get my warmest recommendation.
1. Cetinje, Montenegro
Cetinje is a small town of around 14,000 people, but it is the very heart of Montenegrin culture and identity. All Montenegrins will tell you “a real Montenegrin” comes from Cetinje. Walking down it’s streets and sitting at it’s cafes, discussing culture, history and the country’s future, will give you the very essence of what Montenegro is.
It is the former capital, and here you find royal graves, monasteries, a palace, Ottoman ruins and so much more. The history of the Montenegrin kings is long and eventful. Because Montenegrin are a very proud people, you will start to learn how 700 year old events still have an influence on the culture and mentality to this day.
This is my favorite town in Europe.
2. Jelling, Denmark
In the outskirts of the city of Vejle, you find the small town of Jelling with only 3500 inhabitants. This is no ordinary small Danish town though. This is the former viking capital, and the home of king Harald Bluetooth, the old Danish viking king, who was the first to embrace Christianity.
In this town you will see the Jelling Stones, where he declares the new state religion. There is also a very interesting free museum, where you can learn about his motives for converting to Christianity. How he wanted to modernize Denmark, and how his name became synonymous with a new widespread technology, we all use every day.
3. Bayeux, France
With only 13,000 people, the town of Bayeux is not so big, however it sees a lot of visitors. It once was the capital of one of the Celtic tribes living in the area during the Roman Empire, however, it’s importance today comes from the Bayeux Tapestry that depicts the Norman invasion of England. The province of Normandy, where Bayeux is located, has a very tumultuous history with viking invasions, Frankish and Celtic wars, and wars with England. Having the story told by an audio guide while you slowly walk around the tapestry, taking in the history picture for picture, is one of the most educational and entertaining experiences a museum can give. You definitely will feel like part of the story.
Besides the tapestry, the town is beautiful with a cathedral in the city center. The city of Caen is not far from there either and is definitely also a place worth visiting.
4. Gniezno, Poland
Going a little bigger with 68,000 inhabitants, Gniezno is one of those rarely visited towns in Poland despite it being the very foundation of the country.
Legend has it, that a long long time ago in a distant land, 3 brothers went travelling in unknown land. They were 3 princes: Lech, Czech and Rus, all descendant from Janus, the grand grandson of Noah. After a while the three brothers decided to split up. Rus went East, Czech travelled West, and the eldest of them, Lech, travelled North.
Rus founded Russia. Czech founded Czechia, and Lech founded Poland. It is said, that he was hunting for food in an area guarded by a big white eagle. Lech found this bird magnificent, he therefore attempted to steal one of it’s eggs to train it himself. The prince tried to scare the mother eagle away, but nothing worked and it all turned into a bloody fight between the two. After seeing the eagle protecting her eggs despite her white feathers being stained with blood, Lech felt shame and pulled back.
He made the white eagle the symbol of Poland, for it’s bravery and fight for freedom. And just near this nest, he founded the city of Gniezno and made it his capital.
5. Krujë, Albania
Kruje is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe with cobbled streets with different historical symbols and in the Albanian colors. It was the former capital of the Kingdom of Albania. The main attractions is the Skanderbeg museum, which is a beautiful castle that depict the history of Albania when it was fighting the Ottomans. Besides the castle and the beautiful streets, the town also has a an interesting Bazar, a mosque and plenty of medieval architecture.
The are is quite mountainous and offer some beautiful landscapes getting in and out of the town. The town houses 59,000 inhabitants.
6. Toledo, Spain
Toledo is the largest of these towns with 84,000 people. However, it is also the one with most history. It has been the capital of many eras. It was a Muslim capital during the Toledo Taifa kingdom, then a center piece in the conquest of Spain by the kingdom of Leon and Castille. Today, remains of both eras can be seen and even a Jewish quarter has survived after the genocide against Jews and Muslims during the Inquisition. The town also houses the very most impressive catholic cathedral in my opinion.
It is a true throwback in time to visit this town, and best thing is: It is just a small day trip from Madrid.
7. Kalmar, Sweden
While this one has not really been a true capital, the city of Kalmar was the place where it was decided that Denmark, Norway and Sweden (with Finland, Iceland and Greenland under the same rule), should unite into one major political power. It was the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe I, who made this possible. For a short period in history, she was the most powerful woman in Europe ruling an empire that was half the size of the rest of Europe.
The unification happened in the Castle of Kalmar, which is a beautiful sight in the city center. The city has other attractions, a beautiful town, churches, lakes and a city hall. With a population of 36,000 people, this might be one of the most interesting towns in Sweden.
Visiting Copenhagen for 2-3 days, you will be busy enjoying the fairy tale city’s most known landmarks. Being it visiting a cafe in the famous Nyhavn area, with all the colored houses or getting your adrenalin up at Tivoli.
There are lots of things to do in Copenhagen, and if you are efficient, you can do them all in 3 days. Maybe you need a week if you slow down and take it all in. However, if you decide to spend more than a week in Copenhagen, here are 25 hidden gems to chose from for unique and quirky experiences in this fairytale city.
Living in Copenhagen, you will start to realize that there is not much to do in this city except of the landmarks. Denmark is one of the flattest countries in the world, and thus have only very few interesting hiking trails. The city has many beautiful parks, but you need to go outside the city for good forest walks or a nice beach in the rare hot summer days.
Luckily, Copenhagen is located on a small island measuring 100 km wide and 130 km long which means there are plenty of options to find beautiful good beaches and harbors. The city is located in the far east of the country and connected directly to Sweden by a bridge. The reason is, that Denmark used to own the southern parts of Sweden; Skåne, Halland and Blekinge, which back then, would have located the capital in the middle of the kingdom. The island is also connected to the rest of Denmark via a bridge on the west side, which makes it even easier to make interesting day trips around the country and into Sweden.
The list composes 25 secret places I found, that only Danish people know about with a guide to how to get there, what you can expect to see and how to get the best instagrammable shots of them. The list compose both places inside the city, in it’s suburbs and small day trips from the city. They are all listed in relation to distance from Copenhagen city center:
1. Glyptoteket (600 m)
If you have been in Copenhagen for a few days, you might have visited the national museum. Carlsberg’s Glyptotek is not to miss though if you got extra time. This used to be the personal collection of the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Brewery. It has antiques from all over the world. Most noticable is his collection of roman figures, a nasothek, a gallary and the egyptian and nubian artifacts.
Practical info: It is free on Tuesdays, so go on a Tuesday! Otherwise it is 115 DKK (17 USD)
How to get there: It is located in the middle of the city. You can walk to it from the central station (Hovedbanegården).
2. Bastard Cafe (850 m)
One of the best board game cafe’s in the world, this cafe has all the nerdy board games you can ever imagine. Go there on a weekday, cause it is very crowded in weekends and enjoy the atmosphere even if you are not into boardgames. The place is full of international nerds and hipsters having the best time of their youth. Try one of their easy “free to play” board games and have one of the Game Guru’s help you out with the rules. I can recommend simple games like Patchwork, Ticket to Ride or maybe one of the funnier games like Cards Against Humanity.
Practical info: This is a place to go if you are travelling 2 or more people, as it will be hard to find another group of friends to join for a game. But if you are very outgoing, try your luck, people are very friendly there.
There is one wall with free games, but borrowing any of the other games is cheap and costs 25 DKK (4 USD) per person. You can always ask the Guru’s for help and they most likely will help you out with rules and introduction to the game.
How to get there: It is right in the city center – walk from the central station.
3. Lucia kayak parade/ Lucia kayak optog (2 km)
This is a traditional Scandinavian ceremony that you can only witness on December 13 every year. In Denmark, small girls and boys walk the parade of Lucia which pays respect to an Italian saint. There are many theories about how this tradition came to Scandinavia. The story is about Saint Lucy (Lucia) who found herself forced to take her own eyes out to continue her charity work. The boys and girls walk a parade with candles on their heads singing. The nights are very long in December, so a theory is that it is a contribute to the darkness she must have had all the time delivering food to the needing. This particular kayak event is special. A kayaking club perform this parade in the harbour along the city and is most enjoyable to catch when they reach Nyhavn.
Practical info: Don’t miss it if you are in Copenhagen on December 13th. Google their specific time schedule, but you should in general be able to catch it around 3-4 PM in Nyhavn.
How to get there: Nearest Metro stop: Kongens Nytorv
4. Frederiksberg Have (2.9 km)
Copenhagen has many beautiful gardens and city parks, and this one is one of my very favorite. It a castle garden featuring Frederiksberg Slot, which is located on a hill called Valby Bakke. This position of the castle makes amazing photographing opportunity both of the caste and of the garden. The castle can be photographed from the bottom with the stairs leading to the castle with trees on both sides and a green grass area in the middle. Walk up these stairs to take a stunning photo of the park itself – best time of the year for that is in the Autumn. The park will be less crowded, and the trees have the beautiful orange pop you want on your Instagram feed.
The Zoo is placed next to this park, so if you walk inside the park along that edge, you can have a free look into the Elephants house.
Practical info: If you come in summer the park will be overcrowded with sunbathing Danes.
How to get there: There are many buses going to different ends of the park. I recommend bus 6A towards Rødovrehallen from the central station (Hovedbanegården) and get off at Zoologisk Have. You can also take bus 9A or bus 26.
5. The cisterns, Søndermarken (3.1 km)
Søndermarken is another of Copenhagen’s many parks, and this one is located right on the other side of the road to Frederiksberg Have. This one is more than just a park though, here you find the a 200 year old water reservoir construction. The people of Copenhagen digged a 16 million liter hole to ensure clean water for the whole city, as their wells and lakes started to be more and more polluted. Today it is empty of water and instead functions as a museum with different art galleries.
Practical info: It is closed on Mondays and entrance is 70 DKK (10.5 USD).
How to get there: There are many buses going to different ends of the park. I recommend bus 6A towards Rødovrehallen from the central station (Hovedbanegården) and get off at Zoologisk Have.
6. Nørrebro (4 km)
Nørrebro is where everything happens in Copenhagen. It is where the hipsters are, it is where the internationals are, it is were the young people rebel. A lot of local history has been made in this district of Copenhagen. You can take a walk along Nørrebrogade, which starts at Dronning Louises Bro (the bridge), it will take you close to Blågårdsplads and Sankt Hans Torv, where the hipsters are. You can walk it further into the deep Nørrebro, where the shawarma-bars and café’s starts dominating the streets. You will end up at “The Red Square” and then it is only few seconds walk to Nørrebro Parken, which is a very active park with a mix of interesting people with graffiti, marijuana, ball games, sunbathing people, breakdance, skating and so much more.
Practical info: Nørrebrogade, is a long street so be prepared for a long walk and make some stops at the interesting shops and cafe’s.
How to get there: You can either start from Nørreport Station or take the train to Nørrebro Station and go the other way.
7. Experimentarium (7 km)
This is the perfect place to bring your kids to learn about science in Denmark. All Danish kids who grew up in and around Copenhagen has been to this Science Museum. There are plenty of shows and “experiments” to play with. You can cut open a pigs lung or play with huge bubble blowers. But there are also some very interesting exhibition for adults: As I write this, there is a beautiful exhibition with plastified human bodies. This work is very unique and can only be seen in here and in The Netherlands as far I know. It is basically real human bodies who have been plastified so everything is clearly visible from veins to muscles to skin and set up doing their own professional sport like ballet or running.
Practical info: You will see many kids there. Let them loose and enjoy the adult exhibitions. It is open all days, so you can save this for a Sunday. Entrance is 195 DKK (30 USD) for adults and 115 DKK (17 USD) for children. If you go here by car, you can park for free in a nearby mall called Waterfront for 3 hours. After that it will cost 20 DKK for every additional hour.
How to get there: From the Central Station: Take train A towards Klampenborg and get off at Hellerup Station. Walk for 15 minutes from there, or take bus 1A for 2 stops and get off at Tuborg Boulevard.
8. Blue planet / Den Blå Planet (8 km)
This is the national aquarium and it is the best in Scandinavia and a candidate to that same title in Europe. Not much to say about this place, other than it is definitely worth a visit. You will be able to see all kinds of water animals from around the world, and yes even alligators!
Practical info: Open every day of the week – so another good activity for a Sunday in Copenhagen!
How to get there: Driving and parking is possible. Parking costs 12 DKK per hour for the first 4 hours. Then it costs 15 DKK per hour. If you go by public transport take the M2 metroline towards the Airport and get off at Kastrup St.
9. Trolls / Trolde (8 km)
All around the suburbs of Copenhagen, trolls are hiding in some of the parks and playgrounds. It is a fun activity for the family to drive around and hunting each of them. There are 6 giants in total named Teddy, Oscar, Louis, Thilde, Thomas and Trine and they are located in the districts of Rødovre, Hvidovre, Vallensbæk, Albertslund, Ishøj and Høje Taastrup. The trolls (or giants, as some people call them) are made by the artist Thomas Dambo and they are made of recycled wood and placed in places where people normally would never go.
How to get there: As if I would tell you that now! Happy troll hunt!
10. Øresund bridge (8.5)
What you tend to forget when being in Copenhagen is, that Sweden is only 20 min away. Normally, the capital city of a country would be located in the center of the country for defense and administrative reasons. Denmark is one of those countries, where the capital is located on the eastern most point of the country (not counting Bornholm). In Denmark’s case, the main reason is that Denmark used to own many of the southern Swedish territories. Those territories are now linked directly to Copenhagen by the Øresund Bridge, and it is one of the most interesting “bridges” of the world.
The bridge is specially unique because it is a normal bridge from the Swedish side, but a tunnel from the Danish side. They meet somewhere in the middle and it just looks stunning to see the bridge dive into the water from above. The technical reason for this construction is to allow large ships to sail through, as the bridge would have been too low for the ships to sail beneath.
Unless you pay for a helicopter ride, there is only one way to take a picture of the diving point of the trip: You have to do it from the airplane window when you land or take off. If weather and landing conditions are perfect, you can get a pretty good shot with even a smartphone, like I did. However, take a car and make the drive – it is nice nonetheless. And you can have the opportunity to see one of the largest Swedish cities as well, that offers many Gems as well: Malmö.
Practical info: The bridge is not free, a return ticket will set you back around 100 USD.
How to get there: Drive!
11. Bakken (13 km)
Welcome to the oldest amusement park in the world! And the entrance is free! You have probably already heard of Tivoli and maybe visited this amazing amusement park in the middle of the city, but it is not the only amusement park in Copenhagen. Bakken is an even more historic amusement park, as it is the world’s oldest still operating amusement park. It opened in 1583! Can you imagine that? Try out their famous wooden rollercoaster name Rutschebanen, which dates back to 1914. And don’t worry, it is totally safe! Or.. safe enough 😉
Another pro-tip: Every year on the day the park opens, Danish motorcyclists have a tradition of driving their bikes from the Copenhagen city center to Bakken. This parade is worth witnessing if you happen to be in Copenhagen in April.
Practical info: In 2019 the park opened on April 12. Check their website to see exactly when the next motorcycle parade is happening. The Park is very popular, because it is basically free to enter for everyone. So if you don’t like rides but only wanna pay for your kids, this is all possible.
How to get there: Driving is one option. With public transport: Take train A or C from the Central station towards Klampenborg Station and get off there.
12. Rungsted Havn (25 km)
This is a true hidden gem and my personal go to place when I need either piece of mind or a walk with a friend. This harbor i filled with yachts of all kinds and you will see some really fancy onces as well. During summer time, it is crowded and super cozy. You can also go to the beach there, which is one of the better beaches in the Copenhagen Area.
Practical info: There are restaurants there and a cozy atmosphere.
How to get there: Driving there is the best option. It is a bit long for a bus ride, but you can also take bus 29 from the central station.
13. Roskilde (31 km)
Make the trip to the nearby satellite city, Roskilde. This is the place where the Danish monarchs are buried. The cathedral is one of the most beautiful in the country. It is also the city where the famous and crazy Roskilde Festival for rock music is held every year.
Practical info: Enjoy the city!
How to get there: It takes 30 min with a regional train from Hovedbanegården to reach Roskilde.
14. Frederiksborg slot (37 km)
North of Copenhagen you will find the city of Hillerød. It houses one of the most beautiful castles in Denmark mainly because it is surrounded by a lake. The city itself is also worth a visit. Personally, I prefer to see this castle in the middle of the day in winter, because the view is wonderful when the lake is frozen. Walk around the lake and find your perfect angle of the castle. It is one of the most Instagrammable castles in Denmark because of the large lake and the size of the castle makes it easy to frame in one shot.
Practical info: Spend a day in the city. The castle is the city center, and there are plenty of dining options.
How to get there: Drive or take train A from central station to Hillerød Station. If train A is not driving to the city center, take line A towards Lyngby station and change to line A in Lyngby.
15. Visiting Malmø in Sweden (44 km)
If you are interested in crossing the the Øresund bridge, you will probably end up in Malmø. This is Sweden’s third largest city and definitely worth a visit. You can look up it’s many famous landmarks, but what probably wont show up is that they actually have a small restaurant for mice. So go around and look for that tiny miniature restaurant!
Practical info: The street for the mouse restaurant is Bergsgatan. Remember your ID, cause you will be crossing to a different country.
How to get there: From Hovedbanegården there are many trains and buses going to Malmø. You can also take the car!
16. Vallø castle (46 km)
If you drive to Copenhagen from Germany, you will pass by this beautiful castle that is totally hidden and unknown even for most Danish people. Only the locals of the suburban city of Køge knows about this gem. The castle is closed for visitors inside, but it’s beauty is from the outside and also the park around it is stunning.
Practical info: Bring a picnic
How to get there: Car is the best option, as there is a long walk from Vallø Station.
17. Helsingør (46 km)
Helsingør or Elsinore is a historical city at the narrowest strait to Sweden. Here you can visit Kronborg, the castle of Hamlet. You can actually see Sweden from the castle, which was used to collect taxes from ships passing by the strait. If you go to the basement of the castle, you can encounter Holger Danske (Olgier the Dane), who is a sleeping war hero, that will only wake up when one day Denmark’s existence is in real danger. Nearby you also find some interesting museums and the city center is very charming as well.
Practical info: You can cross to Sweden on a 20 min ferry. On the other side is also a beautiful city called Helsingborg.
How to get there: It takes 45 minutes with a regional train from Hovedbanegården.
18. Strandvejen (10 – 46 km)
If you go to Helsingør or Rungsted havn with a car, drive along the famous rich man’s beach street “Strandvejen”. This is the road along the coastline north of Copenhagen, and here you find the big mansions of all the rich Danes. Danish people are often proud of telling you how much equality you find in the country, which is also true. But like in all other countries, there is always the rich and the poor, and in Denmark, the contrast is most visible if you compare other places to this road.
Practical info: Enjoy the view, and if you need to fuel your car, do it at Skovshoved Tankstation, which is a fuel station designed by the famous danish designer Arne Jacobsen.
How to get there: Drive along it with a car or a scooter.
19. Sand sculptures in Hundested (64 km)
In Hundested harbour they have a sand sculpture festival going on every year. Go to the beach and admire the beautiful creations by some very talented artists.
Practical info: It is open between May 10 and October 20. The entrance is 50 DKK (7.5 USD).
How to get there: With a car it is easiest, but it is also doable with the public transport, you just need to change trains twice. First take train E to Lyngby St., change to train A to Hillerød St. and finally change to Lokalbane 920R train to Hundested.
20. Spiral forest tower (66 km)
It is almost a shame to put this place on a “off the beaten path” list anymore, because since they finished this tower in 2019, the place has been featured on many travel magazines like Lonely Planet and Time Magazine. And still very few has been here, so come join the trend and visit this beautiful spiral tower in the middle of a Danish forest.
Practical info: The price for entrance is 150 DKK (22 USD), but if you book online you can save 25 DKK. The place also offers several different climbing activities for kids, that might interest you. Car parking is 50 DKK (7.5 USD).
How to get there: Taking the car is the easiest solution. Otherwise, you can take a train to Næstved Station, and from there take Bus 630R towards Faxe Ladeplads and stop at Sydmotorvejen (Ny Næstvedvej).
21. Stevns Klint (66 km)
Stevns Klint is an amazing hike and surprisingly empty place. Enjoy the nature in one of the few places to do a good hike in Denmark. It is a world heritage site for several reasons, one of them being fish clay and traces of a meteor attack. There is 22 km coast line to hike and several interesting sites, museums and fortresses along the way.
Practical info: The question is where to start, and there are plenty of places. Try to
How to get there:
22. Bonbon land (73 km)
Maybe of all places in on the list, this one is the most bizarre attraction in the whole Denmark. That does not stop it from being one of the most popular amusement parks by Danish citizens. This amusement park is the opposite of Disney. Everything here is designed to be ugly, trashy and dirty. Some of the ride’s names are: “The Dog Fart”, “The Dump” and “The Seagull Poop”, which is not even the most bizarre about the rides. Animal figures are posing in a sexist and dirty way all over the amusement park. All this makes it genuinly one of the most interesting amusement parks in the world and in the same time the kids love it. Not alone is “Bonbon” an amusement park, but it is also a Danish candy brand that are extremely popular amongst Danish kids and also adults.
Practical info: The best way to get there is by car. Parking is 40 DKK (6 USD) and entrance is 180 DKK (27 USD) and all rides included. You can also t
How to get there: To go by train to BonBon-Land you must first reach Næstved with a regional train and then switch to another regional train that stops at Holme Olstrup station and from here there is only a 5-minute walk.
23. Trelleborg, Slagelse (95 km)
If you want real viking history, look no further! You can see a real viking fortress in the west part of Zealand. This viking fortress was built by no other than the famous King Harald Bluetooth, which your bluetooth device today is named after. Here you can visit a museum and learn about the life as a true viking. Check their website for event, maybe they have a viking play or festival you can snapshot!
Practical info: Everything is free except special events like the viking festival.
How to get there: Best is by car. Otherwise, take the train to Slagelse. then take bus 439 from Slagelse Station.
24. Møns klint (126 km)
South of Zealand is connected by more bridges to other smaller islands. This beautiful natural gem is located in one of those islands called Møn. This is probably the most beautiful hiking place in Denmark and most certainly in Zealand. This is a small cliff pointing to the sea and you can walk it from the top or from the beach at the bottom. I recommend you take a round trip – but remember good hiking shoes. If the weather is good, you can also enjoy the beach which is a stone beach but at least with a stunning view to the cliff. Remember your camera down there!
Practical info: It is free – remember to bring a picnic or some snacks, cause the dining opportunities are not many in the area. You can find a cafe there though.
How to get there: Go by car, this is my best recommendation as it becomes cumbersome and takes a long time to reach it by public transport. However, you can do that by taking a train to Vordingborg and from there take bus 660R to Stege and the shift to bus 678.
25. H. C. Andersen’s city and home (165 km)
Explore the home of the world famous fairy tale author H. C. Andersen. Coming to Denmark is for many tourists all about him. His home city is Odense, and there you can walk in his footsteps, visit museums, find statues from his fairytales and most importantly visit his childhood home. The city is on the island of Fyn, and you have to cross the beautiful brige, Storebæltsbroen, to get there.
Practical info: You can buy a 5-in-1 ticket to different museums and his birth home and his childhood home. You can also go visit the places in Odense one by one.
How to get there: You can take a regional train from Hovedbanegården to Odense. You can also go by car, but be prepared to pay for crossing the bridge, this can cost up to 500 DKK (73 USD).