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Discovering Hans Christian Andersen’s Denmark

by Barbara Rogers

Oct 12, 2019

Elena Noeva | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Europe

Although they may not know who wrote them, nearly every child is familiar with at least some of the fairy tales spun by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. He was born in Odense, a small city on Denmark’s “Garden Island” of Funen. Families can visit several places in Odense associated with the author as well as a castle that seems right out of one of his fairy tales.


Begin at the excellent Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which will take you and your children into the world of his imagination with a combination of artifacts from his life, his drawings and artwork, and interactive exhibits that allow visitors to browse through his books and listen to his stories and poems. Perhaps the most fascinating is the collection of cut paper figures he created. Anderson’s childhood home, where he lived 1807–1819, is now a branch of the museum, furnished as rooms would have been when he lived there.


The Møntergården Local History Museum is a complex that includes furnished houses from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as collections of local costumes and toys. One features Odense in the Middle Ages. Young visitors will love stepping into Andersen’s magical world in the Tinderbox Culture Centre for Children, where they can enter interactive scenes from his stories, wear costumes of their characters and play fairy tale-themed games.


Hans Christian Andersen’s house in Odense, Denmark. Photo: Stefano Ember | Dreamstime.com


About two miles outside of the town center, Funen Open-Air Village (Den Fynske Landsby) recreates a village from the time of Hans Christian Andersen. Authentic historic homes, farmhouses, cottages and shops have been preserved here, and are inhabited by costumed guides who demonstrate crafts, skills and home cooking of the time. Visitors can join in the activities, ride in a horse-drawn carriage, feed the farm animals and see performances of traditional music and dancing in the open-air theater.


Less than half an hour from Odense you can step inside a castle that looks just like those in Andersen’s fairy tales. Egeskov Castle is the best-preserved, moat-surrounded castle in Europe. Completed in 1554, it was built for defense with walls many feet thick (there are stairways inside some of them) and water all around.


Egeskov Castle. Photo: Lenaprokof | Dreamstime.com

Tours of the castle include the spectacular banquet hall. Egeskov Castle is one of many visited by Hans Christian Andersen and was a particular favorite; after a visit in 1842 he described it and the beautiful gardens in his diary. There are more things to do here: Segway tours, a treetop walk and a collection of antique cars. Be sure to allow time to stroll through the prize-winning gardens.


This and 14 other castles and manor houses on the island of Funen are connected to Andersen and his stories. You can follow the Hans Christian Andersen Trail to discover these.


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