There's been a big focus on Danish culture in the last year with the UK's hygge obsession. Unfortunately that focus would have you believe that Denmark is mainly about knitwear, candles and barricading yourself inside against the drear of winter. Find out why the real Denmark is all about getting out there and taking in the joys of spring in the happiest country in the world.
Ok, so it's officially second happiest (nearby Norway was number one in 2017), but Denmark has taken the spot three out of the five times that the World Happiness Report has been published. Convenient marketing messages will have you believe that the magic secret to this is the Danish concept of hygge – something like cosiness. But if living Danishly is all about hunkering down in the dark, what happens when the clocks go forward? By the end of April, even in Southern Denmark there are 15 hours of daylight each day. Visit Denmark in the more forgiving months from March on, and you'll see the Denmark the Danes usually keep for themselves.
Most visitors to Denmark head straight to Copenhagen and if they make it outside the city, they rarely venture beyond the Capital Region – it generates almost half the country's tourist income. They're missing out. Head to the region of Southern Denmark on the Jutland peninsula and you'll find a true piece of the Scandi paradise that's so often touted in the media – fresh air, friendly locals, stunning architecture and the sandy beaches of the Wadden Sea National Park, Denmark's newest and biggest national park. Not to mention the idyllic countryside with its blossom-covered trees, heathlands and wildflowers. Book a flight to the centrally-located airport of Billund and explore Denmark this spring with just an hour and a half's flight from London.
Start your spring trip with a flight from London City Airport to Billund, birthplace of Lego. It's roughly in the centre of the Jutland peninsula, making it an ideal starting point for discovering the dunes, national parks and pretty towns of Southern Denmark.
Billund is unashamedly all about family holidays, so it's great for an Easter break or an alternative summer holiday – the town even bills itself as 'the Capital of Children'. This is largely because you can't even mention Billund, or even Jutland, without mentioning Legoland (it's Denmark's biggest tourist attraction outside Copenhagen). But the theme park is just one of the draws to this part of Denmark, particularly when longer days and milder weather make the ideal conditions for exploring its endless green spaces and disarmingly beautiful UNESCO-listed coastline. For some inspiration, browse our guide to 24 hours in Billund, or hire a car and start your exploration.
The nearby city of Vejle boasts the questionable title of 'the Manchester of Denmark' due to its industrial history, but the area is also full of things to do, from nature walks through the surrounding river valley, canoeing on Vejle's famous inlet. Vejle is the regional capital of Southern Denmark, so you'll also find a good range of restaurants from traditional inns to upmarket places for New Nordic Cuisine making the most of the excellent local produce, such as langoustines and wild salmon. It's also worth visiting the harbour here to see the city's iconic Bolgen (the Wave) building, watch the boats and look out onto the Vejle Fjord.
Nearby Jelling is also of huge significance to Danish history; pay it a visit to see the Jelling stones – two huge monuments dating from 965, which bear inscriptions marking the Danes' conversion to Christianity and, effectively, the founding of Denmark as a nation. They were erected by King Harald Bluetooth (yes, as in Bluetooth – the wireless technology is named after him) and are a must-visit – the free museum gives some fascinating explanations and insights into Viking history.
The port town of Esbjerg is under an hour's drive from Billund, and is also an easy direct bus journey from Billund airport. While Vejle lies to the southeast with its fjord opening into the Great Belt (the strait between Denmark and Sweden), Esbjerg is on the wild North Sea coast to the west. This stretch of coastline is part of the Wadden Sea National Park, and is the stuff of postcards.
More clement spring weather means you can enjoy walks on the Wadden Sea's famous wide beaches. Visit Esbjerg between late June and August and you can take a seal safari boat tour to spot a host of sea life, but there are a range of tours that begin in late March, making Esbjerg a great Easter break destination for families or anyone who enjoys the outdoors.
And just a 12-minute ferry ride away is the idyllic island of Fano, known for its stunning white-sand beaches –popular with windsurfers – and its iconic golf course. Founded in 1901, Fano Golf Links is one of the oldest in Denmark and a true links course spanning windswept sand dunes with views across the North Sea. The whole island is a microcosm of the healthy, happy Danish good life that so many outside the country dream of. Even the Google Street View images of the island look like a holiday brochure – you can barely find a road that's not filled with runners and families on bike rides.
Fano is also home to Europe's largest kite festival – the Fano International Kite Fliers Meeting takes place in June, drawing an impressive 5,000 participants who come to fly kites on Fano's huge, wide beaches.
The Danish weather can be changeable in spring, so it's worth taking wet-weather gear and layers. It's part of the fun – the adage 'there's no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing' is popular across Scandinavia, though it's truer of the harsher climates of northerly neighbours Sweden, Norway and Finland. Denmark, on the other hand, really comes alive in spring – book a flight from London City Airport to Billund now. And if the weather does close in, you always fall back on a bit of that ever-present hygge.