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krisek Odense - A travel report by Krys
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Odense,  Denmark - flag Denmark -  Fyn
14403 readers

krisek's travel reports

A place where world famous fairytales were written

  8 votes
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Odense, a Danish town on the Fyn island, is a picturesque place, where Hans Christian Andersen wrote a few of his world famous fairy-tales. It is Denmark's third largest town, but its old district still has plenty of charm, and some classic architecture.

Odense travelogue picture
I spent two weeks on Fyn (Funen), and most of the time I chilled in Odense. Not necessarily an obvious choice for a two weeks visit in February. Actually, I had not heard much about Odense before I went there. And I had no idea that Hans Christian Andersen lived and wrote there. But the centre around the townhall was very charming and the wooden houses, painted in bright colours made a very special impact. In 1988, Odense celebrated its 1000th birthday, but the wooden houses, housing cute shops, restaurants, and galleries were not that old. Built perhaps between the 18th and early 20th centuries.

Odense's name apparently comes from Odin, a figure from the Norse mythology known to many northern and central European nations. Odin was actually represented in the city by a huge tower called simply Odinstårnet, The Odin Tower. It only stood in the city for 11 years. It was destroyed in 1944. Its size was only second to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Access to Odense had improved dramatically after a large chain of bridges ten years ago had replaced a tedious ferry link between Funen, Sprogo and Zealand islands. It was the largest construction project in Denmark's history.

I was lucky to be visiting in the winter. The Funen island gets very many visitors, mostly from Scandinavia, who come to see the unspoiled landscape, incredible architecture and the places associated with Has Christian Andersen. Apparently Odense could get very crowded during holidays, which might affect its charm.

Favourite spots:
Odense travelogue picture
There are a few lanes fringed with small houses between Claus Bergs Gade and the Kongens Have park, right in the heart of the city. They make Odense look like a little village. At least that part. It is very quiet there. Traffic is minimal and hardly any people are in the streets. This little district is unlike any other in the city. As if it was artificially created for a set of a fairy-tale film. Incidentally, this is where the house of Hans Christian Andersen is located.

The busy, partly pedestrianised, shopping district between Thomas Thriges Gade and Pantheonsgade, packed with shoppers and colourful large wooden houses and warehouses was definitely from a different fairy-tale but equally photogenic. When the city switched on the little lanterns in the evening, the area had a spellbinding ambiance, magnetising, hypnotising, very inviting.

What's really great:
Odense travelogue picture
I was fascinated by the fact that the city had so many various faces, and that all these different little districts were so close to one another. Almost deserted alleys with old single storey houses, nearly adjacent to the bustling shopping streets with mixed architecture - the captivating colourful wooden warehouses and the not so glamourous concrete buildings, and the intriguing large red-brick structures of big shopping centres, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and night clubs - all in the same neighbourhood.

The city was full of bicycles. Some of the cycle routes were equipped with bicycle counting devices, which displayed how many bicycles passed through a certain point that day so far. It was very clever. I tried to fool the device by walking along the cycle route to see if I would be picked up. I was not.

Apart from the several museums, including the Hans Christian Andersen Museum (not in his house), the fairy-taller's house, a number of interesting and old churches, the townhall stood out as a rather prominent sight. It was built of red bricks and its first storey of the facade had a type of skirting made of large white marble-like tiles. The building bore several scars of the WWII, but it looked great. Its red facade with a large clock displayed on a light two storey tall slab of sand-coloured stone complete with a life-size figure of Themis with her scales, was splitting the building symmetrically. It was clear that this was the central and focal point of the city. Many places, particularly for eating and going out were located in the immediate vicinity of the townhall and directions were based on their position around it. In the front of it, lied a larger than life bronze statue of a person, in a position of getting up. A very fine piece of art!

Odense travelogue picture
There were about twenty hotels in Odense, categories of which ranged from two stars to four stars; two hostels from the Danhostel chain; four options for private accommodation (a room in someone's home with access to shower and toilet - no breakfast); about twenty bed & breakfasts; and one camping site. Not bad for a city with about 150 thousand inhabitants. None of the hotels, including the top category, were any special, actually. The Radisson SAS bearing the name of H.C.Andersen was considerably below average for a four stars hotel. The good thing about it was its location - very close to the cute district with tiny colourful houses - and that it was a low rise building. The disadvantage was that it was an ugly building. It also had a casino, one of very few in Denmark.

Odense travelogue picture
February was very cold in Odense. Fortunately, the city's nightlife was really hot. The Boogies was the club I went into the most. It attracted a great mix of crowd, and was popular with students. It was very central - just behind the townhall. It had a relaxed door policy and it seemed to be open all night. It had comfortable seating area, also great for larger groups. Very close to the Boogies was the Buddy Holy, a very large disco-club on two floors. Due its popularity it had an almost unpredictable dress code (absolutely no trainers or tennis shoes), but it was really great. Oddly, the dancefloor was upstairs. Occasionally, the club invited amateur groups, who played live music.

The second club I visited the most was actually a cafe, which was turning into a night bar, often with live music. It was the Froggys Cafe. During the day, it was an atmospheric cafe, with a decor styled in 1950s and a semi-circular bar. It put on a great track for dancing and the floor was getting packed.

Odense travelogue picture
The little alleys with colourful little houses on both sides were great places to hide, wander about. But on cold winter days, hiding in a warm cafe was equally rewarding. Odense had plenty of cafes. Almost on every corner. There were many clusters of cafes in the city centre. Mainly near the shopping malls. One of the better ones were at the Brandts Centre, particularly the Biografen (this one included also a cinema), Kedlen, Cuckoo's Nest, and Envy.

Odense had those corner cafes around, particularly popular with the locals, who treated them like an extension to their living rooms. There was one of them on the corner of Sortebrodre Torv and Claus Bergs Gade, which was particularly atmospheric with its flickering candle lights and little tables. The personnel treated everyone like family, and even foreign strangers like me were warmly welcome. It was closing early, about midnight.

Inside traditional restaurant
Inside traditional restaurant
Grabbing good food in the city was more challenging than grabbing coffee. This was not due to a shortage of places, but it was down to the quality of them. There are three restaurants I remember well from my visit in Odense.

The first one (pictured opposite) was Den Gamle Kro, a traditional Danish restaurant serving decent food in a great setting. Somewhat upper scale, but not pretentious and definitely not posh. It was pricey, and for a novice, it was rather difficult to make a choice from the menu containing mysterious dishes.

The other, nearby, was the Mongolian Djengis Khan. It was very exotic and inexpensive. They often did good value buffets with soups, choice of traditional and fusion starters and main dishes.

The third was the Italian called Simoncini. It had an excellent wine list and did great fish and pastas. It steaks were also good. It was based in an old wooden house at Vestergade 70, near the shops.

Other recommendations:
Odense travelogue picture
The Funen island had a few more attractions. I liked Faaborg, in the south of the island, the most. It had a charm of a tiny sleepy place, and was full of old wooden houses, a red-brick gate leading into the centre, and a small harbour. Its thick Clock Tower was amazing. It stood tall above the little old red-roofed houses, and looked giant - almost out of place. It was so picturesque! I came on Sunday. There were no people in the streets. So spooky...

Nearby, the flamboyant Egeskov Castle (Europe's only Renaissance castle on the water in perfect condition), Egeskov Windmill, one of Europe's most wonderful and whitewashed granite church, the Horne Church, and the 15th century Hvedholm Castle, now an expensive hotel, all gave plenty to explore. The Egeskov Castle had erratic opening hours in the winter and it was really hard to see it from behind the fence.

The area between Odense and Fraaborg was abundant in grand mansions, manor houses and castles, many built on or by the water.

Published on Wednesday December 3th, 2008

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Fri, Dec 05 2008 - 09:05 AM rating by pesu

I totally agree to David - there are people who do not like your style of writing???

Fri, Dec 05 2008 - 07:40 AM rating by davidx

Seeing a report from you with less than a 5* rating came as quite a surprise! Howevr I feel bound to keep to the 5* that has become traditional for your reports. I find this as interesting and informative as ever.

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