Denmark: 3 great parts of Odense that make it worth visiting
For years my hometown of Odense in the heart of Denmark was “just getting by”, but recently the capital of the island of Funen has seen major developments and cultural events roll in like a wave of refreshing water. A wave that many new businesses – and people with ideas and willpower to pursue them – are surfing these days.
Still, the Danish fairytale city (birthplace of author Hans Christian Andersen) with the postcode 5000 – or “The Big O” as some locals refer to their city, has kept its core of atmospheric neighbourhoods and lush green areas. Meanwhile the harbour is still undergoing a huge transition from boring working harbour to a lively neighbourhood of its own.
It’s quite ironic that Odense even has a harbour, because a quick look at a map of Funen gives you the impression that the island’s capital is located more or less centrally. The trick is Odense Fjord, that reaches down from the northern coast of Funen and extends into the canal – stretching almost to the city center.
Today the harbour-developement with new fancy apartment towers, a few new cafés and public spaces like Havnebadet (The Harbour Bath), make this area one of the brightest symbols of Odense’s current transformation – together with the brand new neighbourhood that steadily rises from the ground in the heart of the city.
Although the harbour still seems to need a couple of years to fully bloom, it already has some exciting elements that just need the support of more cafés and shops to thrive on a regular day of the week. So far Nordatlantisk Hus and Cobberbox are doing a great job of creating some atmosphere at the at old docks, and very soon a brand new street food market will open its doors at Storms Pakhus and add some new flavours to the area.
The new harbour bath is one of those elements that bring people and life, as well as the neighbouring street basket courts and sun-bathing areas. And I love the fact that the world-famous street artist ROA was brought in, to decorate the otherwise boring looking grain silo with his iconic style of animal-paintings. I’d love to see even more of that.
SEE ALSO: Street art in the heart of Belfast
As mentioned, Odense downtown is transforming and for current visitors (and even locals) it might seem like a bit of a mess at the moment – but really, the job of keeping things covered up and still interesting seems to be done very well, and as a tourist you’ll find that most parts of the city’s charm are intact and still easily explored. In general the city center is compact, green and very easy to walk around.
Neighbouring the big development area you’ll find my all-time favourite pub Ryan’s – still going strong. A place where I have personally spend many legendary nights out over the years and where I always love to drop back in for a pint whenever I’m in town. A great place to catch sports games too.
I used to live just around the corner from Ryan’s, and nearby I recently had the pleasure of trying Café Fleuri, which I now wish had been around back when I was a local resident. A café that surprises you with a great combination of funky enterior design, organic treats and genereally a high quality of products – and quite unique to Odense you can enjoy an excellent cup of coffee in a charming and enclosed backyard, hidden away from the street.
These days new cafés and restaurants shoot up in the streets of Odense like flowers on a spring day, and having been abroad a lot in the recent years, the city seems to change from time to time whenever I return home. Whether it’s wine bars like Amy’s Bar & Winehouse, burger-joints like Werners Grill or Burger Anarchy, or cafés like the popular Nelle’s, the opportunities for enjoying city-life are ever-increasing in Odense.
The area around the beautiful City Hall is naturally attracting much attention as it includes a wide range of quality restaurants and shops – as well as impressive churches and a gorgeous green getaway at Eventyrhaven (“The Fairytale Garden”).
Further down Vestergade you’ll find the entrance to one of downtowns most charming streets; Vintapperstræde. A cobblestoned wonder of pubs, restaurants and unique little shops that is a must-check-out for any tourist – and beer enthusiasts shouldn’t miss out on Christian 4-tal which together with Carlsens Kvarter is the among the city’s most loved beer bars.
Another of my favourite neighbourhoods is Brandts Klædefabrik (or simply Brandts) which is set in a building-complex of a former clothing factory, and which includes Brandts Passage and the popular art musem BRANDTS. The neighbourhood also houses the cultural venue Magasinet and the culturally focused little cinema Café Biografen. New restaurants like Gorm’s and more established ones as Pasfall are found in this area, as well as the first venue for the local coffee-chain Nelle’s. I always like to have a look inside the gallery Collage when passing through here too.
SEE ALSO: Aeroe: A ferry-tale in Southern Denmark
Last but not least the neighbourhood known as the H.C. Andersen Quarter is the biggest magnet for tourists visiting Odense, with its irresistible old streets and well kept townhouses including H.C. Andersens Hus which is a museum dedicated to the famous writer. Across the street you’ll find the popular restaurant Under Lindetræet and a couple minutes walk from there one of the city’s new landmarks – the music house Odeon – has recently opened its doors to concert-goers, culture-seekers and coffeelovers, with daily social events. A big piece of the new neighbourhood that’s rising around it these years – and that will later be connected by the upcoming light rail network. Exciting times!
If you’re visiting the city on a sunny day, why not head to Munke Mose to rest your legs on the grass with the locals. They love to hang out along the river and watch the river cruise boats take off down Odense Å and sail straight through one of Europe’s best zoos – with the final stop being the third part on this list…
Skoven (the forest), Engen (the meadow), Fruens Bøge or Skovsøen (the forest lake) – however the locals refer to this area it’s a place you shouldn’t miss. Long before my time, a trip out there could be done by tram and it was a popular weekend-destination, and the area doesn’t seem to have lost its charm. Nowadays locals reach the area by foot or boat, along or on the river – or by car or bike. Most come here for a walk and not to forget an ice cream, which can be bought either at the old tram station turned ice cream shop, or at the kiosk next to the lake itself. An important part of any summerplan for the locals.
Two restaurants are also found here including the recently rebuilt Carslund, which has risen like a phoenix from the ashes after a huge fire burned it to the ground. Once again it’s known for its classic Danish omelette – or simply a place to enjoy a beer on the terrace surrounding by green. My favourite spot out here though (besides the nature itself) is the recently new bike-themed train station café Velodrom, which is run by a passionate creator and owner and which is a great place to grab a coffee or a piece of cake when exploring the forest.
The meadow across from the lake is often used for cultural and musical events such as open-air cinema and concerts – or traditions like the Danish midsummer celebrations for Sankt Hans that sees a huge fire being lit on this spot. And just behind the trees you’ll find the historical open air museum Den Fynske Landsby (Funen Village) which is a big tourist attraction as well as a concert venue.
So there you have it. Three very different areas of Odense that together create a lively, cultural and green city that is only getting better by the day. So don’t just go to Copenhagen. It’s great, but once again – Denmark is so much more!
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