Although festivals in Denmark come in many different guises throughout the year, the main elements of many of them seem to be Vikings and Music – especially jazz. Throughout the summer, you’ll find Danish festivals celebrating their Viking heritage and, during the whole year, there are some great jazz festivals in this fascinating, friendly country. The major national holiday in Denmark is Independence Day, which is celebrated on June 5th annually and most towns and cities will have activities at this time. The Queen’s Birthday in April is also marked, especially in Copenhagen, by parades and ceremony.
But back to those Vikings. Festivals such as the Vikingespil in Frederikssund, the Sonderhodog Festival and the Viking Moot in Aarhus (‘at the bottom of Aar street?‘) celebrate everything associated with the ancient Danes. In addition to the expected revellers bedecked in traditional Viking garb – often with horrific looking long swords and axes – the entire cultural heritage is remembered. At Aarhus especially, a 10 day event which is by far the largest of its kind in the country, you will find theatre, concerts, gastronomy and sporting competitions galore. It is an absolute extravaganza of Viking activities. TheVikingespil Festival is particularly known for its theatrical performances and also its Viking markets.
Jazz Festivals abound in Denmark. The major ones during the summer are at Aalborg and Silkeborg (The Riverboat Festival) in June and then Copenhagen and Aarhus during July. Copenhagen also hosts a four day Autumn Jazz Festival and, to help aficionados through the cold winter months, there is a superb 10 day Winter Jazz Festival, which takes top class music to more than 50 different venues across the country.
The biggest pop and rock festival in Denmark – indeed, one of the largest in Europe – is held each July in Roskilde, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from all over Europe.
Another enormous festival is that held in Aarhus in late August and early September when it really does seem as if the city has been taken over by musical, theatrical and sporting activities. This is 10 days of truly festive magic in an enchanting city.
Very different is the Medieval Festival held in the city of Horsens at the end of August each year. Full of jousting tourneys, minstrels, markets and street theatre, the whole event has an incredibly vibrant atmosphere.
Copenhagen has an abundance of fine festivals throughout the year. The Jazz Festival has already been mentioned but there are many more. In May, the Copenhagen Carnival takes place; the Copenhagen Pride Festival is one of the highlights of August and there is a popular gay and Lesbian Film Festival in October. The Copenhagen Summer Festival in late July and early August is tremendously successful, with the performances of chamber music at the Charlottenborg Hall especially noteworthy.
Whilst not exactly qualifying for Festival status, an event in Copenhagen that is eagerly awaited by locals each year is the Spring re-opening of the oldest amusement park in the world, Bakken, eight miles north of the city centre – it’s a very busy and lively time. Similarly, the world famous Tivoli Gardens are amongst the country’s most popular attractions; it has some fine ‘white knuckle’ rides, the tallest carousel in the world, thousands of flowers and lights, an open-air Pantomime Theatre and some lovely places to sit and enjoy the scenery. Increasingly popular during recent years, the Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market is a fabulous festive season experience. One of Europe’s very finest family venues, the Tivoli Gardens truly contain elements to please everyone.
Denmark is perhaps the easiest Scandinavian country to visit – with excellent road, air and sea links and, with some of the festivals in Denmark being amongst the most exhilarating anywhere, it is well worth considering for either a long weekend or a full holiday.