Finding the Father of All Fairytale Authors in Odense, Denmark
Europe is full of quaint, pastel fairytale cities, but there is no place that deserves that distinction more than Odense, Denmark. The birthplace of arguably the most famous fairytale author of all time, Hans Christian Andersen, Odense certainly fits the bill. No matter where you go in the city, you will see something relating to the famous Hans Christian Andersen stories.
After our visit to Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, we were driving down into Germany but we weren’t quite finished with our Scandinavia tour and even though Odense was not on the direct route, nothing was going to stop this lover of fairytales from visiting this literary landmark. Driving into town, we didn’t even stop for a snack. We drove directly to a parking lot closest to the Hans Christian Andersen House and Museum.
Odense is named after the Norse God Odin, with meanings for not only war and death, but poetry and wisdom, so what a fitting place to produce such a prolific writer and poet. Hans Christian Andersen was born to a mother and father who were extremely poor. Father was forced into being a shoemaker and his mother was a washerwoman. Their house was located in the section of the city that beggars and paupers lived, and he dreamed of escaping that life by becoming an actor. It’s no wonder that he was able to interweave scenes from his own home and life into his books.
Growing up with some of Hans Christian Andersen’s more popular books, like The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Ugly Duckling, I still had no idea just how prolific he was. Over the course of his life, he published 168 tales. He was also an artist and had produced many beautiful paper cuttings. Many of his original works, personal items, and books that have been published in Denmark and around the world are on display at the museum.
When you first enter, you are met by his likeness, surrounded by pen, paper, and scissors. The exhibits detail Hans’ life from his poor childhood to leaving home to go to Copenhagen, then his travels as he became a famous author. Andersen traveled extensively, traveling as far east as Constantinople. He also traveled to Britain and stayed with his contemporary, Charles Dickens, for more than a month. We walked slowly around trying to absorb as much as we could, but then the highlight came at the end as we were able to walk through his childhood home.
Outside of the museum, after taking a look at the aging exterior of his family home, we walked by an outdoor theater. Each summer they tell one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. In the summer of 2017, you can see a rendition of The Little Mermaid. The show is for kids and is free, but it is in Danish.
The town itself also celebrates Hans Christian Andersen’s life and fairytales. There are statues of him and characters from his stories all over town. You can follow this map and do a scavenger hunt with the kids! We loved them.
Visit Odense Tourist Information website for a map to the fairytale statues of the town that can be downloaded here.
The Hans Christian Andersen House and Museum
Cost: 30 DKK for adults, but it’s free for all children up to age 17
Days and times: Every day in the summer from 10:00-5:00, and the rest of the year it’s closed on Mondays and the hours are from 11:00 – 4:00.
Odense is the third largest city in Denmark, located on the island of Funen, near the main highway to Copenhagen.
You can visit Odense on a day trip out of Copenhagen, but it would be a long day. It is a better plan to make it a stop on your way to or from the capital.
Another great option is to stay directly in town at one of these great Odense hotel options!
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