Although Hans Christian Andersen has been dead for almost two centuries, he’s still very much present in Denmark. His literary legacy and cultural impact in the western civilization have outlived him. That’s noticeable when you can find there dozens of monuments and places dedicated to his memory and art. Even more so in Odense, his hometown, located 167 km (103 miles) to the southwest of Copenhagen.
Despite being the third largest Danish city (after Copenhagen and Aarhus), Odense remains a traditionalist-looking town. A great example of that is its urban landscape, which constitutes around a third of the terroritory. Which means that this city is full of wonderful sights and the splendor of the Danish countryside.
On the way to Odense
Odense is located in the Funen island, right between the Jutland peninsula and the Zealand island. Its name derives from the phrase “Odins Vé“, which means “Odin’s sanctuary”, in honor to the Nordic god Odin. It’s one of Denmark’s oldest cities (after Ribe), being first mentioned in a letter from 988. Although archaeological excavations show signs of settlements in this localization since at least the Stone Age.
It’s easy to get to Odense either by car or metro, taking from an hour and a half to two. From Copenhagen, for example, the fastest way to go would be driving through the E20 highway. If you want to do this, there are great car rentals available, like Enterprise Rent-a-car. But if you’d rather the metro, just go to Copenhagen Central Station and then head to Odense Railway Station Centre. There are two connections available to Odense, the IC (slower, around ten stops) and the ICL (faster, only one stop).
About Hans Christian Andersen
Perhaps one of the most important Danes in history, this author wrote several plays, novels and poems. Andersen’s best remembered by his fairy tales, which have been read by people from all ages around the world. Who hasn’t read or heard stories like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Snow Queen or Thumbelina? They’ve become such a big part of Western culture, sparking countless adaptations for other media and inspiring other authors.
Most people agree that the huge impact of Hans’ fairy tales is largely due to its accesibility to children. That and the fact that they also contain teachings and messages that appeal to more adult audiences. So it’s no surprise that Hans occupies a special place in Danish people’s hearts. That’s why he’s honored in many places and monuments all around Denmark.
When you’re in Odense, the quintessential Hans Christian Andersen place to visit is his birthplace. It’s a small yellow house-turned-museum located on the heart of the old town, where he was allegedly born in 1805. This area used to be inhabited by the poorest, but it’s now an iconic spot, extremely quiet and calm. The only disturbance are the tourists that come to visit Hans’ house during all year. There’s a little plaque on the facade that reads “H. C. Andersen hus (house)”, everyone’s favorite selfie background.
Inside, there’s a recreation of what the house looked like during that time, giving you an idea of their life. You can see the cribs were baby Hans slept, his dad’s shoemaking tools, cooking stoves and other daily utensils. The house is open almost all year, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. (5 p.m. on Summer), for 105 DKK. But that’s only during Fall and Winter, because in Summer, the price goes up to 120 DKK. Those prices apply to adults and groups of 10 or less, while children under 17 years-old can enter for free.
A little pricey at first sight, this ticket gives you access to other places, like the H. C. Andersen Museum. Also Møntergården, a small village that simulates the lifestyle of Odense in past centuries, as well as his childhood home. Finally, you also get access to the Tinderbox, a cultural centre for children inspired by Hans’ fairy tales.
Hans Christian Andersen’s Childhood Home, in Munkemøllestræde street, is 650 m (2132.5 ft) from the previous site. In this place, the beloved author lived most of his childhood, until he was 14 years old. This is the house where he said that most of his childhood memories come from. While it has pretty much the same concept of the previous one, it’s a little bigger and more detailed. The opening hours are also the same and you don’t need to get another ticket.
The Hans Christian Andersen museum
To the northeast, 130 m (426,5 ft.) away from the previous site, you can find the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. This is a large one-level building dedicated to honor Hans’ life, mind, work and legacy. Getting there is a short walk from his birth house that adds another layer to this trip around Hans’ Odense. The museum does a great job explaining to outsiders what his literary legacy means to the western culture. It’s filled with original manuscripts, letters and personal objects, as well as artwork inspired by his work.
It’s safe to say that Hans Christian Andersen has managed to keep on living in his people’s collective conciousness. His spirit lives in every one of his fairy tales told every day to newer and newer generations. But also in the authors that he inspired and keeps inspiring beyond Odense and Denmark. Through his work, Hans Christian Andersen has become a beacon of creativity and hope that illuminates the world.
Would you like to visit Hans Christian Andersen’s hometown? Have you been there already? What’s you’re favorite Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale? Tell us in the comments section below!