Visiting Denmark has become an annual tradition for me. It must be said that my best friend lives there and we try to see each other at least once a year. I’m starting to get to know Copenhagen well, and on my last visit last December, I also took the opportunity to rediscover the small city of Roskilde.
This time, as I was staying in the city of Hørsholm, I focused on exploring the area north of Copenhagen. And since the weather was rather pleasant, my friend and I decided to do as many hikes as possible. And we started by exploring Dyrehaven, the former hunting park of the Danish kings.
Dyrehaven (officially Jægersborg Dyrehave) is an 11-square-kilometre park located north of the capital. King Frederik III was the first in 1669 to fence the park to facilitate deer hunting in the area. His son, Christian V, who was a big fan of parforce hunting, enlarge the hunting park, even expropriating the inhabitants of a neighboring village.
Today, Dyrehaven is a large protected forest park and arguably one of the most accessible places for hiking near Copenhagen. Dyrehaven (as well as other royal hunting grounds in North Zealand) was recognized in 2015 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
My friend and I started our hike at the Skodsborg train station on the northern border of the park. We first headed for the Bøllemosen marsh around which it is possible to follow a path. There are some interpretive signs on the surrounding nature, fauna and flora, but they are only in Danish (and despite my numerous trips to Denmark in the past years, my skills in Danish are still pretty poor).
After walking around the Bøllemosen, we continued to follow the trail south. We eventually arrived at one of the red gates of the old hunting park. The park is still fenced, and still home to nearly 2000 deer.
I think that what struck me the most about the park was the size of the trees. They are so big! The forest has been left in its natural state for centuries. No commercial cut is practiced, and the fallen trees are only removed if they constitute a danger for the walkers.
After a few kilometres of walking, we saw our first deer. The park has three species (Red deer, Fallow Deer and Sika Deer) and they usually move in large groups. Some can easily be approached, but it is recommended not to touch or feed them, as these are considered to still be wild.
We eventually arrived at the Hermitage (Eremitagen in Danish), the former hunting lodge of the king. This Baroque building was built in 1734 and is rather impressive in this vast landscape. From the pavilion we had a beautiful view on the clearing in which deer grazed, and beyond, we could see the bluish reflections of the Øresund. Add to this horse-drawn carts carrying tourists around and it was almost like being in another era.
We continued our way to the southern border of the park. This place is a little more touristy. There are a few restaurants, the possibility of renting bicycles or negotiating a horse-drawn cart ride and Bakken, an amusement park that rivals Tivoli for the title of the oldest amusement park in the world.
In all, we hiked about ten kilometres in the park. And it was magical. After exploring Copenhagen in depth in the past few years, it was nice to explore another side of Denmark.
Getting to Dyrehaven is easy enough from Copenhagen. From the Central Station or from Nørreport Station, take one of the trains that travel along the Øresund coast and get out at Klampemborg station (or Skodsborg station if you want to go on a long hike like we did).