Jump on the train from Copenhagen for a brilliant day out in Denmark
A HISTORIC HOUSE IN HUMLEBÆK TURNED MODERN ART MUSEUM
The best art museum in Copenhagen is not actually in Copenhagen. But it’s pretty close. And the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art that sits by the sea north of the capital is definitely worth making the extra effort to explore. Pop on a regional train from Copenhagen’s Central Station bound for Helsingør, but make sure you don’t miss your stop. Humlebæk is where to find this world-class museum, a quick 10-minute walk from the station. A perfect day out in Denmark.
AN ART MUSEUM WITH A UNIQUELY SCANDINAVIAN SENSIBILITY
Unlike many art museums around the world that compile ample collections within the walls and hallowed halls of enormous and imposing architecture, there is something different about seeing art at Louisiana. It feels accessible. And not because it’s small. The permanent collection here is extensive and impressive – one of the largest in Scandinavia. With over 4000 pieces from 1945 to the present, mainly painting and sculpture, Louisiana’s collected works represent a broad swath of modern art from artists around the world.
Founder Knud W. Jensen opened the museum in 1958 with the intention of sharing Danish modern art with the world but changed tack quickly after only a few years in. The collection and rotating curation of exhibits moved towards sharing international artists and was meant to give the public a democratic space to experience modern art – the first in Denmark. Jensen wanted Louisiana and the art it featured to be available for everyone and created the space with this in mind. On any given day, you can see and stand in awe of icons of art like Giacometti, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Bourgeois, Hockney, Kusama, Moore and more.
AN ICON OF DANISH ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN
Enter into Louisiana through the original Danish villa from 1855, so named for the first owner’s three separate wives – all called Louise (and nothing to do with the southern state of Louisiana.) After you buy your ticket, you’ll quickly see that here is where the 19th-century design ends. Jensen worked closely with Danish architects Wilhelm Wohlert and Jørgen Bo to create a museum space that was minimalist but inviting. The three wanted the building to meld with the existing property, not dominate it.
The resulting horizontal layout of the buildings blends perfectly with the surrounding landscape. And while the current museum you visit today was expanded through seven distinct stages, each was executed by Wolhert and Bo – keeping the collective museum cohesive. It feels like walking through endless corridors and bright white spaces defined by warm wood accents and brass details like you might find at your stylish Danish Mormor‘s (grandmother’s) house. Just except here, it’s chock full of major art – with windows to the lovely Danish landscape outside.
STEP OUTSIDE INTO THE SCULPTURE GARDEN
For me, where Louisiana really shines is outside. Especially when the Danish sun dares make an appearance. Here in the sculpture park, large scale pieces punctuate the landscape inviting visitors to find them on an artful scavenger hunt of sorts. Download the museum’s mobile guide in English to get more in depth information about several of the works, like this two piece sculpture by British artist Henry Moore called Reclining Figure No. 5.
Sculpture is an outdoor art. Sculptures need daylight and sun. I would rather see my sculptures in a landscape than in the most beautiful building in the world.” – Henry Moore quote from Louisiana mobile audio guide.
Most of the outdoor artworks here at Louisiana were created specifically for this museum in mind. Walk through The Gate by Richard Serra to experience this first hand. The organic twisty roots and branches of the surrounding trees present a beautiful dichotomy with the strong angles of the corten steel of this piece. It’s the perfect example of how the landscape at Louisiana is real part of the experience. It’s also a fun way to get your littles to look at art.
ROTATING EXHIBITIONS EXPOSE EXCITING NEW ARTISTS
Knud W. Jensen, Louisiana’s OG director, balanced the growing permanent collection with a rotation of new exhibitions by what he familiarly called – the “sauna” principle. Like a Scandinavian sauna experience that vacillates between a steamy hot inside and a brisk winter dip in the water outside, Jensen wanted to display both the popular (hot) as well as lesser-known (cold) artists represented at the museum.
Hot artists pulled visitors in, seeking out something familiar or famous. But in the same visit, they could be exposed to the works of names and styles that they might have not previously seen or known. Come for the Picassos, Warhols, and Calders but don’t miss the art of Greenfield, Spero and Janssen. It’s part of what makes this museum wonderful. There is always something you will recognize alongside works that may be new to you.
CHILDREN CAN ENJOY THE ART MUSEUM IN SPACES CREATED JUST FOR THEM
While herding your littlest artists may seem daunting at many museums, Louisiana welcomes children with a wing built just for them. Free entry for all offspring under 18 and lots of space to spread out outside, it’s almost like they want your kids to come. And bring them you should. Special activities happen every day when the childrens rooms are open. A great way to get your young ones thinking about the collection and creating something themselves.
DELICIOUS DANISH CUISINE IN THE LOUISIANA CAFE
Make time to enjoy lunch or dinner at the gorgeous cafe on site. When the weather is warmer or sun has come out, take a seat outside with views of the Alexander Calder sculptures on the terrace. From here you can see all the way to Sweden across the Øresund. Even if the weather doesn’t warrant a table al fresco, the inside is cozy and boasts a roaring fire mid-winter. Fresh seasonal Danish food for fair prices (for Scandinavia) you’ll find at the daily buffet. Or try the smørrebrød, Danish open-faced sandwiches. And like any good Danish cafe, there is always coffee and cake.
Lunch buffet | DKK 159, kids under 12 DKK 79
Dinner buffet | DKK 179, kids under 12 DKK 89
GOOD TO KNOW:
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Gammel Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk Demark
Tuesday – Friday | 11.00 – 22.00
Saturday – Sunday | 11.00 – 18.00
Monday | Closed
Children’s Wing | Open Tuesday – Sunday 11.00 – 17.30
Café | daily 11.00 – 19.30, weekends 11.00 – 17.30
Adults 18+ | DKK 130
Students (with ID) | DKK 115
Louisiana Member | Free
Member’s Guests (up to 4) | DKK 110
Children 0-17 | Free
Note: Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult
WHERE TO STAY NEAR LOUISIANA
While I might recommend you stay closer to Copenhagen, if you want to get out of the city and stay in North Zealand, there are lots of places to do so. Here would be my top picks.
Marienlyst Strandhotel in Helsingør – a beautiful historic hotel on the water just north of Humlebæk, added bonus of being near Hamlet’s castle at Kronborg.
Danhostel Helsingør – perfect for families or travelers on a budget with fire pits and access to sandy beach.
Kurhotel Skodsborg – a bit of a splurge further south from Humlebæk but an experience in and of itself, well-known in the region for their amazing spa.
Or click any of the links and look for your own perfect spot.
Note: These are affiliate links and if you click through and book your room at Booking.com, I receive a small kickback at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog.
Have you been to Louisiana? Remember a piece or an exhibit that made your experience? My favorites from the past five years have been the Yayoi Kusama exhibition, a brilliant video installation by William Kentridge and the endlessly impactful Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield. I cannot stop thinking about it.
The current exhibition HOT PINK TURQUOISE by Belgian artist Ann Veronica Jansenns offers a more subtle, but unique museum experience. Ride a bicycle in a museum. You can. Suspend space and exist only in color in her misty Blue, Red and Yellow – a recreation of her groundbreaking work from 2001. It’s disorienting and mesmerizing at the same time. Thumbs up from me.
Coming to Copenhagen? Pop on the train north of the city to explore some seriously good art by the gorgeous Danish seaside. Do Louisiana. Cheers from here.
Looking for more ideas for a day out in Denmark?
Check out these other articles and ideas – all doable in a day out from Copenhagen.