35km (22 miles) NW of Copenhagen
We don't expect you to fall in love with Hillerød. Unless you've consumed a lot of Danish beer, it can be a bit dull. We come here not only because it's a transport hub for North Zealand, especially for those connecting to trains heading for the north shore beaches, but to see its sprawling castle of Frederiksborg.
After a fire swept over it in 1859, even the royal family found the repairs too costly. They gave it up to the Carlsberg beer baron, J. C. Jacobsen, and he spearheaded the move to create the extravagant palace you see today.
You can spend at least an 1 1/2 hours here wandering through its chambers before falling in love with the baroque gardens out back and wishing, with a greedy eye, they were yours to romp in.
Even if you don't like palaces and gardens, the ideal time to arrive here is in summer for the Viking Festival.
If you, like us, are into long walks, you've come to the right place. Hillerød, in the heart of North Zealand, is surrounded by some of the most beautiful and extensive woodlands in the country. Christian IV used to ride through here back in 1602, and you can follow his trails. Space is too cramped here for us to go into all the best walks and trails to follow, but the tourist office will give you a leaflet outlining "the best of the best." Even the dour philosopher Søren Kierkegaard reveled in the tranquillity of these forests.
To the south sprawl the woodlands of Store Dyrehave, but we prefer the northern stretch of Gribskov, the second-largest forest in Denmark. The woodlands are still rich in game, and we take delight in spotting the pale, tailless roe deer. It's estimated there are some 800 fallow deer here, each distinguished by its white-speckled hide.
If you don't like to walk, you can also ask the tourist office for another leaflet, Bicycle Routes in North Zealand. Routes drawn on the map follow the most scenic paths, roads, and forest trails.
The forests of Gribskov front our favorite North Zealand lake, Esrum Sø. If you like bathing in admittedly chilly waters, sailing a boat, or fishing, you've come to the right place. The parklands of Fredensborg Slot lie on the eastern shore of the lake, where chances are good in summer that you can hook up with one of the concessions featuring sailing trips on this gorgeous lake.