Billund ben­der

Den­mark’s Cap­i­tal of Chil­dren – and home of Lego – ticks all the right boxes

The Guardian - Travel - - Front Page - Flights and ac­com­mo­da­tion were pro­vided by Visit Den­mark. Ryanair cur­rently has flights for May half-term 2018 for £75 and BA for £83 re­turn. Airbnb has a flat for four in the cen­tre of Billund for £61 a night

If you asked your child to de­vise the per­fect hol­i­day, what would it look like? Lots of pool time? A chance to play all day? An­i­mal at­trac­tions? There are plenty of places that might spring to mind, but a small in­land Dan­ish town is prob­a­bly not among them.

Billund in Jut­land, how­ever, has not one but three ma­jor draws for fam­i­lies: the world’s first Le­goland, opened in 1968; Scan­di­navia’s big­gest wa­ter park, La­lan­dia; and, since Septem­ber, the Lego House. On top of that, the town has re­named it­self Cap­i­tal of Chil­dren. Much more than a clever slo­gan, Cap­i­tal of Chil­dren is an or­gan­i­sa­tion set up by the Lego com­pany and the lo­cal coun­cil, tasked with mak­ing Billund the most child-friendly place to live and work, not just in Den­mark, but in the world. In prac­tice, this means lo­cal chil­dren are in­vited to plan­ning meet­ings to give their in­put on new out­door spaces, fa­cil­i­ties and safer routes through the town.

For the vis­i­tor, the most ob­vi­ous man­i­fes­ta­tion of this am­bi­tious project is the Lego House (adult/3-12 years £24, un­der-3s free, lego­house.com). It’s a gleam­ing white ar­chi­tec­tural won­der that looks as if a giant has been play­ing with over­sized Lego bricks. So when I took my seven-year-old son over Oc­to­ber half-term, I knew that we were in for a vis­ual treat. What I hadn’t ex­pected was that there would be so much to do we’d end up spend­ing eight hours there.

There is a gen­uine wow fac­tor in the colos­sal Lego tree (6½ mil­lion bricks) that dom­i­nates the cen­tre of the build­ing, and in the cre­ations dreamed up by Lego su­per fans – known as “Afols” (adult fans of Lego). But the real thrill for chil­dren is hav­ing ac­cess to 25 mil­lion Lego bricks. We made flow­ers for Lego gar­dens, frogs on lily pads and cars that we raced on a track. We com­peted in robot games, and even played through lunch: din­ers build their or­der in bricks, then watch their meal be­ing de­liv­ered in a Lego-style box by robots. Even the ex­hi­bi­tion on the his­tory of Lego had us en­grossed.

Vis­i­tor num­bers are ex­pected to soar in July and Au­gust, when a timed en­try sys­tem will op­er­ate, but in Oc­to­ber half-term I could count on one hand the num­ber of peo­ple in each room.

As fam­ily trips go, Billund was turn­ing out to be a breeze, with queue­free at­trac­tions, and easy driv­ing … . At Le­goland (one-day pass adult £43, child £40, le­goland.dk), we walked straight on to ev­ery ride, re­turn­ing to some for a sec­ond go just be­cause we could. And then there’s La­lan­dia (la­lan­dia.dk) right next door.

To en­ter the re­volv­ing door of La­lan­dia is to swap the real world for a win­dow­less, Ve­gas-style mega zone, with painted blue skies, a “street” of cafes and shops, a mini-am­phithe­atre and a head-spin­ning num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties: ice-skat­ing to bowl­ing, crazy golf to games ar­cades. With­out a doubt the high­light is the Aquadome (adult £32, 3-12 years £26, un­der-3s free). We spent an af­ter­noon splash­ing around in the four pools and six wa­ter­slides, and rid­ing fat tubes on giant in­flat­a­bles. When we were spewed out of the Tor­nado slide, my son had a manic grin on his face. “My body hates it but my brain loves it!” he squealed.

La­lan­dia is to­tally naff, so nat­u­rally kids love it. But the on-site cot­tages ex­hibit the Dan­ish flair for cool, calm­ing spaces. In bet­ter weather, we would have made use of our ter­race and the play­grounds dot­ted about the site.

When we’d had our fill of Lego and wa­ter­slides, we moved on, first to Givskud zoo (adult £24, 3-11 years £12, un­der-3s free, givskud­zoo.dk)

– a sa­fari park with the bonus of 40 life-size di­nosaurs – and then to the nearby town of Ve­jle. Sit­ting at the top of a fjord on Jut­land’s east coast, Ve­jle is pop­u­lar for out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. Re­cently, the town has gained a rep­u­ta­tion for strik­ing ar­chi­tec­ture: the award-win­ning Bøl­gen (Wave), a row of five un­du­lat­ing apart­ment build­ings, over­looks the har­bour, and the float­ing Ve­jle Kayak Club. We ad­mired both from Re­mouladen, a stylish restau­rant with blond wood ta­bles, chairs with sheep­skin throws and a menu fea­tur­ing open sand­wiches, a Dan­ish spe­cial­ity.

With 10 mu­se­ums, Ve­jle punches well above its weight cul­tur­ally. The Mu­seum of Cul­tural His­tory shares space in a for­mer cot­ton mill with arts stu­dios and start-ups and is the rest­ing place of Har­ald­skaer Woman, a bog body dat­ing from 490BC and dis­cov­ered in 1835. She may be a hard sell for kids af­ter Lego and La­lan­dia, but par­ents will ap­pre­ci­ate a bar­gain lunch in the cafe. Be­tween noon and 1pm, there’s a small buf­fet of freshly made dishes for around £8 a head, or half of that for just the soup.

Kold­ing, half an hour to the south, is an­other small town with a thriv­ing cul­tural scene. Its Trapholt de­sign mu­seum is its best-known arts venue but fam­i­lies shouldn’t miss Ni­co­lai for Børn, a chil­dren’s cen­tre of­fer­ing cre­ative ac­tiv­i­ties and a laid-back restau­rant also with a buf­fet lunch. We stayed at Kold­ing Ho­tel Apart­ments, with stylish in­te­ri­ors and views of the flood­lit 16th-cen­tury cas­tle.

With non-stop en­ter­tain­ment, this trip was al­ways go­ing to be a win­ner with my son. I’m al­ready plan­ning a re­turn visit – this time in sum­mer, to make the most of the east and west coasts (both within easy reach). Billund may be Cap­i­tal of Chil­dren but Jut­land could cer­tainly lay claim to be­ing the most kid-friendly place in Europe for hol­i­days.

With Ve­gas-style mega­zones and painted blue skies, La­lan­dia is to­tally naff – so nat­u­rally kids love it

Lego crazy … (clock­wise from top) the Lego House in Billund; La­lan­dia; Bøl­gen in Ve­jle

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