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