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More about Odense, the Largest City on the Island of Funen

Congratulations! You’ve made the first baby steps considering moving to Odense, Denmark, birthplace of fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen. This city is Denmark’s third-largest, home to over 200,000 inhabitants and buzzing with activity.

The city’s shining pearl, the new concert hall ODEON opened in spring 2017. It is part of Odense’s massive infrastructural transformation, which will result in a light rail in a few years. But don’t worry—as Denmark’s most bicycle-friendly city with over 335 miles (540 km) of dedicated bicycle lanes, Odense gives you plenty of options to bike all over town until then.

If you get hungry from all that bicycling, you might want to join one of the collective dining arrangements at the Restaurant Schiøtz in ODEON, where a meal shared with a table of friends or strangers (up to you) is only 85 kr.

An Entrepreneurial Environment

The startup culture is strong here. Many enterprising internationals have sought advice and assistance from Stjerneskibet (“The Star Ship” and part of Odense Municipality), Coworking Plus/Odense, SDU Cortex Lab, and Forskerparken (The Research Park). Being home to a multitude of IT/tech companies, such as Umbraco, Ordbogen, Hesehus, RedWeb and many others, also lends to the vibrant mindset of budding entrepreneurs.

The island of Funen is home to three major business areas: Welfare Technology, Robotics & Automation, and UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System, popularly known as ‘drones’).

Who will find solutions for Europe’s aging population? What are the latest medical innovations? Welfare Tech can connect you to the answers.

In spring 2017, the Odense Robotics cluster was awarded gold certification, making Funen an even more attractive place for robotics and automation researchers, businesses and startups to join a network of 100+ robotics and automation companies. Odense Robotics’ Job Bank is a collection of the posted job advertisements from their cluster members.

A thriving drone technology study program at SDU, combined with the proximity of the Hans Christian Andersen airport, contributes to Denmark’s international test center and cluster of UAS.

Odense was nominated ‘Startup City of the Year’ in 2015 and has played host to Davis Cup (Denmark v. Spain), Factory of Imagination, TEDx, NBA3x and Thinkers50 Europe, to name just a few highlights.

Festivals Galore!

Odense is host to well over 70 annual festivals! Everything from film (including LGBT) to flowers to foods and drinks (such as tartlets, cake and IPA beer) to culture celebrating blues and jazz, or Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales to world cultures, has found its niche.

Tinderbox, the three-day long outdoor music festival in late June, showcased headliners such as internationally-renowned The Killers and Odense’s own modern musical treasure, Kim Larsen, in 2017.

The Havenkulturfestival (Harbor Cultural Festival), held the last full weekend of May, is a free 3-day festival held at Odense Harbor, just minutes’ walking distance from the Odense train station. Activities for the entire family, music lovers, dancers, tech nerds, and foodies can be found all weekend.

Speaking of free and the harbor, in 2016 the brand-new Odense Harbor swimming pool opened its doors—er, gates to the public, complete with a sauna and winter hours for the so-called ‘polar bears’ among us! Its red-and-white lifeguard tower provides an attractive focal point of the harbor’s gentrified landscape.

Thinktanks

The presence of higher educational institutions, the University of Southern Denmark and Lillebælt Academy, mean that a lot of talented people from all over the world move to study (or teach) here. The local hospital, OUH (Odense University Hospital) is said to be the largest workplace on Funen.

OUH has broken ground which will be a new ‘super-hospital’. It is one of the planned stops on the light rail, which will connect several key areas of interest in Odense, including Odense Stadium, Odense train station, the shopping center Rosengårdcenteret and the University of Southern Denmark.

Another company that has broken ground in Odense is Facebook! The social media company is building a data center here. Director of Data Center Operations, Niall McEntegart, said, “Our Odense facility will be one of the most advanced, energy-efficient data centers in the world”.

Shopping Opportunities in Odense

Odense center’s two ‘walking streets’ of Vestergade and Kongensgade intersect, giving the city shopper ample shops to explore international and Danish brands, such as Samsøe & Samsøe®, H&M Home, and several of the BESTSELLER brands. The city’s multi-level department store, Magasin, features its own brand along with luxury brands of clothing, as well as a specialty foods shop and a vast cosmetics department, including Sephora and MAC. Tourists receive a 10% discount at Magasin by showing their passports at purchase.

Taking a break from shopping is easy to do at any of the number of cafés in Odense city center. They all have different atmospheres: for French, try Cafe Skt. Gertrud’s; for hipster, try Nelle’s; for organic, try Cafe Skt. Anne or Cafe Fleuri; for southern European, try Fredo’s Coffee Right; for a national chain, try Baresso; for delicious cakes, try Themsens Cafe & Temptations or Mahis Cabin; for vegan, try Cosmos or Venchi…the possibilities are seemingly unlimited.

If grabbing a beer is more to your liking (or to a spouse who does not share a high level of shopping enthusiasm), try checking out the Tipsy Toad Pub, Ryan’s Irish Pub, Papas Papbar, Dunk, or Christian IV-tal.

To replenish all the calories burned while shopping in the city center, the world is your oyster. Odense has the most restaurants per capita of any other Danish city! We, as Americans, would be remiss to not give a shout out to Burger Anarchy, which in 2014 was the first restaurant in Odense to serve Dr. Pepper and sweet potato fries. You can also wash down their gourmet burgers with a bona fide milkshake. Do not take only our potentially biased word for it, though: the sweet potato fries were quickly sold out on opening night, and they added a new location in Næstved less than three years after launching.

South of Odense city center is Denmark’s second-largest shopping center, Rosengårdcenteret. It houses over 150 stores over 100,000 square meters. Many of the same stores are also found in the city center, but those that are not include ZARA, Sportpoint, Colosseum Sport, and VILA to name a few. In close proximity to Rosengårdcenteret are several other stores, including Bilka, ToysRUs and IKEA, which was Denmark’s largest at the time of its opening in 2009. Rosengårdcenteret is easily accessible by a number of bus lines and will be one of the stops of the future light rail.

Denmark’s Third-Largest City, Yet Teeming with Nature

Even though Odense is Denmark’s third-largest city, it boasts over 250 playgrounds and a number of green areas. One can use Odense Municipality’s app, Odense Rundt, to explore the outdoor options. In early 2017 fitness personality and fellow American Chris MacDonald was at the opening of the newest outdoor activity park, which has equipment for all ages, including a zip line.

Ice Cream and Cross Fitness on Stige Island

Located just a handful of kilometers from Odense Harbor is Stige Island. When workers manually dug Odense Harbor at the turn of the 19th century, the earth was transported and became Stige Island. The island has had a broad history of its own, from being the elite’s summer hotel getaway over a century ago to becoming a landfill to being reclaimed.

In 2016 a new cross fitness track opened on Stige Island, giving weekend warriors new physical challenges. For those that have a sweet tooth and want to reward their workout, stop at the Soepavillon for a traditional ice cream.

Odense – Denmark’s Most Bicycle-Friendly City

One may wonder how does one access all of these green areas? Why on bicycle, of course! Odense is known as the most bicycle-friendly city in all of Denmark. Explore the city on more than 540 kilometers of bike paths, 123 bicycle bridges, 65 bike path tunnels and 19 air pump stations.

In spring 2017, The Washington Post wrote a story about bicycling in Odense with the headline: “This Danish city is so bike-friendly, even kindergartners ride to school”. It’s true!

International Community of Odense

As the third-largest city in Denmark with a population of over 200,000 and home to major educational institutions and business clusters, Odense’s population is composed of over 150 nationalities.

At the beginning of 2016, Odense Municipality opened a new department to assist with making the transition for internationals to life in Denmark. International Community Odense can help with everything from securing daycare and school enrollments for children to finding a cultural or career mentor via Odense Host Programme to arranging social gatherings for both internationals and Danes.

The US Women’s Club of Fyn has existed since 1984 and is just one of a number of cultural associations in Odense. The diversity of the city was celebrated at the Harbor Cultural Festival in 2016. The ‘DiverCity’ tent at the festival included stands with French wine and cheese from Alliance Francaise de Fionie and Turkish foods from OPSAK.

Last Stop of the Tour of Odense

Hopefully you have enjoyed the overview of current happenings in Odense, birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. If you are ever in town and are interested in joining USWCF, drop us a line at info@uswcf.dk and we will be in touch.

If you would like to advertise your business to our Club membership, this is possible in our quarterly newsletters. Contact us at info@uswcf.dk for more information.

Written by Katie Christiansen

Odense Facebook Groups

USWCF Public Page – the Club’s ‘storefront’ on Facebook

Expat Parents in Odense – for international and Danish-international families in Odense

Odense Restaurant Guide – find your way among the plethora of dining choices

This Is Odense – a weekly blog running on volunteer power, featuring writer’s picks

Lær Dansk – the official Danish-as-second-language school in Odense

Cook N Talk – a monthly event run by volunteers who encourage cross-culture learning over food

Chat in Danish – a bi-weekly meetup to practice Danish in a casual, non-classroom atmosphere

Expat Sites

Expat Woman – Connecting women worldwide

FAWCO – Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas

US Embassy – US Embassy in Denmark

Danish Government Sites

Denmark – The official website of Denmark

Odense Municipality – The official website of Odense Municipality

International Community Odense – Odense Municipality’s department for assisting internationals

Work Live Stay – Bridging business in southern Denmark with the world’s talents

Work in Denmark – A public service assisting businesses with finding international talent

I Citizen – International Citizen Service of Denmark

English-Language Media in Denmark

Copenhagen Post

The Murmur

The Local

Your Danish Life