Following the trail of Scandinavian crime fiction – Sarah Lund, Copenhagen

Holiday season is upon us, and as if that’s not enough other work duties are taking all of my time so to make sure you have something to read on a regular basis for the next month or so we will be republishing some forgotten gems from the past. And adding new content when we can, of course.

Here’s the second of our Nordic Noir locations articles…

Scandinavian crime fiction is still riding the crest of a wave and we have been finding out how the various tourism offices have been capitalising on its popularity. As fans ourselves, it’s certainly fun to visit locations used in films and books too.

Even more fun to play at being Wallander or Sarah Lund for a day?

Er yes, I didn’t realise we’d been spotted…

It was the whisky drinking in Ystad and that jumper in Copenhagen that gave it away mate…

Image (c) BBC/DR/DR

Can we get back on topic please? Right, having wandered after Wallander in the lovely town of Ystad in Sweden it was time for Copenhagen and a few of the places used in “Forbrydelsen”.


Oh right, “The Killing” as it’s known to you guys. The Danish television series was a massive hit in its home country when it came out in 2007. Indeed it was seen by almost half the population – imagine that in UK or USA terms and you begin to see why it stirred up international attention. The BBC in the UK sat on it for some reason but when it was eventually shown there it attracted more viewers than “Mad Men”. The BBC didn’t wait so long to broadcast the second series…

So Copenhagen is all fired up to make a Killing from fans then?

Well, actually no. The tourist board could learn a lot from Ystad about how to promote the connections with the TV series. I suspect they were rather taken by surprise and do seem to be working on it though. When we visited in the summer there was no mention of the TV series on the official website but they have now posted some details on a specific page. Annoyingly (and somewhat unforgiveably) a lot of the deeper links are broken and some of the location details are vague. But it’s a start, so there’s enough for independent travellers to mark on their maps. A better alternative is a guided walk with Peter and Ping (a small company that specialises in literary tours) but these are currently infrequent – again the summer season will presumably offer more regular tours.

How do I get there?

Copenhagen is easily reached by air, rail or ferry – depending of course where you are coming from. Malmo in Sweden is just over the Øresund bridge (a quick tip – a new Danish/Swedish crime thriller about a murder on the brdige called, er, The Bridge, has just begun its run here in Norway and is a major hit. The BBC will show it this year too so you’ll have another reason to come over). As we mentioned in the Wallander article. Ystad is also within easy reach of Copenhagen so you can brutally murder two birds with one stone if you area a fan of that series too.

Where can I stay?

Copenhagen has plenty of accommodation options but we have our clear favourite, the Adina Apartment Hotel.

Okay so what did you get to see then?

A lot of the intrigue in the first series takes place in Copenhagen Town Hall. You can pretty much wander at will in the maze of offices and expect to see Troels Hartmann round every corner.

The building is a tourist attraction in itself with its amazing Renaissance style and often slightly absurd decorations…

Next up I hit the north of the city to find the building used in the series as Sarah Lund’s apartment; it can be found in the upmarket area of Østerbro on the corner of Middelfartgade and Vardegade. Look, I even got a picture:

Recognize this?

Next came the highlight for me – police headquarters. The enormous block of concrete is as stark as it seems in the series and a bold piece of architecture.

The information on the website was annoyingly vague when it came to the location of the townhouse with which Theis Birk Larsen surprises his wife. I found out on my return home (and via a UK newspaper, believe it or not) that I had in fact walked past the very property. It is located in Humleby (‘hop town’) which was built by Carlsberg right next to their huge brewery. The houses on Jerichausgade were  inspired by terraced streets in the UK and it shows – it feels strangely like an English city suburb. Carlsberg has a strong presence in the whole area, not least with it’s almost ‘Wonka’-esque brewery.

Fans will also want to take a look at Christiansborg Palace (the Danish Parliament) which features heavily in series 2 (and of course in “Borgen” – get it?) – the Danish political drama which was also a hit on the BBC:

My immersion in the world of Sarah Lund ended as I flew out of Kastrup Airport and almost directly over the forest where in the first series Nana Birk Larsen’s body is found at Amager. If you have your own transport you could go out there but be warned – it’s a seriously spooky place where they used to hang lawbreakers and let them swing in the breeze as a deterrent to others…

So all in all a great way to add a twist to your next trip to Copenhagen – which has so much else to offer too, as we shall be detailing in further articles. The tourist board needs to work on its material but with a little planning you can already satisfy your Danish crime cravings.

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

Articles: 1280


  1. I think it will always be more fun when recognizing the things you get to see and get some kind of story around it, whether or not it’s true or fiction.

    It’s also very interesting to see how different approach to travel increases nowadays and so do this form of touristing – as good as any other reason for travel there, right?

    I can’t resist to leave you a link to a related post of mine:

    Happy travels 🙂

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