Odense is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. This is where

Odense is the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. This is where
the famous fairy tale writer was born in 1805, the son of a poor shoemaker and a washerwoman, and with one foot in the Middle Ages
and the other in modernity. Odense was Denmark’s largest provincial city, but at a time when superstition was still an important part
of city life and the writer’s childhood. Odense has changed a lot since
then, though there are still buildings and places that look like they
did in the storyteller’s day. If you follow the footsteps around the city
centre, you will easily find the Hans Christian Andersen Museum
and Childhood Home as well as the Tinderbox - a cultural centre for
children. And the footsteps will also take you past another 11 sites of
great significance to Hans Christian Andersen’s childhood and his
fantastic writings. This guide will provide you with information about
the different sites and their significance to Andersen as well as details
on other wonderful experiences. Have fun!
3.1 Km
Odense Bys Museer
Overgade 48
DK-5000 Odense C
T. +45 6551 4601
Download app: AndersensOdense.dk
Life itself is the most
wonderful fairy tale
Hans Christian Andersen – What the whole family said
The Museum
Denmark’s great fairy tale writer
Hans Christian Andersen (1805–
75) managed to write his way into
the history books as one of the most
significant and most prolific writers
of all time. He is best known today
for his fairy tales for children and
adults. In addition to his 156 fairy
tales, he wrote 14 novels and short
stories, around 50 dramatic works,
some 1,000 poems and a wealth of
biographical works, articles and humorous pieces.
Since 1908, the birthplace of the
world famous writer has been part of
the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which has been extended several
times. The museum exhibition is organised into a number of themes, each
of which has its own room in the museum. Entrance fee.
K Transformations
3 Entrance
3 The Man
3 Shop, ticket office
3 Cinema
3 Ticket office
3 Cloakroom, toilet
3 The Age
3 The Art
The Life
J The Birthplace
L Breathing space
M Nyhavn
N The Memorial Hall
O The Work
P The Gallery Passage
Q The Tinderbox
The age
Hans Christian Andersen lived during an age of great change. He was
born into a world where only around
60% of the European population survived childhood, where the king was
the law, illiteracy was widespread, and
where technical and scientific progress was really taking off. When he
died in 1875, the monarchy no longer
had absolute power, illiteracy had all
but been wiped out, and society was
marked by science and technology.
But it was still a Europe where mortality rates and poverty were extremely high, where sexuality was taboo,
where the death penalty was a matter
of course, and where wars were still so
frequent that they received little coverage in the press.
The man
Hans Christian Andersen was roughly 1.85 m tall – that’s 25 cm taller
than average in the 1800s. The longlimbed, tall man and his distinctive
face with its deep-set, heavy-lidded
eyes and big nose did not fit it with the
beauty ideals of that day. He was considered ugly, odd – even downright re-
pulsive – and his outward appearance
caused a stir and made an ungainly,
comical impression on most people.
However, those who got to know the
writer had a different impression entirely. They found his face lively and
spirited, his figure stately and his appearance elegant.
The art
Throughout his life, Hans Christian
Andersen possessed a tremendous imagination and sensitivity – something
the writer considered both a spiritual
gift and a spiritual illness. This sensitivity is also found in his imaginative paper cuts and drawings, which
are presented side by side some of the
original and most significant treasures
relating to Hans Christian Andersen
and his artistic life. The pen does not
write any more and the scissors do not
cut. The rope was never used, and the
bed is no longer slept in. And yet these
treasures live on as a reminder of Hans
Christian Andersen’s amazing life and
To live is not enough!
One must have sunshine,
freedom and a little flower!
Hans Christian Andersen – The Butterfly
The life
The biographical exhibition encircles the Memorial Hall and contains three sections. The first section
is about Hans Christian Andersen’s
impoverished childhood in Odense,
where his artistic dreams are awakened by the theatre, his education and
early artistic beginnings in Copenhagen, where he travels to at the age of
14. The second section of the exhibition follows his extensive travels and
international breakthrough and success with his fairy tales. The world
bows to his talent, but still there is an
emptiness and a great loneliness in his
life. Love and family life evade him.
Through his art, he has gained a foothold in the Copenhagen bourgeoisie,
but as yet he has no financial means
to hope for marriage. The third section of the exhibition is about Hans
Christian Andersen in the autumn
of his life. Artistic success has turned
to financial success, but now he is too
old to marry. From the age of 14, he
has lived alone, among other places in
the Nyhavn room, which can also be
seen in this part of the museum. Famous and acclaimed by all, immortalised through his art, but still lonely, he
dies in 1875.
To travel
is to live
Hans Christian Andersen
– The Fairy Tale of My Life
The birthplace
Hans Christian Andersen was born
in Odense’s worst slum area. In a
neighbourhood populated by roustabouts, paupers and beggars, he came
into this world in a home that was not
even his parents’ own. They did not
have a place of their own and there-
fore had to lodge with family. Immediately after his birth, the priest was
summoned, and Hans Christian Andersen was baptised – probably out of
a fear that he would not survive the
early hardships ahead of him.
Transformations is a fairy tale world
at the bottom of the sea – a world
that is both familiar and unfamiliar
at the same time. It shares not its secrets willingly, and in this world, you
are the stranger. Only through the
power of imagination is the fairy tale
brought to life and the underwater
world becomes habitable.
through life
is an invisible
Hans Christian Andersen
– The Fairy Tale of My Life
At several points in his life, Hans
Christian Andersen lived in Nyhavn,
close to the Royal Danish Theatre in
Copenhagen. He also lived here in his
final years, and the museum’s authen-
tic reconstruction shows the writer’s
study from this time on the first floor
at Nyhavn 18. All of the items on display belonged to Andersen.
The Memorial Hall
In 1929, the Memorial Hall at the
Hans Christian Andersen Museum was decorated by the artist Niels
Larsen Stevns. He painted eight large
frescoes – eight pictures from Hans
Christian Andersen’s life, taken from
the writer’s autobiography “The Fairy
Tale of My Life”. The series of paintings begins and ends in Odense, and
follows the day from the first light of
morning to the darkness of night.
The work
The library at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum shows the broad dissemination of the storyteller’s works,
both before and after his death. Hans
Christian Andersen is one of the writers whose works have been translat-
ed into most languages. To date, the
museum has registered translations
into almost 160 different languages​​,
though not all of them can be found
in the library.
The Gallery
Hans Christian Andersen did not illustrate his own writing, but when it
came to words, he was a true visual
artist. Ever since 1838, artists have
drawn inspiration from the writer’s
works and illustrated them. Exhibited
in the Gallery Passage is a small selection of the many wonderful and varied
interpretations of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.
There is a
loving God
who directs
all things
for the best
Hans Christian Andersen
– The Fairy Tale of My Life
The Tinderbox
Play your way into the fairy tale…
The Tinderbox is a cultural centre for
children where Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are brought to life
through play, storytelling, theatre
and art. The whole centre is designed
to inspire play and hours of activities
– wonderful experiences for all the
family. Entrance fee.
The Birthplace
At the beginning of the 1800s, the
now iconic yellow house on the corner was located in the poorest part of
Odense, and the majority of the neighbourhood’s inhabitants belonged to
the lowest echelons of society – soldiers, roustabouts, paupers and beg-
gars who scraped a living from doing
odd jobs. This is the environment that
Hans Christian Andersen was born
into. Back then, as many as five families shared the home of his birth. Since
1908, the house has been part of the
Hans Christian Andersen Museum.
The Market Square
Situated on Sortebrødre Market
Square was the only permanent theatre outside Copenhagen. This theatrical world of imagination and storytelling enchanted Hans Christian
Andersen. As poor as he was, he did
not get the chance to see many performances, but instead collected the
theatre’s posters and programmes,
which he used as a source of inspiration at home. He managed to get into
the theatre on one occasion – as an extra in a play. His only line fuelled his
dream of fame and a life on the stage,
and not long after, aged 14, he made
his way out into the world in search of
adventure and fortune.
The Workhouse
On the first floor of the workhouse
was the Charity School. This was
where Hans Christian Andersen received his irregular and free education during the last few years that he
lived in Odense. The teaching was inadequate and the textbooks few, and
the young Andersen spent most of his
time composing new stories from the
biblical murals that adorned the walls
of the school’s reading room. By the
cathedral on his way to school, Andersen passed the grave of his father
and not least the Latin School, where
he dreamed of becoming a pupil. The
future looked bright for the pupils
there – they had good textbooks and
received excellent tuition.
The Washing Site
Further up the river, at a special washing site like this, Hans Christian Andersen’s mother worked as a washerwoman. Forced to stand in the cold
water for long periods as she toiled,
she warmed herself with alcohol. She
died in 1833 of her addiction, which
had developed into the disease delirium tremens. Back then, the still
poor writer was unable to help her,
but many years later he restored his
mother’s dignity in the fairy tale “She
Was Good for Nothing”. Here, he
defended her against the condemnation of the outside world and painted
a sad picture of his mother’s harsh living conditions and her great love for
her child.
The Statue
The large bronze statue of Hans
Christian Andersen was unveiled in
Kongens Have in June 1888. Today,
it is located by the river Odense Å,
with Hans Christian Andersen looking down towards the deepest part of
the river where, in his day, the Aumann, a water spirit, was thought to
live. When anyone drowned in the
river, it was said the Au-mann had
taken them as an offering in order to
prevent the river from overflowing its
banks and causing major damage. This
is the place that inspired Hans Christian Andersen to write the fairy tale
“The Bell Deep”.
The Prison
When Hans Christian Andersen’s
grandmother married for the first time
in 1783, it was to a man who knew the
then prison, Odense Tugthus, from
the inside. From 1782–1783, he had
served a sentence for having shot at a
manor house huntsman. Hans Christian Andersen also spent some time
inside – but only as a visitor. As his
parents knew the gatekeeper, on special family occasions, Odense prison
provided the setting for their celebrations. However, the young Andersen
was afraid of the inmates who served
at the festivities. In the novel “O.T.”,
Hans Christian Andersen describes
this cruel institution.
The Childhood Home
From the age of two until he was 14,
Hans Christian Andersen lived in
his childhood home on Munkemøllestræde. Today, his childhood home
and the adjoining properties have
been converted into a small museum.
It was a cramped and impoverished
home, and yet Hans Christian Andersen looks back on this time in his
childhood home with nostalgic joy.
Because it was also a home filled with
love. Entrance fee.
A Shop, ticket office
B The exhibition
C The living room
D The kitchen
The exhibition
The small exhibition in his childhood home contains impressions from
Hans Christian Andersen’s childhood
in Odense. It was a time when medieval superstition was still very much
alive, and Hans Christian Andersen’s
mother inculcated this superstition
into the young boy’s mind. His father,
on the other hand, professed more to
reason. He was, in his own words, a
freethinker. His greatest regret in life
was not being able to stay in school,
but being forced into an apprenticeship as a shoemaker. This was not
something he wanted for his son – no
matter how unreasonable and unrealistic the boy’s dreams were, he should
be allowed to pursue them.
The living room
It was here, in his childhood home,
that Hans Christian Andersen’s imagination began to flourish. A small
puppet theatre was his most treasured
possession, and it became the place
where his imagination could unfold.
Theatre posters, stories he had heard,
and the books he read – everything
could be used as material for Hans
Christian Andersen’s vivid imagination and puppet theatre performances.
Many years later, his childhood home
would become material and inspiration for the fairy tale writer.
The kitchen
In his childhood home, the cricket
chirped when Hans Christian Andersen’s father lay dead in his bed.
His mother, who was lying on the
floor with Andersen, exclaimed: “He’s
dead, you do not have to sing for him,
the Ice Maiden has taken him!”. Many
years later, it was such childhood experiences that inspired him to write
his fairy tales. In “The Snow Queen”
– a tale about faith and superstition
– Andersen even revisits his childhood home at the beginning of the
fairy tale: “From the kitchen, there
was a ladder up to the loft, where, in
the gutter between our house and the
neighbour’s house, there was a box
of earth containing chives and parsley, my mother’s entire garden; in my
fairy tale: The Snow Queen it flourishes still”.
To be born in a duck’s nest,
in a farmyard, is of no
consequence to a bird, if it
is hatched from a swan’s egg
Hans Christian Andersen – The Ugly Duckling
The Cathedral
Odense Cathedral, St. Canute’s, is the
setting of three events in Hans Christian Andersen’s life. It was here that
his parents married, just three months
before he was born in 1805. The square
that surrounds the church today was a
cemetery in Andersen’s day, and it was
here that his father was buried, aged
33, in 1816. Three years later, it was
also where Andersen was confirmed.
For the special occasion, he had been
given a pair of leather boots. The joy
and pride he felt over the new boots
almost overshadowed the solemness
of the actual confirmation. In the fairy
tale “The Red Shoes”, Hans Christian
Andersen refers back to his childhood
memory and his own vanity.
The Town Hall
In the cellar of the Town Hall, Hans
Christian Andersen’s grandmother
had existed on bread and water because she had given birth to three children out of wedlock. But from the first
floor window of the Town Hall, Hans
Christian Andersen, experienced his
happiest moment – despite his terrible
toothache: On 6 December 1867, the
people of Odense paid homage to him
and he became an honorary citizen
of the city. The square in front of the
Town Hall was lit by a torchlight procession, and for Hans Christian Andersen it was also the fulfilment of an
old prophecy. Shortly before heading
out into the world as a young man in
search of fame and fortune, his future
was foretold in coffee grounds. “He’ll
do better than he deserves – one day
the whole of Odense will be lit up in
his honour,” was the prediction.
The Hospital
In Andersen’s day, Gråbrødre was a
whole complex comprising a church, a
hospital and an asylum for the insane.
This was where his grandfather was
admitted as a madman in 1823, and
ten years later, his mother died here of
delirium tremens. It was also where,
as a child, Hans Christian Andersen
had listened to stories told by the elderly paupers. Both fascinated and
frightened by them, he would often lie
outside the buildings which housed
the “insane”, listening to their songs,
cursing and ramblings.
The Castle
Odense was known as “the little Copenhagen”, when, in 1815, the castle
became the residence of the Prince
Governor Christian Frederik, later King Christian VIII. Andersen’s
mother worked here as a washerwoman from time to time, and she often
took her son with her. In the castle
yard, he played with the other servant
children – and also with Prince Frits,
later King Frederik VII. Odense only
has two honorary citizens. Funnily enough, they are the king and the
writer, Frederik VII and Hans Christian Andersen – one from the absolute
top and one from the absolute bottom
of society.
The Church
Hans Christian Andersen was presented in the old church o​n Easter
Monday 1805, around ten days after his birth. In the church, the child
screamed so loudly that the priest became angry, exclaiming: “He cries like
a cat!” However, one of his godfathers
comforted his mother by saying that
the louder the child screamed, the
better a singer he would be when he
was older. And how right he was! To
this day, Hans Christian Andersen is
honoured with a plaque in the church.
Other fairy tale
The Funen Village – a village from
the time of Hans Christian Andersen
Sejerskovvej 20 • 5260 Odense S • museum.odense.dk
The Funen Village is a village from the time of Hans Christian Andersen.
Here you can experience how most people on Funen lived 200 years ago
in a society full of changes that affected even quite ordinary people. Enjoy the beautiful scenery, the blooming gardens, the live stock and village
life in the 1800s.
Odense Aafart – a fairy tale river cruise
Filosofgangen 28 • 5000 Odense C • odenseaafart.dk
Odense Aafart has been sailing people up and down the Odense River
since 1882. In the words of our guests: Coziness, relaxation, summer and
sun, happiness and beautiful scenery.
Odense ZOO
Sdr. Boulevard 306 • 5000 Odense C • odensezoo.dk
Odense ZOO offers a variety of unique experiences throughout the
year. Enjoy the captivating big brown eyes of the giraffe while you stand
feeding it face-to-face, watch tigers and lions being trained or see other
animals being fed. In the summer, you can also spend the night with your
family on the savannah.
Our time is
the time of fairy tales
Hans Christian Andersen
– The Dryad