Even though he was born on April2, it's never too late to celebrate the birthday of Odense's best-known son, Hans Christian Andersen. From the end of July until mid-August, the fabled storyteller's best known works - including The Ugly Duckling and The Emperor's New Clothes - will be staged at a special festival in his hometown. And throughout the year, visitors can follow a heritage trail that's dotted with statues commemorating Andersen's most famous characters. Of course, there's much more to Odense - pronounced 'Own-zer' - than fairy tales. The capital of the island of Funen and Denmark's third largest city, its centre is highly picturesque, with cobbled, tree-lined streets flanked by houses which were built up to five centuries ago. The whole of Odense is pedestrian and bike-friendly, and the main attractions all lie within a few minutes' walk or ride of each other. St Knuds Cathedral is one of the city's icons, rising high above the rest of Odense and a place of pilgrimage for the past 700 years. King Canute the Holy was murdered here in 1086, and his bones are on display in the crypt. The cathedral is considered one of Denmark's finest Gothic buildings, and the altar piece, which was carved by Claus Berg in the 16th century, is amazingly detailed. A more active glimpse of life in days gone by is showcased at the Funen Village, a complete reconstruction of a 19th-century community with demonstrations of how farming was carried out in a pre-mechanical age. There's plenty of hands-on activities to keep visitors entertained, and photo opportunities with the farm animals. Drop by the clog maker for a truly memorable souvenir. One of the most entertaining tours in Odense starts at 9pm every evening, when traditionally garbed watchmen make their rounds of the old quarter, starting at Overgade, and winding their way around the streets calling out the hours in rhyme and telling folktales. English is Denmark's second language, widely spoken throughout the country, so there are few problems with translation. Railway buffs will be in their element in Odense because it is home to the Danish Railways Museum, which contains dozens of old engines, carriages and associated memorabilia, while youngsters get their own model train which they can board and ride around the grounds. Under-12s can romp for ages at a specially designed play area called The Lion's Den, on Roersvej, which includes a six-metre-high climbing frame and giant slides. Similarly entertaining, Odense Zoo covers several continents, with a South American rainforest, an undersea reef, and an Arctic section where penguins cavort all day long. Apart from an annual celebration of Hans Christian Andersen, Odense puts on numerous festivals and cultural events throughout the year. An International Blues Festival in May and a similarly cosmopolitan film fest in August draw well-known names and a legion of fans. Jazz on the Odense River, which starts in June and runs for two months, brings together one of the city's minor passions with a picturesque locale. And it's a similar ethos which sees opera lovers converging on the Engen, a broad meadow, with picnics and blankets for one of the year's most convivial concerts in August. Odense is by no means short of places to eat, from alfresco cafes that act as a social centre for the locals (Baker's Cafe, on Fisketorvet, is a particular favourite), to gourmet restaurants such as Klitgaard, Kv?gtorvet and Oluf Bagers Gaard which specialise in traditional and nouvelle Danish cuisine. A browse through the lively farmer's market held every Wednesday and Saturday in Black Friar's Square gives a good idea of the abundance of fresh products the city's chefs have at their disposal. Odense also hosts many ice cream parlours, whose products are made on the premises rather than shipped in from a far-away factory. After hours, Odense's nightlife kicks off with an exuberance that matches Copenhagen's. Boogie Dance Cafe delivers exactly what its name implies, while Club Retro ratchets up the decibels and the vibe with the action continuing until the wee hours. For a less frenetic evening, Ryan's of Odense serves up Irish folk music and dark beer in equal measure. The Danes are reputed to be one of the most sociable nationalities in Europe, and there's certainly plenty of evidence of this in Odense's many pubs, bars and cafes. Finally, one of the great pleasures of shopping in Denmark is that sales tax - which amounts to a quarter of the total price - can be reclaimed by non-residents. Odense certainly provides plenty of retail inspiration, from well-designed shopping malls to speciality stores selling souvenirs and arts and crafts. Picking up a 25 per cent rebate on departure is a happy ending that Hans Christian Andersen might have devised.