Location: Northwest Europe
Capital City: Copenhagen
Population: 5.6 million
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Currency: Danish Krone (DKK)
Main Language: Danish
Main Religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism
The Kingdom of Denmark is bordered by the Baltic and North Seas in Northern Europe. It comprises the Jutland peninsula and close to 406 islands, 80 of which are populated. A network of bridges and tunnels link the largest islands of Zealand (Sjælland), Funen (Fyn) and Jutland (Jylland). Denmark is connected to its neighbour, Sweden by the Øresund Bridge and the two countries share many cultural and historical elements, as well as having similar languages.
Denmark has a population of around 5.6 million inhabitants and the capital of Copenhagen, situated on Zealand, is the most densely populated part of the country with 1.3 million inhabitants. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy and the current head of state is Queen Margrethe II. Denmark is also a member state of the European Union but opted out of the Euro in favour of its own currency, the Krone. The national Dannebrog flag is the oldest in the world still in use.
Denmark has been named the ‘world’s happiest country’ by a number of international surveys. This accolade can be attributed to the country's culture of collective responsibility, gender parity, excellent healthcare and education systems, high levels of parental leave, low crime rates and a love of outdoor pursuits. Like other Scandinavian cultures, equality, fairness and family time is fundamental to Danish society. The Danes claim their high quality of life comes from a concept called ‘hygge’ roughly translated as ‘cosiness’ or ‘fun’. Hygge is where Danish people come together, particularly in winter, to relax with friends and family. Sharing food, drinking and playing their own version of Secret Santa, known as Pakelleg, are the most popular pastimes aimed at producing that 'cosy' feeling.
Food and Drink
Foods commonly associated with Denmark are bacon and potatoes. However, the new trend for ‘scandi’ fare has placed other Danish dishes at the forefront of world cuisine.
Traditional foods in Denmark include porridge, smørrebrød (open sandwiches made with a variety of toppings) and the national dish stegt flæsk, fried pork in parsley sauce. Danish people have a love of rugbrød (rye bread) which is eaten with jam or cheese for breakfast and as a sandwich at lunch. The Danish koldt bord, closely related to the Swedish smörgåsbord, is a buffet of cold meats, baked herring and salad which is popular at family events and celebrations.
The Danes are a nation of beer drinkers and home-grown brands such as Carlsberg and Tuborg are among the most popular. Danish Akvavit or snaps, a clear, high proof spirit made from potatoes and herbs, is often enjoyed after an evening meal.
The Danes are fanatical about football which is played in most schools by both boys and girls. In winter, the national sport is handball - said to have originated in Denmark – which is played on indoor courts.
Danish people are passionate about exercise with cycling, sailing, horse-riding and fishing among the most popular weekend activities. Denmark is not normally associated with beaches, however the country has 7,300km of white, sandy coastline and in the summer the resorts are as beautiful as any in the Mediterranean, attracting thousands of visitors each year. The area of Jutland has the most popular beaches, many with campsites, summer cottages and holiday centres within walking distance of the soft sands. The cosy resort of Søndervig Beach in West Jutland is famed for its dramatic sand dunes and laid-back atmosphere, which is popular with surfers and water sports enthusiasts.
Danish in the national language of Denmark, but English and German are widely spoken by young and old. Danish is very closely related to Swedish and Norwegian (which has the same alphabet as Danish) and it is possible for speakers of all three language to understand each other easily. Nearly 90% of Danes speak English as a second language, and most Danish children start learning the language at age six.
Accents and dialects
Denmark has a number of dialects and accents which are generally a variation of the official language of Danish, with Swedish influences. Bornholmsk is a Danish dialect spoken on the island of the Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, however Bornholm residents also speak Danish and English.
Denmark has a temperate climate with very cold winters. There are four distinct seasons, Spring (February to May) Summer (June to August) Autumn (September to December) and Winter (December to February). Temperatures in summer can reach a high of 26°C and in winter temperatures can drop to as much as -13°C. A Danish winter usually comes with a large amount of snowfall, with huge snow drifts and icicles dangling from every roof.
Safety and Security
Denmark is considered one of the safest countries in the world and has very low crime rates. However, crime is on the increase in large cities where pickpocketing and gang activity has become more of a problem, so it is best to keep a close eye on your wallet or purse. The good news for female travellers is that sexual equality is a high priority in Denmark, so women should encounter virtually no discrimination or harassment.