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Scandinavia’s most southernmost nation, Denmark is famed for its high standard of living and long-reigning Royal Family, whose lineage can be traced back to Viking times. Denmark is situated in the North Atlantic, southwest of Sweden and Norway and bordered by Germany to the south.
As well as the Jutland mainland peninsula, the country also comprises 443 named islands including the two major islands of Funen and Zealand, the former of which was the birthplace of the prestigious Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. The Kingdom of Denmark also includes Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
The capital city, Copenhagen, is spread across the islands of Zealand and Amager and is conveniently connected to the Swedish city of Malmo by the incredible Oresund Bridge. Denmark’s second largest city is Aarhus, located on the mainland or Jutland.
A huge number of remote and secluded islands appeal to travellers on holiday in Denmark for their wide-open spaces and fantastic wildlife, such as the island of Anholt, whilst the island of Samso is known for running entirely on renewable energy.
Travel to Denmark appeals to those looking to experience for themselves what life is like in one of the world’s most highly ranked countries, famed for its social development, education system and emphasis on equality. It is also the gateway to Scandinavia, with fantastic transport links from mainland Europe and easy connections with other Nordic nations.
Although Norway is renowned for it’s Viking heritage, the Danish Vikings, who were most active between the 8th and 10th centuries, made their mark on early Europe by raiding and conquering parts of Western Europe and the Southern British Isles.
The Kingdom of Denmark, as a unified nation, emerged around the 10th century, with the current Danish Royal Family able to trace their lineage back to Gorm the Old, who ruled in the early part of this century. His son later Christianised the kingdom in 965.
Unified with Norway and Sweden in the powerful Kalmar Union by the 14th century, all three nations were ruled together under one sovereign leader. Sweden left the union in 1523, marking the beginning of centuries of struggles and conflicts between Sweden and Denmark and general unrest on the Danish Jutland due to the effects of the sweeping divisions of Lutherism, which has transformed Europe by this point. The 17th century saw Denmark lose a number of its prized territories to Sweden, a result of continuing conflict, whilst up into the 18th century, the everyday people were subject to a relatively demanding form of feudalism, until Crown Prince Frederick introduced reforms to free the peasants from enforced labour on the lands of the wealthy landowners.
This marked a turning point in the freedoms of the common man in Denmark and the 20th century continued in the same theme, as the power of absolute monarchy decreased to be replaced by democracy. Although Denmark remained neutral in both World War’s, Germany occupied the country in WWII, marking a dark time in the country’s history, although the Danish Resistance Movement fought fiercely to retain their freedoms.
A number of landmarks, such as the Ryvangen Memorial Park in Copenhagen pay homage to this period in Danish history and are unmissable stops on a tour of Denmark to fully understand the cost of WWII on the country. Denmark was a founding member of the United Nations and is also part of the European Union, although it retains its own currency.
A land of rolling plains, sandy coastline and arable land, Denmark is a mostly flat country with very little elevation, making it the perfect place to explore on the two wheels of a bicycle. Due to its southernly situation, the country enjoys a more temperate climate in comparison to other Nordic nations, so a holiday to Denmark can be enjoyed at any time of year.
Sadly, much of Denmark’s ancient forests have been destroyed in the last millennium to make way for expanding agriculture, although among the remaining forests the most widespread tree is the famous Norway Spruce, the traditional, and still the most popular, Christmas Tree.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of natural attractions to explore on a tour of Denmark, owing to the diverse environments across the numerous islands that make up the nation. At the northernmost point of the country, in Skagen, visitors are treated to an amazing natural phenomenon, as from the thin tip of the European mainland you can watch the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas meet.
You can also expect to see a number of seals along the coastline here, many of which are famous friendly due to the number of tourists that visit the shores of Skagen. Another of Denmark’s most interesting natural attractions is Fur Island, in the Limfjord.
This remote island, home to approximately 900 inhabitants, is known for its fascinating geological rock formations. Layers of volcanic ash and clay have sculpted strange patterns of the coastal cliffs that attract visitors on tour in Denmark, who want to discover some of the country’s more unique regions. Lovers of the great outdoors are sure to enjoy the Lake Highlands of interior Jutland, home to forests, glistening bodies of water and lush idyllic countryside, perfect for hiking and cycling.
On the other hand, the dusty desert-like landscape of the island of Anholt is famous for its huge seal sanctuary.. Another highlight is the island of Møn, with its dramatic scenery and its stunning coastline, flanked by the iconic chalk Cliffs of Møns Klimt.
With an emphasis on modesty, equality and politeness, Danish national culture shares strong ties with that of Sweden and Norway. Danes are unimpressed by material goods and flashy achievements, and perhaps the best-known export of Danish culture is the concept of ‘Hygge’, recently gaining recognition worldwide. ‘Hygge’ is the feeling of cosiness by creating a warm atmosphere in which to spend time with loved ones.
It is a huge part of Danish culture and its importance might help to explain why the country is one of the happiest in the world when comfort, friendship and family are integral parts of everyday life for most Danes. You can also expect to see a huge community spirit if you travel to Denmark.
The country has some of the highest taxes in the world in order to ensure it is a pleasant place to live and there is a nation-wide push to battle climate change. There is a saying that ‘the bicycle in a Dane’s best friend’, with cycle-lanes used all year-round, no matter the weather.
More traditional aspects of Danish culture include the prevalence of folklore, which has been passed down through the centuries and still feature in everyday culture, with references to elves and goblins. Of course, one of the most famous global exports is Danish design, characterised by functional and minimal furniture and household accessories.
The Kingdom of Denmark is sure to surprise you with its varied landscapes and archipelago of islands which offer unparalleled outdoors experiences. A trip to Denmark is an insight into the turbulent history of Scandinavia and a unique culture founded on a love of togetherness and ‘Hygge’.
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