What you need to know about DenmarkIt’s hard not to love a country that gave us Lego and breakfast pastries, but that’s just the start of what Denmark has to offer. What’s most striking is how beautiful everything is - the fairytale landscape of brightly coloured houses, the glittering lakes and stunning beaches – even Danish people are easy on the eye.
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It’s a country of wonderful food, progressive politics and sustainable culture, where the cities belong to cyclists, and everyone gives off an air of health, happiness and prosperity.
Take a wander around the cobbled streets and candlelit cafes of Copenhagen, then head out to the beautiful Danish countryside and ancient beech forests – it’s a captivating and truly lovely country that you’ll want to visit again and again.
Food and drink
Denmark has more Michelin-starred restaurants than the rest of Scandinavia combined, which tells you everything you need to know about the quality of the country’s cuisine.
But if your budget won’t stretch to fine dining, no problem; you’ll find Danish cities and towns have plenty of charming cafes and bistros serving wonderful seafood, local ingredients and international cuisine.
Pork is a staple of the Danish diet, and Danish bacon is exported all over the world. The country also makes delicious butter and regional cheeses, and breakfast wouldn’t be breakfast without a coffee and a Danish pastry.
It’s also the home of internationally-renowned beers like Carlsberg and Tyborg, as well as lots of microbreweries and craft beers.
Nowhere does design quite like Denmark – whether you’re shopping for homewares or fashion, it’s a fantastic place to pick up unique and cutting-edge products from established and emerging Danish designers.
Copenhagen’s shopping has everything from big department stores to tiny boutiques, mostly based around the huge shopping area of Strøget – it’s one of the biggest shopping centres in the world, and where most visitors to Denmark do their shopping.
Denmark is expensive compared to the rest of Europe (Norway and Sweden aside), so your best shopping bargains are going to be things you can only buy in Denmark, or maybe a unique find at one of the country’s many flea markets (Loppemarked).
Most shops are closed on Sundays, so join the Saturday crowds and find the perfect Danish memento of your trip.
It’s rather charming and apt that the most famous Dane in history is Hans Christian Andersen, writer of magical fairy tales – in his world, the ugly duckling always grows into a beautiful swan. Modern Denmark is a country full of swans, and one of the few countries in the modern world without a huge poverty gap – most of the country has adequate resources, putting art, music, entertainment and eating out within reach of everyone.
The culture of Denmark can be captured in the word “hygge”, which Danish people use a lot. It’s pronounced “hooga”, and comes from a Norwegian word meaning “wellbeing”. Hygge is about creating a warm and cosy atmosphere, and enjoying the good things in life in the company of good people.
So long summer evenings spent with friends and family is hygge, a candlelit dinner in a tiny bistro is hygge, and the Danish design philosophy of simplicity and beauty is definitely hygge.
The Danes have a distinct national identity and a culture that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone – it’s a wonderful place to create a little hygge of own.
Denmark is a joy to travel around, with a super-efficient rail network, well-maintained roads and good ferry services to outlying islands. Hiring a car is definitely a good option if you want to explore in your own time, but car hire and fuel are both considerably more expensive than other countries in Europe.
Train services cover all the cities and towns, as well as many of the smaller communities, so it’s a great way to explore.
But Denmark mostly belongs to cyclists, with one of the best and safest cycle networks in the world. In a country where everything is pretty expensive, it’s a great way to travel cheaply and see the best that Denmark has to offer.
Things to watch out for
Danish drivers do things by the rules, and expect pedestrians and cyclists to do likewise. This egalitarian approach seems to work well for everyone, but if you cross the road when the pedestrian crossing light is red, don’t expect cars to slow down – you’re not supposed to be there, so it’s your own fault.
Destination Guide: Scandinavia 20 December 2016