From the eighth to the tenth centuries, this was the land of the original Vikings. From here they set forth across Europe, raping and pillaging as they went. A lot has changed since those days. Denmark in the twenty-first century is one of the most socially progressive nations in the world, and constantly tops lists of both the most liveable and happiest places on earth.
The country itself consists of one large peninsula, known as Jutland, and 443 named islands. If you ever wondered where ‘Old’ Zealand was, you’ve found it. To Jutland’s east, this large island is the location of the Danish capital, Copenhagen. If cutting-edge design, fashion, art and cuisine are high on your list of favoured amenities in a destination you’ve come to the right place. Once you’ve been wowed by the monumental form of the Royal Danish Opera House or shopped till you dropped in the local fashion and design stores around Kongens Nytorv (the King’s New Square), settle at a table at one of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants, Noma.
Of course, it’s not all about the contemporary in this exciting city. It’s also been home to the country’s royal family for about 900 years. The outstanding Tivoli Gardens was the inspiration for the various Disneylands, Nyhavn Harbor is lined with colourful gable houses, and, just a short walk away, at Kastellet, you’ll see Edvard Eriksen’s The Little Mermaid statue.
On Zealand, you’ll also discover Roskilde, famous for its World Heritage-listed cathedral and eponymous rock festival.
Jutland, connected to mainland Europe at Germany, is a land of contrasts. Its rugged west coast is buffeted by winds from the North Sea, its Lake District is a picturesque landscape of forests, hills and, of course, lakes, while the region around Ebeltoft is a beachside summer refuge for many Danes.
Aarhus, the country’s second largest city (although it is more like a large town), is on Jutland’s east coast. It’s an excellent place to discover hygge, an altogether Danish ‘feeling’ that lies somewhere between cosiness and contentment.