68 Interesting Facts about Denmark

By Tayja Kuligowski, Junior Writer
Published November 17, 2016
  • Denmark most likely means “Land of the Danes.” The first mention of the name of the kingdom Denmark comes from about A.D. 900 in King Alfred the Great of England’s translation of Orosius’ Geography.[12]
  • In Denmark, it rains or snows every second day. On average, Denmark has 171 days with precipitation of more than 0.004 in. (0.1 mm). In 2009, Denmark had 184 days of precipitation.[3]
  • Denmark can be windy. The average wind speed is a breezy 13 miles per hour (5.8 m/sec). During Hurricane Allan on October 28, 2013, record-breaking wind speeds of 88 miles per hour (142 km/h) and gusts of 119 miles per hour (193 km/h) were registered.[23]
  • Denmark is an archipelago made up of over 100 islands, some of which are not even inhabited.[2]
  • The Danish monarchy is the oldest continuing monarchy in the world and has existed for over 1,000 years.[2]
  • There are more than two times as many bicycles as cars in Denmark
  • Denmark has more than twice the amount of bicycles (4.2 million) than cars (1.8 million). Copenhageners pedal more than 1.13 million km on their bicycles each day.[16]
  • Denmark is reported to be the happiest country in the world.[4]
  • As of 2013, Denmark has 14 Nobel laureates, mainly in literature (4) and physiology/medicine (5). With its relatively small population, this is one of the highest numbers of Nobel laureates per capita in the world.[18]
  • Princess Mary, the wife of Danish Crown Prince Frederik, originally hails from Tasmania, Australia.[2]
  • Scandinavians, including Danes, are the world’s highest per-capital consumers of coffee, with Danes (who drink an average of four cups a day) coming in third after Sweden and Finland.[16]
  • Greenland is the world’s largest island, assuming Australia is a continent, and has a total area of 840,000 square miles (2,175,600 sq km). About 80% of Greenland is covered by a huge ice-sheet that is up to 2 miles (3 km) thick. Since 1953, it has been declared a part of the territory of the Kingdom of Denmark.[2]
  • Denmark is considered the “least corrupt” country in the world.[11]
  • Denmark has 7,314 miles (11,771 km) of coastline, which is longer than the Great Wall of China and equals almost 1.5 meters of coast per Danish citizen.[11]
  • In Denmark, age is no barrier to love. In 2009, the oldest Danish bride was 94 years old while her groom was over 100 years. The youngest Danish bride was 19 while her groom was 18 years old.[3]
  • Practically all Danes know how to swim, and swimming lessons are part of the compulsory curriculum in all state schools.[20]
  • In Denmark, pornography can be purchased at the local petrol station.[20]
  • One-fifth of all Danish families are affected by crime each year. The numbers of reported crimes have more than tripled in the last 30 years to over half a million per year, especially violent crime, break-ins, and petty theft.[20]
  • Pedophiles are considered sick people in Denmark that should be helped rather than punished. They have registered societies in Denmark and meet in municipal clubhouses to discuss their common interest and exchange experiences.[20]
  • Denmark actually has a place to surf called Cold Hawaii, and it is one of the best beaches in Scandinavia for surfing.[3]
  • Three Danish films have sold over 1 million tickets each, and all three of them were action comedies about a gang called Olsen Banden (Olsen Gang). The foreign film seen by most Danes ever is Titanic, with 1.4 million tickets sold.[3]
  • The Lego was invented in Denmark
  • The name Lego® is an abbreviation of two Danish words leg godt, meaning “play well.” The company was started in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen. Lego began producing its iconic bricks in 1958. For more than 60 years, over 320 billion Lego bricks have been sold worldwide—nearly 60 bricks for every human on the planet.[16]
  • On the Faroe Islands, which have been a self-governing part of Denmark since 1948, men outnumber women by 2,000, and in order to sustain the population, men have resorted to importing brides from other countries, especially Thailand.[8]
  • No place in Denmark is more than 30 miles (50 km) from the sea.[11]
  • Denmark physically borders only one other country, Germany.[6]
  • The Danish pastry that the world has come to know was introduced to Denmark in 1870s, when striking bread makers were replaced by Viennese immigrant bakers, with their repertoire of sweet breads, cakes, and puff pastries. In Denmark, these pastries are known as Wienerbrod (Viennese bread).[2]
  • Lars Ulrich, the drummer for the heavy metal band Metallica, was born in Denmark.[13]
  • The Great Dane breed of dog originally came from Germany and not from Denmark.[10]
  • Danish Lurpak® butter is world famous. It can be bought in stores in more than 100 countries worldwide.[7]
  • The English are famous for their love of bacon, which they began importing from Denmark in 1867.[7]
  • The Danish alphabet has three letters not found in the English alphabet: Æ, Ø, Å. All three are vowels and come after the letter Z in the alphabet.[15]
  • Danes are certified foodies. They are the fifth largest exporter of food in the world, despite their small population.[7]
  • The Danes have a term Janteloven (The Law of Jante), created in 1933 by a Danish/Norwegian writer. It is often quoted in public debate in Denmark and consists of “Ten Commandments,” all boiling down to “You are no better than I am.”[21]
  • Denmark is said to be the hardest country in the world to save money in. In Denmark, the largest family-owned fortune belongs to Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller and his family, of Mærsk and A.P. Møller fame. Their container ships with the white-and-blue star logo can be seen in ports all over the world, and the family fortune is reported to be in excess of US$30.3 billion.[20]
  • Strøget in Copenhagen is the longest pedestrian-only street in the world
  • Copenhagen’s Strøget, at almost 2 miles (3.2 km) long, is the oldest and longest pedestrian street in the world.[22]
  • Janus Friis, the Danish IT entrepreneur who developed the Internet telephone company Skype out of nothing, sold it to Microsoft Corporation for $8.5 billion USD in 2011.[20]
  • Danish inventor Jens Olsen spent 27 years building the World Clock in Copenhagen. It began keeping time in 1955 and will supposedly be able to accurately keep time for the next 570,000 years.[2]
  • Soccer is Denmark’s favorite and national sport. The Danish football team became known worldwide through a gutsy performance in the 1986 World Cup and they followed it up when they became 1992 European champions.[20]
  • Cyclist Bjarne Riis is the only Dane to win the Tour de France, in 1996, although a later admission of drug abuse cast a shadow over his exceptional performance.[20]
  • Popular Danish candy manufacturer Bon Bon is famous among Danish children for marketing its products under names like “gull droppings,” “burping duck,” and “rich swine.”[20]
  • Helle Thorning-Schmidt, elected on October 3, 2011, is Denmark’s current and first female prime minister.[6]
  • Denmark is famous for its liberalism, and this is best illustrated by “Christiania,” a hippy commune that sprung up in 1971. Allowed to remain a social experiment, it is still inhabited by about 900 people seeking an alternative lifestyle.[2]
  • Dane are relaxed when it comes to issues such as marriage. The country’s divorce rate is one of the highest in Europe, and nearly 20% of Danish couples cohabitate without ever getting married in what are called “paperless marriages.”[2]
  • Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard is one of the most important philosophers of the 19th century and is known as the “Father of Existentialism,” which describes human life in terms of ethics, aesthetics, and religion.[2]
  • The United States bought the Virgin Islands, part of the West Indies, from Denmark in 1917.[2]
  • Walt Disney visited Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen once and was so inspired that he decided to create something similar in America: Disneyland.[9]
  • Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens helped inspire the creation of Disneyland
  • The Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica dinner service, decorated with floral designs copied from the Flora Danica Encyclopedia of plants, was ordered in 1790 by King Christian VII as a gift for Tsarina Catherine II (Catherine the Great) of Russia. However, she died while the service was being made, and Christian VII kept the service for himself. It was used for the first time in 1803 during a reception to celebrate the king’s 37th birthday, and over 1,500 of the original 1,802 pieces survive to this day.[2]
  • Karen Blixen, also known by her nom de plume Isak Dinesen, may be Denmark’s most famous author. The most colorful period of her life was her stay in Kenya at the age of 28 on her husband’s coffee plantation. While in Kenya, she wrote Seven Gothic Tales and her best-known work, Out of Africa, which was first published in 1937. It was originally written in English and then translated by Karen Blixen herself into Danish.[2]
  • William Shakespeare set his famous play Hamlet at Elsinore Castle, which is directly modeled on Denmark’s KronborgCastle. Hamlet may have been inspired by Amleth, a Viking whose story is told by the 12th century Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his Historia Danica (History of Denmark). Shakespeare never traveled to Kronborg himself, but he may have come across the classic tale of murder and revenge via Francois Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques, published in 1570.[2]
  • The larger of Denmark’s two Jelling stones is known as “Denmark’s Birth Certificate.” It was erected in A.D. 965 by Harald I (Bluetooth) in honor of his parents, King Gorm and Queen Thyra. The inscription on the stone contains the first written record in which the word "Denmark" appears.[2]
  • On Denmark's Faroe Islands, there are twice as many sheep as people.[2]
  • Copenhagen was a fishing colony until 1157, when Valdemar the Great gave it to Bishop Absalon, who built a castle on what is now Christiansborg. It was originally called Købmændenes havn (Merchants’ Harbor) and eventually became København. In the 15th century, Copenhagen became the royal residence and capital of Denmark and Sweden.a[1]
  • Denmark's flag is the oldest one in use by an independent country
  • Denmark’s national flag, the Dannebrog (the flag of the Danes), is the oldest flag in the world still in use by an independent nation, having been acknowledged in 1219. According to legend, the Dannebrog fell from the sky during an early 13th century battle, and the Danish king caught it before it touched the ground, which rallied the Danish troops to victory. In actuality, the Dannebrog may have derived from a Crusader banner or ensign.[6]
  • Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s best known attraction, was established in the 1840s, when Danish architect George Carstensen persuaded a worried King Christian VIII to let him build an amusement park on the edge of the city’s fortifications, rationalizing that “when people amuse themselves, they forget politics.”[1]
  • Denmark is the world’s biggest producer of ranched minks.[1]
  • Dyrehavsbakken, or Bakken, located within Denmark's peaceful Dyrehaven, is the world’s oldest amusement park.[1]
  • About two-thirds of all Danes have a surname ending in –sen. Today, on the list of most common Danish surnames, no less than the 21 top names end with –sen, and out of the top 50 names, only five are not –sen names. Up until a few generations ago, only wealthy or aristocratic Danes got to have a family surname. However, in 1856, Denmark passed a law that all citizens should be identified by two names, one being a family surname, so most people ended up having a surname ending in –sen.[20]
  • Arguably the most famous Danish scientist is nuclear physicist Niels Bohr, who won the Nobel Prize in 1922 for his work on atomic particles. Bohr went to the United States in 1942 and worked on the Atomic Bomb project. Bohr’s son Aage also won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1975.[20]
  • Holger Danske is a mythological Danish warrior believed to have lived around A.D. 750. A statue of him is sleeping in the basement of Kronborg Castle. The legend goes that Holger Danske will awaken and save the nation when it is in peril.[20]
  • Gracefully curving lur horns, found in Denmark, are the world’s oldest surviving musical instrument. Some date to the Bronze Age.[21]
  • The first Danish newspaper was founded in 1666 and written entirely in verse. The oldest of the existing newspapers, Berlingske Tidende (Berling’s Times), was founded by a Copenhagen printer in 1749.[21]
  • Denmark has an unusual institution in the folkehøjskolerne (folk high school), which is a kind of college often situated in the countryside, and adults aged 18 to 24 are welcome to join. The first one was opened in the 19th century by Bishop Grundtvig, and its aim is to provide a general education for adults. Subjects such as Danish, Danish history, world history, literature, politics, religion, and psychology are taught with no examinations.[21]
  • The writer of fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen is probably the most famous Dane. He was born in 1805 into a poor family in the town of Odense on the island of Funen. At age 30, he published an unassuming manuscript titled Fairytales for Children. He wrote 24 fairytale “booklets” in all, the last just three years before his death in 1875.[20]
  • The tombstone of the fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen reads "digteren" or "poet" at the top
  • Hans Christian Andersen carried with him some unusual pieces of equipment when he traveled, including a rope in case fire broke out and he was forced to escape through a window. He never married and he died in 1875. His gravestone in a Copenhagen Cemetery reads simply “The Poet.”[11]
  • The word "Viking" probably comes from the Old Norse word vik (creek) and seems to mean “men of the creeks,” or sea warriors from the inlets and bays of Scandinavia. The Danes and Norwegians were known to mainly raid Britain and the French coast, although some Vikings traveled round the coast of Spain into the Mediterranean and others went to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland.[21]
  • Traces of Danish occupation of the north and east of England survive in the names of over 2,000 town and villages which are of Scandinavian origin, such as places with names ending in –toft (homestead), -thorpe (hamlet), -beck (stream), -by (town), and -wick (creek).[11]
  • Even though Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, King Christian X rode through the streets of Copenhagen every day to inspire courage in his people, despite the danger of being caught in an occasional burst of gunfire.[11]
  • The M/S Selandia (named after the Danish island Sjælland) celebrated her centenary on February 17, 2012. Ordered by the East Asiatic Company and built in Denmark, she was the world’s first ocean-going diesel engine ship, revolutionizing the international shipping industry.[17]
  • Danish polar explorer and anthropologist Knud Rasmussen was the first European man to cross the Northwest Passage by dog sled.[20]
  • Important Dates[2][5][11][12][14][19]
    DateEvents
    2700 B.C.During the New Stone Age, farmers begin to settle on the land in present-day Denmark.
    4th through 11th centuries A.D.Danish Vikings reach the coastal areas of Europe, including Britain, invading and looting.
    793Vikings raid Lindisfarne Abbey, which is the first raid in Britain.
    811Charlemagne and his army are stopped at the Danevirke wall.
    940–985Harald Bluetooth brings Christianity to the Danish kingdom. He unites Jutland, the islands, and southern Sweden into one Danish nation.
    1013Sweyn I conquers England.
    1018–1035Canute I reigns in England and unifies Denmark, England, and Norway into one great “superkingdom.”
    1167Bishop Absalon founds Copenhagen.
    1157Valdemar I reunifies Denmark.
    1282Erik V signs an agreement to create an annual assembly (hof) of feudal lords.
    1350Bubonic plague arrives in Denmark.
    1397Queen Margrethe I unites most of Scandinavia under Danish rule with a treaty called the Kalmar Union.
    1479Copenhagen University is founded.
    1523Gustav I breaks with the Kalmar Union, which is considered the starting point of both the modern Swedish and Danish nations.
    1536Lutheranism is introduced into Denmark and Norway.
    1660King Frederik III establishes a hereditary monarchy in Denmark with the Lex Regia, which leads to an absolute monarchy.
    1665Denmark establishes colonies in the Virgin Islands in the West Indies.
    1729Greenland becomes a Danish province.
    1801–1814Denmark becomes involved in the Napoleonic Wars. Britain invades Denmark, besieges Copenhagen, and captures the Danish navy.
    1835First edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales is published.
    1843Denmark becomes a constitutional monarchy, and a two-chamber parliament is established.
    1914–1918Denmark chooses to remain neutral during World War I.
    1915Danish women are given right to vote.
    1917Denmark sells Virgin Island colonies to the United States.
    1920Denmark becomes a founding member of the League of Nations.
    1930sDanish social democrats move the country in the direction of a welfare state.
    1940Nazi Germany invades and occupies Denmark during World War II. Denmark signs a 10-year nonaggression pact with Germany.
    1943With help from the Danish resistance, thousands of Danish Jews manage to escape to Sweden.
    1945Germany surrenders. British troops liberate Denmark. Denmark recognizes Iceland’s independence, which had been declared in 1944.
    1948Faroe Islands are granted self-rule within the Danish state.
    1949Denmark becomes a cofounder of NATO.
    1950Queen Margrethe II succeeds her father, Frederik IX, to the Danish throne. She becomes the first woman sovereign in six centuries and second overall to rule Denmark. Denmark becomes a member of the European Economic Community (EEC).
    1979Greenland is granted self-rule. Denmark retains control over Greenland’s foreign affairs and defense.
    1985Denmark passes legislation banning construction of nuclear power plants.
    2000Denmark rejects the Euro as its national currency and votes to keep its Danish krone.
    2004Crown Prince Frederik marries Tasmanian Mary Donaldson. Denmark and U.S. sign a deal to modernize Thule Air Force Base on Greenland.
    2005A diplomatic dispute flares up with Canada over the tiny Arctic island of Hans.
    2006Cartoon depictions of Muslim prophet Muhammad, published by a Danish newspaper in 2005, spark mass protests among Muslims in a number of countries as well as unofficial boycott of Danish goods.
    2007Denmark pulls its 470 ground troops out of Iraq at the end of August. Denmark was one of the original coalition countries to take part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
    2008Danish police uncover a plot to kill one of the cartoonists whose depictions of Muhammad sparked outrage across the Muslim world in 2005. Some major Danish papers reprint the cartoons, sparking more protests.
    2009Ex-Danish Prime Minister Anders Foch Rasmussen is appointed Secretary General of NATO.
    2010Mohamed Geele, a Somali, is found guilty of attempted murder and terrorism over trying to kill Muhammad cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.
    2011Immigration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech is fired after refusing citizenship to 36 stateless Palestinians. Denmark reimposes border controls to curb illegal immigration.
References

1 Copenhagen. Fodor’s Pocket Edition. New York, NY: Fodor’s Travel Publications, 2002.

2 Denmark. Eyewitness Travel. New York, NY: DK Ltd, 2013.

3Denmark in Figures 2014. ” Statistics Denmark. 2014. Accessed: July 22, 2014.

4Denmark Is Considered the Happiest Country. You’ll Never Guess Why.” The Huffington Post. October 22, 2013. Accessed: July 21, 2014.

5Denmark Profile.” BBC News. Updated June 10, 2014. Accessed: July 23, 2014.

6Denmark.” World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Updated June 22, 2014. Accessed: July 23, 2014.

7 "Famous Danes.” Meetthekids.dk. Updated 2014. Accessed: July 22, 2014.

8Faroe Islands: Men ‘Must Import Brides.’” BBC News. October 23, 2013. Accessed: July 21, 2013.

9 Galante, Meredith. “Tour the Legendary Danish Amusement Park that Inspired Disneyland.” Business Insider. December 3, 2012. Accessed: July 23, 2014.

10Great Danes Are Not from Denmark. They’re from Germany.” Great Dane Rescue of the Carolinas, Inc. Accessed: July 21, 2014.

11 James, Alan. Denmark (Major World Nations). London, UK: Chelsea House Publishing, 2000.

12 Jespersen, Knud J. V. A History of Denmark. New York, NY: Palgrave McMillan, 2004.

13Lars Ulrich: ‘So Far, So Good.’” The Talks. November 21, 2013. Accessed: July 22, 2014.

14 Lauring, Palle. History of Denmark. Copenhagen, DK: Host & Son, 1960.

15Learning Danish.” Denmark.dk. Accessed: July 21, 2014.

16 Mouritsen, Lone, Roger Norum, and Caroline Osborn. The Rough Guide to Denmark. London, UK: The Rough Guides, 2010.

17M/S Selandia: 100 YearsSelandia100.dk. Accessed: July 24, 2014.

18Nobel Laureates and Country of Birth.” NobelPrize.org. 2014. Accessed: July 22, 2014.

19 Starcke, Viggo. Denmark in World History. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968.

20 Strange, Morten. Culture Shock! Denmark. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2009.

21 Stubkjær, Jens. Facts about Denmark. Copenhagen, DK: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, 1993.

22The World’s Longest Pedestrian Street–Strøget.” Copenhagenet.dk. 2014. Accessed: July 22, 2014.

23Wind in DenmarkDMI.dk. 2103. Accessed: July 22, 2014.

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