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Did You Know…?

  • Denmark boasts Europe’s oldest continuous monarchy, from the 10th century.
  • Danes typically eat four meals a day.
  • Denmark claims the world’s oldest state flag still in use, from the 14th century.
  • Danes stage the largest July 4 celebration outside the U.S.
  • Surveys show the Danes are the happiest people in the world.

Of Hamlet and fairytales

Denmark knows how to make Americans feel welcome: It has hosted July 4 celebrations annually (except during world wars) since 1912 in the Rebild National Park.

Besides being safe, as well as welcoming, Denmark is noted for natural beauty, its foods (herring and big open-face sandwiches), beautifully designed manufactured goods and a way of life centered on the sea. The country is a peninsula plus more than 300 islands. Most Danes live on islands, and Copenhagen is on the largest of them.

Three literary figures define a significant slice of what many Americans know about this smallest of Nordic countries.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the fictional son of the Danish royal house, is nicknamed “the melancholy Dane” — for good reason considering the play’s plot line.

By contrast, there are the tales brought to us by Hans Christian Andersen, who was born on the island of Funen. It’s easy to imagine being in a fictional Nordic world when exploring castles and manor houses (there are more than 120 on Funen), the thatched huts, parks and gardens of the area that nurtured the Andersen imagination.

The other well-known Danish author is Karen Blixen who came to life in her book and the later movie, “Out of Africa.” Others of her stories, such as “Babette’s Feast,” were set in her homeland.

Descendants of the daring Vikings, today’s Danes, almost all of whom speak English, are a well-educated, egalitarian and widely traveled lot. They are concerned about protecting the environment, as well as the preservation of charming little towns, the great houses and other aspects of their heritage.

Open-air, living history museums dot the country illustrating the past ways of life for farmers, fishermen and Vikings; there are also several Viking museums.

At the same time, the Danes are on the cutting edge of elegant modern design for furniture, glass, silverware and the like. Their classy products are for sale though not for a song. In fact, Denmark can be a relatively expensive vacation choice.

It is a safe destination, and the largest city Copenhagen prides itself on being both a livable capital and the liveliest of Scandinavian cities.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Charter a schooner out of Elsinore for a private sailing excursion. Or, charter a yacht from any of several marinas.
  • Check out the Roskilde Festival, northern Europe’s largest rock festival.
  • Recite your Hamlet at the castle made famous by the Shakespearean play. Kronborg Castle in Elsinore is both a Renaissance castle and military fortress.
  • Lend a hand to reenactors when they construct houses or other buildings as part of an ongoing re-creation of Viking life at the Ribe VikingeCenter living history museum. Also, sample Viking foods on site.
  • Search for Danish ancestors at the Danish Emigration Archives in Aalborg.
  • Eat smoked herring and smoked salmon. See if you can manage a traditional tall, open-face sandwich called smorrebrod. And, if you dare, sample Aalborg Akvavit, a potent, caraway-flavored liqueur.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Get your jazz fix at the annual VinterJazz festival, which offers performances in Arhus, Copenhagen, Odense and numerous small cities.
  • Take day trips or longer cruises on the Baltic Sea.
  • Attend a concert or theater performance at Esrum Abbey, near Gribskov and Esrum Lake. The building is the last remaining wing of a once-vast Cistercian Abbey dating from about 1150.
  • Attend the July 4 celebrations in the Rebild National Park, and hear prominent American and Danish speakers, who could include members of the royal family. Additional Independence Day activities are scheduled in nearby Aalborg.
  • Taste the beer made using traditional methods at the Old Town living history museum in Arhus.
  • Bathe in the Baltic Sea on the coast of Bornholm island. Or, snorkel there. Or, swim on the beaches on the west coast of northern Jutland and, if you visit after a storm, look for amber. It sometimes washes ashore when seas are choppy and winds strong.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Spend a day or evening at Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, a site for concerts, theater, restaurants and other kinds of fun.
  • See Legoland, a miniature amusement park and museum built entirely of plastic Lego blocks, located in Billund on the Jutland Peninsula. Look for Mount Rushmore made with Legos.
  • See the home of Karen Blixen, aka Isak Dinesen, author of “Out of Africa.” Her estate, Rungstedlund, north of Copenhagen, is now a museum.
  • Tour the Carlsberg beer brewery in Copenhagen.
  • Shop for amber, considered to be Scandinavia’s first export. Time your trip right, and you can troll the country’s several Christmas markets.
  • Attend a concert in one of the four 12th century round churches on Bornholm island.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult VisitDenmark at