Are you suffering from Scandimania? Don’t worry, we’ve listed the top 30 things Denmark is known and famous for as a temporary cure. Denmark is the smallest country in Scandinavia, but it’s known for just as many things as its neighbors.
Denmark is known for its traditions, “hygge” and exquisite designs. It frequently tops the list of Happiest Countries and in 2020, it was named the Best Country to Raise Kids. Lego and the father of fairy tales, Hans C Andersen, come from Denmark. Danes are also known for being food lovers, keen cyclists and having quirky mannerisms!
Come with us and like Danes on New Year’s Day, let’s jump into Denmark’s famous qualities!
1. Dannebrog, The Danish Flag
Denmark is known for having the oldest flag still in use today. In 2019, the Danish flag turned 800 years old! The legend of the Dannebrog, the Danish nickname for their flag, is just as interesting.
The story goes that in 1219, during a crusade in present-day Estonia, the Danish King Valdemar Sejr saw a red cloth with a white cross fall from heaven in front of him. It’s rumored that the sight of this flag led Denmark to an unexpected victory. Well, King Valdemar would say that – he got the nickname Valdemar the Victorious after the battle.
Naturally, there’s no truth to this story, but I think you’ll agree it’s a good one. Danish parents still tell their children this legend – and Danes really do love their flag. Christmas trees, cakes, outside the house – you’ll find Danish flags flying everywhere on your visit to Denmark.
2. Agricultural exports
Denmark is famous for exporting milk and pork to European countries. Both of these industries are a major source of income, and combined they make up a quarter of all of Denmark’s agricultural exports.
90% of the pork from Denmark is exported, and the country has over 5,000 pig farms. There are actually more pigs in Denmark than people!
The milk and dairy industry earns Denmark a massive 13 billion DKK ($2.1 billion) every year. The main dairy provider in Denmark is Arla, which is a Danish-Swedish cooperatively owned company.
You’ve almost certainly heard of it before, but do you really know what “hygge” means? Well, the truth is no one does apart from the Danes. In recent years, the term hygge has gained Denmark a lot of fame. It’s also something they get very sensitive about.
Denmark is known for coining the term “hygge” (It’s pronounced hoo-ga, by the way) to describe an atmosphere or situation that is cozy. The best way I can describe it is a sense of pure contentment. Playing Uno with my family? Hyggeligt. Watching my boyfriend put logs on the fire when it’s cold out? Hyggeligt. The hug my friends give me after not seeing me for months and months? Hyggeligt. You get the idea.
Want to know how to live life with more hygge? I heartily recommend Mark Weiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge if you’re interested in learning about it.
Denmark is known for being a cyclist’s paradise. If you prefer two wheels to four, you’ll feel at home in Denmark. In Copenhagen, there are more bikes than cars.
However, the best cycle routes are actually outside the capital. Denmark has 12,000 kilometers (7,456 miles) of cycle paths up for grabs, so the hardest part will be picking your route!
The well-known Baltic Sea Route, called Østersøruten in Danish, is a classic favorite. It spans 820 kilometers (509 miles) and passes through the South of Denmark. Explore Sjælland, Fyn, Sydjylland and more by cycling the figure-of-eight shaped route.
One of my all-time favorite cities is Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. There is so much to see and do and every time I go I find something new to love. I’m sure you will too!
Copenhagen is the Michelin Star Restaurant capital of Scandinavia and has accrued 33 of them in total. 25 of Copenhagen’s many eateries have earned Michelin stars – but even the ones that haven’t offer excellent food. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been to Copenhagen just to eat – a friend and I once spent a whole day eating in as many bakeries as we could manage. Zero regrets.
Copenhagen is made for cycling, museum hopping, and shopping. “Hygge” to your heart’s content and thank me later! For more information, read our guide to Copenhagen.
Denmark is famous for being the home of Lego, arguably the most iconic toy of the last century. Lego’s story begins with a carpenter from Billund, Denmark, called Ole Kirk Christiansen.
At that time, Ole was manufacturing wooden toys for children, and the name Lego comes from combining the words “play well” in Danish – “Lek Godt”. Over the years, the toys were adapted until it became the quintessential plastic bricks we know and love today.
Lego is now owned by Ole’s great-grandson, Kjeld Kirk Christiansen. Lego has spread all over the world, but the original Legoland can be found in Billund, the founder’s hometown. Investing in Lego has even surpassed the value of gold several times over the last 100 years, and Forbes named Lego the World’s Most Powerful Brand in 2015.
7. Denmark’s coastline
Denmark is famous for being a country where you are never more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the sea. It’s no mistake that the Vikings were excellent rowers. A love of the sea binds Danes together, young and old.
All Danish kids learn to swim by law, and the sea is an integral part of Danish culture. Historically, most of Danish trade was done on the waterways.
In the beautiful Skagen region, you can see the place where the North and Baltic seas meet, but do not mix. It’s truly incredible to see how they rub alongside each other in perfect harmony.
8. Cold Hawaii
If you thought that Denmark and Hawaii could have nothing at all in common, then you’re not alone. However, Denmark is famous for having excellent surfing conditions and even has a “surfer’s colony” in North Jutland (Jylland).
The stretch of coast between Agger and Hanstholm is known as Cold Hawaii, and has 31 great surf spots. It got its name for the wind conditions which are similar to those in Hawaii, USA. The “cold” part, of course, alludes to Denmark’s notoriously chilly weather.
The “surfer’s colony” is a settlement called Klitmøller. In the 1600s, it was famous for trading ships to south Norway. In the 1980s and 90s however, European surfers flocked there and now it’s a surf and paddle boarding hotspot.
9. Danish Architecture
Denmark is known for its exquisite architecture, and lovers of Grand Designs will have their work cut out deciding which building is their favorite.
Modern public buildings like the Black Diamond library in Copenhagen are iconic works of architectural art. But Denmark’s residential builds are just as amazing. Look at Isbjerget (The Iceberg) in Aarhus, for instance. What looks like a spiky iceberg is actually an apartment complex, funded by the Danish Pension Fund.
The Wave, called Bølgen in Danish, is a shoreline residential apartment block. There’s no real ‘block’ to it, though – because it’s in the shape of a wave. Designed by Henning Larsen Architects, you can see Bølgen for yourself in south-east Jutland on the fjord peninsula’s edge.
10. Danish interior design
I was a little surprised when friends of mine referred to TV shows like The Bridge as “furniture porn”, but I can see why they were impressed. Danish brands such as Bang & Olufsen have given people high expectations of Danish design and functionality.
Minimalist but cozy, those are the two best words I can find to describe Danish design. Danes are obsessed with light – you won’t find fluorescent lighting anywhere in Danish homes. They’re are a bit like vampires (in the nicest possible way). Hint: no bright lights in the center of the room, please.
Danish people splash a lot of cash on centerpieces such as vases or lampshades – or they’re handed down through generations. One of the most iconic Danish design pieces was the egg chair of the 1960s, designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958.
11. Royal Copenhagen Porcelain
Denmark is famous for its fancy royal designs too. In 1775, the first porcelain produced in Denmark was made for the company now called Royal Copenhagen Porcelain.
Each piece since Royal Copenhagen Porcelain’s inception have been hand-painted. They’re so popular and expensive that they’ve become heirlooms in Denmark, passed through generations and revered by each in turn.
The iconic plate, the Blue Fluted Plain, takes 1197 brush strokes to complete. And they don’t use any old brushes, either. The brushes used by RCP are made from hairs from cow’s ears or reindeer bellies.
12. Traditions & superstitions
Denmark is famous for its quirky traditions. Danes literally jump into the new year by leaping from chairs when the clocks strike 12 on New Year’s Day.
Unmarried Danes at 25 will have an unconventional cinnamon shower, courtesy of their families. If you’re still unmarried at 30, mom and dad might throw pepper over your head – out of love, of course.
In fact, the Danes get a bit obsessed with marriage. If you’re handed a piece of cake and it falls to the right, a Dane might give you very pitying looks. It means that you’ll end up with a crazy mother-in-law – best tilt the plate to the left to avoid this happening!
13. Birthday beheadings
Nothing says “happy birthday” in Denmark quite like a beheading. If you thought that the previous traditions were strange, brace yourself. Denmark is known for having a macabre approach to kids’ birthday parties.
A cake called “kagemand” (cake-man) is placed in front of the birthday boy or girl. Cake man is in the same shape as a gingerbread man, decorated with candy, icing and sometimes Danish flags. A parent will hand the kid a knife, and they slice right at the base of cake-man’s throat. To make this situation even stranger, everyone in the room screams at the point the knife makes contact with the cake.
Well, no one accuses the Danes of being boring.
14. The Danish language
Denmark is known for its language being difficult to pronounce, even if linguistically it’s extremely close to English and other Scandinavian languages. However, Danish is full of linguistic diamonds, and there’s something really satisfying about speaking it.
When my vocabulary gets a little colorful, I sometimes resort to using Danish profanities. But it’s not just me! Danes borrow cuss words from English like others borrow books from a library. You might be shocked to hear even young children dropping F-bombs in Denmark, and even Danish television is scattered with English and Danish swear words.
Aside from that, there’s plenty to love about Danish. It’s a very literal language but sometimes it can be baffling. Need proof? “Flicking” in Danish is “smølfespark” – “smurf kicking”. A vacuum cleaner is a “støvsuger” or “dust sucker”.
15. Hans Christian Andersen
One of the most famous Danes in history is Hans Christian Andersen, the fairy tale writer. He was born 2 April,1805, in Odense, Denmark.
Some of his most notable works are The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, and The Ugly Duckling. The swan is the national bird of Denmark, maybe because of the last story – the “duckling” grows into a beautiful swan. Some Disney movies are based loosely off of his works, such as Frozen. He was even paid a stipend by the Danish Government for being “a national treasure”.
Andersen died in 1872, fittingly in a house called “Rolighed”, or “Calmness” in Copenhagen. There are statues of Andersen all over Denmark but also in Central Park, New York, Solvang in California, and even Sydney, Australia.
16. Sugar pigs
Denmark is famous for being a country full of sweet-tooths. The Danes have an even better word for sugar lovers – “sukkergris” – sugar pig. The average Dane consumes 8.2kg of candy every year, making them the second biggest consumers of candy in the world. First place is currently tied between Finland and Sweden.
The average candy consumption in Denmark is almost double that of other European countries excluding Scandinavia. It seems the Nordic countries are constantly trying to outperform one another when it comes to treat gobbling!
There’s nothing more Danish than burning candles. Denmark is known for burning more candles per head than any other European country and they burn approximately 6kg of candles each. Not just any candles, though.
Danes are very fierce about candles being strictly non-scented. Authenticity is key in Denmark, and it tallies well with their title of consuming the most organic food in Europe.
The Danish word for candle is a bit of a giveaway when it comes to their obsession – levende lys. It means “living light” and that’s pretty much what it is. Candles flicker all times of the year in Denmark, but especially in the fall and winter.
18. Liberation & light festival
Around the world on May 4, the internet gets swarmed with Star Wars memes and puns – May the 4th be with you. In Denmark however, this day is a significant milestone of remembrance. Denmark is famous for using this day to remember the day they were liberated from the five years of Nazi German occupation during the Second World War.
On 4 May, 1945 at 8.35pm, an undercover Danish BBC broadcaster spread enormous joy when he announced that German troops in Holland and Denmark had surrendered. All over Denmark, citizens destroyed their blackout curtains and put a candle in their windows to mark the end of darkness.
To this day, Danish people carry on the tradition by lighting a candle on 4 May to celebrate the end of the dark times and revere the freedom of light.
19. 2nd Happiest Country in the World
Denmark is famous for being one of the happiest countries in the world. It lost the number one spot to Finland in 2020, but they haven’t let that put them off!
The Danish sense of humor involves a lot of self-deprecation and irony. There’s only one nuance to that rule – the only thing funnier than making fun of themselves is making fun of neighboring Sweden.
A typical Danish joke goes a bit like this: What’s better in Sweden than in Denmark? Punchline: Their neighbors. Ha ha
Saying that, the Danes are much more extroverted and excitable than other Scandinavians. Partying, drinking and striking up conversation with strangers is part and parcel of Danish culture. Danes love togetherness and community spirit, so you’ll feel welcome – especially if you let a Dane show off their English skills.
Lurpak butter gets all expat Scandianvians embarrassingly excited. Denmark is known for producing the slightly salty butter or spread called Lurpak and it’s a must in some households.
In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most Danes living overseas have Lurpak in their refrigerators if they can get access to it.
Butter plays such a huge role in Danish cuisine that for many, only Lurpak will do. Danish food is fried in butter, baked with butter, and open-top sandwiches, Smørrebrød, are not complete without a layer of Lurpak. The symbol of Lurpak are two “Lurs”, Bronze Age musical instruments, which have become a symbol of the brand and Denmark.
21. Best country to raise children
Denmark is known for being a parent’s paradise when it comes to raising children. Multiple factors go into choosing the number one country for raising children, such as safety, equality and education quality. As of 2020, Denmark is the best country in the world to raise children.
In Denmark, parents (both mom and dad) are offered 52 weeks total paid leave when their newborn arrives. In comparison, countries such as Australia and the U.K only offer two weeks for minimum wage earners. The U.S doesn’t officially offer any paid maternity or paternity leave at all.
All education in Denmark is free of charge, paid for by citizens through taxation. Even kindergarten is free, meaning new mothers can get back to work quickly to enhance their careers while they enjoy parenthood.
22. No jaywalking
I know you’ll be in a hurry to explore Denmark after reading this article, but before you cross the street on a red light – beware! Denmark is famous for being especially stringent about road laws.
Tourists and Danes have been caught out jaywalking and consequently handed fines of 2200 DKK ($350). Something to remember if you’re used to ignoring the red man or don’t walk signs in other parts of the world.
This law might seem peculiar to you but don’t risk it in Denmark unless you want your wallet to feel empty!
23. Work-life balance
Mark Weiking said it best when he described 5pm in Denmark like the opening credits of The Flinstones. Everyone has left before you can say “yabba dabba doo”. And it’s true – you won’t find Danes sitting in their offices after 5pm, or 4pm if they’re a parent.
Danes actually frown upon people who work overtime or stay late. 60% of Europeans socialize with others once a week, but in Denmark, it’s 78%. As soon as the working week ends – which, by the way is only 37 hours – Danes head outdoors or spend time with friends or family. Cooking together, eating together around a table and chores are family activities in Denmark.
Danes even have a very useful saying if they’re asked to do something they don’t want to – such as work overtime. “Du kan få en prut og pille i” – it means, “you can have a fart to play in”. What they’re really saying is “no”. Saying no to work and yes to spending quality time is big in Denmark, which explains why they’re so happy!
24. Danish manners
A bit of a weird one, but Denmark is known for not having a word for “please”. It’s a staple English word, probably one of the first to enter many children’s vocabularies – but in Denmark, “takk” or “thanks” will do.
Get used to asking for things with a thanks. Expect that coffee when you order it – “en kaffe takk”. Manners are different in Denmark. No need to say “excuse me” as you try to squeeze past Danish crowds. If you can’t bear saying nothing, a simple “unskyld” or “excuse” will suffice.
However, since there’s a deficit of the word “please”, Danes always thank each other for the last time they saw each other. Even if it was weeks ago. “Takk for sidst” or “thanks for last” has no real time limit. Kind of like the English equivalent of “the other day”.
25. Nordic noir
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have binge-watched Nordic Noir tv series like The Bridge and The Killing. Just like its neighbors, Denmark is famous for producing excellent movies and tv shows. Luckily, it’s mostly fiction. Denmark’s crime rate is actually very low. In fact, it’s the 5th safest country in the world!
The Hunt is one of the most famous Danish movies, starring another famous Dane Mads Mikkelsen. It made it into IMDB’s top 25 movies of all time.
26. Danish street-style
Denmark is famous for being an easygoing but fashion-conscious country. How does that work? Well, the formula goes a bit like this. Make sure you never have perfect hair. Wear a lot of black – it never looks dirty so it’s always timeless. Always wear scarves.
Scarves are a big deal in Denmark, and the emphasis is on the big. The bigger the better. In fact, Danish scarves are notoriously enormous.
I bought a scarf in Copenhagen – black and white stripes – and my dad put it in the linen cupboard after washing it because he thought it was a blanket. It measures 1 meter by 1 meter – (3ft by 3ft) I’m not kidding – and it’s the coziest thing in the world.
27. Funny street-signs
It’s not just pedestrians that need to watch out in Denmark. Denmark is famous for taking road safety very seriously, even if the terminology makes English speakers laugh. The inner-kid in all of us wants to giggle when we see signs like the one above. In Denmark, road cops do regular speed checks – which the Danes call “fartkontrol”.
You’ll see many road signs with the word ‘fart’ on in Denmark and that’s because ‘fart’ means speed in Danish. Be warned though, it’s only funny until you’re handed a hefty fine for driving over the speed limit!
28. Meat lovers
Denmark is known for consuming a lot of meat – especially pork. Danes eat roughly 48kg of meat per head a year, and 3kg of that is bacon. Danes love pork so much that they made it their national dish – stegt flæsk med persillesovs. It’s basically pan-fried pork with boiled potatoes and parsley sauce.
My dad used to make me this all the time when I was a kid, and I definitely consider this to be a hyggelig meal! You get bonus Danish points if it’s cooked in a cast-iron frying pan. I don’t make the rules.
29. Google Maps
Without the help of two Danes, we would not have the luxury of using Google Maps. Denmark is famous for being the birthplace of brothers Lars and Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen, who started developing Google Maps in the year 2000.
After many setbacks, they found themselves in Sydney, Australia when eventually the first version of Google Maps was made accessible to everyone.
Jens and Lars are responsible for being the inventors of software that have gone on to map not only the Earth, but also the moon, sky and the planet Mars.
30. Danish currency
Another little known fact about Denmark is that some Danish coins have holes in the middle of them. The currency in Denmark is the Krone of Denmark, abbreviated to DKK.
You’ll notice that the one, two and five krone coins have holes in the center of them and are all different sizes.
The main point of doing this was to make them easily distinguishable from other currencies. It was also done to improve accessibility of coin handling for blind people, who would be able to recognize coins through touch.
That’s the end of our list of 30 things Denmark is known and famous for, but we want to learn too! Let us know what you noticed on your travels in Denmark in the comments below!