- Denmark



Winter sunset at Langholt - Denmark

Denmark (Listeni/ˈdɛnmɑrk/; Danish: Danmark, pronounced [ˈd̥ɛnmɑɡ̊] ( listen)), officially the Kingdom of Denmark (Danish: Kongeriget Danmark, [ˈkɔŋəʁiːəð ˈd̥ɛnmɑɡ̊] ( listen)), is a state in the Scandinavian region of Northern Europe with the two autonomous constituent countries in the north Atlantic Ocean, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, located southwest of Sweden, south of Norway and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and the Danish archipelago, comprising of Zealand, Vendsyssel-Thy, Funen, Lolland, Falster, Bornholm and hundreds of minor islands. The national language, Danish, is closely related to Swedish and Norwegian.

The Kingdom of Denmark is a unitary constitutional monarchy, organised in a parliamentary democracy. Ending absolute monarchy introduced in 1660, the Constitution of Denmark was signed on 5 June 1849, only to be rewritten four times; the latest revision in 1953. Women's right to vote was granted in 1915. The unicameral parliament, the Folketing, resides in Copenhagen, together with the judicial, executive, and legislative powers. Denmark exercises hegemonic influence in the Danish Realm, devolving political powers to handle internal affairs to the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark became a member of the European Union in 1973, maintaining four opt-outs from European Union policies, as outlined in the 1992 Edinburgh Agreement. Both the Faroe Islands and Greenland remain outside the Union.

Home of the Vikings, Denmark emerged as a unified kingdom in the 8th century as a proficient seafaring nation. Its geographical location made Denmark the centre of a mutual struggle for the control of the Baltic Sea and seeking opportunities the New World, the Danish colonial empire expanded to include maritime trading between three continents. Defeated in wars against its neighbouring countries, Denmark has had several cessions of territory; Skåneland in 1658, the dissolution of Denmark-Norway in 1814, Schleswig-Holstein in 1864 and Iceland voted in in favour of independence in 1944. Denmark remained neutral during World War I and the German invasion of Denmark in April 1940 saw brief, military skirmishes while the Danish resistance movement remained active until the German surrender in May 1945.

An exporter of agricultural produce in the 19th century, Denmark introduced social and labour-market reforms in the early decades of the 20th century, making the basis for the present welfare state with a highly developed mixed market economy. The Danish krone has been pegged to the euro since since 1 January 1999 through ERM II. Denmark ranks as having the world's highest level of income equality,[9] and has one of the world's highest per capita income. For 2013, Denmark is listed 15th on the Human Development Index[10] and 9th on the inequality-adjusted HDI. Denmark ranks highly positive on the Corruption Perceptions Index and the Legatum Prosperity Index, and as a full democracy on the Democracy Index.[11][12][13] It is frequently ranked as the happiest country in the world.[14][15][16]

Denmark is among the founding members of the NATO, Nordic Council, OECD, OSCE and the United Nations. There are three Danish heritage sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in Northern Europe.

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The Danes are, overwhelmingly, a happy bunch. In fact, if you believe those contentment surveys that come out every couple of years, Denmark is one of the happiest nations on earth with some of the best quality of life. Along winding cobbled streets Danes shop and dine at some of the most exciting places in Europe. Copenhagen’s restaurants have more Michelin stars than any other Scandinavian city, and Denmark as a whole would doubtless have more still if the inspectors from Michelin ever troubled themselves to leave the capital and head for Aalborg or Århus & around. Even standards in a workaday Danish café are generally very high.

Beyond the capital and the bigger cities, Denmark offers a mix of lively towns such as Ribe and Odense plus rural countryside, medieval churches, Renaissance castles and tidy 18th-century villages. Neolithic dolmen, preserved 2000-year-old ‘bog people’, and impressive Viking ruins are just some of the remnants of the nation’s long and fascinating history.

Denmark continues to stamp its effortlessly cool style on the world with its furniture, fashion, architecture and graphic design, as it has done for the last half-century or so. This obsession with good design, detail and fine craftsmanship is evident even in something as mundane as a Copenhagen metro or train ride.

Centuries on from the Viking era, Denmark remains very much a maritime nation, bordered by the Baltic and the North Sea. No place in the country is more than an hour’s drive from its lovely seashore, much of which is lined with splendid white-sand beaches.

Denmark’s hydrocarbon-rich economy is booming; it has the highest per capita GDP in the European Union (EU); literacy is 100%; unemployment is low; and its social-welfare programmes are the envy of continents. Education is free, and about half of all Danish students who graduate from secondary school continue on to higher education.

You don’t need statistics to understand the Dane’s happy lot, though. Stroll around Copenhagen or pretty much any Danish town and you’ll experience some of the most harmonious civic spaces anywhere. The capital’s intimate scale and faultless transport systems combine with the ornate history and bold modern lines of the built environment to delight the eye, while the locals’ courtesy and sense of humour is refreshing.

It’s hard, in short, to find fault with the place. The visitor’s most heartfelt grumble is usually the cost of visiting Denmark. True, it is not a cheap destination, but no more so than the UK, and which nation’s public transport system would you rather use?

Cheer yourself up by thinking of the country’s peerless organisation and clockwork railway timetable as being subsidised by the extremely high taxes paid by your hosts. When viewed in this way, this first-rate destination seems like good value, and you get the fairy tales thrown in for free: the Danish royal family is genuinely loved and respected by the vast majority of its citizens, not least handsome Prince Frederik, his beautiful Australian-born princess-bride, Mary, and their young family.