Denmark

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Introduction to Denmark

The smallest and most southern of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark offers an interesting mix of lively cities and rural countryside. Ancient castles, ring forts, jazz festivals, the sleekest modern design you'll ever see and the people who invented Lego - who could ask for more?

Danish Vikings once took to the seas and ravaged half of Europe, but these days they've filed down their horns and forged a society that stands as a benchmark of civilisation, with progressive policies, widespread tolerance and a liberal social-welfare system.

Given all the fun that there is to be had in this festival-happy scattering of islands, Denmark's status as the least bank-breaking country in Scandinavia deserves glad-handed shake-me-happy thank you letters from travellers all the way from the bottom of the beer glass.

Full country name: Kingdom of Denmark

Area: 43,094 sq km

Population: 5.38 million

Capital City: Copenhagen

People: 95% Danish; 5% foreign nationals

Language: Danish, English, German

Religion: Lutheran

Government: constitutional monarchy

Head of State: Queen Margrethe II

Head of Government: Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen

GDP: US$155.3 billion

GDP per capita: US$28,900

Annual Growth: 1.5%

Inflation: 2.5%

Major Industries: Agricultural products, grains, meat and dairy, fish, beer, oil and gas, home electronics and furniture

Major Trading Partners: EU (esp. Germany, Sweden, UK, Netherlands, France and Italy), USA

Member of EU: Yes

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Most Western nationals, including Americans, citizens of EU countries, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Malaysians, Singaporeans and most South Americans do not need a visa. Other nationals will need a visa and should contact the Danish embassy about obtaining one.

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1

Dialling Code: 45

Electricity: 230V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

Denmark's main events are the hundred-plus music festivals which run almost non-stop, covering a broad spectrum of music that includes jazz, rock, blues, gospel, Irish, classical, country and Cajun. Beginning with Midsummer Eve bonfires in late June, some of the most popular festivals are the Roskilde Festival, northern Europe's largest rock music festival, held in late June or early July; the Midtfyns Festival in Ringe, held in early July, which features international rock, pop, world, folk and jazz musicians; the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, held for 10 days in early July, which is one of the world's major jazz festivals; the Copenhagen Summer Festival, which features chamber and classical music concerts during the last week of July and the first two weeks of August; and the Tønder Festival, one of northern Europe's largest folk festivals, which is held at the end of August.

The nine-day Århus Festival, beginning on the first Saturday in September, turns that city into a stage for nonstop revelry, with music and drama performances of all sorts drawing hundreds of thousands of Danish and international visitors. The program also incorporates a Viking Festival complete with roving jesters, jousting and archery competitions, Viking-style ships, and traditional food, drink and merrymaking.

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Best time to Visit

Considering its northern latitude, Denmark has a fairly mild climate all year round. Still, the winter months - cold and with short daylight hours - are certainly the least hospitable. Correspondingly, many tourist destinations come alive in late April, when the weather begins to warm up and the daylight hours start to increase, and by October they again become sleepers.

May and June can be delightful months to visit: the earth is a rich green accented with fields of flowers, the weather is comfortable and you'll beat the rush of tourists. While autumn can be pleasant, it's not nearly as scenic because the rural landscape has largely turned to brown.

High tourist season is July and August. There are open-air concerts, lots of street activity and basking on the beach. Other bonuses for travellers during midsummer are longer hours at museums and other sightseeing attractions. The last half of August can be a particularly attractive time to travel, as it still has summer weather but far fewer crowds.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Danish Krone

Meals

Budget: kr35-90

Mid-range: kr90-150

High: kr150-200

Deluxe: kr200+

Lodging

Budget: kr60-300

Mid-range: kr300-900

High: kr900-1200

Deluxe: kr1200+

By anything other than Scandinavian standards, Denmark is certainly an expensive country. Part of the credit lies with the 25% tax which is included in every price from hotel rooms to shop purchases. Still your costs will depend on how you travel and it's possible to see Denmark without spending a fortune.

If you take advantage of Denmark's extensive network of camping grounds or stay in hostels and prepare your own meals, you might get by on US$30 a day. If you stay in modest hotels and eat at inexpensive restaurants, you can expect to spend about US$65-75 a day. Some of the cheapest places to eat are those that specialise in Mediterranean buffets, pizza or Greek food. Car rental is expensive in Denmark; if you want wheels, it might be worth hiring a car in Germany for about one third of the price, and taking it across the border.

Restaurant bills and taxi fares include service charges in the quoted prices. Further tipping is unnecessary, although rounding up the bill is not uncommon when the service has been particularly good. Bargaining is not a common practice in Denmark.

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Attractions

Copenhagen

Copenhagen has been Denmark's capital for 600 years. It's an appealing and largely low-rise city comprised of block after block of period six-storey buildings. Church steeples punctuate the skyline, with only a couple of modern hotels marring the view.

The city's seemingly interminable pedestrian mall, Strøget, has great shopping and entertainment, from street theatre to the parade of passersby. The famous Tivoli funfair serves up fun in more traditional forms while the cosmopolitan Latin Quarter will tempt you with its coffee aromas.

Egeskov Slot

Egeskov Castle, complete with moat and drawbridge, is a Renaissance gem. Built in 1554, in the middle of a small lake, Egeskov rests on a foundation of thousands of upright oak trunks. The expansive park includes century-old privet hedges, free-roaming peacocks, a topiary and manicured English gardens.

The interior has antique furnishings, grand period paintings and an abundance of hunting trophies. For those who enjoy labyrinths, there's a 200-year-old bamboo maze. Also on the grounds is an antique car museum, which displays about 300 period cars.

Legoland

Legoland is a 10-hectare theme park built from plastic Lego blocks, and is not recommended to anyone who fears having their childhood writ both large and Lilliputian in 42 million pieces. The most elaborate reconstruction here is the three-million-block Port of Copenhagen exhibit

Despite being Denmark's most visited attraction outside of Copenhagen, after any nostalgia wares off Legoland can be Bleckobland unless you've got a preteen entourage or have always wanted to resolve the structural problems of building the Statue of Liberty out of plastic.

Møns Klint

These spectacular white chalk cliffs rise 128m above sea level, presenting one of the most striking landscapes in Denmark. Created 5000 years ago, the cliffs were formed when calcareous deposits were lifted from the ocean floor. You can walk down the cliffs to the beach and directly back up again in about 30 minutes, or walk along the shoreline in either direction and then loop back up through a thick forest of wind-gnarled beech trees for a hardier walk of about one and a half hours.

Møns Klint is located on the island of Møn, south of Zealand, to which it is connected by bridge and serviced daily by bus.

Ribe

Ribe is the oldest town in Scandinavia; recent excavations have unearthed a number of silver coins, indicating that a market town once existed here as far back as AD 700. Incessant wars with Sweden strangled regional commerce, resulting in Ribe's decline as an important medieval trading centre.

The town's economic decline has, nevertheless, spared it from modernisation. With its crooked, cobbled streets and half-timbered 16th-century houses, visiting Ribe is like stepping into a living museum. Its dominant landmark, Ribe Cathedral, stands as a fine testament to Ribe's prominent past.

Århus

The commercial and cultural centre of Jutland, Århus is a lively university city with one of Denmark's best music and entertainment scenes. It has the added attraction of an open-air museum with 75 restored buildings brought here from around Denmark and reconstructed as a provincial town.

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Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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