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Top 10 Things that Foreigners Get Wrong about Denmark

Top 10 Things Foreigners Get Wrong about Denmark

Did the Vikings have horns on their helmets? Does the Queen have a say in Danish politics? And why are there so many bicycles in Copenhagen?

Even Danes do not necessarily know the answers to all of these questions.

1. The Dutch capital of Copenhagen is full of Denmarkians

The people of Denmark are called Danes. Things that are from Denmark are called Danish. Dutch has nothing to do with Denmark. And please do not use Danish as a noun. It is an adjective. There is no such thing as ‘a Danish’. Even if they taste great. 

Cool viking warrior

2. Where did the Vikings come from?

This is a question we get a lot on our tours. But the Vikings did not come from anywhere and they did not disappear to anywhere else. They were just the people living here in Scandinavia. They started attacking the rest of Europe in the late 700s AD. Later on they adopted Christianity, became more peaceful and settled down. The majority of people in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland are descendants of these Vikings. 

And did they have horns on their helmets? No. That is a myth.

3. Why is Denmark not part of the European Union?

Map of European Union
Map of the European Union

We are. We just do not use the euro.

Just like Sweden and the UK are members of the EU (for now!) without being part of the euro.

Danish governments have wanted to join the euro for decades. But the Danish constitution does not allow such a decision without a referendum and the people have voted no twice. Luckily, the Danish Krone is one of the World’s most stable and reliable currencies and interest rates are very low. 

Bicycles in Copenhagen
Bicyclists in Copenhagen

4. Why so many bicycles?

It always amazes foreigners how many bicycles there are in Copenhagen. Why is a good question.

Local politicians often try to take credit saying that people use bicycles because they have built bike lanes everywhere. But even before the bike lanes, the city was full of bicycles. (Just look at this video from the 1930’s). All we can say with certainty is that Copenhagen is relatively flat, temperatures are good for exercising and it has become a social norm to ride your bike. 

5. The Queen has nothing to say, right?

Well… Yes and no. The monarch actually has a lot of power according to our constitution. She decides who is member of the government. She decides when to hold elections and laws are only valid if she has signed them. In practice, she always does what the Parliament wants. But if one day, she would refuse to sign a law, we would not really know what to do as there would be no constitutional way to force her to do so. It would cause a major headache for the Danish political system.

Map of Scandinavia and Finland
Map of Scandinavia and Finland

6. What is the difference between Scandinavian and Nordic?

This one is fairly easy.

Scandinavia is Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The Nordic countries are Scandinavia plus Finland and Iceland.

7. Is tipping expected in Denmark?

Tip box
Tip jar

No, but it is not uncommon. Tips are for service that has been better than expected. Bartenders and taxidrivers do not expect a tip. But if you are happy with the service at a restaurant, it is normal to leave a 10% tip. But only if you are happy with the service. 

8. Is it legal to buy cannabis?

No. It is illegal to both buy, sell and possess drugs. As we spoke about in number 1, we are not Dutch.

German Reichstag
German Reichstag

9. Is it true that Danish is a branch of German? 

Oh boy. Be careful. It will not go down well if you assume that we are some kind of Germans. 

Danish IS  a branch on the Germanic language tree. But so is English, Dutch and German and the other Scandinavian languages. Danish is most closely related to Norwegian and Swedish although, to foreigners, it sounds more like German and Dutch. 

10. Are there any famous Danes?

Of course. Just to name a few:

  • The writers Hans Christian Andersen and Soeren Kierkegaard
  • Former  Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen
  • The actors Viggo Mortensen and Connie Nielsen
  • The World’s most elegant footballer ever (in our subjective opinion), Michael Laudrup  and the goalkeepers Peter and Kasper Schmeichel
  • American Footballer Morten Andersen (second highest number of points in the NFL ever)
  • Tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki
  • The World’s best handball player, Mikkel Hansen. 

What do you think is the most confusing thing about Denmark? Let us and others know what you think:

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Top 10 Things to See in Copenhagen

Top 10 Things to See in Copenhagen

Let´s run you through the most interesting sights of the city:

1) Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens main entrance

Copenhagen is the only major city in the world that has an amusement park literally right in the city center. It was founded in 1843 and at that time it was right outside the old city walls. Today, the walls are gone and the city has grown around Tivoli. (The lake inside was part of the old moat). Tivoli Gardens has more the 4,6 million visitors a year and it is a beautiful place with lots of flowers, decorations, restaurants and rides for kids of all ages. 

2) Rosenborg Palace

This may be the most well preserved Renaissance Castle anywhere in the World and certainly in Scandinavia. It is the home of the magnificent Crown Jewels of Denmark and has so many artifacts that you will not believe it. Among other things, Rosenborg has what we believe is the World´s oldest wine. (Please correct us if you know of any older). Bought in the 1580´s, this German red wine is still served every year at the Queens New Years reception. 

Rosenborg is located very centrally in Copenhagen in a beautiful garden popular with students. Some of the rooms in the palace are completely as they were when the palace was built in the 1620s. (Read more here)

3) The World´s longest pedestrian street

Shopping in the World´s longest pedestrian street

Right in the center of the city from the City Hall Square to Kongens Nytorv runs the World´s longest pedestrian street called Strøget (very hard to pronounce but something like stroy-ed). Denmark is not cheap, but if you need clothes or gifts, you can find it here. 

4) Nyhavn (New Harbour)

Nyhavn may be the most picturesque place in Copenhagen with its colorful old houses, old ships and lots of restaurants. The famous fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen lived in Nyhavn for combined more than 20 years in number 20, 67 and 18. On a hot summer day Nyhavn is very crowded with both locals and tourists. 

5) Amalienborg Palace

The Danish monarchy is the oldest continuing line in the world. The Royal family lives at Amalienborg Palace and unlike royal palaces in other countries, it is not hidden behind walls or fences. You can walk freely around the square with the four big houses that make up the palace complex. In our opinion it is the most beautiful place in Copenhagen. (Read more here)

6) Christiansborg Palace (Parliament)

Christiansborg Palace is unique because it the only building in the World that has all branches of power in it. It houses the parliament, the supreme court, the prime ministers office, a church and the Queens receptions rooms. It is a majestic building from both the outside and inside and has been the center of power in Denmark for centuries. (Read more here)

7) The Round Tower (Rundetårn)

The Round Tower

The Round Tower is not that tall (34 meters). But the walk to the top is great fun. The tower does not have stairs but instead has a long road paved with bricks that winds its way around the tower all the way to the top. The Russian zar Peter the Great once rode his horse to the top while his wife followed in a horse carriage behind him. 

8) The Little Mermaid Statue

This iconic statue has become the symbol of Copenhagen and most tourists want to see it. It is very small but beautiful. You will see it if you go on a canal tour but get much closer if you see it from the land side.

The fairy tale of The Little Mermaid was written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837 and the statue was erected in 1913. Over the years, it has both been decapitated, painted red as a protest against whale hunting and dressed in a burka as a protest against muslim immigration to Denmark. 

9) Church of Our Saviour

Church of Our Saviour
Church of Our Saviour

The church with the remarkable spire was inaugurated in 1752 and is one of Denmark´s most famous and beautiful. It is very popular to climb the 400 steps to the top.

The church has an immensely impressive organ and altarpiece dating from the late 1600s and is a beautiful example of the simple Northern European Lutheran style. 

10) Christiania

The entrance to Christiania

The so-called Freetown of Christinia is not for everybody. Some guests find it dirty and rough. But it is certainly different and interesting. The area used to belong to the Danish Army but since they did not use for anything, hippies decided to occupy it in the 1970´s and they have stayed there ever since. As you enter, you will see signs saying that you are leaving the EU and cannabis is sold and smoked quite openly. This makes some visitors believe that it is legal. It is not. But the police has given up trying to enforce the law in this part of town. (Although they sometimes raid the cannabis stalls).

It is worth a stroll to see this very different community.

Do you agree with our list? Let us and other travellers know what you think are the best things to see in Copenhagen:


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