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How did a land once associated with marauding Vikings transform into a place regularly ranked as the world’s happiest country? There are several reasons, but the first one that springs to mind is hygge (hue-guh). Hygge is a uniquely Danish word—it cannot be literally translated into English, but in essence it means cultivating feelings of coziness and contentment. The Danes came up with the idea of hygge initially to infuse the long, dark days of winter with warmth and charm. Now it is part of the national identity, just as much as Denmark’s progressive social policies, commitment to environmental responsibility, and embracing the average; modesty is a key Danish virtue as well.

While today’s Danes are indeed a far cry from their Viking ancestors, they take immense pride in this legendary heritage. Well-preserved longships are displayed in museums, a recreated Viking village promotes living history, and ancient burial mounds can be found all over the country.

From its wind-swept beaches and historic harbors, to the upbeat energy of its capital city of Copenhagen, Denmark offers visitors much to discover—and a warm hygge welcome wherever you go. 

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From its pastel merchant buildings in the 17th century to its 21st-century steel-and-glass towers, Copenhagen has always exuded flair and style. Some of its most memorable treasures, like the bronze Little Mermaid statue, are humble in scope; others, like the massive Christiansborg Palace where the Parliament meets, speak of majesty and empire. But its luster is not limited to the historic: Copenhagen today is a hub of cutting-edge design and the most sought-after Michelin-starred restaurants. This diversity comes together when you follow the footsteps of Hans Christian Andersen to one of the cafés of Nyhan, the quayside neighborhood surrounding the canal of the same name. Settle in with smørrebrød (which we know as smorgasbord) and a craft cocktail, watching chic Danes in the latest fashions stroll along ancient cobbled lanes, and you can experience all of Copenhagen’s personalities at once.

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Far from the bustle of Copenhagen, the port city of Rønne on the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm is a beloved getaway for Danes. As a major ferry stopover between Denmark and Sweden, the 13th century city exploded with activity in the 19th century, and still reflects its heyday with its half-timbered houses, colorful buildings, and cobblestone streets. Store Torv, the main square, is studded with café tables in the warmer months, and outlined with local shops. Among Rønne’s greatest sources of pride are its history of fine ceramics, enshrined at the Hjorths Fabrik museum, and its clock-making tradition. Just getting to Rønne is part of the fun, as the island itself is a beauty, with pale cliffs, lush forests, and white sand beaches, all presided over by a 19th century lighthouse rising 60 feet over the harbor.

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There’s nowhere quite like Christiana…and that’s just as its free-spirited denizens intend. The 84-acre abandoned military base was reclaimed by artists and counter-culture activists in 1971 as a social experiment. Moving in and setting up their own communal society—without the permission of the government—they created an alternative utopia that makes its own rules. The complex is now full of art galleries, handmade houses, performance spaces, organic cafés, and studios, many of them adorned with graffiti and political murals. Even with traditional elements like its own flag and currency, this colorful kingdom remains as unpredictable as ever; one never knows whether it will be open to visitors on a given day, and when it is, both cars and cameras are forbidden, to help preserve its own unique culture.

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The fast pace of modern life drops away entirely when you visit charming Dragør, a 12th-century fishing village. During the days of the Hanseatic League, Dragør (the name of which means “haul nets ashore”) developed one of Denmark’s biggest fishing fleets. In the 16th century, King Christian invited two dozen farm families from the Netherlands to settle here as a way to boost agricultural life (and the Dutch influence has remained especially strong in the adjacent village of Store Magleby). The streets of Dragør still feel timeless, the cobbled lanes lined with yellow houses crowned with red rooftops. In the Old Town, only locals may drive, which makes it a haven for pedestrians who poke in and out of the small shops and galleries. The waterfront is an easy stroll away; visitors headed for the beach should be sure to pause at the “Goose Republic,” an expanse dedicated to free-roaming fowl which have been raised here for centuries.

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Most Popular Films

Films featuring Denmark from international, independent filmmakers

36 Hours in Copenhagen

Get a true sense of the Danish spirit as you take a virtual tour of scenic Copenhagen.

Produced by Fritzie Andrade, Max Cantor, Chris Carmichael and Aaron Wolfe

©2014 The New York Times

Copenhagen and Denmark

Explore the many charms of Copenhagen, Denmark—our post-trip extension—with travel expert Rudy Maxa.

Produced by Small World Productions

Travelogue: Scandinavia 1967

See the bustling cities of Stockholm and Copenhagen, where familiar icons stand out against a 1960s back-drop.

Produced by David Conover & Paul Villanova

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Copenhagen, Denmark


Take in the sights of Copenhagen—from its picturesque canals to iconic landmarks like The Little Mermaid statue
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Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

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Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

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Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

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Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

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Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

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