Denmark seems to have cemented its position at or near the top of every global quality-of-life survey. For visitors watching their expenditure, the cost of living here may taint their personal viewpoint a tad but, provided you take heed of expenses, this is a country that is sure to delight in every way. Like most of Scandinavia, the landscape is defined by its water and its many islands – each with its own distinctive character. There is a real joy in visiting towns with unpronounceable names and which, more importantly, rarely turn up in tourism brochures, and discover the unsung glory of picturesque cobblestone streets, skewed half-timbered houses, and bakeries – ah the bakeries, selling some of the best pastries and cakes you are likely to taste this side of – well, Denmark. And to work off all those calories, do what do the Danes do and get pedalling; Denmark is the most bike-friendly country in the world.
History & Impact
The world first took notice of Denmark more than a millennium ago, when Danish Vikings took to the seas and ravaged vast tracts of Europe. How things have changed. These days Denmark captures global imagination as the epitome of a civilised society, and it punches above its weight on many fronts: progressive politics, urban planning, sustainability, design and architecture. Recent global crushes, freshly exported from Copenhagen, include a city cycling culture, the New Nordic culinary movement and brilliantly addictive TV drama series.
Happiness & Hygge
It’s heart-warming to know there’s still a country where the term ‘fairy tale’ can be used freely – from its most enduring literary legacy to its fine textbook castles. In a nutshell, Denmark gets it right: old-fashioned charm embraces the most avowedly forward-looking design and social developments. The country wins a regular chart-topping place on lists of both the most liveable and the happiest nations on earth. You won’t have to search hard to find some much-prized hygge, an untranslatable and uniquely Danish trait that has a profound influence on the locals’ inestimable happiness. Hygge is social nirvana in Denmark: a sense of cosiness, camaraderie and contentment.
Quality of Life
While many countries are noticeable for the ever-increasing gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, Denmark seems to be populated by the ‘have enoughs’ and the obviously rich and obviously poor are few and far between. This egalitarian spirit allows the best of the arts, architecture, eating and entertainment to be within easy reach of everyone. Indeed, the best catchword for Denmark might well be ‘inclusive’ – everyone is welcome and everyone is catered to, be they young, old, gay, straight, male, female, whether they travel with kids, pets or bikes in tow or with a mobility issue or handicap. Cities are compact and user-friendly, infrastructure is clean and modern and travel is a breeze.
The Danish Aesthetic
It’s true, Denmark doesn’t have the stop-you-in-your-tracks natural grandeur of its neighbours, but its landscapes are understated – pure and simple, often infused with an ethereal Nordic light. Such landscapes are reflected in the Danish design philosophy towards fashion, food, architecture, furniture and art. Simplicity of form and function come first but not at the expense of beauty. And so you’ll find moments of quintessential Danish loveliness on a long sandy beach, beside a lake, admiring a Renaissance castle, on the bike lanes of Bornholm or in a candlelit cafe that has perfected the art of hygge.