Acting as a bridge between mainland Europe and Scandinavia, Denmark is the southernmost of the Nordic countries. This liberal country is well-known for its efficient transport system, comprehensive system of social welfare, and enviably low levels of crime. Blessed with a rich history and culture, Denmark is also famous for its association with the Vikings and the writer Hans Christian Andersen. Here are some interesting facts about Denmark.
Facts about Denmark
1. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy and the Danish monarchy is one of the oldest in the world.
The Danish royal family can trace its lineage in an unbroken line of more than 1000 years to Gorm the Old (deceased 958), thus making it one of the oldest monarchies in Europe. From 1660 to 1848, Denmark was an absolute monarchy.
Today, Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the power of the monarch is limited, and the royal family’s primary function is ceremonial. Real power is vested in the unicameral parliament (Folketing).
The reigning monarch of Denmark is Queen Margrethe II who ascended the throne in 1972.
2. The Kingdom of Denmark includes two autonomous territories—the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
Besides metropolitan Denmark, the Danish Realm (Kingdom of Denmark) is made up of the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Both the Faroe Islands and Greenland enjoy extensive self-government, but most foreign and security issues are handled by Copenhagen under the Danish Realm.
3. Denmark has over 400 islands, but only about 70 of them are inhabited.
People tend to think of Denmark as one large chunk of landmass. However, the country is surrounded by water and consists of over 400 islands in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. Zealand, North Jutlandic Island, and Funen are the three largest Danish islands.
4. No matter where you are in Denmark, you’ll never be more than 52 kilometers (32 miles) from the sea.
One of the coolest Denmark facts is that you are never far from the coast. Although Denmark is a relatively small nation by area, the length of its coastline is over 7,300 km (4,536 miles).
5. Denmark has the highest percentage of arable land for any country in the world.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Denmark consists of over 58% of arable land, the highest percentage of arable land for any country in the world. However, agriculture accounts for less than 2% of Denmark’s GDP. Denmark’s biggest agricultural exports are meat, fur, and dairy products.
The Guardian reports that Denmark produces three times the amount of food it needs for itself.
6. Denmark is the only country in the world where pigs outnumber people.
One of the lesser-known Denmark facts is that it is the only country in the world where pigs outnumber humans. In fact, for every man, woman, and child in Denmark, there are approximately 2.25 pigs.
In the latest figures published by Statistics Denmark, there are over 13.1 million pigs in Denmark. That’s a remarkably high number for a country only about twice the size of New Jersey.
7. Denmark was the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex unions in 1989.
It’s sometimes erroneously reported that Denmark was the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage. That distinction belongs to the Netherlands.
Denmark, however, was the first country in the world to grant same-sex couples the right to register as domestic partners, doing so in 1989. Following Denmark’s legalization of same-sex unions, Axel and Eigil Axgil became the first same-sex couple in the world to receive legal recognition and rights on 1 October 1989.
Same-sex marriage in Denmark has been legal since 15 June 2012.
8. Denmark is home to the world’s oldest operating amusement park.
The oldest operating theme park in the world is Bakken, located in Klampenborg just north of Copenhagen, Denmark. It opened in 1583 and continues to be a popular attraction with Danes today.
Coincidentally, Denmark is also home to the third-oldest operating amusement park in the world—Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.
9. The national flag of Denmark is the oldest national flag still in use.
The national flag of Denmark (Dannebrog) is the oldest national flag still in use. It was created in 1219 (although it was formally adopted in 1625) and unchanged since.
10. In 1969, Denmark became the first country in the world to legalize pornography.
Long known for its liberal and progressive policy, Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize pornography (pictorial and audiovisual pornography to be specific) on 1 July 1969.
11. The highest natural point in Denmark is only 171 meters above sea level.
Denmark is a rather flat country with the average elevation being only 34 m (111 ft) above sea level. Located in the Ejerbjerge Hills of Denmark, Møllehøj (171 m/561 ft) is also the lowest high point of any country in the European Union (EU).
12. The Danish alphabet has three letters not found in the English alphabet.
The Danish alphabet consists of 29 letters and the three extra Danish letters not found in English are Æ, Ø, and Å. All three are vowels and come after the letter Z in the alphabet.
13. Bluetooth wireless technology was named after the 10th-century Danish king Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson.
Though Bluetooth was developed by Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson in the 1990s, it gets its name from the 10th-century Danish king Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson who is known for uniting Denmark and Norway and converting the Danes to Christianity.
Furthermore, the Bluetooth logo combines the runes ᚼ and ᛒ, which are Harald’s initials.
14. The national dish of Denmark is fried pork served with potatoes and parsley sauce.
In 2014, Danes voted fried pork with parsley sauce and potatoes (stegt flæsk med persillesovs og kartofler) as their national dish. Basically, pork belly is grilled or fried until very crisp, and served with potatoes and a rich white sauce loaded with fresh parsley.
15. The United States purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark for 25 million USD in 1917.
Did you know that the United States purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917? The islands (St. Croix, St. Julian, and St. Thomas), then known as the “Danish West Indies” were a Danish colony in the Caribbean.
The United States had made several attempts to purchase the Danish West Indies since the late 1860s in an endeavor to expand its influence in the Caribbean. Finally, on 31 March 1917, Danish West Indies were formally ceded to the United States by Denmark for a sum of $25 million in gold coin.
16. Denmark has official rules about what a baby can be named.
Denmark is one of the few countries in the world that have a very strict law in place for personal names. Danish parents must choose their child’s name from a list of preapproved names or seek approval from both the government and their local church.
Danish law states that girls and boys must have names that indicate their gender and unusual names may be rejected. The basis of this law is to protect children from outrageous, ridiculous, or embarrassing names that may later lead to ridicule or public harassment.
17. Denmark is the only Nordic country where there is no government monopoly on the sale of strong alcohol.
One of the interesting Denmark facts is that it is the only Nordic nation to not have governmentally run alcohol retail stores. You can buy beer, wine, and all sorts of strong spirits in any convenience store, grocery shop, or supermarket in Denmark in addition to bars.
In all the other Nordic countries (Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden). alcoholic beverages (typically over 5.5% ABV) are only available in government-owned store chains and bars.
18. William Shakespeare set his famous play Hamlet at Elsinore Castle, which is directly modeled on Denmark’s Kronborg Castle.
Located in the town of Helsingør (classically referred to in English as ‘Elsinore’) in northeastern Denmark, Kronborg Castle is the real-life inspiration for Elsinore Castle in William Shakespeare’s famous play Hamlet.
While there is no evidence to suggest that Shakespeare even visited Denmark, his knowledge of Kronborg Castle derived in all probability from the many English theatrical companies which flocked to Helsingør to perform before the court of Danish king Christian IV.
19. Denmark was one of the founding members of NATO.
In 1949, Denmark became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty (later NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
20. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Denmark.
As in many other European nations, football (soccer) is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Denmark.
21. Denmark is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Excluding the three sites in Greenland, the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Denmark are:
- Christiansfeld (Cultural)
- Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones and Church (Cultural)
- Kronborg Castle (Cultural)
- The par force hunting landscape in North Zealand (Cultural)
- Roskilde Cathedral (Cultural)
- Wadden Sea (Natural)
- Stevns Klint (Natural)
22. Denmark is the least corrupt country in the world.
Transparency International has repeatedly found Denmark to be among the least corrupt countries in the world. According to the latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking, Denmark is the least corrupt country in the world, sharing the top spot with New Zealand.
23. Denmark physically borders only one other country — Germany.
Denmark shares its only land border with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
24. The name of the Danish toy company “LEGO” is an abbreviation of the Danish phrase “leg godt” meaning “play well” in English.
The name “LEGO” was given to the world-famous toy company in 1934 by its founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, as an abbreviation of the Danish phrase “Leg Godt” (“play well”).
25. The United States attempted to buy Greenland for $100 million in gold in 1946, but Denmark refused.
Before Donald Trump floated the possibility of buying Greenland in 2019, it wasn’t the first time the United States had expressed interest in buying Denmark.
In 1946, America had developed a geopolitical interest in Greenland and the U.S. president Harry Truman offered to buy the island from Denmark for $100 million in gold ($1.43 billion in 2022).
26. Denmark is one of only two countries in the world with two official national anthems.
One of the lesser-known facts about Denmark is that it is one of only two countries, along with New Zealand, to have two national anthems of equal standing.
The first – Kong Kristian stod ved højen mast (“King Christian stood by the lofty mast)” is the royal national anthem and is used during military and royal occasions. The second – Der er et yndigt land (“There is a lovely land”) is the civil national anthem of Denmark.
27. There is no direct translation for the word “please” in Danish.
It’s true that there is no specific word in Danish that literally translates as “please.” However, this doesn’t mean that Danes are impolite people.
Instead, Danes use other phrases like “vær venlig” (“be so kind”), “Må jeg bede om…” (“May I beg for…”) or even “tak” (“thanks”) depending on the context.