Denmark is a tiny Scandinavian country located in the far north of Western Europe, just above Germany and just below Sweden. With a population of about 5.5 million, Denmark is an extremely high functioning society, with minute unemployment and illiteracy levels. In fact, several different studies over the past several years have found Denmark to be the "happiest country on Earth," quite an achievement for such an unassuming nation. Copenhagen immediately brings to mind visions of pretty blonde girls, large sweaters and warm pastries, which is not far from the truth. However, Copenhagen is also a very modern city and is famous for exporting some of the best and most cutting-edge design and architecture in the world.
Photo: Kim Wyon, VisitDenmark
- How do I get to Denmark? How do I get around once I'm there?
- What do I need to know about money? ?
- Do I need a Visa?
- What is the climate like?
- What are business hours?
- What are some laws that I should be aware of?
- What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
- Anything else I need to know?
How do I get to Denmark? How do I get around once I'm there?
Denmark's primary airport is Copenhagen Airport (CPH), which sees a great deal of international air traffic. A handful of smaller airports are located in towns such as Aarhus and Roskilde, but due to the tiny geographic size of the country, it is unlikely that you will need to use them.
Denmark has an excellent train system, which can be used to when coming from neighboring European countries, and to move about once in the country. Denmark is a small country (about 1/5 the size of California), so taking trains between cities is very simple and time efficient.
Copenhagen has an excellent public transportation system, including a small subway network and an extensive organization of reliable buses. The subway is closed at night, but special night buses can be taken.
Nearly everyone in Copenhagen rides a bike, due to the small size of the city and relative flatness of the streets. The bike lane system is one of the most developed in the world, and bikes nearly always have the right-of-way. If you feel up to it, consider renting a bike, as it is a quick and easy way to get around, and will also allow you to experience more of the city firsthand.
What do I need to know about money? ?
Due to the high standard of living and the strength of the Danish Crown, Denmark can get quite expensive. Prices in Copenhagen rival those of cities like New York and London, so be prepared to shell out.
Most places in Denmark accept major international credit cards, and banks and ATMs are easy to find, even in smaller towns. As always, be wary of conversion charges, as they can pile up if you're not careful.
Tipping is not observed in Denmark, so you don't have to add any amount to your bill, whether it be in a restaurant, bar, taxi, etc. Furthermore, the VAT is already calculated into the written price of a good or service, so there are no surprises at the register. In short, what you see is what you pay.
Do I need a Visa?
Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand need a valid passport to enter Denmark, but do not need a visa for tourist stays of less than three months. Furthermore, no entry visa is needed for citizens of the EU and other Scandinavian countries.
Citizens of many African, South American, Asian, and former Soviet bloc countries do require a visa. The Danish Immigration Service publishes a list of countries whose citizens require a visa. It is prudent to check on your country's status well in advance of your trip.
What is the climate like?
Denmark is a decidedly Nordic country, and is therefore quite cold for the majority of the year. The summer months do warm up, and heat waves have been known to push temperatures above 27°C (80°F). Nevertheless, it is a good idea to keep a sweater handy. Autumn and spring are quite cool, and winter is bitterly cold, with snow and ice covering the country for several months. It is not uncommon for temperatures to hover around -1°C (30°F) during the day, and drop to -10°C (15°F) or below overnight.
Because Denmark is located so far north, the length of the days is highly affected by the time of year, intensifying the weather. During the summer, there are only a few hours of dark each night, and even this is more like twilight. Conversely, during the winter there are only a few hours of daylight to be had in the early afternoon, and these are often gray with snow clouds.
What are business hours?
Most places of business keep fairly standard hours; stores are usually open from around 10am to 8pm. Hours are often reduced on Saturdays, with many places closing sometime between 2pm and 4pm. Most places are closed on Sundays. This also applies to grocery stores and pharmacies, so you should stock up on any necessities during the week. Banks, government offices, and other such places are closed all weekend.
Bars and clubs remain open quite late, with many places closing between 4-6am.
What are some laws that I should be aware of?
In Denmark, the consumption of alcohol in public places is legal, so it is not uncommon to see people walking down the street with a beer in hand. Many 24-hour convenience stores sell beer for exactly this purpose.
What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
An integral part of Danish culture is the concept of "hygge", which, roughly translated, could be understood as "coziness". "Hygge" manifests itself in all aspects of life, and is a feeling that is considered to be the foundation for happiness and comfort. In this sense, a massive and wild party is not considered to be as valuable as a small gathering of friends, as the latter is far more "hyggelig" (hygge-like). For the same reason, apartments are often filled with candlelight, food is usually homemade, and large scarves are wrapped around the neck of every man, woman, and child, because it's "hyggelig".
Danes are very polite, and manners are of utmost importance. It is customary to always say "tak for sidst", or "thank you for last time" the next time you see someone after previously spending time with them.
Anything else I need to know?
Danes are very straightforward and honest, and you are unlikely to encounter any falsehood. To some, this can seem off-putting, as Danes will usually not go out of their way to coddle strangers. When in a store, the employees will often ignore you until you ask for assistance. This is simply because honest communication is highly valued, and fabricated nicety and general bullshit is frowned upon.
Danes love to eat and drink, and nearly any celebration will involve a large meal and copious amounts of liquor. During Christmastime, a celebratory meal can last an entire day and night, with course after course being served. There exists a deep love for food that manifests not only through these epic meals, but also through the love and care that many people put into their dishes, which are almost always homemade. Eating in is the norm, and it is common to invite friends over for a meal rather than go out to a restaurant.
Furthermore, the consumption of alcohol is an integral part of Danish culture, with no sense of taboo existing around it. Drinking ages are low, with the intention of teaching responsibility early on. It is entirely accepted that the majority of the population likes to party, and alcohol consumption is therefore very much in the open.