A Journey to the Viking Nation
That thing about making the world a better place—it might seem a bit overwhelming to say—but it is basically what it’s all about.
Helle Illum Aagaard.
Instituto de Investigación de la Felicidad.
Denmark is a country that has already overcome the challenges that most have postponed for an uncertain future. They led the World Happiness Report in 2016, a concept understood as the result of an institutional and national survey, which is measured through a balance between lifestyle, pleasure, leisure, spirituality, family, free will, health, profession, income, working conditions, security, and governability, among other factors that make up the universally praised Danish welfare model.
A key aspect that the Danes themselves highlight in this achievement is true equity, which is preserved at the core of the people’s ethical sense, based on respect, tolerance and mutual trust. The areas in which Denmark creates universal tendencies cover several topics; for example, the country is considered the least corrupt on the planet.
The Runic Stones of Jelling Mark the Beginning
The word "Denmark" was carved on the famous Stones of Jelling, considered as the “Danish birth certificate.” This fabulous vestige is located in the town of the same name, on the Jutland peninsula. The smallest stone was erected by King Gorm in honor of his wife, Queen Thyra, approximately in the year of 955. His son—King Harald "Bluetooth" Gormson—raised the largest stone around 965, to inscribe his victories. In this place, he commissioned the construction of the first Christian church, which then had to be rebuilt twice. In this enclosure, the oldest murals of the country are still safeguarded. We recommend a visit to this town, since it was a significant stronghold of the Viking Age.
King Harald ordered these kumbls made in memory of Gorm, his father, and in memory of Thyra, his mother; that Harald who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.
A Maritime World Power
Denmark encompasses the Jutland Peninsula and 406 islands, as well as the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic and Greenland—both belong to the kingdom since the 18th century, although each has an autonomous government. Navigation is the most popular sport among the Danes because it can turn into an adventure with a myriad of layers, where they can travel luxuriously between different cities and islands, arrive at the fjords with their impressive panoramas, visit fishing villages, and escape to neighboring Norway or Sweden on an unforgettable trip. As for the maritime infrastructure, there are around 60 places to dock that include ports, bays, marinas and anchorages.
Throughout the year, there are options for fishing enthusiasts that cover trips along the coasts, deep waters, rivers, streams and lakes. Visitors must take into account that a license valid for one day or up to a year will be necessary.
In its 7500 km of coastline, there are plenty of opportunities to live in contact with the sea and perform all kinds of water sports, fully confident of the cleanliness of the water, which allows swimming even at the ports. July and August are the months when the water is at its most pleasant temperature to enjoy the great amount of opportunities that the Baltic Sea or North Sea beaches offer.
A panoramic view of the capital wouldn’t be complete if it’s not appreciated aboard a vessel, to navigate through the channels—let it be on one of the traditional boats, gondolas, kayaks and even modern solar-powered boats that are available for rent. One of the most popular sites are the Nyhavn or Gammel Strand canal, to then travel to the main points of interest in the city: beautiful churches; bridges; sculptures, castles and old buildings cataloged as patrimony of the humanity—historic buildings and masterpieces of contemporary Danish architecture.
Nowhere else in the world is there such a perfected and embraced cycling culture. It is estimated that around four million bicycles circulate along the 10,000 routes, which are specifically designed for a completely safe pedaling experience, which, in addition, cover a tour through unforgettable places. In the Danish capital, the flow of cyclists is so dense that it's regulated by traffic lights.
The first special lane for cyclists was inaugurated in 1910. In the 70s, the population decided to change their cars for bicycles, so it’s not uncommon for renowned scientists, businessmen, personalities, as well as citizens from all spectrums of life, to move towards their daily commitments by pedaling through safe cycleways and bridges meant for bicycle traffic, and for which urban infrastructure has been implemented, such as air pumps or special parking.
A Look Through Science
The country has a history of 500 years of research, science and technical development that has paid off in several fields, such as Nobel laureates Niels Bohr’s (1885-1962) and Niels Finsen’s (1860-1904) brilliant contributions to atomic physics and to medical research respectively. The same happens in the development of clean technologies, biotechnology, bioengineering, enzyme research, central nervous system and cancer. Regarding the pharmaceutical industry, its contribution to the discovery and production of insulin should be noted.
Denmark has been awarded the first position in the Information and Communication Technologies Development Index. It has created the first technological embassy in the world, which framework is the digital universe, to serve as mediator between the country and the big cyberspace companies and developers such as Google, Facebook, Applen Alibaba, Silicon Valley or Shenzhen, and even with other governments—an action that is amply justified in this era in which a true “digital diplomacy” reigns. Skype and Google Maps were also developed in this country.
The Danes have a copious collection of emblematic buildings from around the world designed by great architects; brothers Christian and Theophilus Hansen have created great structures, such as the University of Athens (1850) and the Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna (1884). Another example is the Sydney Opera House, a project won in a competition by Jørn Utzon in 1958—these are just three examples of what today is a huge list.
Sustainability is the main goal for contemporary Danish architects, who work within a neo-modernist perspective characterized by a minimalist conception.
[photo url="/images/articles/130-dinamarca/030-dinamarca/040-utzon-center" album="6271" caption="The Utzon Center Aalborg (2008) by Kim Utzon Architecture." keyword="Amura,Dinamarca,Vikingos,Rey Harald,piedras rúnicas de Jelling,daneses,felicidad"][/photo]
Similarly, they are nourished by other trends such as pragmatism, with its unconventional and even provocative approach in the use of materials, shapes and colors.
In the current Danish architectural universe, renowned studios such as Entasis, Dorte Mandrup, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Henning Larsen Architects and Lundgaard & Tranberg stand out. Among their representative buildings are the National Aquarium Denmark, the Maritime Museum of Denmark, the Copenhagen Opera House, the 8 House and the Museum of Modern Art.
The Irreplaceable Danish Design
Between 1940 and 1950, Denmark experienced great advances in design and became a focus of global attention. The evolution was driven by an organic movement of union between artisans, architects, graphic artists, businessmen and publicists, with a clear aesthetic value. Their futuristic proposals were conceived from the beginning to be environmentally friendly, to offer smart solutions, using the best materials and of such quality to last a lifetime, applied to everyday objects (furniture, accessories, textiles, etc.). Some of the protagonists of this boom of sustainability are: Borge Mogensen, Finn Junl, Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, Poul Henningsen, Kaare Klint, Knud V. Engelhardt and Georg Jensen.
In recent years, the New Nordic Cuisine has become a global trend. This proposal is based on elements of traditional Scandinavian food reinterpreted in an experimental, avant-garde and really creative way, which at the same time promotes the production and consumption of traditional and organic food products; this has paved the way for the creation of several restaurants that have earned more than 15 Michelin stars in total; their success is such that it’s almost a miracle to get a reservation.
Since the 90s, the Danish film industry has experienced a significant period, reaping great international recognition with films like Babette's Feast, by Gabriel Axel, 1987 Oscar winner; Pelle the Conqueror, by Bille August, winner of the Oscar and the Palme d'Or in 1988; and The Best Intentions, by Bille August, (Palme d'Or 1992).
Its powerful artistry has been infused with the strength and sensitivity of its origins, to be expressed in all Danish cultural and creative manifestations: literature, fine visual arts, music, theater and dance. Prestigious companies and artists exhibit their work in the numerous cultural spaces and shows scattered throughout the territory.
Copenhagen: An Exquisite Capital
Originally it was called Købmændenes havn (Port of the merchants), and finally it was baptized as København. In the fifteenth century, Copenhagen became the royal residence and capital of Denmark and Sweden. It is an incredibly beautiful city and full of historical, cultural and tourist attractions.
This is perhaps the most visited place in Copenhagen, with amenities for the whole family. It is one of the oldest centers of attractions in the world—it opened its doors for the first time in 1843. One visit includes rides and games, exhibitions, pantomime theater, live music, and ballet every day during the summer in the outdoor stages, surrounded by spectacular scenery and unique architecture. It has 23 restaurants, 14 fast food locales, five bars and two coffee shops. At night, 100,000 specially designed lights illuminate the park’s areas.
A Visit to the Palaces
Visitors can find medieval castles of impressive presence and history, both in the capital and its surroundings. Some are still inhabited by the royal family, although there are areas open to the public that offer various activities, such as participating in artistic installations and attending exhibitions of royal collections in their galleries and museums.
It covers the royal history of the Danish constitutional kings and queens. At present it is the winter residence of Her Majesty the Queen Margrethe II and of the royal family; it provides accommodation for guests and is used for ceremonial purposes. Two of its buildings are open to the public.
Palacio de Amalienborg
Christian VIII's Palæ
1257 Copenhagen K
T:+45 3315 3286
It was built in the beginning of the 17th century by mandate of the Danish king Christian IV, and was used as the royal residence until around 1710. Visitors can explore the beautiful gardens, the living rooms and royal chambers, as well as the hall that protects the jewels of the Royal Danish House.
Castillo de Rosenborg
Øster Voldgade 4A
1350 København K
T: +45 3315 3286
This site was the inspiration for the scenarios in which William Shakespeare placed the plot of the tragedy of Hamlet. Since the 19th century, representations of the drama are performed during the summer, and there is also a guided tour called “In Hamlet’s Footsteps”, which takes you to every corner of the castle that is related to the theatrical narrative.
Some of the countless royal locations that shouldn’t be missed on a visit to Denmark are the Christianborg Castle, which is now the seat of Parliament; the Egeskov Castle, which offers interesting exhibits, and has one of the most beautiful historic gardens in Europe; as well as the Frederiksborg Palace, located in Hillerød, north of Copenhagen; it was built in the first decades of the 17th century by the legendary Danish king Christian IV, and houses the Museum of Natural History since 1878.
Castillo de Kronborg
Ronborg 2 C, 3000
Strøget Walk: Ideal for Strolling and Shopping
It is a pedestrian area that the Danes boast as the largest in Europe, considered Copenhagen’s most important tourist and shopping hub. It is located in the medieval center of the capital, and is the place where you can find designer boutiques such as Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, among other iconic names in the exclusive world of fashion; there are also specialized stores, such as the Royal Copenhagen porcelain factory, founded in 1775 by Queen Juliana Maria, internationally recognized for its fine blue and white porcelain products; the aristocratic store Georg Jensen, where it’s possible to acquire designer masterpieces; or Nomes Furniture, specialist in vintage furniture design. In this area, there are other sites of interest such as the Church of Our Lady; the Stork Fountain; the City Hall Square; the City Hall Tower; the Royal Danish Theater; art galleries, antique shops and museums.
National Museum of Denmark
This is the most important exhibition site in the territory; its collections show pieces from civilizations like the Greek, Roman and Egyptian; with special emphasis on historical objects from Denmark up to 14,000 years of antiquity—the great legacy of the Viking universe—as well as unique exhibitions from the rest of Denmark’s museums, to transmit its fabulous history.
Museo Nacional de Dinamarca
Mansión del Príncipe,
New Vestergade 10,
1471 Copenhague K
ARoS Art Museum
These art collections span from 1770 to contemporary art trends. The museum is sponsored by Queen Margrethe II and is located in a nine-story building; one of its special attractions is located at the roof: an artistic installation by the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, who in 2011 created a circular walkway along the entire façade of the building that allows visitors to see the city through a prism with the colors of the rainbow, which changes the colors of the city’s landscape as you walk around it.
Museo de Arte ARoS
Aros Allé 2, 8000
T: +45 87 30 66 00
The offer to enjoy the nightlife in the capital is extremely attractive and diverse. You can start by attending the concerts at the Copenhagen Opera House, along with an impressive selection in different theaters and entertainment centers. It is after midnight when the party really starts in clubs, bars, nightclubs and pubs, where international DJs will make you dance until the wee hours of the morning; it’s worth noting that the Jazz offer is incomparable, and that one of the favorite places to enjoy it is the Jazzhus Montmartre. Another highly recommended venue in the Danish music scene is Vega, famous throughout Europe.
Traveling to the Era of the Vikings
The Viking Ship Museum is located in Roskilde, offering “modern historical narratives” about this civilization. Tourists will live in a Viking atmosphere in the present, recreated to such an extent that they will experience the sensation of traveling through time. Other places to get immersed into on this route are: the Trelleborg Viking Fortress, which recreates a true Viking market during the summer, as well as the Ladby Viking Museum, Ribe Viking Center, Hobro (Fyrkat) Viking Center and Bork Viking Harbour.
We recommend a visit to the Trelleborg Castle on the islands of Zealand—classified as the best preserved of the existing Viking fortresses—or the Aalborg Viking Burial Site.
Faroe Islands: More Than Just an Adventure
In Copenhagen you can take a two-hour flight and also board a ferry to the Faroe Islands. Once there, it will open the opportunity to experience many adventures such as hiking, biking, diving, bird watching, sailing, horseback riding, and countless adventure sports. You will have the chance to listen to traditional stories, taste the delicious culinary offer, buy local products and crafts, but above all, get excited about the beauty of its corners and landscapes.
Greenland: The Land of Ice
From Copenhagen, you can travel by Air Greenland on a three-hour, 45-minute flight to the largest island in the world: Greenland. Visitors must consider that the frequency of these flights will depend on the time of the year. Cruises are regularly available to Greenland departing from countries such as Iceland, Canada, Germany, or Denmark itself. This place is ideal for adventurers. The northern lights, one of the great shows of the Arctic, can be observed anywhere in Greenland, including the extreme south, from the first days of August. This impressive site holds an immense treasure made up of the Inuit, the name that the Eskimos of Greenland and northeastern Canada go by; their survival skills are living proof of the human capacity to adapt to the most extreme conditions, and still achieve happiness. To the western world, these lands were officially discovered by Viking Erik the Red around 982. 0
Text: Maruchy Behmaras ± Photo: Mario Ramírez / Kim Wyon / Visit Denmark / Niclas Jessen / Niels Thye / Copyright Wonderful Copenhagen / Ángel David Castillo / Adam-Mørk / VisitAalborg / Rangers Aarhus / Tivoli / John Sommer / Kim Wyon / Photopop / The National Museum of Denmark / ARoS, Aarhus Kunstmuseum / Bjarne Bergius Hermansen / Jens Markus Lindhe / SHUTERSTOCK