Denmark History

March 31, 2023

Paul Kay

Have you considered Europe vacation ideas? We have fun facts about Denmark in this post. Maybe you want to find a destination vacation. Denmark is wonderful. It’s beautiful in the summer and snowy in the winter. I am 50% Danish on my Mother’s side so I love Denmark. As a traveler, here are some fun facts to consider about Denmark.

Denmark has a rich history dating back to prehistoric times. The earliest known human settlements in the area date back to around 12,000 BC. During the Bronze Age, the Danish tribes were part of the larger cultural group known as the Germanic people. In the early Middle Ages, Denmark was ruled by a monarchy, and the kingdom expanded through conquest and colonization. The Viking Age, which lasted from the late 8th century to the 11th century, was a period of great expansion for the Danish people. During this time, the Vikings made significant advancements in shipbuilding and navigation, and they established settlements and trading posts throughout Europe and the North Atlantic.

The Viking Age was a period of significant expansion and exploration for the people of Scandinavia, particularly the Norwegians, Danes, and Swedes. These groups of people are commonly referred to as the Vikings. The Vikings were known for their seafaring abilities and their use of the longship, which allowed them to navigate the rivers and seas of Europe and beyond. They established settlements and trading posts in areas such as the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland, and even as far as North America. They were also known for their raids and conquests, which brought them wealth and fame.

The Vikings were not a single unified group, but rather a diverse collection of individuals and communities. However, some notable figures from the Viking Age include:

  • Harald Fairhair, who is credited as the first king of Norway and united many small kingdoms under his rule.
  • Ragnar Lodbrok, a legendary Viking warrior and ruler who is said to have been the father of several famous Viking warriors. If you are a fan of the TV series, Vikings, you will recognize the name. 

Rouen Rollon statue Viking was 1st ruler of Normandie died between 928 and 933

  • Rouen Rollon, also known as Rollo or Hrolf, was a Viking leader and the first ruler of Normandy, a region in northern France. He was born in Norway in the late 9th century and became the leader of a group of Vikings who raided and settled in parts of France. In 911, Rollon and his army made an agreement with the French king Charles the Simple, known as the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, which granted them land in the region of Normandy in exchange for their protection against other Viking raids. Rollon then settled in the region and established a Viking state, which later evolved into the Duchy of Normandy. Our friend Doru, who is an expert guide and historian, told me all about Rollo. He was the one who led me to the statue so Madeline could take a picture.

  • Erik the Red, who explored and colonized Greenland

Leif Erikson statue in Reykjavik, Iceland. Ericsson was a Norse explorer from Iceland and the first known European to have discovered continental North America

  • Leif Erikson, who is credited with being the first European to reach North America, around 1000 AD.

Additionally, the Viking Age also saw the rise of powerful Viking chieftains and warlords like Ivar the Boneless and Bjorn Ironside. They were also known for their artistic skills, such as metalworking, wood carving, and runestone making. Overall, the Vikings were a diverse group of people with a wide range of skills and abilities, but their seafaring abilities, trading networks, and raiding and conquering activities are considered to be the main contributors to the Viking Age.

Oslo capital city of Norway - statue of king Christian IV

In the late Middle Ages, Denmark was a powerful kingdom and a major player in European politics. The country experienced a Golden Age during the reign of King Christian IV in the 16th and 17th centuries, during which time Denmark became a major naval power and made significant economic and cultural advancements. King Christian IV was the king of Denmark and Norway from 1588 to 1648. He was the son of Frederick II and Sophia of Mecklenburg, and he came to the throne at the age of 11. 

View of Rosenborg Castle. A Dutch Renaissance Palace with gardens, guided tours and museum housing the crown jewels in the city center

During his reign, Christian IV was known for his ambitious building projects, including the construction of several grand palaces, fortresses, and churches, such as Rosenborg Castle, Kronborg Castle, and the Church of Our Savior. He also initiated several major public works projects, such as the construction of canals and harbors, which helped to modernize and develop the country's infrastructure. He was also a patron of the arts and sciences, and he supported the development of Danish literature and the establishment of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.

View of Kronborg Castle and Oresund strait in Helsingor (Elsinore), Denmark

Christian IV was also a military leader, and he led Denmark into several wars during his reign, including the Kalmar War, the Torstenson War, and the Thirty Years' War. While he was initially successful in these conflicts, Denmark ultimately suffered significant losses and was forced to cede territory to its enemies. Despite these setbacks, Christian IV is remembered as one of Denmark's most celebrated kings, and his reign is often referred to as the "Golden Age" of Denmark, due to the cultural, economic, and architectural achievements that took place during this time.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Denmark underwent significant political and social changes, including the rise of democracy and the abolition of serfdom. During this time, Denmark also experienced rapid industrialization and urbanization. The country underwent a period of Enlightenment and experienced a rise in the ideas of democracy, freedom and human rights. This period also saw the rise of the bourgeoisie class and the introduction of new technologies and methods of production which helped to spur economic growth.

During this time, Denmark also went through a period of territorial expansion. The country acquired Norway in 1814, which helped to further strengthen its economy and military. However, the country lost its territories in the Duchy of Schleswig and the Duchy of Holstein to Prussia in the 1864 war, which was a significant blow to Denmark's prestige and economy. In the 19th century, Denmark underwent a process of industrialization which led to a growth in the population and urbanization. The country's economy was mainly based on agriculture, but slowly started to shift towards industry and trade. This century also saw the abolition of serfdom, which greatly improved the living conditions of the lower class. Additionally, the 19th century saw the rise of the Danish welfare state, which was aimed at providing better living conditions and social security to the citizens.

The 19th century also saw Denmark participate in a number of conflicts, including the Napoleonic Wars and the First Schleswig War. The country remained neutral during the World War I and II which helped to keep the country relatively stable during these conflicts. Overall, the 18th and 19th centuries were a period of significant change for Denmark, marked by political and social reforms, territorial expansion, economic growth and the rise of the welfare state. The country experienced both successes and setbacks, but the period laid the foundations for the prosperity and stability that Denmark enjoys today.

In the 20th century, Denmark was occupied by Germany during World War II, but the country was able to rebuild and recover quickly after the war.  During World War II, Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany. The occupation began on April 9, 1940, when German forces invaded Denmark without a declaration of war. The Danish government initially tried to resist the occupation, but after a brief resistance, the government decided to surrender to avoid further bloodshed.

During the occupation, the Danish government and most of the country's institutions continued to function, but they were controlled and heavily influenced by the Germans. The Danish government was allowed to maintain a degree of autonomy, but the Germans imposed strict censorship and control over the media, education, and the economy. They also implemented anti-Semitic policies, and many Danish Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

The Danish resistance movement, which was made up of a diverse group of individuals and organizations, played an important role in opposing the occupation. The resistance carried out acts of sabotage, intelligence gathering, and helped to smuggle Jewish citizens to safety in Sweden. Despite the occupation, Denmark managed to maintain a relatively high standard of living compared to other occupied countries in Europe. The Germans did not impose the same level of harsh restrictions and exploitation as they did in other occupied countries, and the Danish economy was relatively stable throughout the occupation.

However, the occupation had a profound impact on Danish society, and the country was deeply divided over how to respond to the occupation. Some Danes chose to collaborate with the Germans, while others actively resisted the occupation. After the war, Denmark was liberated by the Allies in May of 1945. The country suffered relatively little physical damage during the war, and the country quickly returned to normal. The country's government and institutions were restored, and many of the people who had collaborated with the Germans were held accountable for their actions.

Today, Denmark is a prosperous and socially progressive country, known for its high standard of living and strong welfare state. Denmark is known for a number of things today, including:

  • Denmark consistently ranks among the top countries in the world in terms of quality of life and happiness. The country has a well-developed social welfare system and a strong economy.

Legoland Billund Resort. Famous amusement park and hotel

  • Denmark is known for its modern and minimalist design, particularly in the areas of furniture and architecture. Brands such as Bang & Olufsen and LEGO are examples of well-known Danish designs.

  • Sustainable energy leadership is part of Denmark’s DNA. The country is a leader in the field of sustainable energy, with a focus on wind power and energy efficiency. The country also has a strong emphasis on environmental protection and recycling.

Smørrebrød sandwich Copenhagen Denmark

  • Food, particularly sandwiches are a trademark for Denmark cuisine. The country is known for its traditional dishes such as Smorrebrød, which is open-faced sandwiches, and traditional smoked fish. The country is also known for its high-quality dairy products, particularly its cheese and butter.

  • We can’t leave out the Vikings. Denmark is the home of the Vikings, and the country has a rich Viking history. Visitors can learn about the Viking culture at various museums and archaeological sites.

Cyclist, pedestrians and tourists in Christianshavn neighborhood, Copenhagen, Denmark with traditional Danish colorful houses, boats and flags on background

  • In many countries, you’d take a taxi or Uber to get around. When you visit Denmark, you’ll see a lot of bicycles. Denmark is known for its strong cycling culture, with many cities and towns designed with cyclists in mind. It is common for people to use bicycles as a means of transportation, and the country has an extensive network of bike paths and lanes.

Denmark has a rich literary tradition and has produced many acclaimed authors such as Hans Christian Andersen, Karen Blixen, and Peter Hoeg. The country is also known for its film and television industry, particularly for the success of the series Borgen and The Killing. As I said earlier, the Vikings TV series certainly focused on Denmark but it was filmed in Ireland.

Denmark is a beautiful place to visit and is rich in history. You can check out our post on Denmark attractions here. I think you’ll love Denmark. 

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