Exploring Denmark

Posted September 15th, 2017

If you’re still undecided on your next cruise destination, think how relaxed and revitalized you’ll feel after a trip to one of the happiest places in the world: Denmark, the country at the top of the World Happiness Report of 2016.

What exactly makes Danes so happy? There are a number of factors that contribute to the positive outlook shared by so many citizens, many of which will put Denmark at the top of the must-see list for your next vacation. Keep reading to learn what makes Denmark so pleasant, why we love it, and how you can explore it yourself.

Denmark seems to have cemented its position at or near the top of every global quality-of-life survey, which makes it a great place to live. But for travelers in-the-know, it's also considered one of the world's most wonderful places to visit. From forward-thinking coastal cities with all the modern amenities to fairytale-esque towns complete with charming bakeries and cobblestone streets, Denmark delights in every way.


Scandinavians are known to be progressive, and because many of the "big things" in their country have been figured out—free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year—they have an acute ability to appreciate the small things in life.

Once of those small things is their concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-guh). While it doesn’t translate directly to English, it can be explained as coziness, intimacy, or warmth. Associated with relaxation, indulgence, and gratitude, hygge has long been considered a part of the Danish national character and can be felt in almost every aspect of Danish life.

Hygge means coziness or warmth.
Hygge means coziness or warmth.

So how does one achieve hygge? Spend time with friends and family (no working overtime), indulge in sweet dessert or the daily ritual of a cup of coffee, create a spacious home (Danes have more living space per capita than anywhere else in Europe), light candles for a calm ambiance (28% of Danes do this daily), and just delight in the everyday pleasures.

Insider TipDanes have an amazing ability to make the most out of any situation, and this zest for life is sure to come across in your interactions with the locals when you cruise. Plan your vacation to Denmark between May and September, when average daytime highs hover in the 60s.

Contributing to their happiness is the Danish focus on health and wellness. For example, Denmark is the most bike-friendly country in the world. In Copenhagen, half of all commuting is done by bicycle. The benefits are numerous, both for the cyclists and the city: the former enjoy improved fitness and mental health as well as a longer life expectancy; the latter can breathe easy with reduced carbon emissions and less wear and tear on roads.

It is estimated that cyclists save the city of Copenhagen $34 million per year.

While Denmark doesn’t have the natural grandeur of its Nordic neighbours, its landscapes, like its people, are more understated and pure. Such landscapes are reflected in the Danish design philosophy, where simplicity of form and function come first but not at the expense of beauty. This attitude can be seen in almost everything they cherish—fashion, food, architecture, furniture and art—and can be felt in anything from a simple pastry to a long stroll on a sandy beach, or in the bike lanes of Bornholm. No matter where you go, you'll see the art of hygge perfected.

Insider TipGo Orange! The Danish rail system offers cheap tickets via their website called “Orange tickets.” They are only available online, and you have to print out the ticket before you board the train. These tickets are a third of the cost of what you can buy at the railway station.
Happy visitors to Denmark
Happy visitors to Denmark

Visiting for the First Time

We recommend using Copenhagen as your embarkation port and tour Scandinavia (and several other very happy countries) via the Baltic Sea: Oslo, Norway; Helsinki, Finland; and Stockholm, Sweden. Longer cruises may also include stops in Germany, Estonia, Russia, or the United Kingdom. Be sure to add a few days on land so you have time to surround yourself with the happiness of Denmark. Cities are compact and easy to navigate, infrastructure is clean and modern, and whether it's rail, car, or bike, travel within the country is a breeze.

Some top things to see and do in Denmark include:

  • Enjoy the ancient city of Denmark, Roskilde, an amazing city to view the country’s history, whether it be at the various churches, brick building lined streets, or the Viking-influenced museums. Close to Copenhagen and easy to get to, the Roskilde Cathedral is the most famous in the country and host to Europe’s largest music festival every June.

  • What destination could be happier than an amusement park? Delighting visitors of all ages since it opened in 1843, Walt Disney himself visited the Tivoli Gardens in 1951 and likely gained inspiration for Disneyland, which he opened four years later. The park offers a summer concert series and weekly firework displays.

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark
Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark
  • For an unconventional attraction, visit the colorful and controversial Freetown Christiania, a haven for nonconformists, artists, and craftsmen that was born when squatters took over an abandoned military camp in 1971. The 1,000 or so residents use their own form of currency, display a unique flag, and have a number of rules, including no violence, no running, no photos, no hard drugs, and no private cars. Take a leisurely walk and enjoy the colorful architecture, shop for handmade jewelry, enjoy cafes serving organic food, and listen to live music late into the night. .

  • Completed in 2005 at an expense of half a billion euros, the Copenhagen Opera House is one of the city’s newest and most expensive attractions. The 14 stories display impressive design, including Sicilian Perlatino marble, light sculptures, and over 100,000 sheets of gold leaf.

  • Visit the Jelling stones, massive runestones dating all the way back to the 10th century. Declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1994, this site is worth checking out with a scenic train ride from Aarhus.

  • The Little Mermaid statue was placed at Langelinie Pier in 1913 as a tribute to author Hans Christian Andersen. Despite its relatively small size (about four feet), it remains the most iconic sculpture of the country. The pier also offers shopping and dining.

Vagar, Faroe Islands, Denmark
Vagar, Faroe Islands, Denmark
  • To learn about Denmark’s history, visit the Glyptoteket Art Museum, which houses a collection of over 10,000 pieces of art and artifacts, or see 14,000 years of history at the Danish National Museum.

  • The Kronborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site made famous by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is an hour’s drive from Copenhagen and well worth the visit, especially in August during the Shakespeare festival.

The happiness, history and "hygge" of Denmark is sure to leave its mark on you. There are a variety of cruise itineraries that allow you to explore this magical country in style, such as Viking, Cunard, Tauck, Silversea and Oceania to name a few.

Contact CruiseInsider today to get happy and plan your unforgettable journey to Denmark by calling (877) 734-6858.

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