10 things you didn’t know about the Danes

Proud Vikings, kings, queens, mermaids and beautiful castles. It’s all true but there’s much more to Denmark than the good old fairytale. Read on and figure out what makes us happy, what piss us off and what we think of jaywalking and cool cash. We present: 10 fun facts about Denmark and the Danes.

The happiest people in the world

Several studies, including the UN World Happiness Report, have established the Danes as the happiest people on earth in 2012, 2013 and 2016. The Danes are currently in second place but there’s potential to take back the lead. It’s not just the laid back attitude you are faced with as soon as you’re off the plane. There might be more to it. Perhaps the Danish welfare system allowing a year of maternity leave or the fact that Danes can enjoy six weeks paid vacation a year helps a bit. It’s definitely not the dark winter months!

people of copenhagen
True happiness can be found on a lawn in Vesterbro. Photo: Büro Jantzen

The world’s two oldest amusement parks

Or maybe this will explain all the happiness. Denmark is home to the two oldest amusement parks in the world. The oldest park, Bakken north of Copenhagen, actually dates back to 1583, and though we can’t imagine that the rides to have been very amusing at the time, Bakken is still a festive spot with plenty of great stuff. In 1843 Tivoli Gardens opened as a slightly more fairytale like garden with oriental style buildings, merry-go-rounds and a scenic railway. The park was visited and inspired by famous writer, Hans Christian Andersen, and to this day there is still a fairytale like feel to the place.

Did you know that Walt Disney visited Tivoli Gardens in 1964? A visit that turned out to be a great inspiration to Disneyland.

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Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens. Photo: Martin Heiberg

Not so happy…

… when tourists and other first time bicyclists don’t know the etiquette of the bike culture. Beware! Nothing will piss off a Dane as much as someone getting in the way. Imagine someone stopping in the middle of the freeway to get out and have a smoke? That’s pretty much the same.

A land of bikes and lanes

Speaking of bikes. Denmark has been voted the most bicycle-friendly country with 90 percent of the Danes owning a bicycle and 2,4 million more bicycles than cars. Cycling accounts for 26 percent of trips under 5 kilometers and 16 percent of all trips in Denmark, and especially the lanes in Copenhagen can get a bit chaotic during rush hour. Not least at Dronning Louises Bro in Nørrebro, which is the busiest bicycle lane in the world with more than 40.000 cyclists crossing the bridge every day. Wanna join the Danes on the lanes? Remember to learn the basic rules for stop, right turn and left turn before entering the lanes.

Want to go somewhere cool with your bike? Take a ride on the Bike Snake from Fisketorvet and continue to Brygge Bridge, which connects Vesterbro to Islands Brygge

Bike Snake
Join the bicycle culture – go for a ride on The Bike Snake, also known as Cykelslangen

Cash is so last millennium

Most Danes hardly know what their coins and bills look like. And they probably won’t be able to tell you where to find an ATM because no one really uses them. Most things run electronically and don’t even try to mention the word ‘check’ – no one’s heard of it since the 80’s. For decades the Danes have used credit cards when shopping, taking taxis, buying tickets for public transport, eating out or getting a hotdog on the street and today many payments are made over the phone through MobilePay or similar apps. Many places actually don’t even take cash so do yourself a favor and bring your credit cards.

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The concept of hygge is getting noticed around the world and we understand why. Hygge is a feeling of coziness, quality time with friends and family, Christmas, a meaningful discussion over a cup of coffee or cuddling up on the couch while the rain is pouring down outside. Often accompanied by lit candles or even a fireplace. While hygge is often associated with dimmed lights and a warm atmosphere you can also experience hygge by walking down the narrow streets of Central Copenhagen or going to Tivoli Gardens after dark. No matter how thoroughly we try to explain it, hygge is something you need to experience.

Hygge in Nørrebro
Hygge is a chat and a glass of wine with a good friend. Photo: Maria Sattrup

Danes are incredibly rude

Not really but the fact is that we do not have a word for please, which seems to confuse foreigners. We could end a sentence with ‘tak’, which means thank you, but it’s really not necessary. We know we mean well when ordering a cup of coffee or asking for directions… and to us the intention is much more valuable than the actual word.

People swim in the harbor

With great beaches and an endless coastline you would think that the copenhageners would head to the beach on a hot summer day. While some do, many prefer to swim in the harbor in Islands Brygge, Nordhavn, Teglholmen and around Christianshavn and Refshaleøen. The water is clean, the vibe is great and food and drinks are easily accessible.

Life by the water in Copenhagen.
Beachy vibes in the middle of the city. Photo:

Jaywalking is not socially acceptable

There’s a red light but no cars or bikes to be seen. What do the Danes do? They stay put until the green man shows up. While it seems logical to cross the street if there’s no chance getting hit by a car, people tend to wait. And they may look at you like you’re some kind of rebel if you dare to try.

Famous foodies

No fun facts about Denmark without mentioning the seriously cool food culture! While Danish food is often associated with open herring sandwiches, frikadeller, meat and potatoes, Copenhagen is also home to some of the best restaurants in the world and there are plenty of Michelin options to choose from. Noma, Geranium and Alchemist… take a pick!

New Noma
Former no. 1 in the world: Noma is unpretentious, yet still among the best.

More fun facts about Denmark

  • You are never more than 52 kilometers from the sea.
  • Denmark consists of 444 islands. Less than 100 are inhabited.
  • LEGO was invented by a Dane – in Billund, Denmark.
  • The highest point in Denmark is only 172 meters above sea level.
  • The Danish flag, Dannebrog, is more than 800 years old, which makes it the oldest in the world.
  • The Danish alphabet has three additional letters: Æ, Ø and Å
  • And last but not least! One of the most fun facts about Denmark: We were the first country to legalize porn in 1969. Since then we have become more stuffy.

Why you should ditch the hotel and stay in an Airbnb

Daily cleaning, a breakfast buffet, soaps and shampoos… Hotels are nice (usually!) but staying in an Airbnb could add an extra spice to your Copenhagen adventure. Not only do you get a sneak peek in to the everyday lives of the danes. You also get the chance to experience the essence of ‘hygge’ and you may even get an understanding of why the Danes are so ridiculously happy… despite the lack of elevators and luxurious bathrooms.

Here is what you can expect when booking an Airbnb.

Istedgade Copenhagen
Stay local in Vesterbro! Photo:

People actually live there

In many cities Airbnb is pure business. You can tell that no one lives there. No personal items, no family photos and very standardized interior. Airbnbs in Copenhagen are different. In most cases people actually live there. You shouldn’t expect to be left with too much closet space because the wardrobe is most likely packed with sweaters, jeans, dresses, etc. from the person who lives there, and you may be asked to water the plants if you are staying for a longer period of time. On the other hand you usually don’t have to worry about buying butter, ketchup, coffee and other essentials, which in many cases are part of the package.

The best part about checking into an Airbnb in Copenhagen is that you are entering a personal home that portrays the hygge and happiness that the Copenhageners are known for. Whether you are staying in a small apartment in Nørrebro, a modern seaside apartment in Islands Brygge or an old mansion in Østerbro you can very often expect to stay in a home that unites Danish design classics with a personal touch. Danes know good design, and they aren’t afraid to make it personal!

Airbnb in Copenhagen
Expect your stay to be homey, yet stylish.

Small bathrooms and walk ups

While the Danes are big spenders when it comes to design, the Copenhageners are not the big bathroom connoisseurs. It’s not that the regular Copenhagener doesn’t want a cool bathroom. We do! But many of us also enjoy living in old, charming buildings and let’s face it… they didn’t have bathrooms back in the 1870’s.

If you are staying in the old working class neighborhoods such as Vesterbro, Nørrebro and Amager you could end up with a small bathroom covering about 1 square meter, which fits a toilet, sink and a shower. Pretty impressive actually! Also you will rarely find an elevator in the older buildings. Frederiksberg and Østerbro are also home to many lovely, old buildings but back in the days these areas were primarily reserved for the better bourgeoisie, who could afford – and had enough space for – an actual bathroom. If a large, modern bathroom and an elevator is your main priority you should probably have a look at the newer areas such as Islands Brygge, Nordhavn, Amager Beach, Sluseholmen and Teglholmen.

Amazing design

Denmark is known for the endless list of great 20th century designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton, Poul Henningsen and many more. The designs are known for simplistic functionalism suited for everyday life whether you’re young or old, and the classics can be found in many homes across all social classes.

When checking into an Airbnb in Copenhagen you could very well run into iconic chairs such as The Ant, the Y Chair, The Egg, The Swan, Papa Bear Chair and the 7 Series as well as PH lamps, Flowerpot and several other Danish darlings.

Fritz Hansen
If you’re in luck you’ll run into classics like The Egg and PK22. Photo: Ditte Isager, Fritz Hansen.

5 reasons to pick an Airbnb in Copenhagen

  • Understand and feel the concept of ‘hygge’ in a homely atmosphere.
  • Cook your own food. Eating out in Copenhagen can be pricy.
  • Authentic and local! Get closer to the locals and experience their lifestyle.
  • Pick the neighborhood that matches your personality.
  • It’s a real home and your host may even lend you his or her bike.

Hip, central or quiet? Which Airbnb in Copenhagen is for you?

The question is not whether or not you should chose to stay in an Airbnb in Copenhagen. The question is where to stay. Copenhagen has plenty of personalities spread all over town and there’s an Airbnb to suit any mood.

If you want to stay in the hip neighborhood of Nørrebro, Airbnb is pretty much your only choice since there are basically no hotels in this part of town. And even Amager, Frederiksberg and Østerbro only have a few hotels to chose from.

Stay in Vesterbro if you’re looking for nightlife, great dining options and a neighborhood that’s both cool and central. Head to Østerbro is you’re looking for extra space, playgrounds for the kids and some peace and quiet. Pick Nørrebro if you want to hang out with the young, cool crowds or stay in Frederiksberg if you’re looking for the exact opposite of Nørrebro. Amager is great if you expect to spend a lot of time at the beach, in Refshaleøen or Christianshavn. And last but not least: Go for Indre By and Christianshavn if you want to stay central and have all the biggest sights within walking distance.

Bopa Plads
Pick a neighborhood for your personality.
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