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Denmark
 
The smallest of the Nordic countries, Denmark is probably the friendliest too. They even have a special word, ‘hygge’, that sounds like ‘hug’ and describes a warm, relaxed, atmosphere with friends – readily extended to visitors. A monarchy that goes back to the intriguingly named Gorm the Old, Denmark combines traditions such as Hamlet’s Elsinore, with being at the forefront of Modernist design (not forgetting the original Legoland). So Odense turns out to be the birthplace of both Hans Christian Andersen and composer Carl Nielsen. The climate produces surprisingly warm, cloudless summers – there are over 200 ‘Blue Flag’ quality beaches. Copenhagen really is ‘wonderful’; a major seaport for centuries, it’s dotted with islands and crossed by canals - making a boat tour a great way to sight-see. (Another is the coin-in-slot-deposit free bike system.) Tivoli Gardens were the original pleasure gardens and still delight with thrilling rides and special events, especially a marvellous Christmas market. The city, has a superb pedestrianised shopping area, a cosmopolitan selection of restaurants and, of course, the Little Mermaid, star of a million postcards.
 
Copenhagen
 
Go by boat; you then actually do ‘sail up the Skagerrak and down the Kattegat to Wonderful Copenhagen’, as well as passing the Little Mermaid statue in the harbour. It grew from a Viking fishing village to become the Royal and political capital of Denmark in the 15th century. The rebuilt Christiansborg Palace (after a 1794 fire) now houses the Danish parliament, the Amalienborg Palace, the present monarchy. Mingled with the many historic buildings, the internationally famous strength of Danish architects has added a series of modern designs – including the remarkable ?resund Bridge across to Malmö in Sweden. More traditionally, the Tivoli Gardens is the world’s oldest pleasure gardens. The city is built on a mix of natural and man-made islands and its waterways provide an excellent way to view the city – with bicycles being a widely-used alternative.
 

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