There’s a saying that Norwegians visit Denmark because they find Danes more charming and less formal than their own compatriots.
The Germans go there because they love the environment and the beaches while the Americans are attracted to the small fairytale country home of Hans Christian Andersen and the Tivoli Gardens.
But it’s Australia’s royal connection - Princess Mary of Denmark – that has encouraged more Aussies to visit the country.
Tourism is in fact Denmark's third biggest industry and employs more than 70,000 people.
Situated in Northern Europe between the North Sea and the Baltic, Denmark is the only Scandinavian country connected to the European mainland. It consists of more than 400 islands, many of which are uninhabited.
More than 5.3 million people live in Denmark, making it the most densely populated nation in northern Europe and at just 43,000 square kilometres, excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands, it’s also the smallest nation in northern Europe.
With 7300 kilometres of coastline and all those islands and 500 harbours, it follows that water has always had a strong connection to the Danish way of life.
The nation’s capital, Copenhagen, lies on the island of Zealand.
Copenhagen is a great city for sightseeing as most attractions are within a short walking distance.
The most popular tourist attraction in Denmark and the most photographed is the Little Mermaid that has become a much loved symbol of Copenhagen.
The beloved fairytale of the Little Mermaid was first published by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837 and throughout history, it has provided inspiration to many.
When the Danish brewer, Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg fame, attended a performance of ballet master Hans Beck’s The Little Mermaid in 1909, he was so thrilled with the performance, particularly by leading prima donna Ellen Price, he ordered a statue to be erected in honour of the story.
The sculptor Edward Eriksen was commissioned to create the Little Mermaid which sits on a granite stone at Langelinie Pier, wistfully looking for her prince.
She was modelled on the head of dancer Ellen Price and the torso of sculptor Edward Eriksen's wife, Eline, and she stands 165cm and weighs 175kg!
The Little Mermaid has had a rather tough life. In 1961, bras and knickers were painted on her and her hair was painted red and in 1964 she was decapitated but rebuilt.
Another much loved attraction in Copenhagen is the Tivoli Gardens. Situated in the heart of the city, more than 270 million people have visited since it opened in 1843. It is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world and features a fairytale garden with 400,000 flowers, 32 restaurants, 26 amusement activities and 110,000 lamps.
Many concerts are staged here and there are performances by Tivoli Boys Guard made up of children aged eight to 16 dressed in uniforms reminiscent of those of the Royal Danish Guard complete with bearskins.
The famous Tivoli fireworks are staged on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
Undoubtedly one of the best ways to enjoy the city is on a canal tour that sails along the waterfront of Copenhagen passing churches, castles, towers and other sights including the Little Mermaid.
Also make sure to check out Roskilde Cathedral built in the 12th and 13th centuries. It was Scandinavia's first Gothic cathedral to be built of brick and it inspired the spread of this style throughout northern Europe.
It has also been the mausoleum of the Danish royal family since the 15th century. The royal family’s home is The Amalienborg Palace – the place where Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary and their four children live when they’re not at the summer palace for holidays.
Built in 1794 to commemorate the Oldenburg family’s 300-year reign, it is Denmark’s finest example of rococo architecture. It features four identical palaces – the mansions of Christian VII, Christian VIII, Frederik VIII and Christian IX.
The four palaces surround an octagonal square, which is one of the most beautiful in Europe, with Saly’s equestrian statue of Frederik V in the middle.
One of Copenhagen’s prettiest sights is the old port of Nyhavn which was originally a busy commercial dock where ships from all over the world would converge. The area was once packed with sailors, pubs and alehouses.
Today, beautiful old houses have been renovated and elegant restaurants and shops line the waterfront that has become an entertainment precinct. For history buffs, number nine is the oldest house in the area dating back to 1681 and the famous Danish fairytale writer, Hans Christian Andersen, lived at number 20.
Published under license from Well Travelled