The Nordic Cultural Landscape

The Nordic countries of Northern Europe comprise five states, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and three autonomous territories: the Åland Islands, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

The term Nordic refers to the northern lands and characterizes the countries not only in terms of location but other aspects of their geography, culture and history that lead to substantial political and societal com- monalities to the present-day. During the early and high middle ages Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden shared a common language (Norse), cultural behaviors and shared belief systems that are often described as Viking. From the Late Middle Ages onward Finland also became increasingly drawn into Norse culture as a result of Swedish settlement and its becoming a part of Kingdom of Sweden. At the same time Greenland, the Shetland and Orkney Islands (now part of Scotland) and much of mainland Scotland and Ireland were also parts of the Danish Kingdom. For much of the following 600 years Denmark and Sweden would contest for political suprem- acy in the region with substantial shifts in borders over that period. However, the structure of the present-day Nordic countries started to emerge when Sweden ceded Finland to Russia in 1809 under the Treaty of Fredrikshamn. Finland emerged as a fully independent nation in 1917, although Finnish nationalism, particularly through the promotion of Finnish language and culture, had been expressed well before this.

In 1905 the union of Norway and Sweden was dissolved, while Iceland declared its independence from Denmark in 1944.

The Nordic countries are also a supranational political entity with a cooperation forum in the form of the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Council was formed in 1953 with Finland joining in 1956. The formation of the Council has had a number of significant implications for tourism including a common labor market and free movement across borders for the countries citizens. In addition, the Nordic Council has supported a number of initiatives to support tourism between the countries, promote the region and encourage tourism as a form of regional devel- opment. Although the region includes countries and regions both inside (Denmark, Finland and Sweden) and outside (Iceland, Norway, the Åland Islands, the Faroe Islands and Greenland) the EU, the region can still be considered a distinct geographi- cal and political unit, particularly as a result of the ease of travel without passports between the countries.

A significant feature of the Nordic region is the presence of indigenous peoples. On the European mainland the north of the Scandinavian Peninsula and northern Finland and Russia is often described as Lapland in reference to the presence of the Lapps, or Sami, who traditionally herded reindeer, but for whom cultural tourism is now a major activity. The population of Greenland is primarily Inuit (sometimes referred to as Eskimo).


Denmark is the southernmost of the Nordic countries and is located north of Germany on the Jutland Peninsula. In addition to the mainland there are also well over 400 islands that are part of the country, many of which, such as Bornholm, are significant tourism areas. The capital, Copenhagen, is on the island of Sjaelland in the western part of the country. It is also the smallest Nordic country (just over 16,600mi2; 43,000 k m2), if the autonomous regions of Greenland and the Faroe Islands are excluded, although it is the largest if they are included! The population of Denmark is approximately 5.5 million people.

Denmark is a constitutional monarchy and became a member of the EEC, a fore- runner to the EU, in 1973. However, in a 2000 referendum, monetary union with the EU was rejected.

Therefore, the currency remains the Danish krone. Greenland and the Faroe Islands are outside of the EU, including the customs zone. Like many of the Nordic countries, Denmark has a strong welfare system and is highly unionised.

However, it also has a strong developed economy with high-technology industries as well as a very strong agricultural sector, with Danish ham and butter being a premium food product.

Copenhagen is a major transport hub for Scandinavia, as well as a significant tourist destination in its own right. Copenhagen is one of the major hubs for SAS (Scandinavian Airline Systems) airlines, which is jointly owned by the governments of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Copenhagen is also a major rail hub with a direct rail link to Malmö, Sweden. However, possibly the most obvious form of transport is the enormous number of people riding bicycles in the city along the extensive series of bicycle paths. The city also provides bicycles for hire.

The city has long been an urban tourism destination of international renown.

The Tivoli Gardens amusement park and pleasure garden was opened in 1843 and was one of the inspiration behind Disneyland. It has one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world as well as the world ’s tallest carousel. Although open year-round the Gardens attracts the greatest number of people in the summer months when it also hosts concerts and other events. The Capital Copenhagen also hosts a number of museums and galleries, as well as royal places, and centers of Danish design. Some of the most popular attractions also include the Carlsberg Brewery and the iconic Little Mermaid, which is on a rock in Copenhagen harbor. Erected in 1913 the statue commemorates the fairytale of the Little Mermaid written by Hans Christian Andersen who is probably Denmark’ s most well-known writer and an important fac- tor in the international image of the country and of Wonderful Copenhagen.

In addition to specific attractions Copenhagen also has a number of distinct shop- ping areas as well as a vibrant restaurant and café scene. One of the significant features of Copenhagen is the extent to which the old waterfront areas have been redeveloped for tourism/entertainment/heritage purposes, while also including hous- ing. The former naval dockyards area is growing in importance with respect to herit- age tourism while the Copenhagen Opera House that opened on the island of Holmen is also part of the dockland redevelopment.

Although Copenhagen is a focal point for international tourism, there are a number of other significant tourism sites in the country, especially in relation to the country’ s historic military and naval rivalry with its neighbor Sweden as well, at other times, with Germany and Great Britain. There are numerous historic castles in Denmark but possibly the most famous is Kronborg castle, known by many as Elsinore the setting of Shakespeare’ s Hamlet. The Castle is located in the town of Helsingør at the extreme northern tip of Zealand and at the narrowest point of the Øresund, the narrow sound of 2.5 mi(4 km) that separates Denmark and Sweden. There are ferry services approximately every 20 minutes across the sound to Helsingborg on the Swedish side. The castle is regarded as one of the most significant Renaissance castles in Northern Europe, although the site also includes a series of interesting battlements and military barracks. The site was made a World Heritage Site in 2000.

One of the other significant tourism features, and one common throughout the Nordic countries, is the importance of second homes or summer cottages for domestic tourism. Many of these are located in coastal areas and on some of the islands, such as Bornholm, the eastern-most island of Denmark located in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Poland, for which summer visitation is a very important part of the econ- omy. As with many of Denmark’ s coastal areas its strategic significance has meant that it has a number of important historical sites, most well known of which is probably Hammershus Castle—northern Europe’ s largest medieval fortification.

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