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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nordic countries
Norden  (Danish / Norwegian / Swedish)
Pohjoismaat  (Finnish)
Norðurlöndin  (Icelandic)
Norðurlond  (Faroese)
Capital Copenhagen; Stockholm; Oslo; Helsinki; Mariehamn; Tórshavn; Reykjavík; Nuuk
Official languages Danish; Faroese; Finnish; Greenlandic; Icelandic;Norwegian; Swedish
Membership  Denmark
 Faroe Islands
 -  Total 3,501,721 km2 (7th)
1,352,022 sq mi 
 -  2009 estimate 25,382,411 (47th)
 -  2000 census 24,116,478 
 -  Density 7.24/km2 (222th)
18.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1011.705 billion (15th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1559.736 billion (11th)
Currency Euro; Swedish krona; Danish krone; Norwegian krone; Icelandic króna

The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden (all of which use a Nordic Cross flag) and their associated territories which include the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Svalbard and Åland. Scandinavia is sometimes used as a synonym for the Nordic countries,[1] although within the Nordic countries the terms are considered distinct.

The region's five nation-states and three autonomous regions share much common history as well as common traits in their respective societies, such as political systems and the Nordic model. Politically, Nordic countries do not form a separate entity, but they co-operate in the Nordic Council. The Nordic countries have a combined population of approximately 25 million spread over a land area of 3.5 million km² (Greenland accounts for around 60% of the total area).

Linguistically, the area is heterogeneous, with three unrelated language groups; the North Germanic branch of Indo-European languages (the continental North Germanic languages—Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish—share a degree of mutual intelligibility with each other); the Baltic-Finnic and Sami branches of Uralic languages; and Greenlandic, a Eskimo-Aleut language spoken in Greenland.


Etymology and terminology

The term 'Nordic countries' is derived from the French term Pays nordiques[citation needed] as an equivalent of the local terms Norden (Scandinavian languages), Pohjola / Pohjoismaat (Finnish language), Põhjala / Põhjamaad (Estonian language), Norðurlönd (Icelandic), Norðurlond (Faroese) and Davveriikkat (North Sámi) with the meaning of "The North(ern lands)".

In English usage, the term Scandinavia is sometimes used—though not consistently—as a synonym for the Nordic countries. From the 1850s, Scandinavia was considered to include politically and culturally, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Geographically, the Scandinavian Peninsula includes mainland Sweden and mainland Norway, and also a part of Finland, while the Jutland Peninsula includes mainland Denmark and a small part of Germany. Denmark proper has not included any territory on the Scandinavian Peninsula since 1658. The Faroe Islands and Iceland are "Scandinavian" in the sense that they were settled by Scandinavians and speak Scandinavian languages, but geographically they are not part of Scandinavia. Having once been a part of Sweden, Finland has been significantly influenced by Swedish culture and part of it is geographically within Scandinavia, whereas the Finnish language is not related to the Scandinavian languages. Greenland was settled by the Norse, and is currently part of the Danish realm, with the Danish language spoken by nearly all inhabitants, while geographically it is part of North America.

In geology, the term for the land area which lies above sea level on the Baltic shield (also known as the Fennoscandian Shield) is Fennoscandia (from the Latin toponyms Fennia and Scania).

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines "Nordic" as an adjective dated to 1898 with the meaning "of or relating to the Germanic peoples of northern Europe and especially of Scandinavia" or "of or relating to a group or physical type of the Caucasian race characterized by tall stature, long head, light skin and hair, and blue eyes".[2] In the light of linguistic-based race theories, Germany would be a Nordic country instead of Finland whose population generally features the previously mentioned stereotypical phenotype and a Uralic majority language. Before the 19th century and romantic nationalism, the term Nordic may have been used more as a synonym for Northern to mean Northern Europe including the Baltic countries (at that time Lithuania, Livonia and Courland) and occasionally the British Isles and other lands on the shores of the Baltic and North Seas.[citation needed]

Use of Nordic countries vs. Scandinavia

While the term Scandinavia is commonly used for Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the term the Nordic countries is used unambiguously for Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, including their associated territories (Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands).[3] Scandinavia can thus be considered a subset of the Nordic countries.

In addition to the mainland Scandinavian countries of

the Nordic countries consist of


Estonia has applied for membership in the Nordic Council[citation needed], referring to its cultural heritage and close linguistic links to Finland, although normally Estonia is regarded as one of the Baltic countries. All Baltic states have shared historical events with the Nordic countries, including Scandinavia, during the centuries.


A reconstructed Viking ship

The Nordic countries are characterised by similar structures of their societies and cultural traits. This results not only from similar environmental realities and thus traditional livelihoods but also from a shared history.

The indigenous population of northern half of continental "Norden" are the Sami people, whereas the southern half is the historical "urheimat" of the Norse cultures and the forefathers of the Finnish. The western isles may be said to have been first settled by the Norse, with two caveats: Inuit arrived on northwestern Greenland more or less at the same time as the Norse came to the island's southeast; and in the settlement of Iceland, Celts were also active.[citation needed]

During the Dark Ages, what are now Norway, Sweden, Denmark and from 10th century onwards also Iceland shared a similar cultural, linguistic (Old Norse) and religious (Norse mythology) environment. From ca. the 12th century onwards what is now Finland (linguistically Baltic-Finnic and broader Finno-Ugric) started sharing the common developments[citation needed] as it was increasingly integrated into the kingdom of Sweden. As another example of a deeply rooted unifying past could be taken the indigenous Sami lifestyle (linguistically Finno-Ugric) across what is now northern Norway, Sweden and Finland (and beyond). Indeed, all Nordic countries have minority groups deriving or claiming heritage of a population residing within another Nordic state.

After being Christianized around the year 1000, the process of local unification established Denmark, Norway and Sweden as separate kingdoms. Finland became part of Sweden in the mid 1200s, whereas Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Shetland Islands, Orkney, Greenland belonged to Norway. All Nordic countries followed the Protestant Reformation of the Western church during the 16th century and adopted Lutheran state churches—which still have large membership counts, although their state affiliation varies. Finland also has a much smaller Orthodox state church whose members, 1.1% of population, mainly come from the areas that were outside the Swedish realm when Christianity was introduced.

In the 14th century, Denmark, Norway (with Iceland) and Sweden (with Finland) were united under one regent, in the Kalmar Union which Denmark dominated, in the early 16th century Sweden reestablished itself as a separate kingdom. Denmark's domination over Norway lasted until 1814 when the king was forced to cede Norway to the king of Sweden. Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands remained Danish.

The power balance between the Nordic countries shifted after the Thirty Year War where Denmark was humiliated, but Sweden came out successful and with an alliance with France. During the 17th century Sweden established itself among the Powers of Europe, but Sweden ultimately lost its foreign Dominions one by one. This process culminated in the loss of the eastern part of Sweden in 1809, mainly today's Finland, which became an autonomous Grand Duchy under the Russian tsar.


The 19th century saw a personal union between Sweden and Norway which was dissolved in 1905 due to growing dissatisfaction from the Norwegian part. From 1840s Scandinavism emerged in Scandinavia. This movement strove to unite the three Scandinavian kingdoms into one, diminishing after Sweden refused to help Denmark on war in 1864.

In the midst of the Russian revolutions, Finland emerged for the first time as an independent nation, orienting for a Nordic community. During World War II in 1944, Iceland gained its independence from Denmark. The member states of the Nordic council (founded in 1952) had thus emerged.

The Nordic countries share similar traits in the policies implemented under the postwar period, especially in the socioeconomic area. All Nordic countries have large tax-funded public welfare sectors and extensive socialist legislation.[citation needed] In most cases, this is due to the political ambitions of the many Social Democrat governments that came to power during the interwar period in each of the Nordic countries.

Chronology of the Nordic countries

Century Nordic Political Entities
21st Denmark (EU) Faroes (Denmark) Iceland Norway Sweden (EU) Finland (EU)
20th Denmark Sweden Finland
19th Denmark Sweden and Norway (personal union) Russia
(GD of Finland)
18th Denmark-Norway (personal union) Sweden
15th Kalmar Union
14th Denmark Norway Sweden
12th Faroes Icelandic CW Norway
Nordic Peoples Danes Faroese Icelanders Norwegians Swedes Finns

Nordic Passport Union

The Nordic Passport Union includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

The Nordic Passport Union, created in 1954, and implemented on May 1, 1958, allows citizens of the Nordic countries: Denmark (Faroe Islands included since January 1, 1966, Greenland not included), Sweden, Norway (Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Bouvet Island and Queen Maud's Land not included), Finland and Iceland (since September 24, 1965) to cross approved border districts without carrying and having their passport checked. Other citizens can also travel between the Nordic countries' borders without having their passport checked, but still have to carry some sort of approved travel identification documents.

Since 1996, these countries have joined the larger EU directive Schengen Agreement area, comprising 30 countries in Europe. Border checkpoints have been removed within the Schengen zone and only a national ID card is required. Within the Nordic area any ID card, e.g. driving licence is valid for Nordic citizens, because of the Nordic Passport Union.

From March 25, 2001, the Schengen acquis fully applied to the five countries of the Nordic Passport Union (except for the Faroe Islands). There are some areas in the Nordic Passport Union that give extra rights for Nordic citizens, not covered by Schengen, such as less paperwork if moving to a different Nordic country, and fewer requirements for naturalisation.

Political dimension and divisions

  EU Eurozone NATO
Denmark x   x
Finland x x  
Iceland     x
Norway     x
Sweden x    

The Nordic region has a political dimension in the joint official bodies called the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. In this context, several aspects of the common market as in the European Union have been implemented decades before the EU implemented them. Intra-Nordic trade is not covered by the CISG, but by local law.

In the European Union, the Northern Dimension refers to external and cross-border policies covering the Nordic countries, the Baltic countries, and Russia.

The political cooperation between the Nordic Countries has not led to a common policy or an agreement on the countries' memberships in the European Union, Eurozone, and NATO. Norway and Iceland are only members of NATO, while Finland and Sweden are only members of the European Union. Denmark alone participates in both organizations. Only Finland is a member of the Eurozone. The tasks and policies of the European Union overlap with the Nordic council significantly, e.g. the Schengen Agreement partially supersedes the Nordic passport free zone and a common labor market.

Additionally, certain areas of Nordic countries have special relationships with the EU. For example, Finland's autonomous island province Åland is not a part of the EU VAT zone.

National symbols

All Nordic countries, including the autonomous territories of Faroe and Åland Islands, have a similar flag design, all based on the Dannebrog, the Danish flag. They display an off-center cross with the intersection closer to the hoist, the "Nordic cross". Greenland and the Sami people have adopted flags without the Nordic cross, but they both feature a circle which is placed off-center like the cross.


Faroe Islands





The Sami People


Åland Islands




Historical populations
Year Pop.  %±
1800 5,161,000
1900 12,306,000 138.4%
1950 18,757,000 52.4%
2000 24,116,000 28.6%
2050? 31,537,000 30.8%


Sweden represents almost 40% of the Nordic population whereas Iceland represents less than 2%. The three others represent about 20% each. (Please note that the diagram is approximative since different sources have been used for each country.)
Religion in the Nordic countries
religion percent
Roman Catholicism
Name of country, with flag Population
(2009 est.)
 Åland 27,456[4] Mariehamn
 Denmark 5,519,287[5] Copenhagen
 Faroe Islands 49,006[6] Tórshavn
 Finland 5,349,829[7] Helsinki
 Greenland 57,600[8] Nuuk
 Iceland 319,756[9] Reykjavík
 Norway 4,836,183[10] Oslo
 Sweden 9,336,487[11] Stockholm
Total 25,382,411[12]

Areas with close relations to the Nordic countries

Several areas have a long and close relationship with and often identify with some or all of the Nordic countries. These are however for the most part not regarded as part of the Nordic group themselves, although classified as Northern Europe by the United Nations.


Shetland and Orkney

The Northern Isles of ScotlandOrkney and Shetland—have a long-established Nordic identity. The islands were Norwegian and Danish colonies for more than 500 years, but ownership defaulted to the crown of Scotland in 1472 following non-payment of the marriage dowry of Margaret of Denmark and Norway, queen of James III of Scotland.

During World War II Shetland and Orkney were important bases for the Norwegian armed forces in exile. The Shetland Bus was based in Shetland and smuggled refugees, agents and supplies to and from Norway.

In later years financial relations, particularly in the maritime industries, have been important. Cultural and sporting exchanges are frequent. A genetic survey showed that 60% of the male population of Shetland and Orkney had Western Norwegian genes.[citation needed]

The traditional links to Scandinavia are reflected in the islands' flags, both of which are based around a Nordic cross:

Orkney Shetland
Orkney Shetland

Other regions of the British Isles have adopted symbols to allude to a similar Norse or Norse-Gaelic heritage.


Areas such as Caithness, Sutherland and the Hebrides were under Norse rule for long periods, and the Bishopric of Trondheim formerly controlled large sections of north west Scotland.

The Norn language was spoken in eastern Caithness into medieval times.


Estonia is widely considered to be a Baltic state and a part of Northern Europe. Although Estonia is often grouped in Eastern Europe as well, many Estonians themselves consider Estonia to be Nordic rather than Eastern European or Baltic.[13][14] The Estonian language is closely related to the Finnish language, and Estonians, as an ethnic group, are a Finnic people. Sites of the Nordic Bronze Age culture reached as far east as Estonia. Estonia also had close contacts with Scandinavia in the Viking Age. The Oeselians were known in the Old Norse Icelandic Sagas and in Heimskringla as Víkingr frá Esthland (English: Estonian Vikings). With the rise of Christianity, centralized authority in Scandinavia and Germany eventually led to the Northern crusades. The northern part of Estonia was part of medieval Denmark during the 13th-14th centuries, being sold to the Teutonic Order after the St. George's Night Uprising in 1346. The name of the Estonian capital, Tallinn, is thought to be derived from the Estonian taani linn, meaning 'Danish town' (see Flag of Denmark for details). Parts of Estonia were under Danish rule again in the 16th-17th centuries, before being transferred to Sweden in 1645. Estonia was part of the Swedish Empire from 1561 until 1721, when it was ceded to Russia in the Treaty of Nystad, following the outcome in the Great Northern War. The Swedish era became colloquially known in Estonia as the "good old Swedish times". However, the local Baltic German upper classes had stronger political and cultural dominance in the country from the 12th to the early 20th century than the Swedes, Danes, and Russians. There were Finnish, Danish and Swedish volunteer units in the Estonian War of Independence.

Estonia Proposed Estonian flag featuring a Nordic cross Flag of Estonia proposed in 1919.svg
Flag of Estonia Proposed Estonian flag
featuring a Nordic cross
Flag proposed in 1919

Historically, large parts of Estonia’s north-western coast and islands have been populated by an indigenous ethnically Swedish population, the Estonian Swedes. The majority of Estonia's Swedish population fled to Sweden in 1944, escaping the advancing Soviet Army. In 2007, Estonian Swedes were granted official cultural autonomy under Estonian law.[15] Since regaining independence in 1991, Estonia has expressed interest joining the Nordic Council. In 1999, Toomas Hendrik Ilves delivered a speech entitled "Estonia as a Nordic Country" to the Swedish Institute for International Affairs.[16] In 2003, the foreign ministry also hosted an exhibit called "Estonia: Nordic with a Twist."[17] In 2005, Estonia also joined the European Union's Nordic Battle Group. However, Estonia is not considered a Nordic country by the majority of the Nordic populations.


Anglo-Saxon England was founded in part by Jutes in Kent, the Isle of Wight and the national saga of England is Beowulf, carried to England by the Wuffings of East Anglia. Much of England, particularly East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria were once part of the Danelaw. The story of Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom, London Bridge Is Falling Down and Sigurd the Dane of Macbeth fame come from this period of an Anglo-Scandinavian "Empire of the North". After England's population stabilised into a nation-state, Sweyn Forkbeard's family, which went back to Denmark from the Danish colonies in the West (see Harthacnut of Denmark), took over Wessex partly with the excuse of St. Brice's Day massacre and stratified as well as unified the government of England into four regional jarldoms under control by Danes and Norwegians as well as promoting the English church in Scandinavia at the expense of the German church. This led to the later installment of the Archdiocese of Nidaros, which administered the Diocese of Sodor and Man formerly belonging to the Province of York (and would later reconnect upon Norse land cessions) by the English Pope Adrian IV. Direct relations between Denmark and England would continue intermittently until the reign of Eystein II of Norway, but the take overs of both by Eric of Pomerania and William of Normandy respectively, divided their focuses to re-attachment with Continental Europe instead. There was a much later interjection of New Sweden amidst the New England and Virginia colonies, but the relationship was much different in that period.

Northern Germany

Parts of the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in northern Germany were at times part of Denmark and Sweden, respectively, and have a long history of cooperation dating back to the medieval Hanseatic League. In the 15th century, Stockholm had a German majority population, and Germans paid more than half of the city's taxes.

Southern Schleswig on the Jutland peninsula was conquered and reconquered both by the Germans and the Danes, i.e. the border between Denmark and Germany changed several times over the centuries. Particularly the northern parts of present Schleswig-Holstein have a significant ethnic Danish minority. The region had a Scandinavian identity in Hedeby and Angeln up until its transfer to Germany in the mid 19th century and its subsequent Germanisation. Today, the Nordic character of Southern Schleswig's society and its inhabitants is still very prominent. There are Danish state schools in the area, and the Danish minority is active both politically and culturally.

Swedish Pomerania was once part of the Swedish kingdom; a time when the local University of Greifswald, at that time Sweden's oldest university, attracted both students and professors from Sweden. The cultural heritage survives in the form of many buildings, though the Swedish population either left the region when the Swedish Empire declined or was assimilated into mainstream German society.

See also


  1. ^ "Scandinavia" (the term should correctly be used excluding Finland). In Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary. Retrieved 10 January 2008: "Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway, Sweden—sometimes also considered to include Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, & Finland." (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines "Nordic" as an adjective dated to 1898 with the meaning "of or relating to the Germanic peoples of northern Europe and especially of Scandinavia."), "Scandinavia" (2005). The New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edition. Ed. Erin McKean. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-517077-6: "a cultural region consisting of the countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark and sometimes also of Iceland, Finland, and the Faroe Islands"; Scandinavia (2001). The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Retrieved January 31, 2007: "Scandinavia, region of N Europe. It consists of the kingdoms of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark; Finland and Iceland are usually considered part of Scandinavia"; Scandinavia. (2007). Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 31, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: "Scandinavia, historically Scandia, part of northern Europe, generally held to consist of the two countries of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Norway and Sweden, with the addition of Denmark"; and Scandinavia. (2006). Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 30, 2007: "Scandinavia (ancient Scandia), name applied collectively to three countries of northern Europe—Norway and Sweden (which together form the Scandinavian Peninsula), and Denmark". Archived 2009-11-01.
  2. ^ Nordic. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 3 March 2008.
  3. ^ Saetre, Elvind (2007-10-01). "About Nordic co-operation". Nordic Council of Ministers & Nordic Council. Retrieved 2008-01-09. "The Nordic countries consist of Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Finland, the Åland Islands, Iceland, Norway and Sweden." 
  4. ^ "ÅSUB". ÅSUB. 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  5. ^ "Quarterly Population (ultimo)". Statistics Denmark. 2009-02-10. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  6. ^ "Statistics Faroe Islands". Statistics Faroe Islands. 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  7. ^ "The current population of Finland". Population Register Center. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  8. ^ "Greenland". CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  9. ^ "Statistics Iceland". Government. The National Statistical Institute of Iceland. 14 September, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  10. ^ "Population". Statistics Norway. 2009-05-07. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  11. ^ "Befolkningsstatistik". Statistiska centralbyrån. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  12. ^ This number was derived by adding up the referenced populations (from the provided table) of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Åland.
  13. ^ "Estonian Life". Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs publication, 2004.
  14. ^ "Estonian Life". Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs publication, 2002.
  15. ^ "Estonian Swedes Embrace Autonomy Rights" Citypaper, 2007
  16. ^ Ilves, Toomas Hendrik. "Estonia as a Nordic Country". December 14, 1999.
  17. ^ "Estonia – Nordic with a Twist". Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, 2004 (last updated).

External links

  • Norden — the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers' website.
  • Nordregio — a European centre for research, education and documentation on spatial development, established by the Nordic Council of Ministers.
  • NordRegio Statistics — a collection of thematic maps and figures of Nordic and Baltic countries by NordRegio.
  • Go Scandinavia — official website of the Scandinavian Tourist Boards in North America.
  • Scandinavia House — the Nordic Center in New York, run by the American-Scandinavian Foundation.
  • vifanord – a digital library that provides scientific information on the Nordic and Baltic countries as well as the Baltic region as a whole.
  • Mid Nordic Committee Nordic organization to promote sustainable development and growth in the region

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Scandinavia article)

From Wikitravel

Europe : Scandinavia
The Nordic countries
The Nordic countries

Scandinavia [1] or, more broadly, Nordic Europe is a European region north of the Baltic Sea. At almost 1.2 million square kilometres (463,000 square miles) it is the largest region in Europe, but home to only around 24 million people, accounting for a mere 4% of the population.

Map of Scandinavia
Map of Scandinavia
The smallest, flattest and most continental of the Scandinavian countries.
Famous for deep fjords, trolls and wooden churches.
Scandinavias largest country.
Hundreds of thousands of islands and lakes to explore in this bridge to the east.
Spectacular scenery of volcanoes, glaciers, geysers, and waterfalls on this North Atlantic island.
  • Faroe Islands — administered by Denmark
  • Svalbard — administered by Norway
  • Åland — administered by Finland
  • Greenland is sometimes associated with Nordic Europe, because of its relationship to Denmark and its membership in the Nordic Council. Technically and culturally it is part of (native) North America.
Urban Scandinavia includes many historic cities by the Baltic sea. Pictured: the Nyhavn canal of Copenhagen, Denmark
Urban Scandinavia includes many historic cities by the Baltic sea. Pictured: the Nyhavn canal of Copenhagen, Denmark

There is a constant and long going rivalry between Copenhagen and Stockholm over which city can claim the title as Scandinavias unofficial capital. Depending on how you count, both cities are the largest, most visited, and the target of most investment. However, after the completion of the Øresund bridge, and subsequent integration of Copenhagen and Malmö - Swedens third largest city, this region is fast emerging as the main urban centre in Scandinavia, while Stockholm arguably grabs the title as the most beautiful.

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), found north of the Arctic circle
Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), found north of the Arctic circle

The name Scandinavia comes from the Skandage body of water that lies sandwiched between Norway, Sweden, and the Jutland peninsula of Denmark. Strictly speaking, the term covers only those three countries, but here we use it in its broader sense to cover all of Nordic Europe (Norden).

The Scandinavian nations share many cultural traits including similar flags and many related languages. The region is known for its natural beauty and more recently its liberalism. Denmark, Finland and Sweden are EU members. Oil and gas rich Norway, and, the only island nation to west, Iceland, are not.

The Nordic countries all enjoy a relatively strong economy. Norway and Iceland has in particular profited from an abundance of natural resources. Sweden and Finland also have their share of natural resources but are in the international marketplace mostly famous for strong brands like Volvo, Saab, Ericsson (Sony Ericsson) and Nokia. Alhough Denmark has developed sophisticated business in a number of industries, it is above all the leading agricultural country in Scandinavia. Strong economies and relatively small social differences translates into high prices for visitors.

Elaborate welfare states are a common characteristic of the Nordic countries. Most things are generally highly organized and tourists should expect everything to proceed according to plans, rules and timetables. According to Transparency International, the Nordic countries are the least corrupt in the world (matched only by a handful of countries including Canada, New Zealand and Singapore).


Denmark borders on Germany, while Finland and Norway border on Russia, but otherwise the Nordic countries are separated from their neighbors by the Baltic, the North Sea or the Atlantic itself. An abundance of land, water and wilderness is a common characteristic of the Nordic countries (except Denmark where most of the country is farmland or settlements). For example, Sweden is one of the largest countries in Europe in area but only has some 9 million inhabitants. The landscapes and nature does however vary across the Nordic countries. Denmark is a flat lowland like the Netherlands and Northern Germany. Iceland is both vulcanic and arctic. Norway and Sweden share the Scandinavian peninsula which is highest on the Atlantic coast and gradually becomes lower until Sweden meets the Baltic sea. The Scandinavian mountains running from Southern Norway and passed Tromsø in Northern Norway are steep and rugged on the Atlantic side, gentle on the Eastern side. Finland is relatively flat, somewhat colder, and characterized by lakes scattered over the entire country. Large parts of Sweden and Finland (as well as parts of Norway) are covered by deep pine tree forests that are essentially the western branch of great Russian taiga. Galdhøpiggen in Norways Jotunheimen national park, is with its 2.469 meters the tallest mountain north of the Alps, while Kebnekaise, 2104 meters tall, is the highest mountain in Sweden.


Due to the high latitude, summer nights are very short and in the northern most part there is even midnight sun in the summer. While central parts of Scandinavia (the Oslo-Stockholm-Copenhagen triangle) are more densely populated, vast areas in the north or in the mountains are hardly populated at all. Sweden is in fact one of Europes largest countries in terms of area, and Norway is the size of Germany, despite its modest population of some 4.5 million. Because of this, space, light and nature are key characteristics of the four northern countries, with the exception of Denmark.

Despite the high latitude central parts, the Nordic countries have a mild climate, at least much warmer than would be expected at this latitude. Northern parts have subarctic climate, while southern parts and coastal areas enjoy a temperate climate. Denmark and coastal areas of Southern Norway, Iceland and Western Sweden experience only occasional frost and snow during winter. Summers in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland are pleasantly warm with day temperatures 15 to 30 degrees C. In the mountains and along western coasts, the weather is generally more unstable. Finland has the most stable sunny weather in summer. In general, the further inland, the bigger the difference between summer and winter. The Baltic side is generally colder in winter than the North Sea side. Western Norway and the Atlantic Islands have the smallest difference between summer and winter.


Communicating in Scandinavia is easy, as virtually everybody under 50 speaks at least basic English, and younger people tend to be near fluent. German might also be understood, and to a lesser degree, spoken in Denmark, less so in Norway and Sweden, and rarely in Iceland and Finland.

Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are closely related and mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Icelandic and Faroese, while also related, have been kept in a linguistic freezer since the 13th century, and are largely unintelligible to other Germanic speakers. The outlier is Finnish, which belongs to the Finno-Ugric family and is entirely unrelated to the other Nordic languages. Finland, however, maintains a roughly 5% Swedish-speaking minority, and all Finns learn Swedish in school. The Saami language also belongs to the Finno-Ugric family and is an official language in some municipalities of Lapland.

Swedens Skärgård runs along much the Bothnia coast and across the bay to Åland and Finland, it consists of thousands of rocky inlets, like this one seen from the Stockholm - Tallinn ferry
Swedens Skärgård runs along much the Bothnia coast and across the bay to Åland and Finland, it consists of thousands of rocky inlets, like this one seen from the Stockholm - Tallinn ferry
Norway is rightly famous for spectacular fjords like Geirangerfjord
Norway is rightly famous for spectacular fjords like Geirangerfjord

By plane

Due to the large distances and the water surrounding most of the Nordic area, airplane is often the most effective way of getting to the Nordic countries. All the main cities have international airports, and even smaller cities like Haugesund and Ålesund serve some international flights. Almost all European airlines service Scandinavian airports.

  • SAS Scandinavian Airlines [2] (Denmark, Norway Sweden) - Scandinavias largest carrier and the flag carrier of all 3 countries, main hubs is Copenhagen and Stockholm Airports.
Chicago, Washington, D.C, New York, Dubai, Delhi, Bangkok, Beijing and Tokyo
  • Finnair [3] (Finland) - Finlands flag carrier, flying out from its main base in Helsinki, with a strong presence on Asian routes.
New York, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka
  • Icelandair [4] (Iceland) - Leverages on its strategic location midway between Europe and North America to maintain a strong presence on North American routes.
Seattle, Minneapolis-St Paul, Orlando, Boston, New York, Toronto, Halifax
  • Atlantic Airways [5] (Faroe Islands) - Flies to many destinations in the North Atlantic, including Britain, Greenland and Iceland.

Besides the regional airlines, there are also serveral major international airlines which offers direct routes to Scandinavia. Singapore Airlines and China Eastern fly to Copenhagen, Air China and Qatar Airways to Stockholm, while US Airways, PIA (Pakistan), Thai, Delta, and Continental Airlines all service several intercontinental routes to Scandinavia. Alternative low cost airlines in the region include Blue1 [6] in Finland, Norwegian [7] in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, Cimber Sterling [8] in Denmark and Iceland Express [9] on Iceland. All of these airlines has routes to one of the London airports, and hence London is a good entry point, if you can find a cheaper flight there, which is often the case. Many of the low cost airlines mainly service routes between the cold Scandinavia and the sunny Mediterranean, hence you can also often find bargain flights from Spain, Italy, etc.

By train

Denmark is well-connected to the German rail network. The direct connection to Copenhagen is, however, by the Puttgarden-Rødby ferry. Sweden is connected to Danish railways via the Øresund bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö or to the German capital by a bi-daily night train during the summer, bypassing Denmark via the Trelleborg - Rostock ferry. Due to the barrier provided by the Baltic sea, the only other connection to the European mainland, is via Moscow or St Petersburg in Russia. For interrail pass holders most of the ferries crossing the Baltic and North seas offers discounts (25-50%), but only the Scandlines ferries are completely included in the pass (see By ferry section).

Copenhagen, (Denmark)
Copenhagen, (Denmark)
Copenhagen, (Denmark)
Copenhagen, (Denmark))
Malmö, (Sweden
Århus, (Denmark)
Helsinki, (Finland)
Helsinki, (Finland)
DB City Night Line [10], 16 hours (night)
DB City Night Line [11], 15 hours (night)
DB City Night Line [12], 15 hours (night)
DB Deutsche Bahn [13], 5 hours (day)
SJ Berlin Night Express [14], 8½ hours (night)
DB Deutsche Bahn [15], 8½ hours (day)
VR Finnish Railways [16], 14½ hours (night)
VR Finnish Railways [17], 7 hours (day)

By ferry

Norway is served by ferries from Denmark and Germany. To Sweden, there are ferries from Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Iceland is connected to Denmark and the Faroe Islands by ferry. To Finland there are ferries from Estonia and Germany.

Oslo (Norway)
Gothenburg (Sweden)
Malmö (Sweden)
Helsinki (Finland)
Gedser (Denmark)
Helsinki (Finland)
Helsinki (Finland)
Stockholm (Sweden)
Stockholm (Sweden)
Stockholm¹ (Sweden)
Stockholm¹ (Sweden)
Karlskrona (Sweden)
Karlshamn (Sweden)
Ystad (Sweden)
Copenhagen (Denmark)
Esbjerg (Denmark)
Color Line[18], 19½ hours
Stena Line[19], 14 hours
TT Line [20], 7½ hours
Finnlines [21], 27 hours
Scandlines [22], 1¾ hours
Tallink Silja line [23], 26 hours
Many operators, 2-4 hours
Tallink Silja line [24], 17 hours
Tallink Silja line [25], 17 hours
Scandlines [26], 10 hours
Polferries [27], 18 hours
Stena Line [28], 11 hours
DFDS Lisco [29], 15 hours
Polferries [30], 6½ hours
Polferries [31], 9 hours
DFDS Seaways [32], 18 hours

¹ Arrives in Nynæshamn, about 1 hour south of Stockholm by suburban train

By car

Denmark is directly connected to the continental road network. From Denmark it is possible to cross to Sweden over the Öresund bridge. There are also many ferry connections from Denmark, most of them takes cars. The only overland alternative to the Öresund bridge is to enter via Russia to Finland or Norway. Save a few short stretches of regular road, you can drive all the way to Stockholm or Oslo on highway from the German ones, but keep in mind that the tolls on the two Danish highway bridges you need to pass to get to Sweden are heavy, and you could easily be saving money taking a more direct route with a ferry. Virtually all Scandinavian roads are toll free, but some larger cities (most notably Stockholm) have introduced congestion charges when driving in the centre, and some of longer bridges and tunnels levy tolls to pay for their construction.

Speed limits are uniform, 50kph in cities and 80kph on rural roads unless otherwise indicated. Motorways range from 100 in Norway, 110 in Sweden, 120 in Finland to 130 in Denmark, again unless other speed limits are signposted. Keep in mind that while Scandinavians routinely disregard speed limits, fines are heavy and if you don't benefit from the high Scandinavian wages, they will feel even more steep, so you will in essence probably be gambling with your holiday budget. Speeding in city zones are considered a severe offence, and there are many unmarked automatic speed traps installed in such zones.

Winter driving skills are essential through much of the year, when roads are treacherously slippery, winter tyres are mandatory and speed limits are reduced.

Silja Serenade, a typical Helsinki-Stockholm ferry
Silja Serenade, a typical Helsinki-Stockholm ferry

Major coastal cities of the Baltic Sea are often connected with ferry lines, e.g. Turku-Stockholm and Helsinki-Tallinn, and ferries are a natural part of many journeys for Scandinavians. The larger long-distance ferries are in effect cruise ships, with behemoths like the Silja Europa featuring 13 decks stacked full of shops, restaurants, spas, saunas etc. Longer routes are nearly always scheduled to sail during the night, so you arrive fresh to continue the often long journeys required in Scandinavia. If you travel by ferry to Norway or pass through Åland, there are Tax Free sales on board, since Norway is not part of the EU and Åland is subject to special regulations. For the same reason some of these lines, especially Stockholm-Helsinki ferry, is known as party boats, since alcohol escapes the normal heavy taxation.

In addition to major lines listed below, the Hurtigruten ferries, running all along Norways amazing jagged coast line, and through spectacular fjords, from Bergen in the south to Kirkenes in the Arctic north, docking in many small hamlets and villages on the way - offers a unique and very Scandinavian experience.

From To Operator
Copenhagen, (Denmark) Oslo (Norway) DFDS Seaways [33], 16½ hours
Grenå, (Denmark) Varberg, (Sweden) Stena Line [34] 4½ hours
Frederikshavn, (Denmark) Göteborg, (Sweden) Stena Line [35] 2-4 hours
Hirtshals, (Denmark) Larvik, (Norway) Colorline [36], 4 hours
Hirtshals, (Denmark) Kristiansand, (Norway) Colorline [37], 4 hours
Hirtshals, (Denmark) Bergen, (Norway) Fjordline [38], 19½ hours (via Stavanger - 11½ hours)
Hanstholm, (Denmark) Seyðisfjörður, (Iceland) Smyril line [39], 69 hours (via the Faroe Islands - 44 hours summer)
Esbjerg, (Denmark) Tórshavn, (Faroe Islands) Smyril line [40], 44 hours (winter)
Strömstad, (Sweden) Sandefjord, (Norway) Colorline [41], 2½ hours
Stockholm, (Sweden) Helsinki, (Finland) Tallink Silja line & Viking line, 16½ hours (via Åland islands - 11 hours)
Umeå, (Sweden) Vaasa, (Finland) RG Line [42], 3½ hours
S220 Pendolino, Finland
S220 Pendolino, Finland
See also: Rail travel in Europe

Trains are an adequate way of traveling around Scandinavia. International connections between Denmark, southern Sweden and southern Norway are good, but up north services are sparse and there is a short gap in the network between northern Sweden and Finland, although most railpasses allow free use of the connecting bus service. Iceland has no trains at all.

The previous night train connection between Copenhagen and Oslo has been retired, and this route now requires a change in Gothenburg, on the other hand day time connections has become much more frequent after the opening of the Øresund bridge (8½ hours). Between Copenhagen and Stockholm up to 7 X2000 express trains runs directly every day (5½ hours), and the daily night train only requires an easy change in Malmö (7½ hours). Further north there is two daily connections between Oslo and Bodø (17 hours, via Trondheim) - the northernmost stop on the Norwegian railway network, and two daily night trains (regular & express) between Stockholm and Umeå/Luleå (16-20 hours) in the northernmost part of Sweden. In the summer Lapplandståget [43]- Scandinavias longest railway journey, will take you directly all the way from Malmö (& Copenhagen) in south to Narvik in the north via Sweden.

The ScanRail pass was retired in 2007, but visitors not resident in Europe can opt for the very similar Eurail Scandinavia Pass [44], which offers 4 to 10 days of travel in a 2-month period for €232-361. For residents of Europe, the all-Europe or single-country Interrail passes are also an option.

Major railway companies in Scandinavian include DSB[45] & Arriva[46] in Denmark, NSB[47] in Norway, SJ[48] and Veolia[49] in Sweden and VR[50] in Finland.

By bus

If you are not using a rail pass, long distance buses will often be a cheaper alternative, especially for longer journeys. But since highways are almost exclusively centred around the southern half of Scandinavia, journey times become increasingly uncompetitive the further north you get, on the other hand, rail services also get increasingly sparse in northern Scandinavia. There is no dominant company like Grayhound is in North America, but a host of local, regional and national bus companies, some of the major companies include; GoByBus [51] and Eurolines [52] and Swebus [53] which all service routes in the Scandinavian triangle between Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. In addition the major national intercity bus companies are Abildskou [54] in Denmark, Nor-Way [55] and Nettbuss [56] in Norway and Matkahuolto [57] in Finland.

By car

Think twice before driving a car in Scandinavia. Rentals are expensive, gasoline is very expensive and distances are long. In Norway, in particular, distances that seem short on a map can be very long and tiring if you need to drive along twisty fjord roads. Collisions with wildlife, particularly deer and reindeer, are common and dangerous.

If planning on driving in Scandinavia outside the summer season, you will need to be familiar with winter driving conditions and equip your car accordingly.

Lapland straddles the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, fantastic nature, caribou and the Sami indigenous people make it worth the effort to go there. Pictured: Stora Sjöfallet, Sweden
Lapland straddles the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, fantastic nature, caribou and the Sami indigenous people make it worth the effort to go there. Pictured: Stora Sjöfallet, Sweden
  • See the Northern Lights (Latin: Aurora Borealis; Scandinavian: Nordlys/-ljus (Swedish: Norrsken))
  • Visit the unusual free city of Christiania in Copenhagen
  • Visit a Viking Ship Museum in Oslo or Roskilde,
  • Visit the famous Tivoli Gardens theme park in Copenhagen
  • See the amazing Vasa Museum in Stockholm, displaying an entire flagship that sunk in the harbor nearly 400 years ago
  • Relax in a hot spring in Iceland
  • Cruise a Norwegian Fjord, Geirangerfjord is a world-famous beauty while Sognefjord is the greatest
  • Enjoy the endless summer days under the midnight sun in the north.
  • Experience the Arctic and the ice bears in the worlds northernmost settlement, Svalbard
  • Go cross country skiing or hiking in the endless forests and national parks.
  • Go skinny dipping from a sauna in the Land of a Thousand Lakes (Finland)
  • Downhill skiing or snowboarding in some of Europes most civilized and family friendly ski resorts.
  • Relive your childhood in Legoland, Denmark.
  • Cruise around the thousands of scenic islands in the Swedish and Finish skärgård.


Scandinavia, and in particular Denmark, is known for its many music festivals during the summer months. The largest in each country are:

  • Roskilde Festival [58] (Denmark, July) - One of the worlds most famous rock festivals, with 70,000 tickets for sale and 30,000 volunteers.
  • Ruisrock [59] (Finland, July) - Finlands largest music festival, held on an island near Turku, with around 70,000 spectators.
  • Hultsfred [60] (Sweden, July) - Swedens main rock festival, takes place in southern Sweden and has an attendance of ~30,000.
  • Quart [61] (Norway, June/July) - Norways main rock festival, and in Kristiansand in southern Norway.
  • G Festival [62] (Faroe Islands, July) - The Faroes' main event, with around 10,000 participants and 6,000 tickets sold every year.
  • Iceland Airwaves [63] (Iceland, October) - A progressive music festival that attracts around 2000 visitors.
Smørrebrød, the famous Danish open-faced sandwich
Smørrebrød, the famous Danish open-faced sandwich

The cuisines of all Scandinavian countries are quite similar, although each country does have its signature dishes. Seafood features prominently on restaurant menus, although beef, pork and chicken are more common in many everyday dishes. Potatoes are the main staple, most often simply boiled, but also made into mashed potatoes, potato salad and more. Spices are used sparingly, but fresh herbs are used to accentuate the ingredients.

Famous pan-Scandinavian dishes include:

  • Herring, especially pickled
  • Meatballs, served with potatoes, berries and creamy sauce
  • Salmon, especially smoked or salt-cured (gravlax)
  • Smörgåsbord, a popular lunch option with bread, herring, smoked fish, cold cuts and more

Bread comes in dozens of varieties, with dark, heavy rye bread a specialty, and Scandinavian pastries are so well known that the word "danish" has even been imported into English.

Chilling out at the Arctic Icebar, Helsinki
Chilling out at the Arctic Icebar, Helsinki

Vikings were famously heavy drinkers, and despite continuing government efforts to stamp out the demon drink through heavy taxation, todays Scandinavians continue the tradition. Bring in your full tax-free allowance if you plan to indulge, since in Norway you can expect to pay up to 60 kr (€7) for a pint of beer in a pub, and Sweden and Finland are not far behind. To reduce the pain, it is common to start drinking at home before heading out to party. The drinking age is 18 in all Nordic countries, but many bars and clubs have their own age limits.

The main tipples are beer and vodka-like distilled spirits called brännvin, including herb-flavored akvavit. Spirits are typically drunk as snaps (pron. "shnapps"), or ice-cold from shot glasses.


Throughout Scandinavia, with exception of densely populated Denmark, Allemansrätten, or Every Mans Right in English, is an important underpinning of society, and guarantees everyone the right to stay or camp on any uncultivated land for one or two nights, as long as you respect certain norms, stay out of sight of any residents, and leave no traces of your visit when you leave. If you enjoy the great outdoors, this can help make the otherwise expensive Scandinavian countries, become quite affordable.

With so much incredible nature outside the doorstep, it should be no surprise that the Scandinavian countries have a well developed Hostel network, named Vandrerhjem/Vandrarhem in the Scandinavian languages - literally translating into wanderers home. While the rules are often quite strict, it is cheap, and with almost 800 hostels available, you can find one almost anywhere. The respective national organisations are called Danhostel [64] in Denmark, STF [65] or SVIF [66] in Sweden, Norske Vandrerhjem [67] in Norway, SRM [68] in Finland and finally Farfuglar [69] in Iceland.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:


Nordic countries pl.

  1. A group of countries in northern Europe consisting of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and their associated territories Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Åland.


See also

Simple English

Nordic countries are a group of countries in the northern Europe. These countries are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway. Scandinavia is not the same thing as Nordic countries even though some people say they are. Scandinavia is a peninsula while the Nordic countries are countries. Sweden and Norway (and a small part of Finland) are located on the Scandinavian peninsula. Scandinavia and Finland together belong to bigger peninsula that is Fennoscandia.

Nordic countries have similar state, law and culture. In history Nordic countries been very close. Nordic countries are welfare states with a very high taxes. Nordic countries have some political co-operation, like the Nordic council. Co-operation with a larger group European Union makes the Nordic co-operation even smaller. Finland is the only country that uses the euro.

There is a long and cold winter in Nordic countries, but only a small part of northern Norway and about a half of Iceland is arctic.


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