They are No. 1 and 2 respectively in the UN's World Happiness Report rankings, but which of these two northern European nations makes your smile bigger? Our duelling experts help you decide.
By Amy Cooper
Sure, Denmark has Our Queen Mary, but Finland has Father Christmas. The world's top purveyor of good vibes ships happiness worldwide from his headquarters in Lapland, up in Finland's north. And despite his marathon commute and annual obligation to perform Amazon's entire job in a single night, he never stops laughing.
That's the attitude that puts a country first past the "Finnish" line of the World Happiness Report for six years in a row.
Finland's unique brand of humour which you might, if pushing the limits of understatement, call "offbeat", is the secret weapon that beats merry Mary's bland bicycles and bacon into second place.
I first visited Finland just after it won the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest with one of the most WTF spectacles ever delivered by an event with a high watermark for weird. Death metal band Lordi became national heroes with their meat-flinging, doll-exploding, monster-costumed and yet good-natured performance, delighting the public even more than a kiss n' tell scandal involving the then prime minister, illicit wood chopping and the endearment: "your kisses taste better than a baked potato". Finnish fun, I learned, could seem unfathomable, but it was infectious.
I remember being alarmed at Helsinki's frozen Katajanokka port when I saw a woman, smiling, emerge from a steaming doorway then descend a ladder through a hole in the ice into the freezing sea. She knew, as all Finns do, that there's no party like a sauna party and no pleasure quite as sweet as sweating in a 90-degree wooden chamber, slapping yourself with birch branches, then diving into snow or ice. It's why there's one sauna to every four Finns and a former Finnish president hosted diplomatic summits in the sauna, believing its mood-lifting benefits might even avert wars.
A former Finnish president hosted diplomatic summits in the sauna, believing its mood-lifting benefits might even avert wars.
Finland is joyously beautiful. More than 75 per cent of the land is clad in forest and the cities are a picturesque stroll through classical, romantic and modernist architecture.
You'll fall for the fairytale charms of Helsinki, especially when its cobbled Pohjoisesplanadi boulevard is dusted with snow. Or head far north in winter to chase Finland's most stunning spectacle, the aurora borealis. You might see the polar night sky turn shimmering jade and violet as the finale to a journey on a reindeer sleigh or husky sled across frozen lakes and untrodden snowscapes.
Lapland's Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle, is the official home of Santa, and you can visit Santa Village to meet the man in red and marvel at acrobatic elves. Incidentally, Rovaniemi is also the birthplace of Lordi's lead singer, and Lordi Square is named in tribute. Since the band are never seen without their monster masks, it's possible Santa has a side gig. How Finland is that?
By Mal Chenu
The Danes have their own word for having a happy time - hygge. Difficult to adequately translate (like schadenfreude in German or bogan in Australian) hygge is about happy, fun times with loved ones. You can hygge anywhere and in many ways but the mere existence of this word tells you Denmark is a cheery place. Of course, had the World Happiness Report included the bonus bliss you get when you add a smidge of 'Straya to the mix, Denmark would surely have out-happied Finland. When our Mary joined new King Freddie on the balcony for the royal wave, the crowd went as wild as they did when our King Shane took a hat-trick against the Poms at the MCG in 1994. Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Tak! Tak! Tak!
Denmark's exultant royalty dates back to Viking times and there are plenty of imperial castles, palaces and monuments to see. Another jewel in the crown is the changing of the Royal Danish Guard, which marches from Rosenborg Castle through Copenhagen to Fred and Mez's place, aka Amalienborg Palace, for the happy high-noon hand-over.
At Elsinore, which has views across the sound to Sweden, the spectacular World Heritage-listed Kronborg Castle is a must. Kronborg was the setting for Hamlet, and "To see or not to see," is an easy question to answer - nothing is rotten in the state of Denmark, especially not Kronborg.
"Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen" is best explored by bike and you can check out the boulevards, gardens, waterways, the famous sculpture of The Little Mermaid and even the route the Tour De France took in its sojourn through the city and surrounds in 2022. For even more amusement, check out the rides, architecture, music, nostalgia and - most importantly - the food at Tivoli Gardens theme park, which inspired both Hans Christian Andersen and Walt Disney. Beyond the capital, the other "big" cities of Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg, and the rustic countryside all offer ecstasy-inducing attractions.
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Denmark is a sheer joy at any time of the year, too, unlike a certain Scandi neighbour we could mention, which for half the year is dark, wet and cold enough to freeze the antlers off an elk.
Indeed, Finns make guests "welcome" by getting naked with them in kettle-boiling-point saunas and then taking them to a frozen lake for a dip. And they hate small talk, which is ironic in a place with so many ice breakers. The Finnish language is difficult and married couples should also be careful when accepting invitations - you may have consented to compete in the national Wife Carrying Championship, where first prize is the wife's weight in beer.
Finns are notoriously taciturn but in Denmark, even the three-prong electric wall-sockets smile at you. In short, it's great to be a Dane. They're happy as a hygge in sh**.