Scandinavia 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.
There is a constant and long-standing rivalry between Copenhagen and Stockholm over which city can claim the title as Scandinavia's 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 - Sweden's third largest city, this region is fast emerging as the main urban centre in Scandinavia, famous for its fairytale parks and castles and its liberal attitudes, while Stockholm arguably grabs the title as the most beautiful.
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.
Scandinavia was covered by an ice sheet around 10.000 BC. As the ice pushed the land down, it is still rising from the sea, at a rate near 1 cm a year. While the north Germanic peoples populated southern coastal areas, Finns and Sami migrated from the Ural Mountains. From around AD 700, Norse sailors known as Vikings ventured across the Atlantic and European rivers, reaching as far as present-day Canada, Morocco and the Caspian Sea. Christianity did not get a grip on Scandinavia until around AD 1000. The 16th to 19th centuries, Denmark and Sweden fought for domination of northern Europe in 11 wars. Norway, Finland and Iceland regained independence during the early 20th century.
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