Zealand (Danish: Sjælland, pronounced [ˈɕɛˌlænˀ]), at 7,031 km2, is the largest and most populous island in Denmark proper (thus excluding Greenland and Disko Island, which are larger). Zealand has a population of 2,302,074 (as of 1 January 2018).[2]

Native name:
LocationBaltic Sea
Coordinates55°30′N 11°45′E
Area7,031 km2 (2,715 sq mi)
Highest elevation122.9 m (403.2 ft)
Highest pointKobanke
RegionCapital Region of Denmark, Region Zealand
Largest settlementCopenhagen (pop. 1,627,705 (urban)[1])
Pop. density327.41 /km2 (847.99 /sq mi)

It is the 13th-largest island in Europe by area and the 4th most populous. It is connected to Funen by the Great Belt Fixed Link, to Lolland, Falster (and Germany from 2028) by the Storstrøm Bridge and the Farø Bridges. Zealand is also linked to Amager by several bridges. Zealand is linked indirectly, through intervening islands by a series of bridges and tunnels, to southern Sweden.

Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is located partly on the eastern shore of Zealand and partly on the island of Amager. Other cities on Zealand include Roskilde, Hillerød, Næstved and Helsingør.

Despite their identical names, the island is not connected historically to the Pacific nation of New Zealand, which is named after the Dutch province of Zeeland.


The exact origin of the Danish name "Sjælland" is controversial. Sjæl in Danish today means "soul", but based on older records one can exclude this interpretation. Even a derivation derived from siô / sæ (meaning "sea") corresponding closely to the English name is today largely rejected – but it could be speculated that the English came up with their own separate name prior to the start of Danish research on the name's origin, and may have caused people thinking Sjælland means Zealand. The prevailing view today is: The Old Danish form "Siâland" comes from a composition of the word *selha- with the ending *wundia-. The latter means "indicates, resembles". The word *selha- can have two different meanings: it can mean on the one hand "seal" (in modern Danish sæl) and on the other hand mean "deep bay, fjord". Since the main settlement on Zealand was previously Roskilde, which is only accessible by sea through the narrow Roskilde Fjord (branched from the Ise Fjord), it is usually assumed that the sailors named the island after this.[3]

Mythological origins

In Norse mythology as told in the Gylfaginning, the island was created by the goddess Gefjun after she tricked Gylfi, the king of Sweden. She removed a piece of land and transported it to Denmark, which became Zealand. The vacant area was filled with water and became Mälaren.[4] However, since modern maps show a similarity between Zealand and the Swedish lake Vänern, it is sometimes identified as the hole left by Gefjun.


Zealand is the most populous Danish island. It is irregularly shaped, and is north of the islands of Lolland, Falster, and Møn. The small island of Amager lies immediately east.

Copenhagen is mostly on Zealand but extends across northern Amager. A number of bridges and the Copenhagen Metro connect Zealand to Amager, which is connected to Scania in Sweden by the Øresund Bridge via the artificial island of Peberholm. Zealand is joined in the west to Funen, by the Great Belt Fixed Link, and Funen is connected by bridges to the country's mainland, Jutland.

On June 5, 2007, the regional subsidiary of national broadcaster DR reported that Kobanke in the southeast near the town Rønnede in Faxe Municipality, with a height of 122.9 metres (403 ft), was the highest natural point on Zealand. Gyldenløveshøj, south of the city Roskilde, has a height of 126 metres (413 ft), but that is due to a man-made hill from the 17th century and its highest natural point is only 121.3 metres (398 ft).

Zealand gives its name to the Selandian era of the Paleocene.

Cities and towns

Urban areas with 10,000+ inhabitants:

#Urban areaMunicipalityPopulation
2GreveGreve Municipality47,980
3RoskildeRoskilde Municipality47,828
4HelsingørHelsingør Municipality46,368
6NæstvedNæstved Municipality41,857
7KøgeKøge Municipality35,295
8TaastrupHøje-Taastrup Municipality32,719
9SlagelseSlagelse Municipality32,133
10HillerødHillerød Municipality30,570
11HolbækHolbæk Municipality27,195
12RingstedRingsted Municipality21,412
13Ølstykke-StenløseEgedal Municipality20,984
14BirkerødRudersdal Municipality19,919
16FarumFuresø Municipality18,422
17KalundborgKalundborg Municipality16,303
18LillerødAllerød Municipality15,795
19FrederikssundFrederikssund Municipality15,602
20Solrød StrandSolrød Municipality15,159
21KorsørSlagelse Municipality14,538
22VærløseFuresø Municipality12,842
23FrederiksværkHalsnæs Municipality12,191
24VordingborgVordingborg Municipality11,643
25Hedehusene-FløngHøje-Taastrup Municipality11,345
26HaslevFaxe Municipality11,201

See also


  1. "StatBank Denmark - data and statistics". Statistics Denmark. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  2. BEF4: Population 1 January by Islands, Statistics Denmark
  3. Katlev, Jan (4 August 2009). "Sjælland …". www.sprogmuseet.dk (in Danish). Danish Language Museum. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  4. Den Store Danske Encyklopædi, article Gefion
  • Media related to Zealand at Wikimedia Commons
  • Zealand travel guide from Wikivoyage
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