This article is about the Danish island. For the administrative region, see Region Zealand. For other uses, see Zealand (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Zeeland, New Zealand, or Zealandia.

Zealand or Sealand (Danish: Sjælland[ˈɕɛˌlænˀ] , in English also occasionally), at 7,031 km2, is the largest and most populous island in Denmark proper (thus excluding Greenland and Disko Island, which are larger in size). Zealand had a population of 2,319,705 on 1 January 2020.[2]

It is the 13th-largest island in Europe by area and the 4th most populous. It is connected to Sprogø and Funen by the Great Belt Fixed Link and to Amager by several bridges in Copenhagen. Indirectly, through the island of Amager and the Øresund Bridge, it is also linked to Scania in Sweden. In the south, the Storstrøm Bridge and the Farø Bridges connect it to Falster, and beyond that island to Lolland, from where the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel to Germany is planned.

Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, with a population between 1.3 and 1.4 million people in 2020, is located mostly on the eastern shore of Zealand and partly on the island of Amager. Other cities on Zealand include Roskilde, Hillerød, Næstved, Helsingør, Slagelse, Køge, Holbæk and Kalundborg.

Administratively, Zealand is divided between two Danish regions: The Copenhagen metropolitan area and North Zealand belong to the Capital Region, while the major and more rural part of the island belongs to the Zealand Region.



The origin of the Danish name Sjælland is not exactly known. Sjæl in modern Danish means "soul", but this interpretation can be excluded.[how?] A derivation from siô/ (meaning "lake" or "sea") has been assumed. However, today a common hypothesis is that the Old Danish form Siâland is based on the word *selha- with the ending *wundia-. The latter means "indicates, resembles". The word *selha- may have two different meanings: "seal" (in modern Danish sæl) or "deep bay, fjord". Since Roskilde is a major and ancient settlement on Zealand, accessible by sea through the narrow Roskilde Fjord (branched from the Isefjord), it has been assumed that the sailors named the island after this.[3]

The English form may be borrowed from the German form Seeland. These forms might be based on the assumption that the first part means sea or lake (German See), or they could simply be based on an alternative Danish form of the name, Sælland, which was common until the 19th century.[4]

Unlike the Danish island, the Pacific nation of New Zealand is named after the Dutch province of Zeeland.

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.[5] However, since modern maps show a similarity between Zealand and the Swedish lake Vänern, it is sometimes identified as the hole left by Gefjun. Gefjun is queen of King Skjöldr, eponymous ancestor of the Scyldings, related to the etymological debate.



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 5 June 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:

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. Sælland, Holberg Dictionary
  5. Den Store Danske Encyklopædi, article Gefion