Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, offers a truly magical Christmas experience to locals and visitors alike. The city brims with cheerful lights and sparkling decors, sniffles of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, and a busy traffic of lively Christmas markets during the festive season.
Charming Copenhagen Christmas spots:
TIVOLI GARDENS AMUSEMENT PARK
Christmas or no Christmas, this second oldest amusement park in the world is widely patronised by friends and families seeking thrill rides and adrenaline-themed bonding. The park was founded in 1843 and the only one recorded older than Tivoli is Bakken Park, which is also in Denmark.
Christmas markets in Copenhagen are put up merely few miles away from each other and the undeniable winner in the Danish category is Tivoli Gardens. You can choose from around 27 fun rides or if you’re too sissy, the spectacle of lights would be enough to lure you in. So gorgeous that the park inspired Hans Christian Andersen to write Nightingale. Even Walt Disney chiefs had spent several visits to the park looking for inspirations before opening the now ubiquitous Disneyland.
Nyhavn, which translates to “new harbour”, has become the face of Copenhagen all over social media. Restaurants, bars, and cafes line the picturesque harbour guarded by wooden ships and yachts offering canal boat cruise. Walking around Nyhavn during Christmas season is like stepping into instagram photos of pastel-coloured 17th and 18th century houses that have undergone Christmas facelift. Hans Christian Andersen lived at door no. 67.
A stone’s throw away from Nyhavn is a 5-star hotel that traditionally symbolizes the start of Danish Christmas. Once you see the huge Nativity scene and icy ensembles cover the hotel’s façade, you’d know Christmas is knocking at your doorstep. D’ Angleterre is located at Kongens Nytorv (The King’s Square) and next to it lies Strøget, the longest pedestrianized shopping street in Europe.
Each Christmas market across Europe is about mulled wine (basically a hot red wine with a twist) and bratwurst buns… and why not?
So I’d invite you to step inside because this hotel is known exactly for that. However, the mulled wine they offer here isn’t red but white. Also, the Danes call their mulled wine “gløgg”. Don’t miss out on the famous white gløgg that’s best matched with marzipan snowballs. You’re welcome in advance!
FREDERIKSBERG RUNDDEL ICE-SKATING
In the main entrance to Frederiksberg Gardens, people on furry scarves and thick coats gather to skilfully enjoy some ice-skating. It’s another winter tradition in the city and it’s free! Only major rule to keep in mind is to skate counter clockwise to avoid clashes.
Sitting down watching exuberant skaters chasing each other sends a jovial inexplicable feeling down your spine known in Danish as “hygge”.
Got yourself starving from all the walking tours? Set your GPS to Restaurant Kronborg for a classic four-course Danish Christmas lunch of fish, meat, cheese, and rice pudding, where a lucky one receives a hidden almond gift inside.
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN CHRISTMAS MARKET
The beloved fairytale author is a worldwide writing superstar. Many of his works are brought to life on stage throughout the city during this time of the year. In fact, he is perennially honoured in one of the cosiest Christmas markets not too far off from Copenhagen.
An hour and a half by train is Odense, where Andersen was born and spent his straining childhood before moving to Copenhagen. His old house is paired up with a museum dedicated to his life and works. In Nytorv square, a market is put up to celebrate the season through fairytales where the multitude of Christmas stalls are named after H.C. Andersen’s famous characters. #VisitOdense
Top tourist attractions in Copenhagen all year round:
THE LITTLE MERMAID
“Den Lille Havfrue” is Hans Christian Andersen’s muse of all time. The little-larger-than-life-size bronze sculpture of a mermaid on a rock is an iconic symbol of the city. Her youthful rock figure turned 100 years old on 23rd August 2013 even after suffering decapitation twice and an arm removal in the past years. This beauty stands her ground (or “rock” in her case) to modestly greet you when you come to see her.
In huge contrast to Disney’s version, the original Little Mermaid story didn’t get a happy ever after. #VisitLittleMermaid
NY CARLSBERG GLYPTOTEK
Just behind Tivoli Gardens is a free art museum showcasing an impressive sculpture collection by Carl Jacobsen of the Carlsberg Breweries. Sign up for the Carlsberg Brewery tour and learn the history of the world-famous Danish beer.
FREDERIKSKIRKE (FREDERIK’S CHURCH)
A short-walking distance from Nyhavn is a church with an imposing large copper green dome, also commonly known as the Marble Church.
Walk straight from Frederikskirke to Frederiksgade towards the waterfront and you’ll find the Danish royals’ winter home. A section of the complex is used as museum showcasing the 150-year history of the Danish monarchs. Amalie Garden is also open for visitors who want a feel of royalty while surrounded with dainty flowers and imperial fountains.
At 11:30am, the daily Changing of the Royal Guards take place at the Amalienborg courtyard. The queen is home when a flag is raised above the palace.
Christianborg Palace is multi-purposely the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court. Visitors can climb up the viewing deck in the tallest tower in the city or go below ground to see the preserved 11th-century ruins under it.
Did you know?
Malmo, Sweden is connected by a long bridge from Copenhagen which makes it the easiest daytrip destination. It’s a 45-minute drive across Oresund Bridge or leave Copenhagen by train for 10 euros which takes around half an hour to get to Malmo central. The most interesting part is that Swedish folks from Malmo-side crosses over to Copenhagen to buy alcohol as it’s significantly cheaper in Denmark.
Christmas is the best time to visit Copenhagen. The city’s full mood shifts into grandiose displays of celebratory lights and festive pop-ups making it one of the best world cities to spend Christmas in. Although, the biggest struggle of a tourist during peak of winter is trying to squeeze in as much locations as you could in these really short days - 9am sunrise and 3pm sunset on average.
How about you? What is the most charming Christmas city you’ve been to? ➳