The days are short and the nights cold, but Christmas in Copenhagen is as warming as a cup of goodiesmulled wine(Danish mulled wine – more on that later). In fact, it's arguably one of the best times of the year to visit the Danish capital.
You can visit the famous Copenhagen Christmas Markets, taste traditional festive food and drinks, enjoy all the fun in the Tivoli Gardens or simply stroll through the city's beautifully decorated streets and harbour. Plus a lot more!
Yes, the Danes really know how to celebrate Christmas. Check out our guide below to make the most of your time in Copenhagen during the most magical time of the year.
All Copenhagen Christmas traditions you need to know
When visiting a country for the first time, it always comes in handy to understand its cultural traditions – especially around something as significant as Christmas. So, first things first, let's look at the quirks andCustoms of the Danish holiday season:
Countdown to December
The whole month of December is one big celebration in Denmark for children and adults alike. You can feel the anticipation growing day by day. That's probably because the Danes are so adept at making each day special with their many ways of counting down to Christmas.
Most families gift the little ones an advent calendar of treats to open and enjoy each day leading up to the grand finale of Christmas. They can be something sweet and tasty, or even small gifts.
On a less chocolatey note, families are also traditionally counting down to Christmas with theadvent wreath. They consist of four candles and are lit on the four Sundays before Christmas, starting with just one and adding one each week until they are all lit in preparation for Christmas.
There are those toocalendar light, a tall Christmas candle printed with a number for each day of December. It's a charming little custom where you light the candle just enough for each day of the month, creating even more hype until Christmas Eve.
In Denmark, Christmas Eve is their highlight. While Christmas Day still matters, the magic happens on December 24th. This is when loved ones usually get together for an intimateChristmas festival and celebration.
roast duck, goose and roast pork are common at meals, usually accompanied by red cabbage and potatoes with gravy. This is usually followed by a traditional Danish dessert called risalamande, which is rice pudding covered in cherry sauce.
This dish usually features a whole almond hidden in the pudding, and whoever finds it gets a prize.
After dinner, it is usually customary to dance around the Christmas tree while singing carols. Quickly followed by every Danish child's favorite time of the Christmas season - the present!
You might even see a few people along the wayGive treats to animals. This is inspired by the ancient belief that animals could talk on Christmas Eve - and you definitely don't want your furry friends saying bad things behind your back!
Things get a little more relaxed on December 25 – although the celebrations usually continue with more family gatherings. You might find yourself having lunch or dinner with your loved ones, even though it's not the big event of the night before.
Is anything open in Copenhagen over Christmas? For the two main days, the answer is largely no. While the 25th is less intense and more of a slowdown in the holiday season, tourist attractions in Copenhagen will not open. The same goes for most shops and businesses.
Things to do in Copenhagen at Christmas time
After reading this far, you're probably already looking forward to a trip to the Danish capital and enjoying the festive spirit. But what is there to do in Copenhagen at Christmas time?
Christmas holidays in Copenhagen are popular with all types of travelers including families, couples, backpackers and students. There really is something for everyone to enjoy leading up to their favorite holiday.
In no particular order (because they're all worth experiencing), here are a few suggestions:
1. Don't miss the annual lighting of Copenhagen's Christmas tree
If you want to start the Christmas season with a show of community spirit, come to Rådhuspladsenofficial lighting of the Copenhagen Christmas tree.
This annual tradition usually takes place on the first Sunday in December.
The 24 meter high tree shines in all its glory and is an incredibly breathtaking sight on a cold Christmas night. Santa Claus himself usually takes part as well, which is another reason why the event is popular with families with children.
2. Join the celebrations at Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardensis a great place to visit in Copenhagen all year round, but at Christmas it transforms into something extra special.
In fact, it is the second oldest fully operational amusement park in the world and features stunning scenery, architecture and entertainment alongside rides.
During the festive season, the decorations, artificial snow and twinkling Christmas lights will make you feel like you're right at the North Pole. If you have young children, they will be delighted to know that Santa and his reindeer make an appearance too.
If that's not enough, it's also home to its own Tivoli Christmas markets, which you can visit. There are usually around 60 stalls to browse, shop, eat, drink and fill your Christmas stockings.
There are also often Christmas performances, parades and shows.
3. Indulge your senses with culinary delights this Christmas in Copenhagen
It may be cold outside but insideCopenhagen's many restaurants and bars, the food, drink and festive energy are enough to warm the soul. Besides, everyone knows that the best way to get to know a city is over a plate of food and a cup of something delicious.
Check out our food and drink list to get you in the Christmas spirit while in Copenhagen:
mulled wine:Danish mulled wine
origin in sweden,mulled wineis a warm drink that has several recipe variations but usually includes a red wine base. It also often has spices, raisins and almonds in the mix. An absolute favorite for locals around Christmas.
Aquavit:A distillate also known as liquor
They usually drink it from a small shot glass that is usually served with food. Its signature spice is cumin, although you might also taste dill, coriander, and aniseed. When you toast with it, don't forget to say “Skål”for a hearty Danish toast.
apple pieces:Pancake balls served with powdered sugar and/or jam
If you love donuts, or just pastries in general, you'll love these. They're always popular with the kids, but be careful... they definitely want seconds. Fun fact - the name of this treat is Danish for "apple slices", which can be a bit misleading for foreigners.
Travel knit:Danish rice pudding
It's a bit like oatmeal, with a base of rice and milk, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. It's a traditional dish often prepared and eaten on December 23, with the leftovers being used for the base of another dish called Risalamande.
risalamande:A milk rice dessert is served with itchristmas dinner
This delicious dessert mixes traditional rice pudding with whipped cream and chopped almonds and serves it with a warm cherry sauce. A whole almond is also usually hidden in the batch, making it a fun game to see who gets served the almond.
sausage truck:Means "sausage wagon" and this is where you'll find their famous hot dogs
If you're looking for street food to enjoy on the go, you must visit one of Copenhagen's many street vendors selling hot dogs - a staple for the people of this charming city. While not technically a Christmas dish, it's a must-try when in the Danish capital.
pepper nut: Danish Christmas cookies.
These cookies are small, but they pack a punch and are usually flavored with things like pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. With roots stretching back to the 14th century, these biscuits are firmly embedded in Denmark's Christmas traditions.
christmas brew:Denmark's annual festival beer
Starting on the first Friday in November, Danes can only enjoy their own seasonal Christmas beer for a few weeks each year. The release date isaffectionately known as J-Dayand is eagerly awaited by beer lovers and Christmas enthusiasts alike. Tuborg is the most popular spot and you can find it in most Copenhagen supermarkets and bars.
honey hearts:Spicy Christmas cookies
Also known as Danish honey hearts, these traditional Christmas treats can be found in most bakeries in Copenhagen. You'll recognize them by their distinctive look - heart-shaped treats usually covered in dark chocolate icing.
While there is a wide range of restaurants, cafes and bars to visit in the city, you can usually find the aforementioned Danish delights at the famous Christmas markets as well.
4. Tick off your gift list at Copenhagen's Christmas markets
Whether you want to fill your tummy, do some Christmas shopping, or just enjoy the spectacle of Copenhagen's lavishly decorated streets, theChristmas Marketare a must.
They are full of wonderful gift ideas, trinkets, knick knacks, handcrafted goods and goodies. Actually, the cool thing about the Christmas markets is that they're something for the whole family because there's so much to offer.
But put on your best walking shoes as there are quite a few Christmas markets dotted around Copenhagen and you might hit a few if you have the time.
Where are the Christmas markets in Copenhagen? It depends on where you are staying and what you feel like doing.
However, here are six that are usually very popular:
Nyhavn Christmas Market
Located on the canal, it offers a great view of one of Copenhagen's most popular tourist hotspots.
Kongens Nytorv Weihnachtsmarkt
This traditional Christmas market is located directly across from Nyhavn, close to Strøget and the Magasin Du Nord department store.
Weihnachtsmarkt Højbro Plads
It's not far from Strøget (one of Copenhagen's best shopping streets) so you can visit both and do all your shopping in one ride.
Christmas market in the Tivoli Gardens
Visiting the amusement park in the heart of the city is a no-brainer. You can enjoy all the entertainment while checking off your gift list. You have to pay an entrance fee to enter the theme park - but it's worth it.
Christmas market on Jaegersborggade
It takes place in the hip neighborhood of Nørrebro and is well worth a visit. But this one is usually only open for a few days, so check your itinerary first.
Hans Christian Andersen Christmas Market
This takes place in Nytorv, which is located in the city center. As you might have expected, it's named after the famous Danish storyteller, so it's great if you have kids.
Learn more aboutChristmas markets in Copenhagen here.
5. Experience the wonder of Copenhagen's St. Lucia Festival
Many people celebrate on December 13thSaint Lucia Day– a Christian tradition that pays homage to a third-century martyr. It's a custom borrowed from the Swedes that's been a big deal in Copenhagen since 1944.
Traditionally, people commemorate Santa Lucia Day by holding a procession led by a young girl wearing a crown of candles (symbolizing the saint herself), followed by a parade of people in white, all carrying candles .
While several celebrations take place across the city, the one that is likely to draw the most attention from visitors and travelers is the event inthere Nyhavn-Kanal.
This light show is a little different from the others as it is made up of hundreds of brightly lit and decorated kayaks. You can watch from the streets and bridges as the canal is illuminated and the air fills with the singing of kayakers and spectators.
Even if you are not religious, this procession is stunning to watch and a beautiful display of community spirit.
6. Try to score an invitation to a Julefrokost
Just in case yoube invited to a Christmas dinner, you should know what it is, so you say "Yes!"
This is the king of all Christmas celebrations (usually a lunch or dinner party) hosted by family, friends, and workplaces. They can take place anywhere from late November until just before Christmas and are a great way to get into the festive season.
It's also handy to know they can go for hours and alcohol is definitely involved, so be prepared to write off the rest of the day and night. Not that you're going to complain; These get togethers are just the kind of Danish fun you'll want to enjoy, especially if you're relocating to Copenhagen.
And if they mention there's going to be a Pakkeleg (translated: pack game), be sure to bring a small gift and get ready for a deadly dice contest.
Don't know any Danish friends and are sad to know that you will miss one of the funniest parts of the Danish Christmas season? Go to a bar and start chatting.
7. Make the most of this winter wonderland and go ice skating
When celebrating Christmas in Copenhagen you'll likely spend a lot of time keeping warm with cozy winter coats, hot drinks and festive food, but don't forget to embrace the frigid conditions and do like the Danes do - go ice skating.
DieFrederiksberg roundaboutis a popular choice. Admission is free, you can either bring your own ice skates or rent them.
Ice skating in Copenhagen is a great Christmas activity for families with children and the perfect start to a delicious dinner.
8. Lose yourself in the streets and see some stunning Christmas exhibitions
Christmas in Copenhagen is a feast for the eyes, so it's the perfect city to just dress up, put on comfortable shoes, and take an evening stroll to see the sights.
As night falls, the city lights up with many bars, restaurants, shops and department stores adorning their facades and storefronts with twinkling lights and decorations. Many streets have Christmas lights hanging between the alleys inviting you.
When you're feeling a bit lost and need a starting point, the beautiful decorations in these places are always worth a look:
The amusement park has been mentioned many times in this article, but that's because it really is the ultimate Christmas wonderland. The Christmas lights here are a must-see if you want to be dazzled.
The canal is a beautiful sight all year round, but at Christmas time it really looks magical. If you're around on Santa Lucia Day, the canal literally lights up with hundreds of kayaks decked out in Christmas lights and decorations.
This is Copenhagen's fashion street and it lights up at Christmas.
A bit of a historical landmark in Copenhagen, this hotel puts up a special Christmas facade every year, which always attracts a lot of people. If you've worked up an appetite, you can always do soGo to the hotel's restaurantafterwards for some of his famous Gløgg.
Copenhagen Christmas markets
If you are looking for a place to walk and enjoy the sights this is one of theChristmas Marketwould be a great goal. Some also have music and entertainment, which adds to the atmosphere.
Weather in Copenhagen at Christmas time
Winter days in Copenhagen equal cold weather, but it probably won't be as cool as you expect. Expect temperatures of around 3ºC or 4ºC (37.4ºF/39.2ºF) during the day, with things cooling down to around freezing at night.
On colder days, the temperature can rise just above freezing - if at all. You'll have to dress the part, but it's worth noting that temperatures of -10C or below are very rare in Copenhagen at Christmas time.
While the air temperature may be milder than expected, you need to take wind chill into account. Copenhagen is windy all winter long and often feels at least a few degrees Celsius colder than the thermometer shows. You can counteract this by layering and protecting your ears.
Daylight hours in Copenhagen at Christmas time
December days in Copenhagen are very short. The 21st is usually the shortest day of the year; Sunrise is 8:37 am, sunset is 3:38 pm. If planning a visit that requires daylight, plan ahead.
One thing you'll quickly notice about Christmas in Copenhagen is that, even when the sun actually rises, it's often hidden behind thick clouds.
But don't let the nightfall discourage you as the city comes alive with twinkling Christmas lights that will make you feel like you've stepped into a postcard. Plus, the many restaurants and bars are often lit with candles and fireplaces that warm the mood.
That isthe capital of hygge, in the end!
Does it snow in Copenhagen at Christmas?
That's right, to everyone's favorite question: will it snow in Copenhagen at Christmas?
while there isdie ChanceSnow, and you might be lucky, it's more likely to rain than snow.
And when it snows, it's unlikely to become a blizzard or last very long. So if you're only coming for a few days, don't get your hopes up because there are no guarantees. You should also prepare for sleet, which is quite common in winter.
A few fun facts about Christmas in Denmark
- In Denmark, Santa Claus is called Julemanden, which means "Santa Claus" - and hislittle helpers are called nits.
- On December 23 (sometimes known as Little Christmas Eve), Risengrød is traditionally prepared and eaten.
- Children in Denmark traditionally leave out rice pudding for Santa and his elves.
- The Danes love aspecial Christmas decorationcalled the "Christmas Heart", which is usually made of red and white paper (the colors of the national flag) and is hung on the Christmas tree.
- For Denmark, December's celebrations go back even further than the arrival of Christianity. With the winter solstice on December 21st, this time of year has been a time of celebration, tradition and ritual for the people of this region for possibly thousands of years.
3 tips for booking Christmas holidays in Copenhagen
- Book in time.Christmas is a busy travel time and flights can cost more than at other times of the year. You must tooBook in advanceto ensure you get the hotel you want.
- Dress appropriately.You can probably leave the arctic-style jacket at home, but you'll need to cover up. Scarves, hats and gloves are non-negotiable; Consider bringing base layers to wear underneath your everyday clothes. A pair of wool socks will also help you brave the conditions.
- Make a reservation at the restaurant in good time.Many Danish companies have their Julefrokost throughout December and most places have packed schedules. You need to book well in advance at the most popular establishments.
Christmas in Copenhagen is a wonderful time
If you're lucky enough to be in Copenhagen at Christmas, you might hear one word thrown around: "Hygge“.
It's a Danish word that can't be properly translated into English, but it kind of means "cozy". However, this is a loose translation as hygge cannot really be defined in just one word as it is full of meaning.
But we will do our best to describe it:
For a moment of hygge this Christmas, perhaps enjoy a warm meal by the fireplace, sip mulled wine and feel completely content with the people you love. Or it could be as simple as wearing a cozy pair of socks while you decorate the Christmas tree.
This is hygge. And to be honest, that sounds like the most authentic Danish Christmas you could wish for.
Speaking of language, if you want to wish your new friends in Copenhagen a Merry Christmas, just put on your best Danish accent and say "Glædelig Jul".
Now read this:
—Experience Copenhagen in December
—Christmas markets in Copenhagen
—Scandinavian festive decoration
—Your Guide to Danish Christmas Dinner
—The Danish Christmas traditions
—Scandinavian Christmas tree look
—Must try Danish Christmas food
—Danish Christmas tree decoration
—Scandinavian Christmas traditions
—What is Denmark famous for??