Winter in Copenhagen is simply magical and if you are looking for the top things to do in Copenhagen in Winter, you have come to the right place!
Copenhagen is one of those places I could go back to again and again; I have already visited five times and I can still think of plenty of reasons to return. While there is good reason to head to the city any time of the year, there is something special about exploring Copenhagen in winter.
Maybe it is because the cultural concept of hygge is so strong here, but Copenhagen just seems so much more charming during the colder months, especially when you can get inside and cozy up with a hot chocolate or glogg, sweet Danish mulled wine with raisins and almonds. But there is more to Copenhagen during the colder season than just this.
Here is a guide to the top reasons why you should travel to Copenhagen this winter, including the best things to do during your visit.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 Best things to do in Copenhagen in Winter
- 1.1 Christmas Markets in Copenhagen
- 1.2 Tivoli Gardens in Winter
- 1.3 Cozy Up in the Cafes
- 1.4 Winter Swimming – Or Rent a Hot Tub
- 1.5 Soak Up the Atmosphere in Nyhavn
- 1.6 Ice Skating in Copenhagen
- 1.7 Rent a Bike or Take a Bike Tour
- 1.8 Enjoy Copenhagen’s Nightlife
- 1.9 Check Out the Copenhagen Light Festival
- 1.10 Take a Day Trip from Copenhagen
Best things to do in Copenhagen in Winter
Christmas Markets in Copenhagen
Of course, Christmas markets form a big part of most people’s trips when considering a winter vacation, and Copenhagen definitely does not disappoint on this front. If you travel to Copenhagen in December you will find it hard to miss the Christmas markets as they pop up all over the city.
The most famous of them is the one in Tivoli Gardens, but I prefer the one down in Kongens Nytorv. I personally find the selection of food available from here much greater than at other Christmas markets.
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There are the usual Christmas treats but then you can also buy international fare such as Thai curries and fish and chips. I have spent many a lovely afternoon purchasing delicious meals and then walking down to Nyhavn to enjoy them in the winter sun.
Other great Christmas markets in Copenhagen include: Julemarked Hojbro Plads, which has live reindeer, a Santa’s sleigh, and the chance to buy lots of hand-made gifts and tasty German food and drink; Jul I Jaegersborggade, a two-day event focusing on local small businesses with live jazz performances and the chance to buy a Christmas tree; and the Carlsberg Julemarked, located at the Carlsberg brewery where you can try mulled beer and browse the 24 stalls for gifts and souvenirs.
Tivoli Gardens in Winter
Tivoli Gardens is a great idea at any time of the year. Sure, it is touristy, but it is absolutely fantastic at the same time. Opened in 1843, Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world and is known for being the inspiration of two major figures: Hans Christian Andersen, the famous fairy tale writer who was inspired by the park’s gardens, and Walt Disney, who visited the park several times for inspiration when designing Disneyland.
During winter, Tivoli is transformed into a winter wonderland, with swathes of twinkling lights and a beautiful Christmas tree decorated with Swarovski crystals. You can head to Trainsbury Station, a cute station building located next to the open-air stage decorated in the style of an old-fashioned train where you can sample all kinds of delicious Danish festive treats.
As well as the usual rides which are active all through the year, this year Tivoli Gardens promises some Christmas-themed rides to add to the fun. There will also be free ice skating, a variety of Christmas entertainment, and the park’s New Year’s fireworks display is unrivalled by any other in the city.
Cozy Up in the Cafes
You have probably heard of hygge, the Danish concept which roughly translates as coziness and feelings of contentment and happiness; it is actually quite hard to put it into words, as hygge is something which is felt rather than described. So to get a sense of what hygge is all about, you should head to some of the amazing cafes dotted all around the city.
Copenhagen has some of the best cafes in the world; it does not matter where you go, you will find a brilliant cafe to relax in. While I could give you some suggestions, half of the fun is wandering the streets and popping in somewhere that takes your fancy.
In my opinion, the best cafes can be found in the areas of Norrebro and Vesterbro. These districts are two of the hippest in the city and they are filled with all kinds of cool places to warm up with a hot drink and get acquainted with hygge.
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Winter Swimming – Or Rent a Hot Tub
It might come as a surprise that you can swim outside in Copenhagen, but the city actually has a few beaches and swimming areas and it is quite common to see locals bathing in their waters even when temperatures are close to zero. This is because Danes believe that there are many health benefits connected with the practice. While it may not seem like the best activity to do during winter, it certainly is an experience if you can brave the temperatures.
If you think that swimming in freezing cold water is not for you, you could choose to rent one of the city’s hot tubs instead. The company CopenHot rent out clean, sea water tubs heated to 40°C which can seat up to five people.
You will be allocated a skipper who will take you on a tour of the northern harbour while you enjoy the stunning views. The tubs even have Bluetooth speakers so you can play your own music as you sail around. These floating tubs cost 2,200 DKK (approximately $325) for 90 minutes, but if you do not fancy floating around then there are also stationary ones available for 1,300 DKK ($192) for one hour.
Soak Up the Atmosphere in Nyhavn
Nyhavn is one of the most recognizable areas of Copenhagen. With its brightly coloured buildings and picturesque harbour setting, photos of the area are often used to promote the city and you will be glad to know that it is just as beautiful in real life as it looks in the brochures. It is a popular area with tourists who come here to dine and drink in the many restaurants or simply just to sit by the harbour and soak up the wonderful atmosphere.
During the holiday season, each side of the harbour is lined with traditional wooden stalls serving Christmas treats and gifts, making Nyhavn even more delightful. However, it is worth heading down here once the sun has gone down as this is when the Christmas lights are lit and there is just something magical about seeing the reflections of the buildings in the rippling water. You will also get the chance to see the boats all decked out in different Christmas themes.
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Ice Skating in Copenhagen
I mentioned the ice rink at Tivoli Gardens above, but it is not the only place to go ice skating during the winter season in Copenhagen. Ice skating is a great activity here as it is free to do – although you do need to pay the rental on the skates unless you happen to be carrying them with you, which probably is not likely.
Even if you do not feel too comfortable on the ice, it is still a fun activity to do, and believe me, if you are unsteady on your feet, you will be in good company! Frederiksberg Runddel and Toftegards Plads both have ice rinks which are perfect for an afternoon or evening skate.
Rent a Bike or Take a Bike Tour
As you probably know, Copenhagen is famous for being one of the most bikeable cities in the world. And do not think that the cold weather stops people from getting on their saddles; you will see people cycling all over the city no matter what the weather.
If you feel confident enough to ride yourself, taking a bike tour of the city is the best way of getting to know Copenhagen. You can choose either to join an organized bike tour – this is recommended if you are not sure about where you are going – or just rent one from the city’s bike share programme. Just remember to dress warmly and take a drink with you – you will no doubt work up a thirst, despite the chilly weather.
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Enjoy Copenhagen’s Nightlife
Danes are well-known for knowing how to have a good time and they are big fans of beer. In recent years, Copenhagen has become one of the best craft beer destinations in the world and there are certainly plenty of places you can go to sample some of their fantastic produce.
One of the most popular drinking haunts for tourists is Nyhavn, and it certainly is atmospheric, but it can get rather crowded – plus the prices reflect its popular status. WarPigs on Flaesketorvet is a favourite of both locals and visitors with its wide selection of brews and excellent barbecued food. Copenhagen is also home to the brewery Mikkeller and they have a few pubs all around the city.
If you do not like beer, there are some really cool cocktail bars in the city. You will find a few in and around the super hip meatpacking district, such as 1656 and NOHO, but if you want somewhere more central, you should head to Bronnum, just off Kongens Nytorv, which manages to be both casual and stylish and has an extensive cocktail menu.
Check Out the Copenhagen Light Festival
Taking place throughout February, the Copenhagen Light Festival showcases a number of light installations all over the city as a way of brightening up the long, dark, cold winter nights. It is just as much a celebration of art and design as it is light, and there is a big focus on sustainability.
As well as the installations themselves, there are a number of activities connected with the festival, such as dark walks, city cycling and night-running with lights, and other interactive light experiences which involve both travelers and local citizens.
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Take a Day Trip from Copenhagen
If you are taking an extended trip to Copenhagen, you will definitely want to make the most of your time in Denmark and take a few day trips. Unlike in the summer, the smaller towns outside of the capital will not have too many tourists in winter, so you may find that in some places you will have attractions practically to yourself.
It is a wonderful way of getting away from the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen, which receives thousands of visitors during winter, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
Here are some suggestions on places which are within easy reach of the capital.
Located less than an hour outside of Copenhagen in the city of Helsingor, Kronborg Castle is better known around the world as Hamlet’s Castle as it was the inspiration for Elsinore in Shakespeare’s tragic play. Built in the 15th century, Kronborg is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture and a mix of Renaissance and Baroque interiors.
It is definitely worth taking the tour inside to see the beautifully renovated rooms, especially Frederik II’s ballroom with its marble floor, intricate wood carvings and ornate brass chandeliers. Legend has it that the mythical Danish hero Holger Danske sleeps in the underground passages of the castle and will only wake when the country is threatened by enemies; it is possible to wander these passages as part of your tour, so you can see if you can spot him!
During the first two weekends of December, a Christmas market is held in the castle’s courtyard and ballrooms with lots of fun activities for both children and adults.
Viking Ship Museum and Roskilde Cathedral
Roskilde is a popular day trip from Copenhagen as it only takes around 20 minutes by train. Once you get there, you will find plenty to keep you occupied, especially if you are interested in history.
At the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum you can see five Viking ships which were recovered from underwater; they are displayed in such a way that the view also takes in the harbour and fjord. You will get to learn more about the interesting history of these magnificent boats as well as how they were discovered and preserved, plus there is also a workshop where you can watch the building of reproduction ships.
Roskilde Cathedral is also a highlight of a visit here. One of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture in Northern Europe, construction began on this brick cathedral in the 12th century and took a century to complete. As well as being a beautiful building, the cathedral also houses the remains of a number of important historical figures in Danish history, such as the Viking kings Bluetooth and Sweyn Forkbeard and over 30 Danish monarchs.
Located just north of Copenhagen in Hillerod, Frederiksborg Castle is an impressive Dutch Renaissance-style castle which sits imposingly by the edge of a lake. Much of the castle has been taken over by the Museum of National History, which details the history of the castle and of Denmark as well as housing a huge art collection encompassing all eras, including various historical periods and modern art. One of the highlights of a visit to Frederiksborg Castle is its beautiful Baroque gardens which look particularly pretty when covered in snow.
If you are short on time, it is possible to combine a visit to Frederiksborg Castle with Kronborg Castle on a guided tour from Copenhagen. Some companies even include Roskilde into the itinerary, meaning you can see all three places in one day, just be prepared for it to be a long one.
From atmospheric Christmas markets and charming, cozy cafes to curl up in on cold winters nights to unique activities and a vibrant nightlife, Copenhagen really does have everything for you to enjoy the perfect winter getaway.