Copenhagen Christmas markets start in mid-November (sometimes even earlier!) and transform the charming capital of Denmark into a festive winter wonderland. With so much to see and do in Copenhagen at Christmas, you’ll be spoiled for choice!
To begin with, the Danes love Christmas traditions. Christmas is a “big deal” in Denmark and Copenhagen in particular.
The shop windows are decorated with festive lights, the streets are lined with Christmas trees, music bands play music, and you can smell caramelized almonds and warm sweet wine with cinnamon and cloves everywhere.
You can also – and I highly recommend it – visit the fairytale Tivoli amusement park. The best thing to do is stroll through the city’s decorated streets and see the famous Nyhavn canal, while you drink hot gløgg (or hot chocolate) and snack on delicious æbleskiver doughnuts.
Read on to find out how to enjoy the perfect hygge Christmas in Copenhagen, the sophisticated capital of Denmark.
How to enjoy a hygge Christmas in Copenhagen
The famous Danish hygge is a difficult concept to translate into another language. Hygge can’t be described; you have to experience it to understand it.
Essentially, one could describe hygge as that feeling of being in a warm and welcoming place, in the company of your favourite people, in a relaxed and happy atmosphere. This might be at a private house or a café or even outdoors.
Especially at Christmas, the Danes call it “julehygge“. Meaning Christmas hygge. So continue reading to find out how to enjoy “julehygge” in Copenhagen at Christmas.
Christmas in Tivoli (18 November – 31 December 2022)
Tivoli park is easily the main reason to go to Copenhagen at Christmas. For me, it is simply the most magical place in Copenhagen in December, for young and old alike.
At first, I expected Tivoli to be touristy and boring. I mean, I’m no longer a kid, nor do I have children of my own. So I went “holding a small basket”, as we say in Greece (i.e. I had low expectations).
But when actually there, I didn’t want to leave 😂 ! I would even go as far as to suggest that you leave Tivoli for last. Most likely, after seeing it you will compare every other Christmas market to Tivoli and they’ll lose.
In addition to the Christmas market in the heart of the park, from mid-November, the whole of Tivoli is decorated with thousands of colourful lights and Christmas trees. Moreover, Tivoli hosts many festive events, performances and light shows. There’s even a boating lake.
If you feel hungry while in Tivoli (and given the cold, you’ll most likely will), you’ll find plenty of food stalls, cafés and restaurants. Also, don’t miss the spectacular light show in front of the exotic-looking Nimb Hotel in the centre of the park.
Note: Contrary to the other Christmas markets, entrance to Tivoli isn’t free. You need a ticket to enter the park, which includes the Christmas Village. But in my opinion, it is worth it. Moreover, tickets are cheaper on weekdays than on weekends. There’s also a reduced rate for children aged 3 to 7.
Copenhagen Christmas markets: the top 3 to see
Like I said previously, Danes love Christmas, so you’ll find plenty of Christmas markets in every corner of the city. These are some of the best ones:
Copenhagen Christmas markets: Højbro Square (4 November – 21 December 2022)
The Christmas market in Højbro Square has a more traditional style, with wooden houses, Christmas trees, lots of decorations and over 280,000 festive lights. It will remind you of Christmas markets in Germany and Central Europe.
Here you’ll find traditional delicacies, from caramelized almonds and mulled wine or hot chocolate to the ubiquitous hot dog sandwich of Copenhagen and other grilled sausage dishes. I also saw at least one stall selling nougat from France.
Copenhagen Christmas Markets: Kongens Nytorv (4 November – 21 December 2022)
The phrase Kongens Nytorv means “the king’s new square”. This Christmas market is near the Nyhavn Canal, almost opposite the historic Hotel d’Angleterre which is also famous for its festive decorations.
The market at Kongens Nytorv square is the best place to buy gifts and souvenirs. That’s indeed where I did my Christmas shopping too.
It’s also very close to the Strøget pedestrian street, Copenhagen’s main shopping area, where you can browse all the wonderfully decorated shop windows and, why not, shop for souvenirs.
Copenhagen Christmas markets: Nyhavn (4 Nov. – 21 Dec. 2022)
The Nyhavn canal Christmas market is just around the corner from Kongens Nytorv. You’ll see it as you approach from Kongens Nytorv: a row of wooden stalls on one side of the canal, next to all the cafés and restaurants.
This market is very picturesque thanks to the colourful canal houses and the decorated boats. But you’ll also find beautiful handicrafts and gifts, as well as festive treats and snacks.
Finally, Nyhavn is an excellent background for your travel selfies 😉
Eat festive delicacies and drink warm wine
You’ll find plenty of traditional Danish Christmas treats on offer in Copenhagen. Especially those baked goods that the Danes love so much (no wonder Copenhagen is full of bakeries). These are the most popular Christmas foods, snacks and drinks:
- Gløgg: it is the Danish answer to German gluhwein, French vin chaud and British mulled wine. In case you’re not familiar with it, it is warm wine with spices such as cinnamon and cloves, sweetened with syrup. Sometimes they add fruit juice too. A peculiarity of the Danish version is that it is served with almonds and raisins or other chopped dried fruit at the bottom of the mug. Also, I found it a bit sweeter than French vin chaud (which didn’t hurt at all!).
- Æbleskiver: fluffy small doughnut balls, served with a dusting of icing sugar and red fruit jam.
- Brændte Mandler (caramelised almonds): oh, those caramelised almonds! They are absolutely delicious. You will find street sellers roasting them fresh around every corner in Copenhagen. Just follow your nose!
- Risengrød: the Danish version of rice pudding. It is considered the traditional dessert of Christmas dinner. This rice pudding is served warm with a dusting of cinnamon and a bit of butter that melts on the surface.
- Hot dog: yeah, okay, it’s not food specific to Christmas, but it is the main street food in Copenhagen. There are many toppings and sandwich options you can choose from. Don’t leave Copenhagen without trying it!
Tip: if you go to Tivoli, or even if you are close by, a very good place for a casual lunch or dinner is the Tivoli Food Hall. You’d expect it to be a tourist trap but it’s actually popular with the locals. You’ll hardly find a place to sit (or even stand) at dinner time in the evening. However, there’s a lot of variety, from burgers to smørroebrod (Danish open sandwiches) and there is also the takeaway option.
Copenhagen at Christmas: what else to see and do
Watch a one-of-a-kind Santa Lucia parade
Saint Lucia day is very important all over Scandinavia. Probably because her name in Latin means “light”. As winters in this corner of the world are quite cold and dark, it’s no surprise St Lucia is a favourite.
Therefore, every year on December 13th, Copenhagen celebrates St. Lucia with lots of lights and singing. Often this is a celebration connected with children and little girls in particular, who dress up as St Lucia and go from house to house singing carols.
Lately, an alternative parade takes place in Copenhagen on Saint Lucia day. On December 13th every year, you can also enjoy a floating parade at the city’s canals. More specifically, a fleet of kayaks, with Christmas lights and decorations, sails through the canals.
This parade is a beautiful (and impressive) sight you can easily enjoy from the canals’ quayside. In addition, the kayakers sing carols at Nyhavn, Kristianshavn and Højbro Plads.
Go (window) shopping at Strøget street
One of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, Strøget is 1.1 km long. It starts at the City Hall square and runs all the way to Kongens Nytorv square, near the Nyhavn canal.
All the famous brands such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Max Mara are here. But Stroget doesn’t just have luxury brands. If you head towards the City Hall, you’ll also find Zara, H&M, Vero Moda and other well-known brands.
Finally, at the end of the Strøget pedestrian walkway, you will find the famous Stork Fountain. Furthermore, if you turn right at about this point, you will arrive at the Højbro Plads Christmas Market. The nice thing about Copenhagen is that it’s flat and walkable and no place of interest is too far away.
Go ice skating
One characteristic of Danish people is that they find it very important to spend at least some time outdoors, even in the heart of winter. Young and old alike. Even kindergarten-aged kids are expected to spend at least one hour outdoors while at school (appropriately dressed, of course). Therefore, it’s no surprise that ice skating in Denmark is so popular.
There are two main ice skating rinks in Copenhagen:
- Frederiksberg Runddel, which is perhaps the most classic and popular ice rink. You’ll find it by the entrance to Frederiksberg Garden.
- Also popular is the Broens Skøjtebane ice rink. It has an ice rink 600 sq.m. big in the heart of Copenhagen and views of the harbour, and there are plenty of food stalls around (to make up for the calories you burned!).
- Finally, Østre ice skating rink is a new indoor rink on Østerbro in Copenhagen. It offers fun activities for everyone but also hosts ice hockey games.
The best festive day trips from Copenhagen
Although Copenhagen has plenty of Christmas spirit in itself, there are also many options available for short festive getaways.
A great destination is castle Kronenburg, made famous thanks to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which also has its own Christmas market.
Alternatively, you can hop over to Sweden. Yes, really! Malmö in Sweden is just a 38-minute train ride from Copenhagen and the trains are frequent. It’s a popular day trip destination with locals too.
Finally, for something different, visit the open-air museum Frilandsmuseet, which showcases, with live re-enactments, the traditional Danish way of life of past centuries.
Copenhagen Christmas markets: where to stay
- Budget: if you enjoy staying at hostels, try the Generator Copenhagen, a modern hostel that looks more like a sophisticated boutique hotel than your regular hostel. Big plus its location, just 150m from the Kongens Nytorv Christmas market.
- Mid-range: Modern, 4-star, Citizen M in the heart of Copenhagen is popular for its high-tech amenities (think free iPad in the rooms) and eco-friendly policies.
- Boutique: Romantic boutique Hotel Skt. Annæ is just a stone’s throw from Nyhavn canal, Kongens Nytorv market and Amalienborg palace, while it’s housed in elegant 17th-century buildings.
- Upscale: The impressive Skt. Petri (where I stayed and personally recommend) is housed in a former department store building with a unique lobby. The rooms are comfortable with nice views of the city, while the breakfast has everything you can think of. It’s a bit further away but has a Metro station nearby, and is very close to Copenhagen’s Round Tower (a must-see) and Torvehallerne food market. It’s also just 500m from the Højbro Plads Christmas market. Don’t be put off by its 5-star level; they often run great offers (that’s when I made my booking too).
Summing things up…
Christmas in Copenhagen is enchanting! With its colourful houses in the historic centre, romantic canals, grand palaces and castles, and cosy cafés, Copenhagen is a perfect destination all year round. But it becomes even more magical during the holidays, when all the streets, houses and shop windows are decorated and the Christmas markets open.
Over to you…
Have you been to Copenhagen during the holidays? What other activities/sights you’d like to add to this list?