Arriving at Copenhagen train station in the afternoon and it’s freezing cold and already pretty dark! What have we gotten ourselves into? Is it a smart idea to be travelling to Copenhagen in winter??
For some reason, and perhaps it is due to all of those perfect Instagram and pinterest images, but we had huge expectations of what to expect from Copenhagen heading into the Christmas season. Not to mention, the Danes have been ranked as the happiest people in the world
Don’t believe me? They even have a book written about it. So, you can “steal” their secretes.
The bright coloured buildings of Nyhavn reflecting off the canal, the smell of mulled wine and cinammon scrolls, the feeling of happiness in the air and Christmas markets on almost every street corner – okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but there are a lot of Christmas markets!
Not to mention, the most magical place on earth – Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market! Don’t believe the folks over at Disney – Tivoli Gardens is the most magical place on earth.
From the moment the sun rose (in Copenhagen in winter that is about 9am) until sunset (around 3pm) we were super excited to explore the stunning city. One of the best things about the sun setting early, you can explore the Christmas markets in the dark without having to be out in cold super late.
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- 1 Here is a list of the best things to do in Copenhagen in winter
- 2 What to wear in Copenhagen in Winter
- 3 What do in Copenhagen in Winter
- 3.1 Get into the holiday spirit at the Christmas Markets
- 3.2 Step into a winter wonderland fairy tale at Tivoli Gardens
- 3.3 Float in a hot tub down the canals
- 3.4 Wander down Købmagergade
- 3.5 Eat until you can’t eat more at the food markets
- 3.6 Take a million photos at Nyhavn
- 3.7 Take a walking tour of Copenhagen
- 3.8 Warm up with a mug of hot chocolate or mulled wine
- 3.9 Visit a free museum
- 3.10 Go Ice Skating
- 4 Where to stay in Copenhagen
- 5 My BEST Travel Resources
Here is a list of the best things to do in Copenhagen in winter
What to wear in Copenhagen in Winter
Like many places in Europe in winter, it is freezing outside but a million degrees when you walk inside a shop, cafe, museum or accommodation.
So the key to dressing for Copenhagen in winter is, layers! Layers will become your best friend. They will keep you warm outside and are easy to take off when you go inside.
These are some items I cannot travel in winter without:
Warm Socks – keep your feet warm and comfortable with proper socks. Merino wool is amazing, it comes from the merino sheep in New Zealand. They will keep your feet warm but are also breathable. Sometimes, we wear two pair of socks at time. I recommend packing a few pair of socks but remember you can wash as you go.
Merino Wool Thermals – Thermals are not something you will necessarily wear every day but if its really cold, you will be really glad to have that extra layer.
Warm Boots – do not skimp on you boots. It gets super super cold in Copenhagen in winter well really, all of Europe! Not only is the air cold but the ground also gets very cold. There is nothing worse than walking around with super cold feet. Make sure your boots are at least semi water proof to protect your feet from the rain and snow.
We love Timberland boots because they’re sturdy and waterproof but also super cute! Which is a win win!
Warm Jacket – I was worried about spending so much money on a jacket but I am so glad that we did. We wore them nearly every day and were super warm. Down jackets are perfect because they are easy to “stuff” into a bag but the feathers inside the jacket make them extremely warm.
Scarf – Like most other items I have mentioned, you will want to pack a scarf. Scarves are fantastic because they have a few uses. They obviously keep your neck warm, but you can use it to cover your face and also if you get a big scarf you can use it as a blanket or a shawl.
Beanie – for cold weather, I prefer to wear beanie over a hat. Beanies will stay on even if the wind picks up and they also keep your ears warm. You want to get a double layered beanie as this well keep the wind out and keep your head warmer for longer.
Gloves – you will want to make sure you have gloves when you’re in Copenhagen in winter. I recommend buying some gloves before you go because they are very expensive in Copenhagen and not great quality.
What do in Copenhagen in Winter
Get into the holiday spirit at the Christmas Markets
Copenhagen was the first city we visited on our four month tour of Europe, that had it’s Christmas markets open! I was like a kid in a candy shop!!
The Christmas markets, also known as Julemarked, have to be the best things to do in Copenhagen in winter. They are adorable, little wooden huts, adorned with Christmas wreathes and garlands, fairy lights and the smells of Christmas are amazing.
You cannot miss out on a warm mug of Glogg, a sweet warm spiced mulled wine, or a bratwurst! The best bratwurst we had during out time in Europe was at the Christmas markets at Nyhavn.
The Christmas markets are great place to do some Christmas shopping or pick up a souvenir.
Top Tip: I like to buy a Christmas decoration in every city or country we visit. They are small, easy to pack and usually pretty inexpensive. It also means putting up the Christmas tree is a little more special each year as you reminisce on all the travel adventures you have had.
There are so many Christmas markets in Copenhagen that you must check out but my favourites were:
Check out the full guide of Christmas markets in Copenhagen.
Step into a winter wonderland fairy tale at Tivoli Gardens
You cannot miss a visit to Tivoli Gardens when you are in Copenhagen in Winter. Tivoli Gardens in an amusement park in the center of Copenhagen that was opened in 1843.
Even though are in Europe, Tivoli has an oriental theme, and it is just magical at Christmas.
Tivoli is constantly evolving to continually provide a new experience for its visitors. Despite the constant evolution, Tivoli has managed to maintain it’s charm and traditions. It is for this reason that Tivoli Gardens is a must on any travellers (or locals) bucket list.
Make sure, you check the dates before you go! Our original plans had us leaving Copenhagen the day before Tivoli opened for Christmas, so we changed our plans to make sure we could visit Tivoli Gardens Christmas market.
In 2020, Tivoli Gardens are for their Christmas season from the 13 Nov – 3 Jan 2021.
Float in a hot tub down the canals
What better way to see Copenhagen than sailing down the canals in a HOT TUB! Cruise around the harbor in a hot tub big enough for 5 people. The hot tubs are filled with clean salt water and are a beautiful 40℃/104℉.
The cruise lasts for one and a half hours and you are provided with a boat, a skipper, Bluetooth Speaker and the use of changing rooms.
You can cruise with 1 person or 5 people! You rent the boat, so the price is the same for 1 or 5 people, so you don’t have to share with strangers if that is not your thing. For an hour and a half the boat costs 2200DKK.
Not only do Copenhot have floating hot tubs, they have stationary hot tubs, cold tubs and saunas.
Make sure you check out Copenhot because what better way to spend a day in Copenhagen in winter?
Wander down Købmagergade
Købmagergade is the main walking street in Copenhagen. Along the street you can find all of your major shops and there are lots of them!
During Christmas it is decorated beautifully and you can hear Christmas carols playing over the loud speakers. Even if you are not in to main stream shopping while you travel, I still recommend a stroll along Købmagergade. There are little carts roasting chestnuts on an open fire, okay so maybe not an open fire, but they are cooking chestnuts and there are musicians busking all along the street.
For a shopping street, there is quite the atmosphere during winter! I recommend grabbing a warm drink (or like we did, some mulled wine from the Christmas market) to keep you warm on your walk.
Eat until you can’t eat more at the food markets
One of the things I love about Europe, are their Food Halls. Every city seems to have an amazing food hall filled with local foods and Copenhagen is no different.
It is a great way to try some local foods and to keep warm in the winter. I love walking up and down the aisles looking at all the amazing food options and the smells are next level.
Top Tip: Double check the internet before you set out on a 30 minute walk, starving and really needing the loo! Ie, make sure the food markets are open before you head off. We didn’t and we ended up very hangry!!
However, here are some recommendations that we have for Food Halls/Markets in Copenhagen:
Situated right by Nørreport Station, Torvehallarne Market has over 80 stalls!! That is 80 stalls, of amazing local produce from tea and coffee, to chocolate, to sandwiches, pizza and of course Smørrebrød. You cannot visit Denmark without trying some Smørrebrød, it is basically an open sandwich on rye bread. There are so many different toppings and they are amazing.
Tivoli Food Hall
Tivoli Food hall is next to Tivoli Gardens, but is open all year round. At night time Tivoli Food hall is extremely busy (especially when they gardens are open), so I suggest checking out the Food Hall at lunch time.
There are only 15 food stalls which make it very cosy, especially in winter when it is freezing outside. It is a great place to relax and grab a drink.
Now of course, the Christmas markets are not always open but they are open in Copenhagen in Winter, so why not classify them as food markets.
During winter, I don’t often eat at restaurants, instead we head to the Christmas markets. It is a budget friendly option when it comes to dinner.
Some food and drinks you MUST try at the Christmas markets are:
Glogg: a cup of hot danish mulled wine (some of the best in Europe if you ask me)
Bratwurst: Typically German sausages but the ones at the Christmas market at Nyhavn are amazing!!
Cured Meat: You can pick up salami, sausage, ham, almost any type of cured meat you can think of and of course, you need to grab the cheese that is usually sold near by.
Fudge: I had never seen so much fudge or some many different types of fudge before. So if you have not tried fudge before or you LOVE fudge, grab some at the Christmas markets.
Unicorn fudge anyone?
Take a million photos at Nyhavn
If you have ever seen a photo of Copenhagen you have probably seen a photo of Nyhavn. No matter the time of year, it is beautiful. The bright coloured buildings that line the canal reflect off the water and it is stunning. I’m not kidding when I say you will take a million photos and you’ll probably visit more than once during your trip.
In winter, Nyhavn transforms into magical winter wonderland. The boats that line the canal are decorated for the season and of course, there are gorgeous Christmas markets. The Nyhavn Christmas markets were the first Christmas markets that we saw for the “season” and they really set the bar quite high.
A super cute thing to do is to take a tour of the canal and get a different view of Nyhavn. This one hour tour leaves from Nyhavn and you can take in some of the main sites from the water.
Take a walking tour of Copenhagen
On a freezing cold day, there is no better way to warm up than by walking around the city taking in all of the main sites.
Whilst I love exploring a city on my own, getting lost and finding new places, I do like to take a walking tour because how else can you learn about the history or find some hidden gems.
So, rug up, put some sturdy shoes on – make sure they’re sturdy! You will want to keep your feet warm and make sure you don’t trip on the cobble stones, and get ready to explore the beautiful city!
Be sure to ask your guide, for some local recommendations on places to eat, drink and things to see.
Of course, you can look up the top places to see in Copenhagen and use Google maps to create your own self guided walking tour.
Another brilliant way to see a city is to take a guided FOOD TOUR! Walking while your eating means that calories don’t count right?
Warm up with a mug of hot chocolate or mulled wine
There is something so cosy about walking around in the freezing cold holding a hot cup of something. I love ordering a hot mug of hot chocolate or mulled wine and exploring the city.
This is one thing I like about travelling in winter, is walking around at night time, all rugged up and drinking a hot drink.
Copenhagen is an extremely walk able city and it is so beautiful at both night and day, that you could easily wander around for hours.
One thing to try and remember to carry around with you is a reusable cup. I try to remember mine but some days, I just forget!
Visit a free museum
Like in London, Copenhagen has a lot of FREE museums. This is perfect when you are in Copenhagen in winter, because it provides you with a budget friendly way to warm up.
Go Ice Skating
So I’m clumsy at the best of times, but add ice and skates and you have a comedy! However, it is something that you have to do in Europe in winter.
Entrance to the ice skating rinks are free but you do need to pay for your skate hire. If you have your own skates, it is completely free.
There is an ice skating rink near the entrance to Frederiksberg garden. You can hire skates for 50 DKK or have your own sharpened for 70 DKK. Skates are available to hire up until an hour before it closes.
The ice skating rink is open from the last Sunday in November until February.
Where to stay in Copenhagen
There are many great places to stay in Copenhagen, I recommend staying as close to the center as possible. You can stay pretty close to the city center but still feel as though you are staying in a local area.
Cheaper options – Copenhagen is an expensive city but there are still some cheaper options. One option is to stay in the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel or if you would rather a cheaper hotel instead of a hostel you could stay at the CABINN Copenhagen.
Luxury accommodation – if you prefer to treat yourself to a little luxury check out the Andersen Boutique Hotel which located 200m from the central train station.
Airbnb – another good option for accommodation is Airbnb. Airbnb is a great way to “live like a local”. We stayed in a great Airbnb in Nørrebro, it is located very close to supermarkets, restaurants and a train station. By train it is located 10 minutes from the center of Copenhagen.
Some other great neighbours to stay in are: Indre By (upmarket), Vesterbro (nightlife), Osterbro or Nyhavn (families)
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Tours: While I prefer to travel independently, I do love doing some tours once I’m in a destination. It is a great way to find out history, hidden gems, taste local food and get a local insight into your destination. I always use Viator to book my tours.
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