· What to do in Copenhagen, Denmark ·
Though admittedly we’ve never been any other time of year, we are convinced that Christmas is the best time to go to Copenhagen. Despite frigid temps, there is no denying that the Danish city does Christmas right. Christmas markets dot the city, temporary gløgg (a Scandinavian version of mulled wine) cabins seem to be on every corner, and you can’t help but feel festive after a visit to the largest Scandi city.
An extremely walkable city, it’s best to bring lots of layers as you’ll want to enjoy the architectural delights. Take in the many Dutch Renaissance buildings with their brick exteriors and copper roofs alongside colorful 17thcentury townhouses such as the famous row at Nyhavn (this is also where Hans Christian Andersen’s house is). Wander out to see the famous Little Mermaid statue and be sure to walk around Kastellet, a star-shaped fortress nearby.
While you could certainly fill your days wandering, there are a few things not to miss in Copenhagen at Christmas.
Where to go: Tivoli Gardens
The real reason to go to Copenhagen around Christmas is Tivoli Gardens. The second oldest operating amusement park in the world, Tivoli is more than just rides. Built in 1843, Tivoli certainly does have rides, but, being also classed as a pleasure garden, has so much more to see.
Imagine Disneyland done in a classy, elegant way, there are theatres, restaurants, different “lands,” and even a pirate ship. Walt Disney, indeed, visited Tivoli before opening Disneyland and the magic atmosphere is even more present in the sprawling park in the heart of Copenhagen.
At Christmas, that magic is heightened. Decked out with lights, trees, fake snow, and more, Tivoli feels like the North Pole, a European Christmas market, and a winter wonderland all in one. A light and music show over the lake, Christmas trees around every corner, it would make the Grinchiest Grinch struggle to hide their pleasure.
Because of the various light displays, it’s best seen at night, so be sure to wrap up warm. Luckily there’s hot gløgg and open coal pits scattered throughout to help keep you warm
There’s so much to see, you could fill hours without even going on a single ride. There is an entrance fee, plus additional fees for rides, but if it’s the only thing you do in Copenhagen, you won’t be disappointed.
What to do: Rosenborg & Amalienborg Palaces
We love a good palace and Copenhagen has a couple of options. The nice thing is you can see two royal palaces – Rosenborg and Amalienborg – for a discounted rate. When you purchase a ticket at one, for a small amount more (less than the entrance fee to the other) you can get a ticket for the other. The best bit is that you can visit them over two days.
Rosenborg Castle, the more historic of the two, is an imposing Dutch Renaissance building on the edge of Kongens Have – The King’s Garden – now a public park. Built by Christian IV in the early 1600s, Rosenborg has been open as a museum since 1838. The three main floors of the castle follow the lineage of the Danish Royal Family through objects – since the 1700s, Rosenborg has been home to their “oldest, finest and rarest objects.”
Dark paneled and sans central heating, you get a real sense of what it might have felt like when it was a working palace. Each floor offers unique and interesting objects. You’re bound to spend more time here than you anticipate. An ivory throne, a purpose-built room holding intricate glassware that makes you feel like you’re in Ariel’s grotto, and ancient clocks are just some of the treasures you’ll come across.
And of course, you have a chance to peek at the Danish Crown Jewels. Only to be used by The Queen, they usually make an appearance at the New Years Banquet. In the basement of Rosenborg, you can see crowns, necklaces, rings, and other jewels.
A short fifteen-minute walk away is Amalienborg, the current home of the Danish Royal Family. Actually a series of four classical-style mansions facing towards a large octagonal courtyard. These mansions originally belonged to Danish nobility, but the Royals took them over in 1794. Today, various members of the Royal Family live in the palaces, while several of the rooms in Christian VIII’s palace are a museum featuring apartments from 1863 to 1947.
While definitely worth a visit, there’s not quite as much to see as Rosenborg. For an additional fee, you can book a place on a guided tour of Christian VII’s palace which has traditionally been used to host guests and entertainments. English tours are held Thursday through Sunday at 1:10pm.
Where to eat: Café Oscar
Wandering around Copenhagen, you’ll notice signs advertising smørrebrød.” It’d be a shame to leave Denmark without trying this traditional meal and Café Oscar, just a short walk from Amalienborg Palace, does it well.
What exactly is smørrebrød? It’s an open-faced sandwich typically served on rye bread with a variety of meats and fishes typically topping them. It’s a traditional Danish dish and Café Oscar has delicious traditional options.
A warm atmosphere, both locals and tourists linger here over lunch. Grab a beer and enjoy your smørrebrød with candles a Parisian-bistro-style experience. We highly recommend the roast beef option. Served as tradition with remoulade and horseradish, the addition of pickles and roasted onions brings it all together beautifully. Not to be missed!
Where to drink: Lidkoeb
As one of the cool Scandi cities, Copenhagen has plenty of places to drink. But due to high taxes (which also allows Denmark to have the world’s highest social mobility, we might add), it can be very expensive to drink so you want to go somewhere worth the money.
On a friend’s recommendation, we tried out Lidkoeb. The building is set off of Vesterbrogade in a former pharmacy production facility. Today, Lidkoeb is a scene-y cocktail bar with cozy fireplaces, monochrome tiling behind the bar, and a dedicated Whisky Bar on the top floor (only open Friday and Saturday). The cocktail menu changes seasonally and the bar staff gets to choose a favorite for every menu. After a cold day of sightseeing, you’ll definitely want some hygge, and this bar is the perfect place.
Scandi cool and festive fun, Copenhagen really is a great place for a pre-Christmas break. Brave the cold and you won’t be disappointed.
Just don’t forget your gloves!