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Is Copenhagen worth visiting in winter?
Absolutely! Despite the cold weather and short daylight, Copenhagen is a great place to visit in the winter season. During this time it is less expensive, there are fewer tourists, and a lot of things to see and do. In fact, some of these activities are only available during the cold season.
Here are the best things to do in Copenhagen in the winter:
Attend Culture Night (Kulturnatten)
One of Copenhagen’s most popular events Kulturnatten is held annually in October. During this time hundreds of museums, churches, exhibition halls, art galleries, and other cultural institutions open their doors for a night of fun. Some events are free to attend such as light displays in parks and on buildings. But others require you purchase the pass. You can buy the pass from all 7-Eleven locations in Copenhagen and it costs 110 DKK. The pass allows you entry to all events, as well as public transit throughout the city between 16:00 and 04:00.
If you wish to attend Kulturnatten I strongly recommend you visit the website and look at the program before hand. There are so many things going on that you won’t be able to see them all. Thus it’s best you make a plan of what you wish to see the most.
In 2022 Kulturnatten will be held on October 14th from 18:00 until 00:00.
Visit the Christmas Markets
If you’re visiting Copenhagen during the month of December, you should absolutely go to at least one Christmas Market. There are multiple throughout the city and they’re usually open from early December up until 3-4 days before Christmas. They are free to enter and are similar to other European Christmas Markets. Vendors sit in tiny wooden cabins and sell a variety of goods from mulled wine (gløgg), hotdogs and other savoury snacks, sweets (you should try the aebleskiver, mini pancakes), and various handmade souvenirs you can buy for your loved ones.
However, I found that Copenhagen Christmas Markets are quite small. This may be a good thing if you plan on visiting more that one. You only need 1 hour or less to get a full experience at each Market (except the one at Tivoli). Moreover, if you can only see one Christmas Market I recommend going to the one at Kongens Nytorv. It’s the biggest one (outside of Tivoli) and offers a great selection of foods and drinks, souvenirs, as well as views of the decorations at Hotel D’Angleterre.
That being said, my favourite Christmas Market was the one at Nyhavn. It is small and cozy, with the little wooden cabins lined along the canal. I think it’s the perfect place to buy a hot drink and stroll around admiring the colourful buildings and joyous atmosphere.
If your arrival to Copenhagen is after Christmas, the only Christmas Market still open will be the one in Tivoli Gardens. In 2022 the Tivoli Christmas Market is open from November 18th until December 31st.
Related: my guide to the Copenhagen Christmas Markets.
Visit Tivoli Gardens
Speaking of Tivoli Gardens, this is the world’s second oldest amusement park that is still operating today. Now don’t let that intimidate you if you’re not into amusement parks. Aside from rides, there is much more to do at Tivoli Gardens. The decorations alone are worth the admission ticket. My favourite memory was spending all my coins trying to win a plush minion; I didn’t win one. I also enjoyed all the snacks I tried.
In my opinion Tivoli Gardens is a perfect place to go when the weather is cold and windy because there are multiple buildings you can quickly go inside if you find you’re getting a little chilly.
I recommend setting aside at least half a day for Tivoli, ideally a full day. If possible, enter the park during day time so you can see all the decorations, and stay until it gets dark so you can see all the lights.
If your visit to Copenhagen will be before or after Christmas, you’ll be pleased to know that Tivoli Gardens has the longest running Christmas Market. It opens mid-November until the end of December. Please keep in mind the park is closed on Christmas Eve.
Check the website for up-to-date opening hours, ticket prices, and current events.
Grab Some Cakes from Conditori La Glace
Cakes and pastries are always a good idea, but even better when it’s cold out. Conditori La Glace is the oldest patisserie in all of Denmark, dating back to 1870! They serve over 20 different types of cakes and a very large selection of pastries, small confections, baked marzipan goods and more.
It’s worth paying a visit and ordering a slice of cake with coffee (or tea). I tried 5 different varieties of cakes and they were all delicious. The Sports Cake is the house specialty and has been on the menu since 1891! It is made with a macaroon bottom, crushed nougat, and whipped cream. It was delicious but I am a chocoholic and the Sacher Torte is the one that stole my heart. Moreover, the interior of the patisserie is stunning, like a royal tea room. It truly feels like you’re stepping back in time.
Conditori La Glace is located just off Strøget, the famous pedestrian shopping street. It’s a great place to pop into if you’re getting cold. That being said, please note that December is quite a busy month and you may have to wait a little for a table. But you can always order to go and eat the cakes in your hotel room.
Attend the New Years Eve Celebrations
If you’ll be in town for New Years Eve and don’t mind the cold weather at night, go to City Hall Square before midnight. At midnight you’ll be delighted by a beautiful display of fireworks. I recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before midnight as there will be a lot of people. And if you cannot make it to City Hall Square, don’t worry. Danish people love to buy their own fireworks for New Years. A great spot to watch firework displays put on by the locals is around Dronning Louise’s Bro Bridge and the Lakes.
That being said, beware it will be very noisy! This tradition dates back to when farmers thought that noise would scare off evil spirits. As a result, when celebrating New Years, Danes tend to get quite rowdy, and use a lot of fireworks, as well as well as firecrackers and bullhorns. They will also be drinking quite a lot of champagne since drinking in public is allowed. The atmosphere is incredible, but it’s mostly geared towards the younger crowd.
Enjoy the Copenhagen Light Festival
If you visit Copenhagen during the month of February, you’ll be delighted by beautiful displays of light throughout the city.
The Copenhagen Light Festival is held annually for three weeks during the month of February. Talented light designers put out different light sculptures, installations, projection mapping, and more. The majority of the light works are in the city center and along the harbour. And since these displays are placed outside, it is free to attend. For the current schedule and maps, check out the official website.
The displays are interactive, combining sound and movement. My favourite one was the triangle, pictured to the left. There is a soft and intriguing sound to it which pulls you in, and as you walk through and around it, the light adapts according to your movement.
The idea behind this festival was to bring some light during the darkest, coldest time of the year.
Indulge in Tasty Treats at a Food Market
Since the rise in popularity of food trucks, Copenhagen has developed a rich food market scene. In fact, there are four main permanent food markets with indoor dining spaces appropriate for winter. I know that four markets doesn’t sound like much if you’re coming from a large city, but keep in mind that Copenhagen only has around half a million residents.
The atmosphere at the foods market is very casual and they can get quite busy in the colder months. Even if you don’t like crowds, it’s worth a stop. The food is divine and significantly more affordable compared to restaurants. You can also order to go and eat in your hotel room.
The four food markets are:
This is the most central and popular food market, thanks to it being located right beside the Nørreport Station. The market is composed of two buildings where you will find anything from fish, cured meats and cheeses, to specialty coffee, pastries, ready to eat meals, snacks, sweets, and treats to bring home with you. There is limited indoor sitting by the window. Additionally there is some extra outdoor sitting. In the little “courtyard” between the buildings you can find vendors selling fruits and vegetables.
For more information and up-to-date opening hours, check the website before visiting.
Broens Gadekøkken (Copenhagen Street Food Market)
Right across the bridge from Nyhavn and towards Christianshavn you will find a lovely outdoor street food market. It’s situated right between the old Papirøen and former Noma locations and it is a collaboration between these founders. Open since 2018, the cuisine of Broens Gadekøkken consists of international dishes and drinks. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that many stalls have received the Organic Cuisine Label and it is a priority that all stall will be fully organic soon.
Also here you can find one location of the famous Gasoline Grill, which serves the best burgers in Copenhagen.
Additionally in the winter time Broens Gadekøkken rearranges to allow for an ice rink in the center. It is free if you bring your own skates, otherwise you can rent skates for a fee.
Reffen/ Werkstatt 167
Take a short walk away from Broens Gadekøkken and you will find another food market called Reffen. It opened after the very popular Papirøen had to close due to its lease expiring. Sadly Reffen is closed during the winter season, but the nearby bar Werkstatt 167 is still open and they serve delicious food, and of course drinks.
The newest kid on the block, BaneGaarden opened in 2021 and it is located behind the rail tracks of Sydhavn, spread between 9 barns, 2 gardens, a henhouse, and beehives. Here you can enjoy farm-to-table meals with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients and sustainability. In this little community you can find restaurants, food stalls, farm shop, workshops and much more. For more details see the website.
Shield from the Weather on a Copenhagen City Tour
Most winter days in Copenhagen are windy, cold, and rainy (sometimes snowy), which makes it difficult to spend too much time outside at once. But, there’s still a way to go sightseeing. Bus and canal tours are both great ways to see the city while being shielded from the elements outside.
These are hop on hop off buses, meaning you can get on and off anywhere and anytime. Tickets are valid for 72 hours and you can take these red double decker buses as many times as you wish during this window. Buy a hot drink, sit back and enjoy a warm and comfortable sightseeing experience.
For more information, timetables, and to purchase tickets, visit the website.
These tours depart multiple times per day from Nyhavn year round. Go to the side of the canal across from the colourful homes. As there are multiple tours throughout the day, you can usually purchase the tickets right before departure. Each journey typically lasts around 30-40 minutes and offers you fantastic views that can only be seen from the water. I especially loved the way the Black Diamond sparkles when the sun shines on it.
There is also a guide who will tell you lots of interesting tidbits, but it can be difficult to hear due to the wind. So make sure to sit close to the front of the boat if you’re interested in learning more about the history. Additionally, keep in mind that you will be on the water and it will be cold. Not as cold as outside, but certainly colder than the bus.
Warm up at CopenHot
And for those of you who are a little more adventurous, you can try a canal tour in a hot tub boat! CopenHot provides hot tub boats for up to 5 people, as well as stationary hot tub barrels, cold plunge, and saunas with great views. And of course, drinking is allowed. Make sure to book in advance as there is limited capacity.
To Summarize the best things to do in Copenhagen in the winter:
- Attend Culture Night (Kulturnatten)
- Visit the Christmas Markets
- Visit Tivoli Gardens
- Grab Some Cakes from Conditori La Glace
- Attend the New Years Eve Celebrations
- Enjoy the Copenhagen Light Festival
- Indulge in Tasty Treats at a Food Market
- Shield from the Weather on a Copenhagen City Tour
- Warm up at CopenHot
These have been my best tips for a winter trip to Copenhagen. Have you visited Copenhagen in the winter? Do you have anything to add?