While the city of Copenhagen is an absolute delight throughout the year, it becomes truly special in the winter. Despite its notoriously chilly climate and extended winter nights, this Nordic country literally comes alive during winter. It’s between December and February that places like Copenhagen go full steam with holiday celebrations, art installations, and cultural events. Yes, you will get plenty of interesting things to do in Copenhagen in winter.
Winter in Copenhagen is cold, and the sunlight is rather brief, lasting only from around 9 am to 4 pm. You’ll, therefore, want to layer up quite heavily every day as the temperatures rarely go above 5 Celsius with lows of 1 and even -1 in January to February.
So, we strongly recommend you gear up appropriately as most of the things to do in Copenhagen in winter are going to be outdoors.
Things to do in Copenhagen in Winter - Contents
Recommended Things to do in Copenhagen in Winter
If you are not sure of where to begin when visiting Copenhagen, worry not for we are here to share our experiences and make some suggestions on things to do in Copenhagen in winter. We want to ensure that your time in this part of the world is not only great, fun-packed but unforgettable despite the chilly winter weather.
You would normally assume that outdoor activities grind to halt with the onset of winter. But for the Danish people, it’s the opposite. The city literally comes alive with activities both indoor and outdoor. And know what? The Danes do winter in spectacular ways. Copenhagen in winter is all about things that help you stave off the winter blues. Talk of Christmas markets, canal rides in winter, hot saunas, lots of lights, and much more.
While the city will certainly be chilly, the charm here more than makes up for it. Take time and discover what this Magical Danish city has to offer and you won’t regret coming.
See the Decorations at Tivoli Gardens
Opened in 1843, this amusement park lies in the middle of the city and is ranked the second oldest in the world. Talk of historical things to do in Copenhagen in winter, so to speak. This is one of the country’s most visited attractions and for good reason. You will discover that Tivoli Gardens is much more than the typical amusement park. This landmark also boasts of a stunning natural park packed with many tiny paths and truly unique greenery.
But what makes it special in winter? During this period, this famous attraction assumes even greater glory. It becomes a snowy paradise with excellent rides, many fancy restaurants, and a serene festive atmosphere. The roofs are usually draped in glittering decorations, the trees in twinkling Christmas lights, and, yes, you even get to visit a picturesque Christmas Village. The Village has been set up superbly where all types of traditional treats and drinks are at your disposal.
Tip: To avoid having to queue for long, consider booking in advance especially if you are planning to be in Copenhagen in December.
Try “Medicinal” Winter Bathing
For many people in Denmark, winter bathing is a long-revered tradition. It’s not only said to come with lots of health benefits but even boost the quality of life. We know the idea of jumping into a frozen canal will certainly not be pleasant initially, but this is an experience worth adding to your list of things to do in Copenhagen in winter.
You will find several harbour baths around Copenhagen. These include Islands Brygge, Sluseholmen, and Fisketorvet where both seasoned winter-bathers and newcomers can dive into the clean but rather frigid canal waters.
Perhaps you prefer something more moderate? The beaches of Amager Strandpark offer an alternative option where you can dip your toes in the icy waters.
Try Your Hands (and Legs!) at Ice Skating
Winter Ice Skating in Denmark is the quintessential activity! The city boasts some of the most awesome ice skating spots that will allow you to soak up the true spirit of winter, including several outdoor public ice skating rinks. While admission is 100% free, you'll, however, need to rent the ice skates, usually by the hour.
We love ice skating because this is a unique athletic activity that allows us to hold hands as we skate along. Talk of a romantic sport in winter!
Visit the Fairy Tale-Like Castles
The history of Denmark is full of endless tales of Vikings, conquests, castles, Kings and Queens. Did you know that even the maestro Shakespeare himself set Hamlet, his famous play in Elsinore, one of the nation’s most famous castles?
We recommend you venture out to see these historical castles even if it means taking a one day trip from Copenhagen. And there are plenty of castle tours out of Copenhagen. When covered in snow, these castles are simply grand, a sight to behold!
Hang Out at Nyhavn Port
You are likely to have looked at some picturesque images of Copenhagen in print somewhere. Odds are high that what you saw was Nyhavn port. This colourful port happens to be the most recognizable icon of Copenhagen City.
But during the months of winter (November-December), the port of Nyhavn gets transformed from the typical run-of-the-mill boat-lined canal port to a colourful Christmas wonderland!
Many of the boats will be dolled up with beautiful Christmas decorations such that everything works together to facilitate spectacular photographs. The icing on the cake is that the port town also features a winter Christmas market.
On top of all that, imagine throwing in a canal cruise? The cruise from Nyhavn takes about one hour and takes you past great sights such as the Amalienborg Palace and the Little Mermaid statue.
If you prefer being on solid ground, why not take a tour of the world-famous Carlsberg Brewery in a majestic horse-drawn carriage ride here in Nyhavn? And while still in Nyhavn don’t forget to hunt for the house where Hans Christian Andersen the legendary Danish storyteller once lived.
Tour and Shop at the Winter Markets
Christmas Markets in Copenhagen are legendary. Perhaps nothing will get you more in tune with what winter in Copenhagen means than a tour of the city’s many Christmas markets. December sees markets mushrooming all over Copenhagen. The city goes abuzz with markets in over 15 different spots.
Although Tivoli is the best-known, there are others in Nyhavn, Højbro Plads, and Freetown Christiania. Some of these markets specialize in food, while others are gift shops and handicraft stalls. But the common theme is the Christmas festive spirit.
Visit Kongens Nytorv (The King’s Square)
Also known as “The King’s Square” Kongens Nytorv, is another famous Copenhagen spot that hosts several majestic buildings. During winter, these become even more dramatic when buildings like the Magasin Du Nord and Hotel D’Angleterre get covered in elaborate Christmas decorations and bright displays.
You might even be lucky enough to catch Kongens Nytorv coated in a lovely coat of snow. This will be a sight that will leave you awed! The King’s Square also hosts one of the Copenhagen's Christmas ice rinks. If you time it right, you can take in the amazing sights with friends and family or while enjoying time skating.
Try the Copenhagen Museums
Perhaps you would rather avoid the chilly outdoors? Well, we got something that will keep you warm in winter in Copenhagen. Why not check out and tour some of the museums in Copenhagen? Whether you’re an art lover or history buff, you will not only entertain yourself but also keep warm inside the Copenhagen museums.
Copenhagen has numerous museums worth a visit in winter such as the Museum of Copenhagen, the Danish National Gallery, the National Museum of Denmark, or the Hirschsprung Collection. We recommend you spare some time and try out the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. This is a museum that focused on showcasing the beauty and history of sculpture.
Take a Leisurely Canal Tour
A canal tour in winter? Yes, you read that right. Canal tours in Copenhagen are simply amazing. Regular tours depart from Gammel Strand or Nyhavn and take around 60 minutes. Watch many of the city’s sights glide by for that unique experience. Look out for the Christiansborg Palace, the Amalienborg Palace, and Opera House, among many others.
Word of caution though. Dress warmly because it can be freezing cold outside during the months of winter. If you want to enjoy the sites when standing outside the tour boat’s heated canopy, wrap up warm.
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Embrace the “Hygge” Concept
Few people have not heard of, at least read, of the uniquely Danish concept of hygge. Over time, this has blossomed from being a local concept to an international obsession. But what exactly is this hygge? Why should it take the centre stage during your winter trip to Copenhagen?
Roughly, hygge translates as cosiness – the special kind of warm feeling one gets when you create a warm nice atmosphere during which quality time is spent with friends.
That means you hang out in coffee shops, eating pastries, and snug neighbourhood restaurants. What specifically do you do when hanging out? You drink Glogg, a special kind of Danish mulled wine best enjoyed when and sitting with pals in front of an open fire. With that can kind of blissful cosiness, who needs summer?
And know what? It doesn’t necessarily have to be done outside. It could as well be warming up with a glass of wine in your comfy pyjamas next to open fire. That’s how the Danes chill out over the winter and Christmas playing board games or dice. What’s stopping you? Go ahead and embrace hygge when in Copenhagen.
Be Part of New Year’s Eve Celebrations in Copenhagen
If you happen to be in Copenhagen during the New Year’s celebration, be assured of a whale of a time. The main fireworks are blasted at midnight from the City Hall Square. The fun part is that the activity resembles a war zone as the participants are not fireworks professional but the locals themselves. Proceed with caution as some of the fireworks are shot off by intoxicated local amateurs.
Is there a safer, more common way of marking New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen? Certainly. Why not have a nice meal and swallow some drinks. The city has many restaurants, cafes and cocktail bars that offer New Year’s packages. Want a tip? Look for a cocktail bar near your hotel as it’s nearly impossible to get a free taxi on New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen. After all, even the cab drivers are also having fun elsewhere and we can’t blame them, can we?
Try Eating Winter Foods
Over the years, Danish cuisine has been rising in popularity, and there is no better place to try it than Copenhagen. We recommend you include eating winter foods among your things to do in Copenhagen in winter.
If the very thought of gløgg and aebleskiver leaves your mouth watering, then you’re in for an amazing treat during your winter trip to Copenhagen. This city has so many other winter delights that will get the taste buds tingling! Whether it’s a local Danish delicacies snack as you move around the winter markets, or sitting down to a hearty bowl of warming stew, Copenhagen always has a traditional, tasty dish for you.
A meat lover? The salty, soft taste of Flæskesteg will take you to cloud 9 as you soak up the textures and flavors. This is a traditional Danish Christmas meal of pork. Alternatively, why not try a classic Smørrebrød, a Christmas pizza, open juicy sandwich or the yummy cinnamon buns!
Keep the Chill Away with Walks or Bike Rides
A fantastic way of exploring Copenhagen is to walk around. The benefit? It is not only inexpensive but also keeps you warm in the chilly winter weather! Get a pair of woollen socks and strong walking shoes that can cope with the city’s cobblestone streets and you are ready to discover what Copenhagen has in store for you, especially behind the main street.
Another excellent way of discovering Copenhagen is on a bicycle. Talk of keeping fit and warm in one kill! And the best way of concluding your things to do in Copenhagen in winter? Refresh and soothe those chilly muscles and bones with a classic Nordic hot bath!