If there is one country that knows how to make the most of winter, it’s Denmark. Despite its infamously chilly climate and long winter nights, the country comes alive between the months of December and February with holiday celebrations, cultural events, and art installations.
With so many things to do in Denmark during the winter, it’s almost impossible to choose. From its royal palaces, fairytale Christmas villages, innovative museums, and annual music and design events, there’s something magical about visiting Denmark in the winter. So keep warm and explore the best of Scandinavia with our list of the top 24 things to do in Denmark during the winter.
Discover the Copenhagen Christmas Markets
There’s no better place to get in the holiday spirit than Copenhagen’s cozy Christmas markets. In the heart of the city center, the Højbro Plads Christmas Market and the Christmas Market at Kongens Nytorv are just off the famous shopping pedestrian street, Stroget. Classic wooden stalls are decorated with lights and a colorful range of artisanal crafts and handmade gifts are on display.
Local specialties include gløgg, a hot mulled wine with raisins and almonds, and aebleskiver, which are small, round pancakes served with powdered sugar and fresh jam.
Freetown Christiana's yearly market is also among the most interesting, as it's reminiscent of an Oriental bazaar. Among the many different handicrafts, you might find jewelry, paper mobiles, soaps, clothes, and leather goods.
Go Ice-Skating in Frederiksberg
Each winter, the entrance to Copenhagen’s Frederiksberg Gardens is covered in ice and opened to the public as a festive outdoor skating rink. During the day, families and friends can be seen bundled up in their best winter gear, bracing the cold for a fun round of skating.
The ice rink at Frederiksberg Runddel is free and open to the public around the clock. Skates can be rented for 50 kroner (about $7.75). Keep in mind that the rink is strictly reserved for skating, so other sports such as ice hockey are not allowed.
See the Decorations at Tivoli
Tivoli Gardens is one of the most magical amusement parks to visit year-round, but it is especially enjoyable during the winter months. Between November and December, more than half a million lights are used throughout the park to transform Tivoli into an enchanting winter wonderland. The trees are draped in twinkling Christmas lights, glittering decorations are hung from the roofs, and there’s even a picturesque Christmas Village set up where all kinds of traditional treats and drinks are sold.
Since its opening in 1834, it's become one of the best-known tourist destinations in the world. Tivoli has a total of over 27 rides, including the Aquila which provides riders with 4G forces. Tivoli is also home to over 300 concerts a year and offers cuisine from around the world at its 30 eateries.
Grab Coffee and Cake at La Glace
The oldest patisserie in Copenhagen, Conditori La Glace is known for its sumptuous cakes, exquisite pastries and decadent hot chocolate. It first opened back in 1870 and has been serving up a quality selection of layer cakes, cookies and chocolates ever since. Its old-timey mahogany decor makes it feel as if you’re stepping back in time—the perfect atmosphere to escape the cold with a sweet snack and a hot drink in hand.
Try Winter Bathing
For many Danes, winter bathing is a cherished tradition. It’s said to come with many health benefits and even improve the quality of life. While jumping into a frozen canal might not seem like a pleasant idea at first, it’s certainly an experience worth adding to the bucket list.
Around Copenhagen, there are several city harbor baths including Islands Brygge, Fisketorvet, and Sluseholmen where newcomers and seasoned winter-bathers alike can dive into the clean, albeit frigid canal waters. Alternatively, the beaches of Amager Strandpark are another option to dip your toes in the water.
Rent a Hot Tub on the Canals
Not many people can say they’ve taken their own personal hot tub sailing around the canals of Copenhagen. But that’s exactly what the team over at CopenHot offers. Located at the tip of Refshaleøen, CopenHot offers clean, salt water Sailing Hot Spas that are heated to 104 F and can seat up to five people. For 2200 kroner, a 1.5-hour tour includes its own skipper and a Bluetooth speaker to hook up music.
Sample Some Fastelavnsboller
Typically happening at the end of February (although sometimes it can be early March depending on when Easter falls), Denmark celebrates Carnival in the form of its annual holiday, Fastelavn. One of the typical sweets that is only eaten during Fastelavn is called fastelavnsboller, and they can be found in bakeries and restaurants all around the country. The traditional version is a sweet, doughy bun topped with chocolate and filled with custard, but there are also denser, pastry-styles that are topped with whipped cream.
Relax in the Sauna at La Banchina
A simple cafe and restaurant serving Italian food, natural wines and coffee, La Banchina is the perfect off-the-beaten-path spot to relax. During the summer, it’s the place to sunbathe and jump in the water, but in the winter it’s the place to warm up in a toasty sauna. Open everyday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., the wood-fired sauna can fit up to eight people at a time and costs 50 kroner per person. The sauna cannot be booked in advance, so it’s not uncommon to see people hanging out with a hot tea or cold beer while they wait their turn.
Have Dinner at Absalon
In the heart of Copenhagen’s hipster Vesterbro neighborhood lies Absalon, an old church turned colorful cafe, relaxed hang-out spot, rowdy bar, and local restaurant all in one. It’s one of the few places in Copenhagen that still hosts a “folkekøkken,” or community kitchen, dinner every night of the week. Dinner normally costs around 50 kroner and is served buffet-style starting at 6 p.m. Adding to its social and inclusive atmosphere, Absalon regularly hosts a range of events from bingo and ping-pong tournaments to music and movie themed nights, as well as the occasional yoga class or flea market.
Explore Nyhavn at Night
Pronounced “new-hown,” the Nyhavn waterfront is home to Copenhagen’s iconic and postcard-perfect brightly-colored buildings. A popular hangout for tourists to grab a drink or a bite to eat, Nyhavn is one of the most picturesque backdrops in the city. It’s quite the view to see during the day, but there’s something special about seeing the old houses reflected in the canal’s calm waters at night. During the holiday season, the area is lit up with thousands of shimmering Christmas lights, Christmas markets line both sides of the canal, and each boat is decorated in theme with the season, making it the perfect place for a stroll.
Ski at Amager Bakke
The highly anticipated Amager Bakke/Copenhill opens up in December of 2018. Located on Copenhagen’s Amager Island, this futuristic former power plant is shaping up to become the city’s first artificial ski slope and recreational hiking area. It offers a wide variety of activities including skiing, hiking, running, and tobogganing among others. In addition to its ski shop, there is also a cafe and a restaurant at the top of the hill.
Surround Yourself in “Hygge”
“Hygge” has become a kind of trendy buzzword these days, but it’s actually an important part of Danish culture, and it’s essential to surviving the long, dark winters. There’s no direct translation, but the closest word in English would be “cozy.”
Hygge is all about snuggling up in warm socks, pouring a cup of tea, lighting candles and spending quality time with a close group of friends or family. So stay indoors and enjoy life’s simple and sweet moments by making your own hygge atmosphere, or head to a local cafe where you’re sure to find an abundance of hygge in every which direction you look.
The modern Black Diamond library is located directly on Copenhagen's waterfront and the bright interior makes it a great place the embrace the Danish concept of "hygge." The library holds an archive of poems by Søren Kierkegaard and a large selection of international periodicals to be read on one of the cozy sofas.
Play Board Games at Bastard Café
Copenhagen can get pretty cold during the winter, but it’s the perfect excuse to stay indoors all day. The first and only board game cafe in Copenhagen, Bastard Café has over 2000 different board games ranging from simple children’s games to the really geeky stuff—card games, dice games, vintage games, strategic games, you name it—chances are if it exists, they’ll have it. A visit to Bastard Café is a fun way to spend a couple hours and hang out with friends, they even have an app where you can order food and drinks if you don’t want to get up from your game!
Visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
A 40-minute train ride from the center of Copenhagen, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is one of the world’s leading international art museums. An architectural gem with panoramic views of Sweden’s coast, the museum houses over 3,500 works of art from Danish and international artists, in addition to hosting several special exhibitions throughout the year. Even though the weather might be chilly, it’s worth taking a walk around Louisiana’s landscaped grounds and exploring the art in the Sculpture Park. The museum’s cafe is a scenic spot to grab a cup of coffee in between exhibits and it also offers delicious and affordable lunch and dinner buffets.
Take a Trip to Kronborg Castle
Known around the world as Hamlet’s Castle, Kronborg Castle sits in the northern city of Helsingør and is less than one hour away by public transport from the city of Copenhagen. Built in the 1400s as a Danish fortress and later an important royal residence, Kronborg is a stunning renaissance castle and Unesco World Heritage Site. During the first two weekends of December, the castle’s courtyard and beautiful ballrooms are transformed into a traditional Christmas Market, filled with traditional Christmas treats and plenty of activities for children and adults. From November to January, the castle is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and an adult ticket will cost 90 kroner while children under 18 are free.
Wander Around the Old Town in Aarhus
In addition to being a cultural hub and Denmark’s up-and-coming second largest city, Aarhus is home to one of Denmark’s most unique attractions—Den Gamle By. Meaning “Old Town,” Den Gamle By is a popular open-air museum that showcases the living history of Denmark throughout the years. Centuries old original buildings have been brought from all over Denmark and re-erected on the museum grounds, and visitors can walk around the old houses, shops, workshops and gardens for a truly authentic experience. Starting around November, the entire museum is covered in Christmas decorations from different time periods.
There is also a special Danish Christmas Throughout Time exhibit which shows the history and different ways Danes typically celebrated the holidays from the 1600s to 1970s. The Old Town opens daily at 10 a.m. and costs between 110–135 kroner depending on the month.
Stroll through Assistens Cemetery
When it snows, there’s no better way to get a quick breath of fresh air in Copenhagen than by having a walk around Assistens Cemetery. Located in the multicultural Nørrebro district, the cemetery is home to the graves of important Danish figures including Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard. Sleepy burial grounds are blanketed in snow and the white-capped trees make a scenic backdrop for a nice stroll. To heat up after a wintery walk, the trendy cafes on the nearby Jægersborggade street are a great option to grab some coffee or tea.
Enjoy the Frost Festival
Just because winter is the coldest and darkest time of the year in Denmark doesn’t mean it has to be boring. The Frost Festival seeks to push the boundaries of live music experiences by combining music, light and alternative spaces. A series of curated concerts and events, the Frost Festival happens every February in venues all around Copenhagen. Previous concerts have been held in museums, churches, historical buildings and even empty swimming pools, so don’t miss out on this unique experience!
Listen to Music at Vinterjazz
For much of February, Denmark transforms into a music lover’s paradise. From major cities like Aarhus, Aalborg, Odense and Copenhagen, to the lesser known towns of Silkeborg, Lemvig and Sønderborg—over 600 concerts span across 100 different venues and 25 independent organizers during the Vinterjazz Festival. This special event happens every year to raise attention to jazz music, and to bring together local artists, international musicians, dedicated venues and jazz associations around the country.
Check out the Copenhagen Light Festival
It might be dark outside, but the winter skies around central Copenhagen light up through a combination of art and design during the Copenhagen Light Festival. The festival takes place during the month of February and different light installations portraying a variety of themes such as sustainability, architecture and humanity are set up in various locations around the city.
Visit the Rosenborg Castle
Denmark is the oldest monarchy in the world. As such, it offers much to see in the way of old fortresses, palaces, and castles. At the Rosenborg Castle, you'll see a display of the crown jewels, one of the world's most exquisite Venetian glass collections, portraits giving a visual account of the royal family line and its history, as well as many other royal treasures tracing back over 400 years of Denmark history. You can also experience the more intimate details of the royal life such as the King's private writing desk and bathroom.
Learn about Denmark's History at the Museum of Copenhagen
The Museum of Copenhagen has exhibitions covering the last 300 years of country's history, as well as THE WALL, a unique, interactive display that allows visitors to navigate through the lives and stories of Copenhageners through pictures. Of course, there is also something for the kids: The top floor of the museum is home to The Dream of a City, a place where children, using LEGO blocks, can create and build their own dream city.
Tour the Carlsberg Brewery
A tour of this historic brewery documents not only the history of beer but Carlsberg's evolution from its founding in 1847 through modern times. The brewery also displays the largest collection of beer bottles in the world. The cost of admission includes a tour of the brewery as well as a sampling of a variety of products and two complimentary beers or soft drinks at the bar after the tour.
Visit the National Gallery of Denmark
Spend an entire day here, or just seek shelter from bad weather. Regardless, the National Gallery of Denmark has art spanning nearly a thousand years, including works from other Nordic countries, as well as European and international pieces. Highlights include an extensive collection of work from 15th-century Europe.