What to expect during Copenhagen Christmas season
Christmas is a wonderful time in the city of Copenhagen. The streets are beautifully decorated and full of people. The atmosphere is cheerful and festive. Temperatures in early winter are chilly, but not frigid and outside activities are still enjoyable. There are so many things to do in Copenhagen in Winter. The best winter activity is visiting a Copenhagen Christmas Market. In central Copenhagen you’ll find some of the best Christmas Markets in Scandinavia. From the stunning light displays at Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market to the iconic Hotel D’Angleterre at Kongens Nytorv Christmas Market – Copenhagen is a Winter Wonderland. Here’s a guide on the best Copenhagen Christmas Markets. You’ll learn where to find them, what to eat, what to buy and what to drink at a Copenhagen Christmas Market.
Copenhagen Christmas History and Traditions
In the mid 9th century, the Danish King converted to Christianity. His religious commitment was loose, and based more on trading alliances than piety. Still, by the mid 12th century, Christianity was widespread in Scandinavia and Christmas traditions were developed in Denmark.
In Denmark, Christmas is known as “Jul” pronounced Yule. You can expect to see Santa Claus while visiting Copenhagen. Danes call Santa “Julemanden”. It translates to The Jul Man and he delivers presents on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Julemanden is aided by elves known as “Julenisser” or just “nisser”. A nisser is part of Nordic folklore and is close to what people would call a gnome.
The Christmas traditions in Denmark are similar to most of the Christian world, with a few local differences. No matter how similar you find Christmas here, you’ll love Christmastime in Copenhagen.
Copenhagen Christmas Markets
Christas Markets in Copenhagen are one of the best local traditions. Different neighborhoods in the city have their own Christmas Markets one weekend during the Advent season. There are seven Christmas Markets that you can visit every day throughout the holiday season. Below is a Copenhagen Christmas Market review for each location along with tips on what you can find there. They’re all fantastic and worth a visit for anyone in Copenhagen at Christmas.
Kongens Nytorv Christmas Market
Kongens Nytorv is the most posh square in Copenhagen and located right in the center of town. It’s surrounded by some of the most stunning buildings in Copenhagen. They include the French Embassy, The Royal Danish Theatre and Magasin du Nord, the oldest department store in Scandinavia.
Perhaps the most iconic building in this square is the Hotel D’Angleterre. Each winter they outdo themselves with Christmas decoration and even convert the facade of the hotel into an advent calendar. It seems only natural that this area would host the nicest Christmas Market in Denmark.
The last two years, this Christmas Market has been smaller than normal. That’s because this area has been under construction due to the Copenhagen metro expansion. You can be sure that this Copenhagen Christmas Market will return to its glory in 2019.
Højbro Plads Christmas Market
Højbro Plads Christmas Market is the closest thing to an original German Christmas Market you’ll find in Scandinavia. It’s a lovely market located in one of the busiest and best shopping districts in Copenhagen. It’s also steps from Holmen Canal and in the shadow of Christianborg, the Danish Parliament building.
You can find a lot of German meats and other culinary treats in this market. There are plenty of food stands, drink stands and vendors selling Christmas items. There is a display of Santa and his reindeer as well. This Christmas Market even has some enclosed areas to enjoy a quick warm up.
Hans Christian Andersen Christian Market
Hans Christian Andersen Christmas Market is one of the cutest in Copenhagen. It’s, of course, named after one of Copenhagen’s most famous residents. This Christmas Market is a bit smaller than some of the others, but it isn’t missing a thing. The food vendors, shopping and drink tents are all on-point. Make sure to visit the Mikkeller beer truck.
The location is also super nice – in front of Copenhagen Courthouse and the Old City Hall. It’s held each year in a square called Nytorv and it’s one of the most charming open areas in the city.
Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market Copenhagen
Tivoli Gardens Christmas season decorations are truly amazing. They’re worthy of a Christmas card or something from a movie. From the minute you walk into the park, you will be blown away by the level of work they put into their Christmas displays. You feel as if Santa Claus, aka Julemanden, himself actually lives there.
Beyond the layer of artificial snow and the elaborate lights, they have Christmas Market vendors throughout the park. Tivoli Gardens is also an amusement park, and their rides are in operation during the Christmas season. They make a few alterations to accommodate the change of seasons, but you can enjoy that aspect of Tivoli during Christmastime. Entry tickets to Tivoli must be purchased, so this is the only Christmas Market that requires a fee. It’s entirely worth paying for and you get much more at Tivoli than just a Christmas Market. It’s about 20 USD and you can purchase skip-the-line passes HERE.
Bonus tip: If you are planning your trip in advance, buy tickets for their Crazy Christmas Cabaret. It’s a wonderful show with a talented cast and a tradition amongst locals. You won’t be let down!
Nyhavn Christmas Market
Nyhavn is the most photographed place in Copenhagen. It’s quintessentially Copenhagen and when you visit Nyhavn it’s hard to imagine anything more beautiful. And then you visit Nyhavn Christmas Market and realize that they found a way.
Now, just like in the summer months, Nyhavn is crowded and for food and drink it’s overpriced. Still, it deserves a visit during the Christmas months. It’s also only a short walk to Kongens Nytorv Christmas Market. When it comes to prices in Nyhavn, you get what you pay for – and that’s expensive ambiance. A spiked hot chocolate there will cost you 80 kr. (over 10 USD). You can also bring a beverage from elsewhere and enjoy a stroll through the harbor’s Christmas Market.
Christiania Christmas Market
Freetown Christiania is an alternative Christmas market at the international community and commune within Copenhagen. If you’re unsure what that means, here’s a brief history of the location. Christiania came to be in 1971 when members of the counter-culture began squatting in an abandoned military base. Their controversial past led to Copenhagen municipal authorities allowing the commune to continue living there. Since then, they have built a community that puts on a cool Christmas Market each year.
Their Christmas market is located in the Grey Hall. It features rows of food stands, live music at night and Christmas vendors. This is the place to pick up unique, edgy gifts for those hard-to-shop for people that have it all.
Carlsberg Christmas Market
It may seem odd to visit a brewery for a Christmas market, but Carlsberg is a lot of fun. Year-round, the Carlsberg brewery holds tours and beer tastings. It’s a few train stops from Copenhagen Central Station and they serve probably the best beer in the world. Even the biggest Scrooge in your travel group will enjoy this Christmas market.
The Carlsberg Christmas Market is held on December weekends. You’ll enjoy the stands in the brewery courtyard and can visit with the Jutland horses in their stables. They’re not reindeer, but there’s something about them that feels like Christmas.
Carlsberg also gives the world Tuborg Julebryg (Christmas Brew) each Christmas season. It’s a dark, spiced, Christmas lager that is released each year at 8:59 on J Dag (Jul Day). That’s a day picked by Carlsberg for the city-wide kick-off celebration of their Christmas beer.
Tips for Visiting a Copenhagen Christmas Market
When you go to a Christmas market in Copenhagen, be prepared for November and December temperatures. It’s not unbearable, but you should wear a winter coat, gloves, a scarf and maybe a hat. Copenhagen can be very windy and wet, plus the weather can change quickly. Sometimes it feels much colder than the temperature will make you think. Stay warm! Some areas have heating lamps, but it doesn’t change the fact that you will be outdoors. Dress appropriately.
Wear comfortable shoes. Especially if you plan to visit a few Christmas markets in one day, you’ll be walking a lot. Not only will there be a lot of walking, but the terrain will be a lot of cobblestone streets. You’ll want a sturdy shoe and possibly a pair of boots with cushioning.
Go to the Christmas markets with a plan. Many can be reached with Copenhagen public transport and it’s easy to walk between them all. Schedule your time, including where you’ll eat, shop and consider adding an indoor break. This could even be a trip back to your hotel to drop off souvenirs you buy.
What to Eat at a Copenhagen Christmas Market
You’ll of course have to eat while you’re in the various Christmas Markets. The energy will be important, especially if you’re stopping at several around town. Each market will have food vendors with an array of options. Two items to look out for are traditional Danish Christmas snacks.
One is called æbleskiver. It translates to “apple slices” but does not contain apple. It’s a baked pastry that’s served with jam and tossed in confectioners sugar. The outside is similar to a pancake with a light and fluffy inside.
What to Drink at a Copenhagen Christmas Market
At the Christmas Markets you can find normal cold drinks like beer, wine, water and soda drinks. You’ll probably want to stay warm though. A hot drink will help you stay comfortable if you’re outside all day enjoying the markets. At each location you should have a selection of coffee, hot chocolate and mulled wine.
The drink to make sure you experience is traditional Danish gløgg. A warm cup of gløgg is usually 30-50 kr. (about 5-7 USD). It’s served all over Copenhagen in the winter. Gløgg is hot spiced liquor that’s served with fruit, nuts and raisins. The drink can be made various ways and some vendors will offer you an extra shot of liquor. When you finish your gløgg you also have a snack of alcohol soaked fruit and nuts to finish. For that reason it’s often served with a small wooden spoon.
What to Buy at a Copenhagen Christmas Market
Besides delicious food and drinks, Copenhagen Christmas Markets are full of vendors to shop at. They’re selling crafts, Christmas ornaments, metalworking, blankets and all sorts of gifts. You’ll love walking through the markets and looking at the goods for sale.
One of the most popular gifts to bring home from the Christmas Markets is a traditional Christmas ornament called Julehjerter. The Julehjerter (Yule heart) is a gorgeous Danish design that you’ll see all over the city at Christmas. You’ll also find handmade paper julehjerter on the Jul Trees of most Danish families. In Christmas Markets you can find glass and ceramic versions for sale. They’re a perfect way to bring home a bit of Copenhagen Christmas cheer for your own tree.