Copenhagen: Unique, quirky and exciting.
With its Christmas markets, pop-up ice rinks and the magical Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen leaves you wishing you didn’t have to go home.
Cliché? Possibly. Because we all think of Christmas markets and carol singing and ice rinks in a European capital in winter, but Copenhagen actually IS the dreamy fairytale winter scene you’d imagine. Maybe that’s because the fairytale-writer, Hans Christian Andersen, lived there? I’m not sure, but Copenhagen is as cute and cool as you would imagine.
There is heaps to see and do in Copenhagen year round and I’m fairly sure anyone stood at the departure gate waiting for their flight home probably gets a pang of regret in their stomach that they didn’t book just one more night – myself included. Yes, you can visit the ‘sights’ in just a couple of days, but it’s that Danish warmth, their friendliness, that undoubtedly real hygge, that leaves you regretting your departure.
I’m sure you’ve seen photos of Copenhagen already; probably the colourful buildings of Nyhavn which proudly overlook the canal? Yep, it’s as pretty as that picture in real life. In summer there are blue skies, but even in the cold and grey winter weather, Copenhagen still retains its spark.
Cold and grey? I hear you ask. Surely Copenhagen in winter is a bit miserable in that case? You couldn’t be more wrong. Here’s why you need to book that flight immediately and what you need to know before visiting Copenhagen in winter.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: A GUIDE TO VISITING COPENHAGEN IN WINTER
What to wear in Copenhagen in Winter
When I look back on my time in Copenhagen, the first thing that comes to mind is how cold it was.
Temperatures average only a few degrees in Copenhagen in winter. When I was there in January 2018, it was around 3 – 5 degrees celsius – so although it wasn’t quite freezing, it was really bloody chilly! The worst part was the wind – it felt like ice cutting through your skin at times!
But don’t let that put you off visiting. Copenhagen is a gorgeous city with beautiful buildings and outdoor attractions, so you’ll want to spend some time outside – you just need to make sure to keep warm!
Hat, scarf and gloves
I bought a pair of fleece-lined mittens at a Christmas market in Riga, Latvia and they have been the best purchase ever for the cold months! I wear a pair of thin gloves underneath to ensure my hands stay toasty. You can buy some similar mittens online here.
A bobble hat or beanie is a must in Copenhagen – don’t go catching a cold! Likewise, make sure you have a thick scarf which you can wrap around your face when the wind picks up; there’s nothing worse than a chilly chin. I bought a huge wool pashmina in Shimla, India a few years ago that I take with me on every trip – here is a similar one. It’s so large, it doubles as a blanket!
Thermal leggings or tights
I absolutely despise being cold, so often wear a couple of pairs of normal tights under my jeans when I’m going somewhere cold. I recommend getting some fleece-lined tights or leggings to wear under your jeans/ skirt – they make such a difference!
A warm, waterproof coat
Possibly the most important thing you could take to Copenhagen in winter. Make sure you have a coat that keeps you very warm! You’ll notice in my photos I’m wearing a furry coat; I checked the forecast before I went which said no rain, but had a handy poncho in my bag just in case.
Remember, layers are essential! If you wear too much, you can always take off a layer, but if you head out without enough layers on you will spend the day miserably cold!
Comfortable boots or trainers
Sensible shoes are a must! Copenhagen is a very walkable city and we racked up over 20,000 steps a day. I wore my Timberland boots which were perfect. My brother wore trainers, but my concern with trainers is that you can’t put an extra pair of socks on. The choice is yours!
Where to stay in Copenhagen
Knowing we would be walking a lot, we wanted somewhere fairly central. We chose to stay at the Saga Hotel Holding ApS and I would recommend it. Breakfast was included in our room rate and the showers were great!
Budget: Copenhagen Backpackers Hostel
Located near the train station and just opposite Tivoli Gardens, this hostel has 6 to 18-bed dorms and provides bicycle hire to its guests. Click here to book!
Midrange: Hotel Østerport
This hotel gives you a free smartphone with free local and international calls, plus unlimited data during your stay! If that’s not a reason to visit then maybe the sleek, modern rooms (all with a private bathroom) During the stay all our guests are provided a Smartphone free of charge, with free local and international calls and unlimited data during their stay. Browse prices here.
Splurge: Hotel Sanders
An elegant boutique hotel located near Nyhavn, Hotel Sanders has a rooftop conservatory garden and a modern restaurant. All the luxuries like a mini bar, slippers, dressing gowns, toiletries and hairdryers are included. Reserve a room here.
Find more accommodation deals below – or why not try AirBnB?
How to get around in Copenhagen
My brother and I spent the entire weekend walking when we visited Copenhagen but were suitably exhausted by the end of the day! Copenhagen is a very walkable city however, and the roads are usually well lit and safe.
One of the easiest ways to explore in the city is by bike! You can rent a cycle for around — a day. Be sure to give it a quick test run before you cycle off, checking the brakes and making sure you have a functional lock. Because it’s cold and windy in Copenhagen in winter, you might want to save biking for a summer trip, but it’s still an option!
With a Copenhagen Card
If you purchase a Copenhagen Card, you can save on entrance fees to a number of attractions and public transport is completely free of charge! This is a great idea in the winter, when you are more likely to visit the museums to escape the cold and use public transport rather than walking.
On the canals
A must-do when you visit Copenhagen is to take a tour by canal. From the warmth of the boat, you’ll stop off at some of the most iconic sights around the city including Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid statue. Check out the tours below for more information!
How to get from Copenhagen airport to the city
The first hurdle of a trip is always getting out of the airport to your accommodation, but Copenhagen’s route is easy to navigate. In fact, this is probably the fastest and easiest airport-to-city journey I have ever done! And although I always try to learn a little of the local language when I visit a new place, it put my mind at ease to know that most people spoke perfect English, both at the airport and in the city.
You can take a number of public transport options from Copenhagen airport to the city, which are quicker and cheaper than getting a taxi. Both the metro and train depart from terminal 3. You can buy your tickets from the machines in the terminal (English options are available). Your ticket will need to cover three zones and will cost DKK 38. In comparison, a taxi costs around DKK 250-300 to the city centre.
So now that you’re fully prepared, here’s a few reasons why the winter months are a great time to go to Copenhagen.
There are fewer crowds
There are undoubtedly fewer crowds in the city during winter than in summer, meaning less pesky tourists getting in your photos, shorter (or non-existent) queues for attractions, and generally more availability of just about everything.
Prices are generally cheaper
Whilst admission prices for attractions generally remain the same year-round, accommodation and flight costs can fluctuate. It’s always cheaper to visit in the off-season (usually not during the Christmas markets unfortunately!) which saves your pennies for more trips! I search for cheap flights on Skyscanner and book accommodation through booking.com or AirBnB.
You can visit a Christmas market and an ice skating rink
If you visit in December, you can go to one of many Christmas markets. There are a number of markets across the city in the festive season; a few worth mentioning are in Freetown Christiania, Nyhavn harbour, Kronberg Castle and Nytorv Square. There are also pop-up ice skating rinks around the city!
BUT bear in mind that some attractions are closed in January
When we visited Copenhagen in mid-January, the major attraction of Tivoli Gardens was closed for the entire month! Many of the Church towers were closed, as well as the Town Hall Tower. This is because of the strong winds and chances of ice – you wouldn’t want to slip at such a height! Despite this, the majority of attractions we wanted to see remained open. Check online before your visit to see whether the attractions you want to see will be open.
So now that you’re tempted, perhaps these 14 things to see and do in Copenhagen in winter will persuade you to book a flight…
1) MUST DO: Visit Freetown Christiania
Since its creation in 1971, the alternative neighbourhood of Christiania has been a source of controversy. It is a former military base that was taken over by a group of hippies who began squatting there.
Now, it is an accepted part of the city. Around 900 people live in the area, in beautifully unique houses which are just as arty and expressive as the art galleries in the neighbourhood. It’s colourful and inventive, with handmade artifacts from trinkets to houses as far as you can see. There are cafes, souvenir shops, handicraft boutiques and even a music venue. In December, Christiania has its own Christmas market.
The community has its own rules and regulations, and most people visit because of its famous ‘Green Light District’ – weed is totally legal in Christiania. A visit is a must even if you don’t want to get high; the only community I can compare it to is like Glastonbury Music Festival – but it’s there all year round!
Note: You aren’t allowed to take photos unless there is a sign to permit you to do so.
Address: Entrances to Christiania are via Prinsessegade Street and Bådsmandsstræde – just stick Christiania into Google Maps and you will know when you are there by the distinct change in the neighbourhood.
2) Take a tour of the city on the canals
A great way to see the city is by taking a tour on the water. Get your Guide have some great deals – have a browse of the options below!
Address: Usually depart from Nyhavn
3) MUST DO: Hang out with the Little Mermaid
Bet you never thought you’d get to hang out with Ariel outside of Disneyland eh?
Hans Christian Andersen’s creation of the Little Mermaid has been sitting proudly on a rock since 1913, when she was built by Edvard Eriksen.
She’s a small but impressive statue made of bronze, and I advise that you will most likely have to queue for a photo with her – this is a top tourist spot but a must-see!
Address: Langelinie, 2100 København Ø, Denmark
4) Visit the Kastellet
Just by the Little Mermaid statue is an incredible star-shaped army fortress which is worth a visit in the summer or winter. Built in 1626, it is one of the best preserved fortresses in Northern Europe and is still used by the military today. The buildings inside the fortress are striking in colour, and there’s also a church and a windmill.
Address: You can enter via one of the two bridges over the moat, from Veg Norgesporten or from Esplanaden.
5) View the city from the top of the Round Tower (Rundetaarn)
The 17th century tower is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe and the views from the top are just beautiful!
You reach the top via a long, winding slope that heads up the inside of the Round Tower. T
here are a number of rooms off the main ‘corridor’, such as the library hall which was home to an art exhibit when I visited. Make sure you stop off at the viewpoint in the centre, where you can stand on a glass floor and look down into the centre of the tower!
Address: Købmagergade 52A, 1150 København, Denmark
Cost: Adults 25.00 DKK, Children 5.00 DKK – or free with a Copenhagen Card
6) MUST DO: Wander through Nyhavn
Picture-perfect Nyhavn with its colourful houses overlooking the canal is much more than a pretty-sight. This is the place to be in Copenhagen for dining, relaxing or taking a stroll. There’s jazz music playing and people are just generally having a good time.
Hans Christian Andersen used to live in no. 20, where he wrote some of his great works including The Princess and the Pea. Did you know that No. 9, Nyhavn, is the oldest house in the area, dating back to 1681?
Address: Nyhavn, København, Denmark
Cost: Free to wander
7) Visit the Marble Church
This was one of my favourite attractions in Copenhagen; not only is the Church absolutely beautiful, it was so calming to sit here for a while.
From the outside, the marble church with its copper green dome roof is a stunning sight, but inside, the ceiling is intricately decorated with statues and carvings and lots of colour.
You can visit the dome and view the city from the top however this was not open when I visited in January 2018.
Address: Frederiksgade 4, 1265 København, Denmark
Cost: Free to visit the church, 20.00 DKK / 35.00 DKK for children / adults to visit the Dome.
8) Go shopping in Strøget
This modern area of the city is where to be if you want to shop! The streets are completely pedestrianised and a great place to spend, spend, spend during the day, or simply to take a stroll in the evening. There are lots of designer shops as well as well-known high street brands.
Stroget is a 1.1km street which stretches from the City Hall Square to Kongens Nytorv square. The streets off Strogets are home to many of Copenhagen’s sights as well as boutiques, cafes and street entertainers.
Address: quite simply, Stroget, København, Denmark
Cost: However much you spend!
9) See the Hans Christian Anderson statue
Just by the Town Hall is another statue worth seeing – similarly to the Little Mermaid, the Hans Christian Anderson statue is made of bronze. It was designed by Henry Luckow-Nielsen and was erected in 1965. There is also another statue of the Danish author in the Kings Gardens at Rosenborg Castle.
Address: Rådhuspladsen, 1550 København V, Denmark
10) MUST DO: View the city from Christiansborg Palace Tower
At 106 metres tall, the Christiansborg Palace Tower is the highest tower in Copenhagen and boast gorgeous views over the whole city. This is an absolute must if you are visiting Copenhagen – access to the tower is completely free!
Home to the Danish Parliament, Christiansborg Palace was once the abode of the Royal Family, however, after a fire in the 1800’s, they relocated to Amalienborg Palace and never returned.
Access to the top is via a lift; you may need to wait as there is not much space on the platform at the top!
11) Visit Rosenborg Castle
Built in 1606 by Christian IV, Rosenborg castle seems a little out of place being positioned in the centre of the city. It was originally built as a summerhouse but was extended a number of times, becoming complete and taking on its present-day structure in 1624.
Surrounded by the King’s Garden’s, Rosenborg was a royal residence for only around a hundred years, after which it was only used in emergencies. A visit will take you back through time as the rooms are showcased as they were used back then. You can also see Denmark’s Crown Jewels.
Address: Øster Voldgade 4A, 1350 København, Denmark
Cost: Adults 110.00 DKK / Students 75.00 DKK / Children go free / Free entry with a Copenhagen Card
And here’s what to do if it’s raining in Copenhagen (or really, really cold)
You probably won’t need this section because you’ll be so wrapped up warm and dry after reading my packing list at the start of this post!
But sometimes the cold takes its toll and you end up feeling a little bit miserable, despite visiting a new place! Here are some great places to shelter from the elements whilst still experiencing the best
12) Check out SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst) – The National Gallery of Denmark
I’m not usually one for museums, opting to visit only when it’s raining or very cold (it was the latter), but I really enjoyed visiting SMK.
This Art Gallery is absolutely huge – the largest in Denmark in fact – and is home to some of the most interesting and unique exhibits I have ever seen. Works vary from Renaissance classics to modern, contemporary pieces. There’s enough to entertain you for hours on end.
But SMK isn’t just home to art. As well as special exhibitions and the royal collections, visitors can take a guided tour, watch a performances or attend an art talk, concert or workshop. Do make sure you allow enough time for a decent visit. We spent around four hours here which included lunch at the restaurant.
Address: Sølvgade 48-50, 1307 København K, Denmark
Cost: Adult 110.00 DKK / Adults under 30 85.00 DKK/ Adult plus child 90.00 DKK / Children go free / Free entry with a Copenhagen Card
13) Visit the National Museum of Denmark
An absolute must for a history buff or anyone looking to learn a little more about the country, the National Museum of Denmark houses exhibits from the Stone Age, the Viking Age, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Modern Danish History.
Housed in the Prince’s Palace which was built in 1743-44, the building is obviously no longer the Royal abode, but the Great Hall and various decorative stucco and fireplaces in the building are pretty much exactly as they were when the palace was built.
As well as permanent exhibits, there are always additional temporary displays to be seen, and again, this is a place where you’ll want a lot of time to explore. We only had a couple of hours here so had to pick which exhibits to see – we would have loved to stay longer!
Address: Prince’s Palace, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 København K, Denmark
Cost: Adult 95.00 DKK / Adult plus child 80.00 DKK / Free entry for children and those with a Copenhagen Card
14) Enjoy a warm glass of gløgg
One surefire way to warm up on a winter’s day is with a warm glass of gløgg – the Danish version of mulled wine! You’ll spot places all around the city serving this delicacy, particularly in areas like Nyhavn and at the Christmas Markets!
Also worth a visit for a drink or two in the evening are Cafe Munk and Neighborhood Bar – both offer great cocktails and have lovely atmospheres.
So wrap up warm and head to Copenhagen this winter. What are you waiting for?
Have you been to Copenhagen in Winter? What did you get up to?
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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