When the festive season arrives, Copenhagen is transformed into a magical winter wonderland bursting with Nordic tradition. It’s an accessible city to walk around, and you can combine visiting a Copenhagen Christmas market with exploring the local landmarks. I had already visited several European markets but had never been to one in Scandinavia. Hygge; the Scandinavian feeling of being comfy and cosy is something I was familiar with, and I knew I would find it here by the bucket load at the Christmas markets.
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Updated June 2020
Getting Around Copenhagen
From the airport, we bought a single-use train ticket that took us straight to Copenhagen Central Station. Purchasing a ticket was slightly confusing; however, plenty of attendants helped us navigate the system. An easy option is to buy a Copenhagen City Card, allowing you unlimited travel combined with entry into Copenhagen’s main tourist attractions.
Areas to Stay around Copenhagen
There are several districts in Copenhagen, and they all offer a different experience for the traveller. We stayed in the Vesterbro area, also known as the meatpacking district, within the Central Station’s walking distance.
The transformation from empty warehouses to the arrival of hip and trendy restaurants and bars has given this area a new lease of life. Hotels have also moved in offering cosy “hygge” stays in contemporary settings.
Vesterbro – the best place to stay for a trendy vibe.
Norrebro – the best place to stay for tourists.
Nyhavn – the best place to stay for families.
Indre By – the best place to stay for the nightlife.
Latin Quarter – the best place to stay on a budget.
We stayed at the Scandic Kodbyn which is themed on the meatpacking district, and our room had an urban-industrial style with exposed concrete brickwork and minimal accessories. It also had a steak restaurant on site, a nod to the area’s previous history and offered an excellent selection for breakfast.
What to Wear at the Christmas Markets
Weather in Europe at this time of year is unpredictable, and although there was no snow when we visited in mid-December, it arrived the day we left. Dress in layers as temperatures are cold in the day, let’s just say I needed a lot of glogg to warm up; see below, but dip even lower at night and so a warm, waterproof pair of shoes is a must!
What to expect at a Copenhagen Christmas Market
Our two-hour afternoon flight from the UK meant we arrived just before it started to go dark, which is when the magic of Christmas comes alive in Copenhagen. We started as planned with a glass of Glogg, a hot alcoholic drink made from red wine mixed with various spices and equipped with woollen gloves, scarves, boots and numerous layers of warm clothing; we set off into the night to explore.
Exploring the Tivoli Gardens
The Tivoli Gardens are one of the city’s favourite attractions and had long been on my list to visit at Christmas. Since 1843, they have taken centre stage in Copenhagen, but it is at Christmas when they are transformed into something quite magical. Over 70,000 fairy lights illuminate the wooden chalets, Christmas trees and fairground rides and we were excited to experience its charm for ourselves.
As soon as we walked through the gates, we felt like children again. Wooden cabins had been transformed into brightly coloured shops filled with sweets and decorations. Twinkling lights led us down winding paths past Christmas trees, and amusement rides and music floated through the night air. Tivoli was everything I had imagined, and more and no trip to Copenhagen would be complete without a visit.
How to See Tivoli Gardens
Christmas at Tivoli runs from November to January and opens from 11 am to 11 pm Sunday – Thursday and 11 am – Midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Copenhagen has short days with nightfall descending around 4 pm. I would recommend a visit once it goes dark to experience Tivoli at its best. We didn’t venture on any of the rides, but there is something for all ages from Santa’s train to rollercoasters. Tivoli Garden skip-the-line tickets can be bought online before your visit.
Nyhavn Christmas Market
The Nyhavn Christmas Market, situated by the picturesque Nyhavn harbour, is the perfect place to absorb the Christmas atmosphere. Lights and festive garlands decorate the chalets and restaurants, and the scent of Christmas cooking guides you to the food stalls. Scandinavian gifts of hats, scarves and mittens along with tree decorations and candles can be bought for presents or just because you love them yourself!
Hans Christian Anderson Christmas Market
Named after the Danish author and storyteller, this is where Father Christmas wanders around taking selfies with adoring visitors. The stalls are all named after Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales and decorated with hundreds of Christmas lights. Selling much the same gifts as the other markets, this is probably the smallest of them all.
Hojbro Plads Christmas Market
Højbro market is located right in the centre of Copenhagen’s Christmas area. Shop to your heart’s content at the market and along Stroget; the main pedestrian shopping street and one of the longest in Europe. The shops are dressed for the season, and it is hard not to buy all the gifts and decorations on show. I couldn’t resist buying a large ceramic Father Christmas, which proved challenging to get home in my hand luggage without breaking, but with determination, I succeeded.
When the urge to sit down and indulge in cake and coffee hits you, head to Cafe Norden. This well-loved cafe, located in cosy historical surroundings on the corner of Stroget, is expensive but a real experience. Serving up some of the most decadent cakes I had seen in the city, this is the place to warm up while you satisfy your cravings.
Kongens Nytorv Christmas Market
The Kongens Nytorv market, lined with charming stalls, is located in front of the famous Hotel D”Angleterre. Established in 1753, the hotel’s facade is festively decorated with gigantic baubles, tinsel and lifesize Nordic toy soldiers. As a respite from the cold pop inside for a coffee or hot chocolate and enjoy a taste of luxury away from the freezing temperatures.
Freetown Christiania Christmas Market
Freetown Christiania is in Christianshavn and is accessible by train from Copenhagen. It is a free state within the city where squatters took control of an abandoned military base in the 1970s. The open sale of cannabis on its streets is subject to continual police raids, but its community continues to grow.
This unconventional Christmas market is held in the Grey Hall, the focal point of Christiania’s community. Original hand-crafted items can be bought like jewellery, candles, tree decorations, hats, mirrors and cards. Wander through its maze of busy stalls, see the crafts being made and grab a bite to eat. Christiania is worth a visit not only for its market but also for its street art and resident characters. Christiania was my favourite market as its gifts were unique, and I enjoyed talking to the stallholders about their crafts.
A word of caution, do have a wander around Christiania because it is an interesting place but be careful where and what you take photographs of, especially along “Pusher Street” or you will be told, in no uncertain terms, to put your camera away.
My honest opinion of Copenhagen
What month did I travel? December
How was the weather? It was freezing and rained at times.
Would I recommend the hotel? Yes. Scandic Kodbyn is an excellent hotel to use as a base to explore the city. It is a close walk to the central train station, which is suitable for arriving and departing. The decor is funky, and the staff are friendly.
Would I recommend three nights in Copenhagen? Definitely. The markets are lovely and put you in the mood for Christmas, and there are so many other incredible things to do in Copenhagen that are a delight to discover. Tivoli Gardens was the highlight for me even without going on any of the rides. The flight to Denmark is under two hours from the UK and makes a great place to visit for a weekend.