As the saying goes, it really is the most wonderful time of the year. I cherish the season of mince pies and Mariah Carey, and for many of us, travelling home for the holidays will come as a much needed respite from the stress of upcoming deadlines and exams. If you feel like travelling further afield to celebrate the festive period though (not to suggest that re-watching The Holiday whilst working your way through a tin of Quality Street isn’t celebratory enough, of course) then why not take a quick trip away to Europe’s magical Christmas markets? And I would argue that there really is no better place to visit during the most wonderful time of the year, than the “wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen” itself!
The Danish capital is known for being an extremely walkable city, and during the winter months you can find centrally located Airbnbs for reasonable prices – meaning you can really make the most of your time in this oh-so-charming city and its abundance of festive attractions.
I would start the day with a visit to the iconic Rundetaarn to take in some views of the city’s skyline – plus the sloping walk to the top will ensure you build up a hearty appetite! Following this, why not take a small detour through the gardens of Rosenborg Castle, as you head down the central street of Gothersgade, stopping for brunch en route – Atelier September is a favourite of mine for an aesthetically pleasing and traditionally Danish experience. From here, you are but a stone’s throw from the Christmas markets at Kongens Nytorv, and of course the eternally picturesque Nyhavn canal – which itself is lined with festive stalls and decorations along the harbour front. If you aren’t feeling the cold too much, and want to experience arguably the most overrated tourist attraction Denmark has to offer, then the Little Mermaid is also just a short detour from here.
Spend the rest of your afternoon admiring the twinkling displays along Strøget, one of Europe’s longest pedestrianised shopping streets, and stopping to refuel on glögg and Æbleskiver at the Christmas markets at Højbro Plads. As you begin to lose the daylight, you can continue your walk all the way down the bustling cobbled street until you reach Rådhuspladsen, the large city hall square – and from here embark on an evening of magic festivities at Tivoli gardens. No trip to Copenhagen during December would be complete without it – it’s sure to fulfil all your classic Christmas fantasies (and ruin every subsequent trip to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland). Here you can catch a variety of seasonal-themed shows and live performances, grab dinner at one of the many restaurants, or simply bask in the glow of Tivoli’s dreamy illuminations as you browse traditional Danish treats and gifts amongst the winding rows of snow-capped cabins.
You’ve likely covered some fair ground during your first day and explored a lot of the city centre, so for your second day, why not cross over Dronning Louises Bro, the central bridge connecting inner Copenhagen with the trendy neighbourhood of Nørrebro? Head to the picturesque cobbled street of Jægersborggade for quirky independent shops and a spot of Christmas gift shopping, as well as numerous cosy breakfast spots – I would recommend Grød or Stefano’s Mad & Kaffe if you’re in the area. Stroll back through the tree-lined avenue of Assistens Kirkegård, where you will also find Hans Christian Andersen’s grave. Once you’ve crossed back over into the city centre, feel free to spend the rest of the afternoon sampling the local delights of Torvehallerne market – two adjacent glass buildings selling everything fresh, seasonal, and gourmet. Alternatively, if you feel like burning off some of those Danish pastries, then hop on the nearest metro and head to the ice rink at Frederiksberg Runddel. Admission is free, you just have to pay around £6 to hire some skates!
Once the sun has set in the late afternoon, there’s no shortage of cosy bars in which you can seek shelter from the cold – the Danes love their beer and no trip would be complete without a good pint of Tuborg! If you feel like hitting the town and experiencing some of Copenhagen’s trendiest nightlife, then head to the Meatpacking District in Vesterbro, or alternatively visit the Bastard Café for an evening of board games in a warm and laid-back atmosphere.
Even if the weather doesn’t live up to your expectations during your visit (let’s be realistic here, we are talking about winter in Denmark), it’s incredibly easy to while away the day hopping between cafes and museums – a lot of the city’s cultural attractions offer free entry or discounts for students too! But as the Danes always say – there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!
One of the many great things about Copenhagen during the build-up to Christmas is that although the skies may be a little bleak and the trees rather bare, there is always the tempting aroma of roasted almonds and glögg in the air, and once dark the streets are filled with twinkling decorations and windows illuminated by candle light – ‘hygge’ personified indeed.
If you’re planning a festive vacation, head to the www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice page for more information on your destination, where you can also subscribe to immediate alerts and updates. When visiting Christmas markets, take extra caution over your belongings and keep an eye out for pickpockets, and always stay aware of your surroundings by taking it easy on the mulled wine! Follow @travelaware and @sotontravel on Instagram for more travel-related hints and tips.