Spending a weekend in Copenhagen (København, if we’re being proper) in December was enough to get me properly in the mood for Christmas. Colourful lights lit up the streets and shops; Christmas trees were blanketed in snow; and mulled wine (or gløgg as the Nordics call it) was flowing all day and night.
This being my first trip to Denmark, I was most impressed by the popularity of cycling – even heavy snow didn’t deter the Danes from getting on their bikes! Bicycles litter all street sidewalks and they’re rarely secured (unlike in London, where every bike is chained!). This says a lot about the Copenhagen – it’s a very safe place, and the people are incredibly kind, and helpful. The fact that the majority of the population speaks English is a massive bonus too. The transport system is great; the buses and trains are fairly regular, and the bus drivers were so helpful. The food isn’t exactly cheap, and there is much less variety for vegetarians, but there are plenty of cafés, restaurants and watering holes to try. If you’re traveling to Copenhagen in the winter months, especially December, it’s essential that you take snow-proof, warm clothing. Here are my recommendations for places you should visit if you take a trip to Copenhagen.
Tivoli Christmas market
The main reason we’d traveled to Copenhagen was to visit a gorgeous Christmas market, such as that at Tivoli Gardens. We certainly got what we were after. Tivoli Gardens was transformed into a picturesque, intricate and magical winter wonderland. The park was showered in delicate Christmas lights; there were Christmas themed decorations and Christmas trees dotted around everywhere; and there were even reindeer and a Santa Claus. As well as rides to amuse young and old, mouthwatering aromas floated from every foodie stall. As much as you may try to capture the magic of Tivoli in a picture, it’s impossible to convey it properly – you have to witness it for yourself. Visitors must pay an entry fee, and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to get carried away and spend, spend, spend!
The Little Mermaid
We started off our sightseeing journey by going on the hunt for the statue of The Little Mermaid. It originates from a book of the same name, by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. The statue is very small in real life, and to be honest, a bit of an insignificant let down. She’s hidden away beside the water’s edge, so don’t be fooled by any maps, which suggest she’s inside a park – you’ll be going on a wild goose hunt, just like we did!
The Gefion Fountain
This is the Danish equivalent of Rome’s Trevi Fountain. It features statues of four oxen, driven by legendary goddess Gefjun. Unfortunately, the fountain is not as impressive in winter: the sprinklers are turned off and the fountain is iced over because of the cold.
The Marble Church
Also known as Frederik’s Church, this stood as a ruin for about 150 years, until it was finally completed in 1894. The dome is absolutely humungous, and breathtaking too. It stands very tall – scraping Copenhagen’s skyline – and is so beautiful and intricate. Entrance is free and it’s well worth visiting – just to see the detail of the inner dome – it’s spectacular. Considering how old the church is, it’s amazing that it still looks in tip-top shape!
Right across the road from The Marble Church is this gigantic palace on-looking a courtyard. This is the Queen’s residence and it is patrolled by guards. Every day there is a public changing of the guards’ ceremony at noon in front of the palace. We were lucky enough to visit when the Queen was in residence (signalled by the flag being raised and the changing of the guard ceremony being accompanied by the guards’ music band).
This was one of my favourite spots in Copenhagen. Nyhavn was established in 1671 by then Danish king Christian V, who wanted a gateway from the sea to the city. Gorgeous, brightly coloured houses line the harbour (the scene is a bit like that from CBeebies children’s programme Balamory!) – and it’s so picturesque. Overlooking the canal are bars and restaurants, and in December, a Christmas market too. The place is very lively, both day and night, and restaurants continue to provide outdoor seating, even in the winter. I especially liked that the restaurateurs had thoughtfully left blankets out on seats for visitors – what a nice touch!
Beside Nyhavn is Copenhagen’s largest pedestrian-only outdoor shopping street. With everything from Topshop and H&M to Chanel and Mulberry, it’s a shopaholic’s dream!
Copenhagen Opera House
We didn’t make it inside this beastly beauty, but were taken aback by its architecture from afar. It has one of the largest canopy roof structures in the world – it’s almost as large as three football pitches!
Vor Frelser Kirke (The Church of Our Saviour)
In my opinion, this is one of Copenhagen’s most elegant landmarks. What’s more, visitors can climb the Church’s unique golden spire for excellent views of the city. You must pay to climb the 90-metre tower (400 steps!), and don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy climb. It’s very steep and narrow – and quite terrifying at times. There is no lift to take visitors up so it’s definitely not for the elderly, those with mobility issues, or those who are claustrophobic or afraid of heights. We went on a rather busy day, and there were large numbers of visitors wanting to go down as well as up. In a dimly lit, confined staircase, this resulted in lots of congestion and it didn’t feel altogether very safe!
Ole Steen Lagkagehuset
One of the finest bakeries I have ever visited, this modernist space sells everything from fresh bread and pastries to cakes and biscuits. Interestingly, it operates on a ticket based system – you must enter the shop, pick up a ticket and wait for your number to be called before you will be served. One Danish speciality to try is the popular chocolate-coated marshmallow (a flødeboller) – it’s a melt-in-your-mouth, gooey treat.
The National Museum of Denmark
This presents such a large, varied and rich mix of exhibitions, that I’m surprised it’s free to enter. Insightful and fun, there’s plenty to see and learn. It takes you right back through 10,000 years of history – a must-see.
Copenhagen is a beautiful place; the architecture is great, the pastries are lovely and the Danes are a friendly bunch – I’d definitely recommend a visit!