A complete Copenhagen winter guide

Winter tourism is booming in Scandinavia, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t visit Copenhagen when King Winter has a firm grip on the city. Winter in Copenhagen (and Denmark in general) can be one of two things: White, crisp and refreshing or grey, moist and downright depressing. Sadly, it’s more often depressing than refreshing, but that’s allright. Copenhagen is full of small breathing holes and oases where you can recharge on mulled wine or a cup of hot chocolate before heading out into the city again.

I lived in Copenhagen for more than five years, and I really loved it when the city lit up the pitch black winter sky. In Denmark it starts to get dark around 15:30 in the winter.

In this Copenhagen winter guide I’ll introduce you to a bunch of activities. Some of them can be enjoyed year round, and some of them can only be enjoyed when the cold has a firm grip on Copenhagen. But let’s start with the activities that you can only enjoy when it’s winter in Copenhagen. If you have kids, please keep reading, I’ve put in some kid-friendly activities as well.

Go ice skating in Copenhagen

It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it: Ice skating in Copenhagen. If you want to try it, you can. And you can even do it for free. There are two outdoor ice skating rinks in Copenhagen (2019), and then you have the indoor skating rinks. The two outdoor rinks are located in Frederiksberg and Tivoli. If it’s really cold you can also skate on the inner lakes in Copenhagen.

Ice skating in Frederiksberg: The ice rink in Frederiksberg opens end November and is free. You can rent skates at the rink for 50 DKK for a full day or you can bring your own skates. To prevent collisions you are asked to skate counter-clockwise. The Frederiksberg ice rink is located at Frederiksberg Runddel and is open from 10:00 – 21:00 weekends and from 11:00 – 21:00 monday to friday. To get there you can take the metro to Frederiksberg Allé and walk the last 600 meters.

Ice skating in Tivoli: In 2018 Tivoli Gardens introduced a new fourth season called “Winter in Tivoli” to its excisting three seasons; Summer, Christmas and Halloween. I’ll go more into detail about what you can experience in Tivoli Gardens in winter, but let’s focus on the fact that you can actually go ice skating in Tivoli now. The ice rink is 300 m2 big and can be found in front of the hotel called Nimb. It’s possible to rent ice skates, but you can also bring your own. Ice skating is free once you’ve paid admission to Tivoli Gardens.

Ice skating on the lakes: Copenhagen’s inner lakes – also called “The Lakes” -are a string of large reservoirs stretching almost 3 km from Østerbro to Nørrebro, Frederiksberg and Vesterbro. The area is one of the most popular recreational areas in Copenhagen, and when temperatures really start to drop, you can go ice skating on the lakes. But before you tie your skates and head out, remember to check this website to see if the ice is thick enough. The website is in Danish, but you can still make sense of it if you know that “ja” and “no” translates to yes and no. The inner lakes are called Sortedams Sø, Peblinge Sø and Sankt Jørgens Sø.

Tivoli Gardens in winter

As I wrote earlier, Tivoli Gardens introduced “Winter in Tivoli” in 2018 as part of the amusement park’s transformation from a seasonal to an all-year-business.

A Copenhagen winter guide

This is good news to everyone who is visiting Copenhagen in winter and wants to visit one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. To entice people to pay the rather exorbitant entrance fee + tickets to the rides, Tivoli Gardens is putting on quite a show with jolly snowmen, light installations and ethereal light in February.

While the adults drift away in a haze of lovely winter memories fueled by thousands of twinkling lights the kids can let off steam in the activity igloo at the Open Air Stage, enjoy fun winter adventures with Rasmus Klump and Flora and explore their creativity in the fun winter workshops.

Check out the winter-activities in Tivoli here.

Warm up in a free museum

Copenhagen is home to so many interesting and beautiful museums. My favourite one is Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Not only does it have a large collection of works of art and archaeological objects from Ancient Egypt, the worlds of Ancient Greece and Rome, Etruscan Culture, as well as Danish and French art of the 19th century, but it’s also a really aesthetically pleasing museum with the most beautiful winter garden where you can buy a cup of coffee or eat a light lunch.

Photo: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

The glyptotek is located right next to Tivoli Gardens. What a great opportunity to feed your inner daredevil and curious historian in one and the same day! Oh – and you can visit the Glyptotek for free on Tuesdays.

Go science-nuts with your kids

One of our favourite museums for kids is the Experimentarium a little outside Copenhagen. The Experimentarium aims is to stimulate people’s interest in science and technology and to increase their awareness of methods and results within science and technology, and it does it so well. The “museum” has a Bubblearium, a maritime exhibition called “The Wave”, an interactive roof, “The Tunnel of Senses” and an “Energy Zone”. Just to name a few of the many activities that can be fun to explore if you want to take a break from the cold wind.

Shop for a warm coat

I’m not at big shopper, and I break a sweat every time I go shopping with Emil, our oldest son. He loves shopping. Looooooves it. And I just want to run away really fast when he starts fantasizing about buying things…

But I do love shopping in Copenhagen. There are a lot of cool, small shops that can satisfy anyone looking to spend some money. I avoid Strøget, the longest and most famous pedestrian street in Copenhagen, and head for streets like Ny Østergade, Kronprinsessegade, Pilestræde and Læderstræde.

If you leave the inner city and head out to Nørrebro, you’ll find some great shops around Elmegade, Egegade and Sankt Hans Torv.

Indulge in tasty winter snacks

Pancakes, waffles and æbleskiver are all foods that taste really well when it’s cold outside. You probably already know what pancakes and waffles are, but what about æbleskiver?

Photo: Joachim K

Æbleskiver (pronounced “aebleskiver”) are like pancakes only cooked in a special stovetop pan with half-spherical molds. The ones you buy in a bag and heat up in the oven are okay, but it’s a totally different game if you get æbleskiver made from scratch. They should be dripping with butter and smothered in jam and sugar – that’s the authentic way!!

My guess is you can buy pancakes, waffles, æbleskiver and so on in Torvehallerne, an indoor food market located close to Nørreport Station. If not, try some of the other foods. Torvehallerne is visited by more than 100.000 Copenhageners every week and has more than 60 food stalls chock-a-block with delicacies like smoked salmon, Iberian hams, caviar, freshly squeezed juice, smørrebrød and warm bread.

Complain, complain, complain

If you really want to blend in you have to do a lot op complaining. That’s what we do when it’s cold. Around November we start saying things like “I was born in the wrong country”, “It’s SO dark” and “I can’t wait for the next four months to pass”. In January we are all pale as snow and our fun factor equals that of a wet towel. Here are a couple of Danish expressions that will make people mistake you for a Dane.

  • Jeg er stivfrossen. This means you’re frozen solid.
  • Jeg er blå af kulde. Another popular and colorful expression to complain about being cold. You basically claim you’re turning blue as a smurf because of the cold.

And if that’s not enough – feel free to complain about most anything, but it’s great if you can say something about how annoying tourists are when they don’t know the difference between the bike path and sidewalk. It’s also okay to be angry at really rich people or people showing off. Denmark is a socialist country – don’t forget:-)

The Little Mermaid and Nyhavn

Yes, you can visit The Little Mermaid and Nyhavn when you’re visiting Copenhagen in winter, but is it worth it? I think it depends on how much time you’ve got. In my opinion, it’s a lot more fun to see The Little Mermaid and take a stroll in Nyhavn when the sun is shining.