christmas in copenhagen

By Nathan Lloyd

The semester is nearly done and things are beginning to feel a bit more festive. Parties have become a little more mulled in nature, cheap decorations have been bought from Flying Tiger and Wilcos and, for now, no one is thinking about January deadlines. A housemate mentions going to the Christmas market but then you wonder what would it be like if you just dropped everything, booked some cheap flights and went to see a real Christmas market instead. Someone mentions going to Germany – maybe a bit cliché? How about somewhere you hadn’t considered? How about Copenhagen?

Well, you’re in luck. It’s still possible to get cheap flights to Copenhagen before Brexit bites hard, this may even be the last chance to have a Christmas jolly before the Pound loses even more of its value! I managed to get flights for myself and my partner from Gatwick, including a bus from Swansea and a 20kg case booked in for £115 each with EasyJet. Although with the pound being so low, the exchange rate to DKK (Danish Krone) might be a bit painful. That said, the experience of going there, to my favourite city, in Winter is a magical experience and highly worth the expense.

Tivoli Gardens

The second oldest amusement park in the World (the oldest is in Klampenborg – Bakken) Tivoli’s magical doors have been open since 1843. It’s the most visited theme park in all of Scandinavia – with good reason. Situated in the heart of the city it’s easy to forget where you are within its meandering innards. For most of the winter it’s closed but it makes special and spectacular exception for Halloween and Christmas. During the festive period, the whole park is lovingly decorated, with huge trees adorned with Quality Street chocolates & lights galore. There are Christmas themed shows and many stalls selling warm (and strong!) gløgg, to give you some Dutch, er I mean Danish courage, for the rides.

Nyhavn Christmas Market

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Nyhavn Christmas Market
Deck the halls with traditional Scandinavian decorations

This 17th Century port is also in the heart of the city and is a mere ten minute jaunt from Tivoli. It’s one of the most picturesque and Instagrammed spots in Copenhagen. Nestled along the cobbled streets is a Christmas market starting from November 11th and running until December 23rd. From crafts and decorations to stodgy winter favourites, you’ll find everything along the quayside. Try Danish favourites like æbleskiver (hot sugary puffed pancakes) and kransekage (marzipan ring cake). By the end you’ll have cheeks & bags full of produce & crafts to chew up your baggage allowance.

Christmas Decorations

When I first visited Copenhagen, I noticed that the Scandinavian style for Christmas decorations includes things you can’t necessarily get back home. Either go warm and traditional with Festive décor of reds, greens and natural wood hues or you can be ultra chic by going with the Scandinavian monochrome trend. Sleek, clean lines with black and white, concrete and marble may seem a little cold at first but the overall design sings. In most stores you’ll find an array of both styles. What you’ll notice is the large amount of candleholders available to buy. The Danes can’t get enough of them, and lit candles are a priority when it comes to hygge*. A familiar face you’ll certainly see is the little Nisse, these are elves in the form of hatted men covering their eyes, big noses and long beards. They are a part of Danish Christmas folklore and too cute not to take one home with you.

J-Day

If you’re in need of Christmas cheer and the size of that cheer is best measured in units of alcohol then the Danes also have you covered. Every year on the first Friday of November at precisely 8.49pm the brewer Tuborg releases its annual Christmas beer, otherwise known as julebryg (literally “Christmas Brew”). They even run the same advert that first aired in 1990 as part of the tradition. For Danes it’s the culturally accepted First Day of the Christmas period and generally involves getting wasted. If parties, parades and getting drunk in the street sound up your alley then you won’t be disappointed. While the date itself may have passed, the beer is still around and will be served all the way up to the big day.

Ice Skating in Frederiksberg Runddel

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Frederiksberg Runddel
Experience the thrill of ice skating in Copenhagen

Every city these days sports a “Winter Wonderland”, a treasure trove of over-priced rides and the opportunity to skate in a forced setting. Fun though it may be, it’s not the same. Entry to the Runddel ice rink is free if you have your own skates but renting a pair will only set you back seven quid. Open until late most nights, this popular experience will more than tick the Legit Ice Skating experience you’ve been looking for.

Deer Spotting in Klampenborg

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Deer are often spotted in Jægersborg Dyrehave

Twenty minutes north of Copenhagen central station is Jægersborg Dyrehave, a massive 4.2 square mile deer park that’s perfect for wintery walks and spotting some of the most chilled and happy-to-hang deer you’re likely to meet. Now that the rutting season is over and the weather is colder you’ll most likely find the 2100 deer in groups, huddling for warmth. When we went we got ridiculously close to them and they barely flinched. Don’t despair if you don’t see any as there are plenty of other things to see in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site including Bakken, the world’s oldest theme park, several fine-dining restaurants and a castle, no less!

So, you’ve spotted some deer, you’ve had a wander around the Christmas market in Nyhavn and you’ve been on the rides in Tivoli. The problem is you’re now completely freezing cold and utterly famished – time for some porridge! Stay with me. The New Nordic cuisine has sparked a trend in reclaiming traditional foods & methods of cooking. One of those foods is grød. You’d best not be expecting a bowl of simple oats with a blob of jam – grød is a luxurious experience, packed with hearty, hyggelig ingredients like fresh apples, cosy caramel sauce and toasted almonds. You’ll never look at an insipid bowl of Ready Brek in the same way again.

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If you’re looking for a sign to try grød today, this is it

*Hygge is a Danish word that isn’t translatable. It’s that cosy feeling of being in good company, with pleasurable food and an abundance of candles (and usually some drink). Winter is all about being ‘hygge’ or having a ‘hyggelig’ time.

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