Make no mistake, Christmas is a big deal in Denmark, and folk are no less enthusiastic about the season in the cool capital region. From mid-November the streets are filled with lights and decorations, Christmas markets and Christmas trees, and Tivoli Pleasure Gardens opens for its Christmas season. It really is a magical time to visit Copenhagen.
But by Christmas Eve, it’s pretty much all over. Here, Christmas is about the lead-up, about counting the days of advent with Christmas calendars and, for many children, a gift per day—and with Christmas celebrated on ‘Jule Aften’, December 24, Christmas Day itself is a quiet day spent visiting family members, eating lots of food and relaxing at home. By December 26, meanwhile, the lights and the decorations are taken down, and Copenhagen slumbers until the fireworks start erupting on New Year’s Eve.
So, what is there to do in Copenhagen over the holiday period? What can you do to keep you and your family entertained once the meal has been eaten and the presents opened?
Our advice is: If you really want to enjoy Copenhagen’s Christmas, come a little before. Experience the winter wonderland of Tivoli Gardens, with all its thousands of sparkling lights and market booths, before it closes down on December 24 and 25. Take the kids to visit Santa in department stores Illum (third floor) or Magasin (fourth floor), or in the ‘pop-up’ Christmas toy mecca of Hamley’s and Lego, two shops opening on Vimmelskafet 37 (off pedestrian street Købmagergade, close to the Rundetårn) for December only.
- Hamley’s Toy Box, Vimmelskafet, open all December except 24-26.
- Lego, Vimmelskafet 37, open daily from Dec 13-30 until 7pm (17-23 Dec until 8pm). Closed 24-26 December.
Those looking for something open on December 24 should head down to Københavns Zoo, the only attraction in the city to be open 365 days a year. The animals are all there, albeit often cold and huddled in their huts and shelters, but there’s still a Christmas atmosphere here, with free Santa hats for all visiting children and seasonal goodies served in the zoo’s cafe. Note that the Zoo is open until 2pm only during this period.
They’re closed for Christmas Eve, but the city’s movie theaters open up again on December 25 for those going stir crazy in a hotel room, with the Danish premiere of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader scheduled for Christmas Day.
And for a really off-beat Christmas experience, check out Christiania on December 24. The free city holds its annual Christmas dinner for the homeless, ‘Juleløses Jul’, in Den Grå Hal (The Grey Hall) on Christmas Eve. Not just for the homeless, everyone is welcome for this comunity celebration, from the poor and the homeless to those who are simply too lonely to eat Christmas Dinner alone. Around 1000 organic dinners are served, just under half of them vegetarian, and the night’s activities even include the traditional dance around the Christmas tree.
Image of Rudolf outside Tivoli (top) courtesy of Dave Hunang/ Flickr. Image of department store Santa courtesy of Regine Debatty/ Flickr.