In December, Copenhagen is a magical destination of twinkling lights. Perhaps its the long hours of darkness that prompts Danes to turn Copenhagen into Christmas cheer. Despite the dark that settles in about 3:30 pm, and the light that doesn’t appear until about 8 am, sightseeing is not hampered by the darkness, and the streets bustle with activity well into the evening.
In order to maximize a Copehagen experience, be mindful of where it’s best to be during daylight hours and where darkness is a bonus. Plus, because certain attractions are closed on various days, plan for that as well.
Here are some must-see recommendations based on my Copenhagen visits– two of them were exactly at this time of year.
Although Tivoli Gardens could be considered a high priced tourist attraction due to the hefty price of food, rides and arcade games, the admission is worth it in December.
Created in 1843 as a pleasure garden of flower beds, promenades, attractions and outdoor stages, Tivoli is a Copenhagen institution near the main train station.
For the holiday season, the park is decked out in yultide finery that revolves around a theme.
This year the theme combines a Russian and Nordic Christmas. Along with decorations that transport guests back to the wonders of childhood, Tivoli at Christmas boasts 50 craft vendors, several with affordable items, and Danish seasonal foods. Do try the Æblepandekager (apple pancakes) and glögg, a mulled wine drink.
Best time to visit: At night when holiday lights glitter and gleam throughout the park.
One of the best ways to take in the history and landmarks of Copenhagen is on a Canal Tours of Copenhagen boat. The one hour boat ride travels through waterways constructed starting in 1617 during the reign of King Christians IV.
The Canal Tours of Copenhagen’s itinerary includes the building where Hans Christian Anderson lived, the statue of the Little Mermaid, historic churches, castles and a variety of other buildings that highlight the city’s grandeur.
The tour guides speak impeccable English and point out spots to snap the best pictures. In December, bundle up and enjoy the view from an outside seat. But, if it feels too chilly in the open air, the boats do have covered and heated seating.
Because one of the Canal Tours of Copenhagen’s ticket booths and pick up points is at Nyhavn, one of the historic canals-take time to browse the booths at the Christmas market. The market is set up along one side of the canal this time of year. For an inexpensive eat, try a Polser–a hot dog that comes with various toppings.
Best time to visit: Try for a tour when it’s still light enough to see the landmarks you’ll pass, but when it will be dark enough afterwards to enjoy the warm glow of the Christmas market.
For a free look at the regalia of royalty, the Changing of the Guard at Amalienborg Palace is a don’t miss. Although the guards change their positions every two hours, the main event is at noon. Amalienborg Palace is the home of Queen Margrethe II, thus the reason for the guards.
Although Amalienborg Palace has a museum, if you are short on time, visit Rosenberg Castle instead. The castle, built in Dutch Renaissance style began as a summer house in 1605 and was added onto throughout several years. The castle and grounds are simply lovely.
A visit here offers insight into the lifestyle of Christian IV, his wife and his children. The castle stopped being used as a residence in 1710 by Christian IV’s great grandson Frederik IV.
If you go, pay the extra admission to see the collection of royal jewels in The Treasury. The jewels–a stunning array of crowns and jewelery are displayed in a separate part of the castle as another museum.
Best time to visit: Between 11 am –2 pm. During the winter, Rosenberg Castle is closed on Mondays. The Treasury, also closed on Mondays, is open until 4 pm.
Travel Tip: From the Changing of the Guard at noon, walk by foot to Rosenberg Castle. Then at 3 pm, head to Nyhavn for a Copenhagen Canal Tour. Afterwards, enjoy the Christmas market and then head to Tivoli Gardens.
Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association