Last year, many of the traditional Christmas markets in Copenhagen were cancelled. Theatre shows and recitals of ‘Handel’s Messiah’ were also impossible.
A corona lockdown from December 9 made it impossible to go out for a drink or meal, and sightings of Santa were rarer than moments of sunshine.
It was as if the northern hemisphere was finally heeding the immortal words of the Sheriff of Nottingham: “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.”
Better Xmas prospects
This year, it’s really hard to know what to expect, but the signs are good that there won’t be any serious restrictions.
Corona passes are needed to access the restaurants and bars, and there are capacity limits on most venues.
But the government seems committed to keeping society open, which is good news for everyone who doesn’t want to spend the Christmas season watching HBO Max.
Beyond the markets
On the next page of this newspaper you’ll find a wide range of Christmas markets. The more garish tend to be open every day, and the more crafts-orientated ones open for a limited time only.
And then on page 18, you’ll find a page of events for the fortnight ahead: some are Chrismassy and others not so much, but rest assured that our next paper (out on December 9) will be crammed full with festive fodder.
In conjunction with Eliaskirken, we’re releasing a special 16-page edition dedicated to the Danish Christmas.
In the meantime, we thought it might be apt to select a few activities worthy of your consideration over the next couple of months.
Just like Torvill & Dean
Without a doubt, there’s no better winter activity than ice skating, and the capital is well catered to.
Leading the way is Copenhagen Zoo (open daily 10:00-16:00) with a rink open until the end of Week 7 that enables visitors to pirouette whilst peering at the panda and penguins. A Christmas market, music, snacks, 500,000 lights, reindeer petting and daily appearances by Santa provide a bit of extra flourish.
Just over the bridge from Nyhavn, you’ll find Broens Skøjtebane (open daily until 21:00), a rink with wintry views over the harbour. Admittance is free, but skate hire will set you back 50 kroner an hour. Regular events, bars and food stalls ensure you can make a whole evening out of it.
Finally, there’s always something special about the rink at Frederiksberg Runddel near the main entrance to the famous park.
A trip back in time
Staying outdoors, why not try Frilandsmuseet, one of the oldest open-air museums in the world, where you get to experience the history of the Danish countryside.
Across the grounds, you can visit fully-furnished buildings recreated from the 1650s to the 1950s, frozen in time to give visitors a glimpse of the past and Christmas traditions through the ages.
Take a ride on the horse-drawn carriage, and maybe even catch a glimpse of a mischievous nisse: a type of elf that likes to play tricks on unsuspecting farmers. Or head on over to the kitchens, where bakers can be found grinding fresh flour from wheat grown on the grounds, filling the air with the smell of biscuits in the oven.
Families can get together to make their own Christmas decorations at the museum workshop. And children (for whom it’s free to enter) can meet some of the museum’s many animals: which include horses, pigs, sheep, and chickens.
Like the end in Titanic
A decade ago, it was a novelty. Today winter bathing is the norm, and most practitioners don’t need a sauna to jump into after a swim in freezing waters.
But if you don’t have a warm car to get into after your bracing dip, then you could do worse than visiting Copenhot (open Wed-Sun 12:00-19:00; Refshalevej 325, Cph K) where newcomers are given an introduction to winter bathing.
Instructors will take you on a 90-minute journey from hot to cold and across the Baltic Sea. Because once you’re in the fire-heated sauna with panoramic views of the harbour, the coldness will seem like a distant memory. And you can even take a tour of the harbour in a luxury ‘sailing hot tub’.
Remember that a law change has made it a punishable offence to swim in Copenhagen waters not designated as an official bathing zone, so should you not want to pay to winter bathe, you’re best advised going to Kalvebod Bølge in Vesterbro.
Down the gløgg hole
Hviids Vinstue is famous for many things, but best among them is their winter mulled wine, or – as the Danes aptly call it, gløgg. Taste all the warming winter spices of cinnamon, orange and cloves, infused in sweetened red wine, and served hot at Copenhagen’s oldest pub.
Right at the heart of the city, in Kongens Nytorv, Hviids Vinstue (Kongens Nytorv 19; open Mon-Thur 10:00-01:00, Fri-Sat 10:00-02:00, Sun 10:00-20:00) has seen nearly 300 years of the city’s history – and it’s worth a visit for the atmosphere alone.
The bar’s deep mahogany furniture illuminated by candlelight makes you feel like you’re stepping back into history, with stain-glass windows and paintings of the pub’s past patrons looking on.