Those Nordic noir series on Netflix may have you believe that winter up north is a rather bleak time. Perhaps that’s why the Danes invented hygge, the concept of creating a cosy atmosphere with incandescent lighting, oversize knits, and good food and drink. And Copenhagen’s hygge game is on point in winter—thousands of fairy lights light up the streets, restaurants bring out comfort food and blankets, and there’s glögg (mulled wine with raisins, almonds, and spices) to keep you warm. So, bundle up and get ready to have a magical time in Copenhagen’s winter wonderland.
A New Nordic restaurant making waves in Copenhagen is Relæ on Jægersborggade, ranked 39th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List in 2017. Seasonal vegetables take centre stage in dishes such as sashimi of yellow beets with pickled elderflower, and fried salsify with salsify puree and bergamot (restaurant-relae.dk). Smørrebrød, that simple piece of rye bread topped with cold cuts, cheese, and pickled vegetables, has been elevated to an art form at Aamanns, which has three locations across the city. Try their classic herring, the Instagram-worthy avocado, or the bestselling chicken salad smørrebrød (aamanns.dk). Vegetarians, head to VeVe, located in a bright and airy refurbished warehouse in Østerbro. Sink into comfy blue-grey sofas and enjoy artistically plated Scandinavian dishes with an Asian influence like ‘Slurp of the Ocean’ (a faux oyster of sorts), miso flan, and mushroom and kimchi (veve.dk).
On the first Friday in November, the Danish celebrate the coming of Christmas with J-Dag—a day when julebryg or the Christmas beer is launched by Tuborg Brewery. Apart from Tuborg, many microbreweries also come up with their own julebryg. Try it at Nørrebro Bryghus, where the limited edition Christmas beer is redolent with spices like cinnamon, clove, and ginger, with just a hint of caramel (noerrebrobryghus.dk). Don’t miss Torvehallerne, a buzzing food hall and market where over 60 stalls sell fresh produce, artisan cheese, chocolates, honey, and baked goods (torvehallernekbh.dk). Another food court worth visiting is the newly opened one attached to Tivoli Gardens, where 15 food stalls offer a range of local and international dining options such as BobbaBella (a fast food offshoot of the Michelin-starred Kadeau restaurant), Café Norden (for a classic Danish café experience), and Gló (Icelandic restaurant serving healthy, organic food), all at budget-friendly prices (tivoligardens.com).
The iconic amusement park, Tivoli Gardens, celebrates its 175th anniversary this year with a spectacular winter landscape, beautiful light installations, and cosy Christmas markets. There are rides for all ages, from the classic carousel to the vintage wooden roller coaster dating to 1914 and the thrilling 262-foot-high Star Flyer. Strap on your skates and take a spin on the skating rink in front of the palatial Nimb hotel, and then treat yourself to a warm waffle topped with ice cream at the old-school patisserie Vaffelbageriet.
Apart from the Christmas market inside Tivoli, Copenhagen hosts several other markets—we recommend the canal-side one on the picturesque Nyhavn harbour which is lined with festive stalls selling glögg, hot chocolate, and sizzling sausages, as well as handicrafts and jewellery. If you’re in Copenhagen on December 13, don’t miss the Saint Lucia Kayak Parade on the Nyhavn canal when hundreds of brightly lit kayaks throng the canal waters and kayakers dressed in Santa outfits sing legends about Saint Lucia. Other Christmas market locations include Kongens Nytorv, Højbro Plads, and Freetown Christiania. These markets are a great spot to pick up trinkets like Christmas tree ornaments, Santa figurines, and colourful knitwear for family and friends.
Since it’s Copenhagen, you can enjoy some glögg on a canal cruise. Hop aboard a Hey Captain boat for an hour-long ride with a warm glass of glögg or hot chocolate in hand, gliding along the Royal Danish Playhouse, Black Diamond Library, Royal Palace, Christianshavns Kanal, and the iconic Circle Bridge. We recommend taking a tour near sunset, at about 3 p.m., to catch the city lights coming on (heycaptain.dk; DKK200/Rs2,260). Wind up the night at one of the many jazz venues around the city like Jazzhus Montmartre, a historic jazz club near Nyhavn with a stellar line-up of concerts (jazzhusmontmartre.dk).
Boutique hotel lovers, book a room at the Nimb inside Tivoli Gardens. All but one of its 38 rooms and suites look out over the gardens. Each room is uniquely designed with antique wooden furniture and contemporary Danish artworks—there’s a two-person Philippe Starck bathtub in the bathroom (nimb.dk; doubles from DKK2,800/Rs31,600).
If you prefer a classic luxury hotel, there’s nothing better than Hotel D’Angleterre at Kongens Nytorv near Nyhavn. This historic hotel dates to 1755 and is all about understated elegance. It’s home to the Michelin-starred restaurant Marchal, Balthazar—Denmark’s first champagne bar, and the only indoor pool in Copenhagen (dangleterre.com; doubles from DKK3,650/Rs41,200).
Chain hotels rarely come with a dash of personality, but the Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Copenhagen, will change your mind. Designed by Arne Jacobsen—who reinvented modern Danish furniture and design with his minimalist style—it was built in the 1960s and is considered to be one of the world’s first design hotels. Its rooms and common areas are dotted with Jacobsen’s iconic Swan, Egg, and Pot chairs, and other Danish Modernism designs (radissoncollection.com; doubles from DKK1,840/Rs20,770).
For a centrally located option, try Absalon Hotel, a modern design hotel in the hip Vesterbro district with the cool bars of Meatpacking District just steps away (absalon-hotel.dk; doubles from DKK1,125/Rs12,700).
Everybody heads to Strøget at some point when wandering about Copenhagen. This pedestrian street is a Mecca for shopaholics, featuring everything from high street to luxury brands. Here, you will also find the contemporary furniture and design boutique HAY House (hay.dk), Royal Copenhagen’s classic porcelain (royalcopenhagen.com), and the Danish design homeware store Illums Bolighus (illumsbolighus.com).
On the other hand, Jægersborggade in Nørrebro is lined with some of the coolest indie shops in the city like Tricotage for chic clothing (tricotage.dk), Vanishing Point for curated craftworks (vanishing-point.dk), CMYK kld for reasonably priced prints and artworks (butikcmyk.dk), and Keramiker Inge Vincents’ studio for unusual handmade pieces of thinware porcelain (vincents.dk).
If you’re strapped for time, go on a private shopping tour with CPH:cool. Depending on your interests, a guide will curate a visit to fashion and design shops to help you find the best in Scandi chic (cphcool.dk; from DKK1,650/Rs18,620, group rates available).
While Copenhagen has many things to keep you occupied, how about making a day trip to a whole different country? The Danish capital is connected to Malmö in Sweden by the Øresund Bridge, a combination of an underwater tunnel and a curving, cable-stayed bridge. The journey takes a mere 20 minutes so you can zip over to explore Malmö’s modern architecture: don’t miss the skyscraper Turning Torso, a futuristic spiralling structure. Pound its shopping streets, savour a plateful of Swedish meatballs at the lively pub-restaurant Bullen (bullen.nu), and finally take a fika break with strong coffee and a scrumptious cinnamon roll at Lilla Kafferosteriet (lillakafferosteriet.se) or Kaka på kaka (kakapakaka.se). Take a tour with Tour Swedish Copenhagen, where the guide will pick you up from Copenhagen and drive you over to Malmö and neighbouring Lund for a day of Swedish exploration (swedishcph.dk; €145/Rs11,500).
Air India operates direct flights from Delhi to Copenhagen four times a week, aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Flights from cities such as Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore require at least one stop at gateway cities like Dubai, Istanbul, Paris or Amsterdam. Indians require a tourist visa for Denmark. The application form can be downloaded at dk.vfsglobal.co.in and submitted at a VFS centre along with relevant documents. A tourist visa costs Rs6,452 including service fee, and takes about 15 working days to process.