Christmas in Copenhagen: A Real-Life Whoville!!!

There are few places in the world like Copenhagen during Christmas. As a lover of the holiday season and an avowed fan of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I was in awe of the place during my trip in December of 2016. You may have heard of the concept of hygge, a Danish word that is best defined as a sense of content coziness. There is nothing more hygge-alicious than wandering the Christmas markets of Copenhagen while sipping a steamy cup of mulled wine, or gløgg in Danish. The Danes, renowned for their impeccable taste in design, sure know how to decorate a city for the holidays. I admittedly love me some colorful, gaudy – quite possibly tacky – Christmas lights (lookin’ at you, Madrid), but you won’t see these in the streets of Copenhagen. Instead, I found Danish yuletide decor to be more refined: pristine white lights line city streets and buildings, complemented by the occasional splash of color from a heart or pine bough. Don’t misinterpret my analysis: Copenhagen holiday décor is NOT boring in the least. It’s actually awesome and ultra chic. And the city has tons of color year-round: A stop at Nyhavn Harbor or a stroll through the city center will make that abundantly clear.

The bright colors of Nyhavn Harbor in the morning
The colorful streets of Copenhagen
Light-studded decor on a building in the city center
Hotel D’Angleterre decked out in icicles
Street decor in the city center
White lights line the streets along with a typical Copenhagen sight – bikes!

Now that you’ve gotten a general feel for Christmas in Copenhagen, here are some highlights of my visit to the Danish capital during the most wonderful time of the year:

Wine-induced wandering through Christmas Markets.

In December, Christmas markets pop up all over Copenhagen. These treasure troves of hygge sell sweet Danish treats, cheese, Christmas trinkets, furs, hot cider, and – best of all – gløgg! This warm spiced wine is often served with raisins, sliced almonds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, so it’s a tad sweet and very tasty. You’ll basically feel incomplete when you’re wandering market stalls and not drinking it. Good thing Copenhagen has enough markets all over the city so that you can get your fix pretty constantly and keep that holiday buzz goin’. Keep an eye out for Aebleskiver, which are small pancake-like balls coated in powdered sugar and often served with jam. Don’t be fooled by the name – this isn’t apple strudel and, in fact, it’s typically not even made with apples. Regardless, it’s yummy. Here is the site I used to organize my visit to the Christmas markets of Copenhagen.

Entrance to a Christmas market
In addition to mulled wine, the Christmas markets in Copenhagen have a variety of boozy options to warm you up, including spiked hot cider! Woooo
Aebleskiver at a Christmas market
Some warm furs for sale at the Christmas market – sadly, they weren’t faux 🙁
A customer paying for aebleglogg with his phone at a street market. The Danes make it easy to get your glogg fix 😉

A Christmas table exhibition. Yes, a full-blown display of super cool Christmas table settings.

Royal Copenhagen, a high-end Danish home goods store, hosts a yearly exhibition of decorated Christmas tables. See – the Danish do Christmas so well that they even incorporate it into the worlds of art, culture, and fashion. The six tables on display every year are set by different designers and celebrities, some Danish and some international, using items from Royal Copenhagen’s collections. The idea is that the artists put their personal spin on Christmas table décor; the curious part is that sometimes the end product leaves you wondering whether it’s even a “Christmas table” at all. Needless to say, this creative, oh-so-Danish spectacle draws tons of visitors who want inspiration for their own homes. I think this idea is mega cool and so unique – where else in the world can you see a fashionable Christmas table exhibition?! It’s also free – all you have to do is walk in the Royal Copenhagen store.

Table 1: This table was set by Leyla Piedayesh, a fashion designer of Iranian heritage and founder of lala Berlin. Middle Eastern influence abounds in this colorful table, complete with seat cushions and tropical fruit.
Table 2: This funky set-up by Danish fashion designer Cecilie Bahnsen looks more like a design studio than a Christmas table! This display fuses the worlds of work and play, setting drawing tools on one side of the table and Christmas dinner on the other.
Table 3: Danish fashion designer Charlotte Eskildsen defies traditional notions of Christmas with this pretty-in-pink table. Inspired by the dominant color trends in the fashion world at the time, Eskildsen unites various textures and surfaces through the color pink.
Table 4: Rikke Baumgarten and Helle Hestehave from Baum und Pferdgarten, a Danish design house, present a “deconstructed” table that ROTATES in a circle! Images of the Mad Hatter come to mind as you behold this table in the design duo’s fave color, blue.
Table 5: Ole Yde, a Danish fashion designer, was inspired by Marie Antoinette in his creation of a table display whose disorderly appearance is a sign of a lively party!
Table 6: Fashion designer Mark Kenly Domino Tan creates an elegant scene filled with organic shapes. Of all six tables, I’d say this comes closest to a “conventional” Christmas table setting.

Tivoli Gardens: Real-life Whoville, also known as heaven on earth.

During the holidays, Tivoli Gardens transforms into a Christmas-themed amusement park. I get it – this concept can either excite you (cue images of Whoville and Cindy Lou Who) or frighten you (cue images of creepy run-down rides and too many kids screaming). When planning my visit to Tivoli, I asked myself a few questions: How long should I be there? What will I do? Will the park’s entertainment be geared solely toward little kids who’ll be running around as I feel like an out-of-place 25 year old? I dismissed Tivoli as a childlike and potentially #awk experience, so I ended up telling myself this quote from Jim Carrey’s legendary portrayal of the Grinch: “Alright. I’ll swing by for a minute, allow them to envy me, grab a handful of popcorn shrimp, and blow outta there”………

Hm. Problem is I didn’t just swing by for a minute – I spent a whole three hours just strollin’ around the park all by my lonesome before I “blew outta there.” I had so much fun in the park that I stayed for three damn hours, all alone, haha. After just a few minutes in Tivoli, I realized my previous perception of it was all wrong. My yuletide dreams had actually come true: I was in the closest thing to Whoville I had ever seen, and I was in heaven. Forget Disney: in December, this place feels like “the happiest place on Earth.” The Danes make the idea of a Christmas amusement park work flawlessly…ugh, duh. Here are some details about this spectacle that stood out to me:

  • Danish décor and lights. The park is perfectly decorated – Christmasy but elegant. Almost everything in the park is draped in lights, from the buildings to the trees. And, of course, Illums Bolighus, the celebrated Scandinavian design mecca, has a booth showcasing the finest in home furnishings for the season.
Entrance to Tivoli Gardens, reminiscent of the light-lined houses of Whoville
Amazing lights at Tivoli: The vine-like branches of the weeping willow to the right are all meticulously lined with lights…It’s amazing!
Christmas tree at Tivoli – Could be where the Whos sing Welcome Christmas?!
Illums Bolighus booth at Tivoli
  • Gløgg and grub (and gløgg). There are booths all over the park selling food and snacks, just like in any good Christmas market. Sipping on gløgg as I wandered through Tivoli didn’t only keep me warm: it got me boozy enough to feel like a kid in a Christmasy candy store, hehe.
Taking down some aeblesliver in Tivoli
  • The Nimb Hotel. The elegant Nimb Hotel (see the main image at the top of this post) on the grounds of the park is spectacularly lined with lights for the season. Upon seeing the hotel,  I couldn’t help but think of this scene from the movie The Grinch. As you’ll see in the clip, the hotel’s stud-like light bulb decor looks almost exactly like Martha May Whovier‘s newly decorated house. The hotel is most magnificent at nightfall, so make sure to take a few instagram-worthy photos here.
The Nimb Hotel at Tivoli Gardens
  • The rides. Tivoli is in fact an amusement park, so what would it be without rides? You have to buy a separate ticket to ride the attractions, but just meandering through this part of the park is worthwhile. The ambience is jovial and the decorations are themed to represent different countries, like China, Japan, and Morocco.
Lanterns under the rollercoasters at Tivoli Gardens
Rollercoasters, a pagoda, and rowboats on the lake at Tivoli

Although Scandinavia is known for its long summer days, a visit to Copenhagen during the Christmas season is essential. This three-day long-weekend excursion was undoubtedly one of my favorite trips of all time. It’s still not too late to get started on planning your trip to Copenhagen this December!

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