What comes to your mind when you think of Copenhagen in the winter? Cold, probably. And that’s without mentioning the lack of daylight in December and January, or the brutal wind that batters the city (and all of Denmark, for that matter).
So why the hell would you want to visit Copenhagen during the winter?
Because other than autumn, it’s the best time to be here. I don’t make the rules; I simply state the facts.
Before you close your browser tab and leave an angry comment on my Instagram, hear me out. If you’re willing to stick around and not throw profanities, you’ll discover five reasons Copenhagen is worth visiting during the colder months.
It’s Not *That* Cold
Copenhagen is in Scandinavia, and Scandinavia is really far north. That must mean that Copenhagen is cold throughout the winter, right?
Well, no (sort of, anyway).
Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki are often bitterly cold during the winter months. It’s rare for temperatures to rise above freezing in the Finnish capital, and temperatures in Oslo are frequently below -5ºC – especially at night. Stockholm is hardly known for being Barbados, either.
Compared to the other Nordic capitals, Copenhagen has relatively mild winters. In the morning, you can expect temperatures between -2ºC and 3ºC; daytime ones tend to hover around 4ºC.
Sometimes, you’ll get pretty cold spells; in my first year here, we had a few weeks where the temperature didn’t rise above freezing, and many of the waterways froze over. However, these tend to be the exception rather than the norm.
If you’ve heard of one Danish word, it’s almost certainly “hygge”. You can’t really explain what it is; it’s something you have to feel. Some class it as feeling cosy, but I don’t think that’s 100% accurate; it has instances of that, but it’s also the feeling of contentment.
Anyway, whatever – the bottom line is that winter is the best time of year to experience whatever hygge actually is. As soon as the temperatures drop, the cinnamon-tinted hot drinks and lights come out; that’s ramped up to the maximum in December.
January is often more depressing than December, but you’ll still find plenty of welcoming cafés and bars to hop into. It’s an excellent time to discover what makes Denmark tick, and if you’re feeling a little alone on the streets, you’ll find pretty much all of the locals hiding from the weather in these places.
Speaking of people, winter is an excellent time to visit Copenhagen if you don’t want to deal with massive crowds. While many locals go on holiday for most (if not all) of July, they’re replaced with tourists. And for the remainder of the warmer months, you’ll notice that pretty much everyone in Copenhagen will be outside.
If you come to the Danish capital in mid-January, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’ve accidentally detoured to a seaside town instead. You’ll have many of the streets entirely to yourself, and the same goes for the bike lanes outside of rush hour on weekdays.
Winter is also an excellent time to enjoy some of Copenhagen’s outdoor wonders with fewer people. For example, Nyhavn is generally peaceful early in the morning – and you won’t need to get there until around 08:30 in December and early January to catch the rays (if they decide to pierce through the grey sky, anyway).
More Accommodation Options
It’s no secret that Copenhagen can get pretty expensive, especially if you’re a visitor. One of the best and easiest ways to reduce your costs is by picking less expensive accommodation, but the obvious catch-22 is that the more affordable options are booked up quickly during the busier months.
If you’re visiting on a budget, winter is the best time to come to Copenhagen. Yes, we have a few tourists – but most people travelling at this time are doing so for business. As a result, you’ve got plenty more hotels, hostels, and Airbnb rentals to choose from.
In many places, you’ll also find that hotel rates are lower during these months. So, in addition to being more likely to find something in a better location, you might be able to find something a little fancier that would otherwise have been out of your price range.
Danish baked goods are up there with the best in the world, and the fact they don’t get more attention is a little absurd. And during the winter, you can counteract the rain and darkness by finding several that are specific for this time of year.
January might be a bit of a rubbish time to visit weather-wise, but you should 100% come to Copenhagen towards the end of the month for fastelavnsboller. Think of heaven with a spike in your blood sugar levels; that’s pretty much what they are.
Even though you can find them year-round, winter is also an excellent time to try cinnamon buns from one of many of Copenhagen’s many excellent cafés and bakeries.
Around Christmas time, you’ll find plenty of sweet treats worth trying as well. Brunkager are effectively ginger biscuits, but they’re Danish and therefore better. Also worth trying are æbleskiver; you’ll find these delightful balls of dough at pretty much any Christmas market you go to.
What Should You Bring When You Visit Copenhagen in the Winter?
Since moving to Denmark, I’ve had to buy no fewer than five jackets and multiple pairs of shoes to deal with the ever-changing weather. So, if you’re wondering what to wear in Copenhagen during the winter, I feel your pain.
First and foremost, you can probably leave that heavy-duty Arctic jacket at home. While the Danish capital can sometimes get bitterly cold, this is the exception rather than the norm. Of course, though, it’s worth bringing if you notice that the forecast expects it to be -10ºC or below; I don’t really want to be responsible for you freezing to death.
Bringing a good waterproof jacket is essential, and one that will protect you against the wind is even better. The most versatile one you can get is a long jacket that also has padding; you can find these in some of Copenhagen’s department stores, and they’re an excellent long-term investment – even if a little expensive.
You should also bring wool clothing, such as jumpers and turtlenecks. Copenhagen often feels colder than it is, and these are both practical and stylish – fitting in perfectly with the general Danish aesthetic.
As any Scandinavian will tell you, it’s also important to layer up. You should have one baselayer, followed by a sweater and jacket. Wool scarves and a good pair of gloves are also necessary; if it’s particularly cold, you should layer up your gloves as well.
Bringing a stylish wool hat is also a good idea. If you’re a bit miffed with the sports team one you’ve got, you can also purchase a better-looking hat at one of the city’s several clothing outlets.
If the weather gets really cold, it’s also worth bringing a pair of long johns to wear under your trousers.
Copenhagen: A Year-Round City
It’s easy to be put off by the idea of visiting Copenhagen in the winter, but you’re missing out on a lot if you choose not to. Yes, the weather sometimes sucks, and yes, it’s often dark. However, there’s so much to see and do here that you can guarantee rewarded efforts.
Visiting Copenhagen in the winter means more space to do what you want, uncovering “hygge” on a deeper level and better accommodation for your budget. Grab your jacket, book that flight, and come here to join the fun.
Have you been to Copenhagen in the winter? If so, what are your tips for things to do and staying warm? 🇩🇰