A Light Festival in the Capital Helps Cope With the Dark
SECOND ANNUAL COPENHAGEN LIGHT FESTIVAL ILLUMINATES THE CITY
It’s really no secret. Denmark truly can be dark, damp and chilly during the winter. But despite the lack of daylight, Copenhagen can also be all sorts of cozy at this time of year. There is hygge to be had, even in time spent outside. Bundle up. Let me enlighten you.
Did you see it? Yesterday? The first snow of the new year? Copenhagen woke to a powdered sugar coating of the white stuff. Winter in the capital. Personally, I adore it.
Walking paths Østre Anlæg Park Osterbro
B.T. Neon shines bright over Trianglen in Østerbro
Train tracks in the snow
Sculpture outside Thorvaldsens Museum
St. Alban’s Anglican Church near Kastellet
Alexander Nevsky Kirke – Russian Orthodox Church, Bredgade
Walking paths around Kastellet
The Little Mermaid | Kastellet
Colorful houses even brighter in the white
The old Stock Exchange, Børsen Building
Winter in Denmark can feel long, dark and damp. When the little white lights of a perfect Dansk Jul are boxed up and put away ‘til next… October, the limited daylight of January and into February here can be challenging. But if you are lucky, and like manna from heaven, the city becomes blanketed in fluffy white flaked goodness – watch out – Copenhagen’s charm shifts into overdrive. Snow. Snow. Snow! Sne in Danish.
Like a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, old buildings and bridges and spires seem to gleam in the white. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Head down The Lakes in the middle of Copenhagen and the paths overflow with people. Families pushing prams. Packs of teens on the prowl. Lovers clung together on benches. Runners scoot past and weave around the flow. Dogs and their walkers stroll casually, taking it all in. From the young to the old – you are sure to find throngs of people out enjoying. Especially when the snowfall abates and the Scandinavian sky lets the sun shine bright and the sky burn blue blue blue blue. Soak it up. People. Turn your faces to the sun. The Danes surely do.
And winter is a delightful time to visit Denmark. Don’t let the short days and dark nights dissuade you. The Danes do it right when it comes to winter. I had heard rumors that a few flurries and flakes here and the city is forced shut. But that is not the Copenhagen that I have come to know. And while they aren’t exactly Norwegians who ski up mountains with children on their back, the descended-from-Vikings-Danes are fairly hardy themselves, I have found.
Case in point, snow on the ground in Copenhagen doesn’t stop the bikers. The city is proud of their statistic that more than 50% of Copenhageners commute to work and to school by bike. There are physically more bikes in this city than people. To the casual observer, it doesn’t seem like winter puts much of a damper on travel by bicycle. It feels just as crowded during rush hour on the bike lanes in spite of the snow. Bundle up and roll on you Viking bikers. We have tried it and it definitely takes some skill and concentration!
The cyclists of Copenhagen cycle 1,240,000 km every day.
56% of Copenhageners who work or study in the city, commute by bike every day.
Copenhagen has a total of 454 km cycle lanes.
You have to bike 2.800 years to be involved in a serious accident, statistically.
Not exactly known for its deviations in elevation (one of the reasons that it is so easy to commute by bicycle) look hard enough and you can find a hill or two around Copenhagen. On a weekend in winter, cargo bikes chock full of snow-suited littles clutching their sleds, make their way to one of those few hills around town. If you are inclined, you can carve out a slice of space on the slope. Join in the crazy and watch out below! You are sure to encounter as many modes of sledging devices as there are bikes in Copenhagen.
SLEDDING HILLS AROUND COPENHAGEN:
Statens Museum for Kunst/Østre Anlæg Park
Corner of Sølvgade and Stockholmsgade, 2100 København Østerbro
Near Amager Strandvej and Hedegaardsvej, 2300 København S
Nearby: Femøren Metro Stop
Bernstorff Slot Garden
Jægersborg Alle 93, 2820 Gentofte
For more ideas and where you to rent a sled if visiting (or a sledge if you’re British) – click here.
Strollers and sleds on the snow – Statens Museum
Sledging on polar bears
Hold on – heading down the hill at Statens Museum
Heading up the hill for another sled down | Statens Museum
When you sled gets away from you – sledging at Statens Museum
Onesies and sleds
Statens Museum Sledding Hill
Up the sledding hill again, Statens Museum
Østre Anlæg Park winter fun
DRESS THE PART
When Danes do bundle – they bundle well and with style. Children under 11 are zipped into colorful one-piece snowsuits we call “onesies” and are darling capped off in their pointy gnome-looking hats. Onesies and snow are not mutually inclusive – as you will hear those suits swish swish swish swishing all season long. For women, you’ll find that here fur is fine. And women don’t relegate their full-length fox fur to Opera outings or the Ballet or Christmas parties or special events alone. It is perfectly acceptable to be worn to the shops, on the bus OR your bike. Not-fake OR faux, Danish fur takes on all shapes – from hats to boots to fringes on mittens.
Walking The Lakes
Østre Anlæg park winter fun
When the fur fits? Strollering The Lakes in style.
Donning fur for the dog’s winter walk | Østre Anlæg park
OR DARE TO BE BARE – GO WINTER BATHING
Even the Scandinavian sentiment – “there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate dress” flies out the window as Danes do like to disrobe for winter dips in the sea. You can go for it – really anywhere there is water – but having a warm sauna nearby makes it reasonably worth a try. Danes swear by the circulation-rejuvenating benefits and really don’t stay in very long. In and out and into the sauna. Maybe a double dip is doable if duly persuaded. Do it, you’ll see. You’ll feel glad i låget. Happy in the lid.
Try the Vinterbad at Islands Brygge on the Copenhagen Canal. Aren’t a member? Don’t know anyone who is? Don’t worry – they have guest days open to all.
The first Sunday of every month between the hours. 13:00 and 16:00.
Everyone is welcome and you do not need to be accompanied by a member. It is a free event and you do not need to register in advance. It is possible to bring people under 18 between the hours. 13:00 and 16:00. For guest bathing it will be possible to get an idea of what it means to be a winter swimmer.
You are allowed to: Go swimming in the Harbour Baths and try to sit in the sauna.
What must you do to participate to gæstebadedag:
You must arrive at the Harbour Bath between the hours. 13:00 and 16:00.
You must bring your bathing suit and towel. It may be a good idea to bring two towels. One you can sit in the sauna, and one you can dry you afterward.”
Some years, the temps dip low enough to freeze the local bodies of water and you can step out onto the ice for a spin. The city keeps tabs on the thickness and safety of doing so and posts signs letting you know if the ice is safe or not. Keep an eye for the blue signs stating “Færdsel på isen tilladt” which means that traffic on the ice allowed – but must take place within the barricaded area. But stay away if the signs state “isen er usikker.” The ice is decidedly not safe.
Make sure the ice is thick enough before venturing out – the city will post signs to let you know
Swans in Peblinge Sø | when The Lakes freeze in winter
Check this website for up to date information before heading out:
Prefer not to mess around with potential break throughs and unsafe conditions, the skating rink at the Frederiksberg Runddel is open every Saturday and Sunday from last weekend in November through the last weekend in February and will always be safe. Bring your own skates or rent right there.
So get out and enjoy or visit in winter! And once you are frozen or red-cheeked and tuckered, Copenhagen offers a million and one places to brush off the cold and defrost, if the sauna wasn’t enough. Candles and kaffe or varme chokolade shared with family or friends after a perfect day in the snow. This is truly what “hygge” means. A few of our favorite places are Original Coffee on Sortedams Dossering, Nordre Frihavnsgade or atop the department store Illum. Try Ipsen & Co. on Gammel Kongevej, Rist on Værnedamsvej or Mirabelle on Guldbergsgade. All ever so cosy with well-executed espressos, yummy baked goods and dare I say are all rigtigt hyggeligt*.
Enjoy! Skål! Cheers from Denmark.
Planning a winter trip? Know someone who might be? Pin it! Or share! Tak for det! Thanks for that!