Summer in Scandinavia brings long (mostly) sunny days, celebrations, and many ways to soak up some culture. While you can find ways to witness great art, music, and architecture any time of the year here, summer brings it all outside. Let’s all go al fresco.
In Denmark, the summer season officially begins on the 1st of June and ends at the end of August. If you’re here within these three glorious months, these are some of the fun things you could potentially experience. Sharing a diverse list of all sorts of Danish culture come summer.
These are meant to supplement my full list of must-dos for an epic Copenhagen summer. New to Denmark? You might want to start there. But read on to put these events on your wish list to plan, book tickets, or just save the date to not miss the great events.
READ MORE: SUMMERTIME IN COPENHAGEN – 10 MUST DOS
Royal Danish Ballet outdoor performances | Kongelig Sommerballet
Ballet has a long and storied history in Denmark and some of the oldest ballets – still performed – in the world were choreographed by Danish legend August Bournonville himself. Dancers come from around the world to learn the famous Bournonville technique to perform his ballets like “La Sylphide” and “Napoli.” Lucky for you, come summer, the Royal Danish ballet takes a smaller show to the streets.
Kongelig Sommerballet is a series of performances on al fresco stages across the country. Check the schedule online to see if a castle, harbor, or park near you is hosting a showing this season. For 2023 – you can catch the show in Copenhagen at Ofelia Plads by the water Sunday 18 June. Best of all? It’s completely free.
WHEN: Different dates each year. In Copenhagen 18 June 2023.
Midsummer bonfires to celebrate Sankt Hans Aften
After Denmark’s dark and damp winter, the long, drawn-out days of summer are something to celebrate. And the Danish midsummer celebration might be the most ancient of the country’s traditions. Sankt Hans Aften (or Saint John’s Eve) is named for John the Baptist, but the Danish tradition of lighting a bonfire on the beach to celebrate the summer solstice started well before the Vikings embraced Christianity.
Here Midsummer festivities happen on the 23rd of June every year. While modern Danes may no longer believe in witches, it’s traditional to set a doll or effigy atop fires just to ensure evil spirits stay away. With any potential dark forces put aside, friends and families gather for dinner and drinks before speeches and songs as the fires are set alight near dusk.
Wondering where to take in the action? Lots of spots right in town hold programs and bonfires – popular spots are the floating pyre at Ofelia Plads, Blågårds Plads, and Tivoli Gardens (entry ticket required.) I personally prefer to participate at the beach, pack a picnic and even a swimsuit. One of the biggest and best is at Bellevue Strand, just north of town in Klampenborg, easily reachable by local S-train.
Check with local authorities about who is hosting where and don’t be disappointed when dry spells deem the lighting of fires unsafe. Raise a glass with your friends and celebrate the longest day of the year anyway. Cheers.
WHEN: 23 June every year
Graduation truck rides and student celebrations
In Denmark towards the end of June? Wondering where all the loud honking, music, and whistles are coming from? Chances are you’re visiting during Danish graduation season. White-capped high school graduates rumble through town aboard open-air trucks as they move from each classmate’s house.
It’s crazy and fun and usually only a weekend long. Wave them on and wish them well – they earned it! Want to know a bit more about the traditions and culture around graduating gymnasium in Denmark – read more on this post. Cheers!
WHEN: 21 – 25 June 2023
Guided tour of Fredensborg Palace and gardens
See how the Danish Royal Family lives as you step inside their most popular residence during a guided tour of the Fredensborg Palace and private gardens. It’s a beautiful day out in Denmark, just north of Copenhagen.
For a month each summer, you can book tickets to tour the reigning Queen’s private residence. Don’t expect a sighting of Dronning Margrethe, II as she’s off to her summer palace somewhere else. It’s the only time you’re allowed in the house and the private Royal Gardens. Tours occur daily for all of July, with two in English at 13:45 and 14:45. Book ahead online.
WHEN: All of July (2023)
If vintage automobiles are your kind of culture, mark your calendars for Copenhagen’s Historic Grand Prix. Held annually the first weekend of August for three days different classes of vintage and retro cars race around Bellahøj Park. Exhibitions, car club displays and interactive activities offer for visitors more than just rubber tires screaming down the track. But most people come just for that. Check online for the program to catch your favorite kind of automobile challenge its class.
WHEN: First weekend of August every year
Copenhagen Pride Week and Parade
While celebrating Pride may not be a uniquely Copenhagen thing, the Danes do it big. “Denmark was the first country in the world to grant legal recognition to same-sex unions in the form of registered partnerships in 1989.” LGTBQIA2S+ rights in this Scandinavian country rank among the best around.
This year’s theme is #ComeTogether, worth raising a few flags and dancing in the streets. Even better? Copenhagen will be the first all-electric vehicle Pride Parade ever. Greener and brighter? Yes, please. Check the CPH Pride website for all the events, performances, and talks that will be planned over the entire week.
WHEN: 12 – 20 August | Parade: 19 July 2023
Shakespeare on the lawn in the Copenhagen Botanical Garden
Rounding out the end of summer, bring a picnic dinner and even a bottle to share before an open-air performance of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” by the Afterhours Theater Company. From 15 August to 2 September, spend an evening outside in Copenhagen’s beautiful Botanisk Have (Botanical Gardens) watching a modern take on this classic comedy. Performances all in English. Get tickets online. Gates open to enjoy the lawn and blooms from 18:00 and play begins at 19:00. I can highly recommend.
WHEN: 15 August – 2 September 2023
“If we shadows have offended,-A Midsummer Nights Dream, Shakespeare
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.”