Winter Light Festival Illuminates Copenhagen Harbor
February is GETTING a little brighter
Copenhagen is winning at winter. This year for sure. This is our fourth winter in the Danish capital and speaking from experience, I feel a little like a winner myself whenever I make it past January on the calendar. While all that Danish hygge definitely helps, I was more than happy to hear that the city has added a little illumination to the night, letting Copenhagen lighten up this winter. Enter the Copenhagen Light Festival all over the city celebrating the Danes special connection with design and oh-so-luscious lighting.
Once Copenhagen jumps into the New Year with one of the best celebrations in the world, the lights usually turn off and January can be dark and damp. Life turns indoors and we all cozy up with friends and coffee and Netflix normally. Hygge this. I’m ok with the downturn, but am also grateful when it goes. You can feel the days getting incrementally longer come February. Halleluia. Happy dance. And while the month is still brisk and may bring some snow, it now affords some reasons to get outside after dusk. Bust out your best mittens, scarves, beanies and boots and beeline to the city to see the lights. Lighten up Copenhagen!
RELATED: COPENHAGEN HAS THE BEST NEW YEAR’S EVE IN THE WORLD
CRUISE THE COPENHAGEN CANALS AFTER DARK
Throughout the month, you can get a good overview of the installations along the canals. Take a guided canal boat cruise with Stromma. 45 minutes beginning at 19:00, you can get out on the water in a heated and covered canal boat. A classic start to any sight-seeing tour of the town, it is pretty cool after dark. Bundle up and sit outside if you dare. We loved the dark water lit up with the lights. But hurry and book soon, limited seats are filling up fast.
Tickets: 100 kr
Leaves from Ved Stranden dock near Højbro Plads.
INSPIRING LIGHT FESTIVALS ABROAD
Our first experience with a city-sponsored light festival was in Berlin for Lichterfest back in 2016. In a rainy, cold October break it provided a nice break from the damp autumn weather. Lichterfest had a broader scope than we found here in Copenhagen, but the Danes do it their way. Always. Minimal and well designed, Denmark knows how to make an impact, even if subtly.
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BEST OF COPENHAGEN LIGHT FEST
The program for Copenhagen Light Festival evolves over the month with new exhibits cropping up and fading out each week. Check the website for the up-to-date schedule of exhibits. Here were our favorites from the opening weekend that you should be able to see throughout the month.
LOCATION: Kalvebod Bølge
ARTIST: Mads Vegas
142 fluorescent lamps align along the harbor bridges in front of Kalvebod Brygge creating a virtual sundown of light. With a near rainbow of blues to sunny reds and oranges and yellows, this installation is sure to bring sunshine to the harbor all month.
LOCATION: Ofelia Plads
ARTIST: Vertigo (Formerly Obscura Vertigo)
The Wave is an impressive interactive light and sound display that encourages participants engagement. Walk through. Listen. Absorb. Be mesmerized. It’s amazing. Returning for the second time to Copenhagen, The Wave is part of the Frost Festival 2018 and sits on the harbor in the modern cultural space known as Ofelia Plads. One of my favorite places to soak up summer, Ofelia Plads is the place to be once again this winter.
HONORING A MASTER OF LIGHT
LOCATION: Louis Poulsen Showroom, Gammel Strand 28
ARTIST: Jakob Kvist
If you haven’t heard of Danish hygge – then seriously where have you been? And whether or not you are fed up with hearing hygge hyped in all parts of the world, it will always be part of the Danish DNA. Part of creating a space for hygge is getting the atmosphere right. Here in Denmark, that means investing in good lighting. If you have the means, a light from Danish light design company Louis Poulsen is the way to go. Many of the Danish design greats have created masterpieces in lamps and overhead lighting for Louis Poulsen. I’m coveting one of the bright Poul Henningsen pendant lamps, still the original design but now in updated delicious colors. One of each please. Can’t afford a designer lamp? You can soak up the light emanating from their showroom this month. I love the rainbow fruit stripe colors of this installation by artist Jakob Kvist.
LASER BEAM | LIGHT ON NIKOLAJ
LOCATION: Nikolaj Plads 10, 1067 København K
ARTIST: Martin Ersted
Nikolaj Kunsthal just off Højbro Plads is lit up with changing lights, but what is truly impressive is the giant green laser beam that points to the tower all the way from Tivoli. With a new winter season open at the amusement park, you can extend your winter wonderland of sparkly lights with activities like ice skating and rides under the lights.
RELATED: ALWAYS TIME FOR TIVOLI
COPENHAGEN ARCHITECTURAL ICONS USE LIGHT DESIGN
Many of Copenhagen’s most iconic architecture already utilizes light as part of their design. As you may have already gleaned, the Danes have placed a high value on creating atmosphere with light. Basically since the dawn of electricity in Denmark. From creating those happy hygge filled spaces inside to lessening the dark Danish winters outside. Come to Copenhagen she said. And see these quintessential buildings, many with permanent light displays and some now even more exciting this season.
COPENHAGEN OPERA HOUSE
Three round light sculptures visible through the windows of the Opera House are said to represent the red flag with three white dots of nearby freetown and hippy commune Christiania.
THE ROYAL DANISH PLAYHOUSE | SKUESPILSHUSET
The Danish playhouse sits right next to Ofelia Plads, so you can check it out when you go see The Wave. Take note of the thin fiber optic thread lights that hang like stars in the foyer. There are thousands of them that glitter through the glass windows over the harbor.
BØRSEN | THE OLD COPENHAGEN STOCK EXCHANGE
One of my favorite buildings in Copenhagen, the Børsen was originally home to the Danish Stock Exchange when opened in 1640. Since the mid-1800’s, the building has been used by the Danish Chamber of Commerce and is unfortunately not open to the public. But wander down the canal and enjoy the blue light installation in all the windows, known as The Danish Chamber of Light.
CIRKELBROEN | CIRCLE BRIDGE BY OLAFUR ELIASSON
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson who is responsible for the light sculptures at the Opera House has also utilized light on his Circle Bridge. The Cirkelbroen (in Danish) is super cool and interesting day or night. Find it sitting across the main canal from the dramatic Royal Library called the Black Diamond as it stretches over the exit of the Christianshavn Canal.
MAP OF FESTIVAL AND MORE INFORMATION
COPENHAGEN LIGHT FESTIVAL
Are you a big fan of light festivals? Have you been to others around the world? Check out this amazing list from Tracy’s Travels in Time to illuminate and inspire on where to light up next.
42 thoughts on “Lighten Up Copenhagen with Winter Light Festival”
How long are the lights on display? Will be able to see them when we visit?
Only this month! But don’t worry – there will be other stuff!
Erin, this is amazing, so beautiful! Especially the triangle tunnel!
The Wave is definitely my favorite!
Do airlines have to make changes to flight plans because of the strong green laser, or is the airport nowhere near there. I’m sorry I have no idea geographically where everything is in your city.
I think it’s low enough and far enough away from airport – but that is a great question that didn’t even cross my mind!!
Oh, I love light festivals! They really brighten up winter!!
Isn’t there a very good one in Amsterdam?
Ooooh. I need to head over there before it ends. I truly appreciate how Scandinavians incorporate light into the winter months. Thanks for the map. Purple John/Niche Travel design #farawayfiles
That is super lovely! There was a light festival in Vilnius as well, but it was mostly held in one area. This is cool that the lights are spread throughout the city! #farawayfiles
There could be a few more interactive things or building projections, but the ones they have are very cool.
Oh I love the Stromma installation and the lights along the bridge with the reflection of the water! This definitely lightens up the dark winter nights! #FarawayFiles
This has reminded me why I need to go back to Copenhagen. I was there as a child for a quick visit but rediscovered it in 2011 after my dad died. He had loved the city, staying for a while during his university summers when studying architecture. He would have loved to have seen all these wonderful buildings it up – what a great way to bring winter warmth.
I love that connection Trish – thank you for sharing. I wish I could share it with my dad as well, he would have loved the Danes and this city as well. Cheers from Denmark, Erin
Gorgeous light festival! What a great way to make the winter a little less bleak! #FarawayFiles
Exactly!! Definitely a bright spot this winter for sure!
Those lights really brighten up dark gloomy winter days! #FarawayFiles
Beautiful photos Erin! I would absolutely love to see a festival like this!
So beautiful, London had something similar with Lumiere but that only lasted for five days. So many reasons to visit Copenhagen at any time of year.
I didn’t know they had such a festival in Køben. Looks really cool! #farawayfiles
Brand new this year Bea!
Ah, hopefully it gets to be a tradition. I bet you Oslo will copy it, unless we already have, and I just haven’t heard about it 😀
Haha! Hope it does grow – it honestly helps motivate to go outside after dark here in Copenhagen in winter! Ha!
I love light festivals (Japan has some incredible “illuminations” around Christmas time)! The idea of hopping on a boat and admiring the light fixtures sounds magical!
So many amazing photos, some of which I remember from IG. I love the idea of taking a boat ride to see the lights – sounds magical, and the perfect way to get through winter! #farawayfiles
I would like to attend one of these light festivals. Looks like they are getting very popular all over the world. This is a good idea to lure people out of their houses during winter. The installations are so colorful. Even somebody like me would visit (and I avoid the cold as much as possible). #FarawayFiles
I love how this festival mixes modernity with the charm of your lovely city. And also, yes, any reason to get outside in those bleak days when the holidays have just ended, there’s only a few hours of daylight and it’s still freezing. I’m cheering for the earlier sunrises too over here in Madrid! #Farawayfiles
Are you a football fan in Madrid? Atlético Madrid was up here in Copenhagen playing FCK in the snow and sleet in Europa League match last night! Looked so cold! Brrrrrrr! Cheers from ??
I have never experienced real winter before. Friends who have experienced it feel that while the onset of winter is cool but by January, they wish it would go away soon! 🙂 When cities have activities/events like this to draw people out from homes even though it’s freezing, it’s much better to be out rather than being stuck at home indoors. Love your videos – the lights are amazing! #FarawayFiles.
Thanks Kat! I’m about the same – don’t mind the cold actually, it’s just the dark that gets to me after awhile – so something like this is perfect! Cheers from Copenhagen!
I love light festivals and am pleased to see that many big cities host them nowadays. A nice way to brighten up the long dark winters. #farawayfiles
It definitely works here in Denmark!
Shh! Don’t tell San Francisco that I’m saying this but these are way cooler than our lights! The triangles are probably my favourites. #FarawayFiles
Such a fabulous way of lighting up the cold, dark winter. I absolutely love the concept of the Wave and how interactive it is. I’d definitely escape the warm indoors for a while to explore these glorious lights. #FarawayFiles
Aah I adore light festivals! Nothing wrong with finding some ways to brighten up the wintertime. 🙂 I would love to experience The Wave in person! #farawayfiles
I love site-specific art works, there’s something so magical about witnessing them in place. I bet that triangle one is a Instagram favourite. #FarawayFiles
An understatement! It’s super popular!
I love the idea of cruising the canals after dark. A great reason to leave the cosines of inside #Farawayfiles
It seems more and more places are doing light events like this and I think it’s a really good idea. It’s easy to get the post xmas blues in Jan or Feb and a bit of colour really lightens your mood! #FarawayFiles
Exactly!! I will concur it helped in Copenhagen!
What a wonderful way of providing inspiration and creativity throughout the dreariest times of the winter. Brilliant stuff, and I am LOVING the look of that Opera House (never seen that before!).
Greetings from a small dark village in freezing Luxembourg (but I’m not bitter…)
They actually jump off the top of that Opera House in the summer for the Red Bull Cliff Jumping Tour – it’s insanity!