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 As an exchange student here in Copenhagen from Texas, I’ve heard a lot of talk about the concept of “hygge”—a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that brings happiness and well-being in Danish culture. I typically associate this concept with the holiday season, particularly Christmas, which seems to be a huge deal in Denmark. In speaking with my Danish colleagues, I’ve heard that the Danes like to lean into the Christmas spirit because of their tendency to romanticize the winter season and display their patriotism. As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, I’ve definitely experienced a growing difficulty to get out of bed, gain motivation, and live life as usual. The Christmas festivities in Copenhagen, however, bring me a lot of excitement, joy, and comfort during my last month living in this wonderful place. As I grow out of my childhood and establish my life as an adult (I’m twenty), I’ve realized how easy it is to let the excitement of the holidays slip away. The magic that was once felt as a kid sparkles a bit less, and the celebration feels a lot more abrupt. Additionally, I increasingly understand how the holidays can actually be a particularly difficult time for those who have lost loved ones, for example. I hope that through sharing the experience of Christmastime in Denmark, I can help reinvigorate your passion for the holidays, no matter what situation you find yourself in. 

1. Christmas Markets

The first Christmas activity I engaged in this year was walking through the markets at Nyhavn and Kongens Nytorv. This is a lovely way to spend your time with friends, family, or even by yourself. I personally strolled through the markets with a goal in mind—shop for gifts! If you’re a foreigner in Copenhagen, this is a great way to find very unique, personalized, and meaningful gifts to bring back to your loved ones in time for Christmas. Hand painted Danish flag ornaments, vintage sign collections, and printed dough rollers are just some of many trinkets you can find here. Even better, the markets light up at nighttime, creating a wonderful energy in one of the busiest areas of Copenhagen.

Even if you aren’t searching for gifts, the holiday markets in Copenhagen offer a wide variety of foods and drinks, making for a great outing when your stomach is growling. You’ll be tempted by pizza, barbecue, hot chocolate, churros, donuts, candies, and much more.   

2. Tivoli

The second holiday activity I did was arguably the best—visiting Tivoli. Tivoli during Christmastime is difficult to describe in words to someone who has never been before. The only thing I can think to say is: Winter Wonderland. I recommend you go at nighttime, when the lights can really shine. Also be sure not to miss the Nutcracker-themed lightshow on the lake that plays every hour or so. You can view times on the Tivoli website. Walking through Tivoli on a cold night is one of the most magical things I’ve ever experienced. It feels like you’ve entered a different reality, escaping the hustle and bustle of city life to immerse yourself in childlike-wonder and fantasy. 


In addition to walking around and seeing the Christmas decor, you can shop in Tivoli, as there are boutiques scattered throughout the park with all kinds of knick-knacks, including unique holiday decor. There are also many food options, from sit down upscale restaurants to small corner stands selling cider and sweet treats. If you’re brave enough, you can also buy a pass to hop on the various amusement rides. Tivoli even offers their own performance of the Nutcracker, so be sure to look at the schedule if that interests you as well. 

Overall, Tivoli has something for just about anyone. This stop is number one on my list—no matter how much time you have in Copenhagen, make this visit a priority. 

3. The Nutcracker

Lastly, The Royal Danish Theater puts on George Balanchine’s classic, The Nutcracker, throughout December. As a former pre-professional ballet dancer, The Nutcracker holds a special place in my heart, and I immediately got my hands on some tickets this season. Though I haven’t seen it yet, I am thrilled to see the Royal Danish Ballet’s rendition of the show. This is a great activity to do, especially if the cold and darkness is getting to you but you still want to be out and about! 
 

As you can see, Christmas in Copenhagen is incredibly special and a privilege to experience. This season brings brightness to a gloomy city during the winter, igniting excitement and spirit. I look forward to my next few weeks here, as I get to dive into this culture—and I hope you can too, even if not in Copenhagen. 

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