What next after the German Christmas markets? Germany’s legendary Christmas markets draw the crowds each winter and rightly so. As I found out when I visited the Bavarian city of Regensburg a couple of weeks ago, they’re atmospheric, colourful and every bit as good as people say they are. You can read about the trip here:
So how do you top that? With a visit to Copenhagen: take the German Christmas market model, swap the Glühwein for a glass of gløgg and add a healthy dash of hygge.
Best of all, if you haven’t the time or the cash to go for longer, it’s possible to visit the Danish capital for the day. It was my second trip to the city. The first was back in the days when the cheapest way to reach Copenhagen was to fly to another country. That wasn’t quite as daft as it sounds, as the airport in question was Malmö’s in nearby Sweden, a fast train ride across the Øresund Bridge. This time, I flew direct to CPH, leaving Luton after watching the sunrise on the 8.40am flight. Ryanair uses satellite terminal F which is a long walk from the main terminals. Factor in a five to ten minute walk just to get across the airport and don’t expect a travelator.
From the airport it’s about a fifteen minute train ride into central station, with plenty of English speaking staff at the airport to help out at the ticket machines. I opted for a 24 hour travelcard (not to be confused with the expensive Copenhagen Card) which cost 80 DKK. As it turned out, I walked more than I’d intended, but had I chosen to cover more ground, the card would have been valid for unlimited journeys in the city centre by train, metro and bus. By just after midday, I was in the city.
Now like I said, I’ve been to Copenhagen before, so this blog isn’t going to be reviewing the Amelienborg Palace or the Little Mermaid. This time, I was focused solely on Christmas. Emerging from the station coffee in hand, the Tivoli theme park was right across the street and impossible to miss. I decided to save it until the end of the day and instead walked the short distance to Axeltorv Square. My first Julemarked of the day was a small affair, a cluster of stalls all bearing the names of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. It was a little underwhelming, just a few stalls selling items like sheepskin rugs, warm hats and Christmas decorations.
A few minutes from Axeltorv Square, a rather large wooden pig caught my eye. Behind it was a wooden Christmas tree which looked to be made out of broken up pallets or something like that. A few huts made out of the same material formed a crescent around them. This was a Julemarked with a difference, focused on recycling, a statement about the excesses of this festive holiday. But it wasn’t preachy: instead it embraced the spirit of Christmas on the cheap.
The huts all offered a way to help out with the expense of present-buying. There was a Swap Shop where you could leave an unwanted gift and in return got to choose something for yourself. A woodworker’s hut provided tools and off cuts for those who wished to be creative and make a gift. The lady running the plant hut gave me a small packet of tomato seeds which I shall plant when I work out when’s the best time. The largest hut of all was a recycling “factory”. Inside, piles of yarn, card and other craft materials were piled alongside glue guns. Several people were making table top Christmas trees, but what made this unusual was that most of them were adults rather than children. What a great idea!
Next up was a stroll along Strøget to the wonderful department store Illums Bolighus. This amazing store is a mecca for any devotee of Scandi-style and its products, though expensive, are the stuff of envy. Every display could have held its own in a fancy homes and interiors magazine. The question was not whether to buy, but what to leave behind. Illums Bolighus, if you’re reading this, open a store in London won’t you? I promise I’d keep you in profit.
A few doors down from paradise at the end of the street, was another Christmas market. The entrance was marked by a wall of Christmas trees ready to go home and the market itself housed more food and drink stalls than any other market. At the sausage stall, a man munched on a hot sausage in a roll. At his feet was a dog. It sat, as motionless as if it was doing the Mannequin Challenge, eyes fixed on his master’s hand. Tiny drops of saliva dripped from the wet fur around his mouth and puddled on the floor. Finally, the man was finished, save for the last half inch of sausage, which of course the dog had as a reward for his patience.
There was still more to come. Straddling a pathway opposite the beautifully decorated Hotel D’Angleterre, the Kongens Nytorv market was probably the busiest of those I visited. Located between Nyhavn and Strøget, a fat queue of tourists wound its way between stalls selling everything from churros to ham hocks, night lights to sheepskin slippers. There were craft stalls and of course, many more gløgg huts. The crowds were frustrating and as it was still daylight, the life size polar bear models looked tacky. I would return that way after dark, when they were illuminated and looked better for it.
Through Kongens Nytorv and out the other side I breathed a sigh of relief to have wriggled free of the crowd. Fortunately, I was only a stone’s throw from Nyhavn and yet another market. I sat on the quayside enjoying a glass of gløgg – not too fussed on the addition of blanched almonds but the raisins were a welcome find at the bottom of the glass. If you’re not sure if you’ll like it, ask for a free taste.
This time I decided to have a bit of food before exploring the market. I found that the further down the quay I walked, the lower the prices were for comparable dishes. A huge plate of roast pork with crackling with red cabbage and potatoes later, I had a browse round the stalls. Hopefully my husband isn’t reading this but I did come home with a very soft and fluffy cushion cover. (I am kind of banned from buying more cushion covers. It’s become a bit of a thing.) Sunset was spectacular, casting a pretty pink glow over the harbour side buildings.
As night fell, there was one more Julemarked that I wanted to see before I left and one that was worthy of the long queue outside. Yes, the queue was round the block. What did I expect on a Saturday night? Tivoli opened in 1843, making it the world’s second oldest theme park (the other is in Denmark too, but much less famous). Tivoli is expensive, with a hefty entrance fee of around £15 just to get in (the rides are extra) but it is such a charming place during the run up to Christmas that it’s worth it.
There was plenty to see, both in terms of the theme park itself – I loved the carousel – but also in terms of independent retailers and the range of food stalls. The temperature had slumped well below freezing though by this point and with so many people packed into the huts and restaurants, there were very few places where I could escape that intense cold. The lights and decorations kept me going for a while – they were superb – but by 8pm I was really feeling it despite being properly kitted out in thick padded jacket, scarf and gloves. It was time to grab a cup of cocoa from the station cafe and return to the airport in plenty of time for my 10pm flight home.
I ♥ Copenhagen