Somewhere after our second round of smørrebrød (and second glass of aquavit), I paused to watch the sun set through the restaurant window. It was only 3:30 in the afternoon; we were tired from an overnight transatlantic journey and a poorly devised 45-minute nap in our hotel that left us more groggy than refreshed. Still, a wave of calm washed over me; we were just two days away from another New Year’s Eve, and this time we were in one of my favorite cities in the world: Copenhagen, Denmark. My body felt suspended between the manic energy created by a return to a favorite destination and the deep need for a night of sound sleep. I smiled; exhaustion felt much better than being stuck on the couch at home.
After being house-bound, then country-bound, for two long years, 2022 represented a sudden return to travel as we knew it before the pandemic. For the last decade, we have prioritized one vacation over all others: our annual New Year’s Eve trip, which has taken us to four continents and six countries. This time, we were back in Europe to experience what makes Copenhagen a fun destination for the world’s favorite night to celebrate. If you have ever considered a visit to Copenhagen, here’s what you can look forward to if your trip takes you to Denmark’s capital to welcome a new year!
What to Expect on New Year’s Eve in CopenhagenLike many cities, Copenhagen’s transformation from regular day to special occasion doesn’t take place until after the sun sets. Thanks to its geographic location on the 55th parallel north, the sun disappears in the middle of the afternoon, and it’s not uncommon to see fireworks exploding above you any time after the sky turns dark. We spent our morning sightseeing (and dodging a few raindrops), and by the time we left our hotel for dinner there were regular explosions high above us, peppering the night sky with quick bursts of color.
Many of the city’s best restaurants offer prix fixe menus, and multi-course meals with wine pairings are easy to find. Copenhagen is a culinary destination and is no stranger to some of the best restaurants and chefs in the world, so it’s no surprise that many people plan their evening around a lengthy dinner.
As the minutes tick closer to midnight, most people choose between extending their evening at a night club or watching fireworks outside. Copenhagen hosts a pretty vibrant party scene, and there are numerous nightclubs with live music and DJs open until the earliest hours of the morning. Fireworks are also a huge part of the celebration, and in addition to the official display that launches from Tivoli Gardens many locals will shoot their own fireworks into the sky (which prompts some people to wear goggles throughout the evening—just to be safe!).
Whatever kind of celebration you’re looking for, Copenhagen has it—the hardest part about spending New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen is deciding how you want to allocate your time!
Where to Watch the Fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen
There are three main spots to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen. We watched from Tivoli Gardens, which starts their official show at 11:00 PM. Tivoli Gardens is a historic amusement park filled with rides, shopping, and places to eat; with extended hours on New Year’s Eve, it’s a good place to fill the time before the new year officially begins. With admission to the park, you can enjoy a front row seat to enjoy the fireworks display.
Beyond Tivoli’s gates and adjacent to the park itself, plenty of people filled the streets near City Hall Square. For most visitors, that area is a great one to consider because there is no admission fee, but you’ll see the same fireworks display as those inside Tivoli Gardens.
Further away, Dronning Louise Bridge is another popular choice. The vantage point allows visitors to see a bit more of the skyline, and it may feel a bit more relaxed than the fevered excitement closer to Tivoli Gardens.
Things to Do on New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen
For more of our favorite spots in Copenhagen, check out our recommendations for what to see in just one day!
Our Post: 1 Day in Copenhagen: 8 Things to See
Here are a few more places to add to your list:
► The Little MermaidIf you’re going to spend time in Copenhagen on New Year’s Eve, you won’t want to miss a photo op with the city’s most famous resident: the Little Mermaid. The crowds to see her just two days before the start of the new year were bigger than any of our previous trips, and you may want to time your visit for just after dawn or just before dusk to get some more breathing room. The statue is a bit of a walk from many of the city’s other attractions, but you won’t want to miss it, especially if you only have a few days in Copenhagen.
For an added bonus, you can also visit the Little Mermaid’s unofficial “sister statue” known as the Genetically Modified Little Mermaid. It’s about a ten minute walk north of the original and it’s… unique.
More Information: AtlasObscrua.com
► Amalienborg Palace for the Changing of the Guard
We saved time on New Year’s Eve to visit some of Copenhagen’s most popular spots, and one of our first stops was Amalienborg Palace. It’s the official residence for the Danish Royal Family, and our arrival just before noon inadvertently placed us in the front row for a very special changing of the guard ceremony! Although you can see the changing of the guard each day, the accompanying ceremony changes based on which members of the royal family are in residence. Because Queen Magrethe ll was in residence as she prepared for her annual televised New Year’s Eve speech, the ceremony included the Royal Guards marching band. It was a very celebratory experience; the video below gives you a peek into the sights and sounds we enjoyed during the ceremony.
We passed through Copenhagen’s Nyhavn neighborhood several times during our visit, and if you have just a day or two in the city we highly recommend a daytime and a nighttime stop. During the day, the vibrant building colors are on full display; at night, the streets are downright cozy with soft seasonal lighting reflecting on the water. Nyhavn is a terrific place to go for sightseeing and a meal or two, so be sure to include it on your New Year’s Eve itinerary!
► Rosenborg CastleStanding in central Copenhagen since 1606, no one in the royal family calls Rosenborg Castle home these days, but it does house the royal crown jewels and the coronation chair. The castle is closed on New Year’s Eve, but the grounds are beautiful and offer a great place for a walk and some photos. As an added surprise during our visit, as we walked toward the street to check out another destination, we heard the royal marching band approaching us. The royal guard’s barracks are at Rosenborg Castle, and after we left the Changing of the Guard ceremony it looked like they followed us all the way to Rosenborg! We watched as they finished their march and turned into the barracks, completing their procession and giving us one more memory of New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen in the process.
Places to Eat on New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen
We had some truly memorable meals to close out 2022, and here are a few of our favorites.
We made New Year’s Eve dinner reservations at Påfuglen, Danish for peacock, which is located in Tivoli Gardens. The four-course menu started with small bites including steak tartare and a pastry puff with lobster before we were served baked cod, then beef wellington. Rounding out the night, we enjoyed a trio of bite-sized desserts. Each course was paired with wine, and dessert included a steaming mug of spiked coffee. Our meal was perfect from start to finish; the food was delectable, and our server was quick to fill our wine glasses and careful to pace our meal in a way that stretched it for several hours, making it feel like a truly special occasion. As we left to watch the fireworks outside, we each received a glass of champagne to carry with us. In the past, we have overlooked reservations for these kinds of events for many reasons—and we won’t make that mistake again. We loved having incredible food in a relaxed setting, and starting the new year off with such a great experience was the best sendoff to the past year we could imagine!
► Restaurant ShønnemannOur very first stop after arriving in the city (and the briefest of naps) was Restaurant Shønnemann, which has been serving Copenhagen’s famous smørrebrød since 1877. Smørrebrød are open-faced sandwiches, often featuring herring or smoked fish, and typically served on rye bread. We made a reservation a few months in advance to be sure we could be seated, and sure enough when we arrived there was a big sign on the sidewalk confirming the restaurant was booked to capacity. After our first bites, we could understand why. Between us, we had four smørrebrød: one with pickled herring, two with smoked salmon, and one with fried cod. Our server recommended aquavit to pair with them, a recommendation we were glad to accept, and we also tried a few local beers to round out the experience. Having smørrebrød in Copenhagen is almost a culinary requirement; you’ll find it on most menus, but Restaurant Shønnemann is one of the best places to try them. Start with just one or two—they are small but very filling!
Many people have heard of Noma, Copenhagen’s prized three Michelin star restaurant, and although we didn’t even attempt to get a table there, we did get one at Barr, its more casual sister restaurant. We enjoyed an outstanding three-course lunch beginning with grilled herring, culminating with wiener schnitzel, and ending with a delicious blueberry ice cream. Chef Thorsten Schmidt doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to the menu, which also features an amazing selection of craft beers you won’t find anywhere else. After walking seven miles through the city in just one morning, we spent a few hours resting our weary legs as we let the food, beer, and aquavit do their job. Add Barr to your restaurant list when spending New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen—you will be glad you saved space in your schedule and your stomach!
Tips for New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your visit.
► Get to know Aquavit
When we first arrived at Restaurant Shønnemann, we noticed almost everyone had a very tiny wine glass in front of them. Thinking perhaps wine servings were simply smaller in Copenhagen than in other parts of the world, we thought nothing of it; we ordered our meals and beer, and when our server asked if we wanted to try some aquavit to pair with our sandwiches, we said we would—after all, we had flown halfway around the world and wouldn’t want to miss a local experience! Somewhat similar to vodka, most aquavit is flavored with caraway, so it has a unique flavor that not everyone will enjoy. We both liked it quite a bit, and every time we ordered a meal we were offered some to pair with it. Don’t worry about saying no if you don’t like it or would prefer not to try it—you won’t offend anyone—but it’s worth a glass or two during your visit!
► Make your New Year’s Eve dinner plans in advance
Like many cities around the world, Copenhagen’s best restaurants book weeks or months in advance, and many smaller eateries close early or don’t open at all on New Year’s Eve. A quick web search will connect you to lists and reviews to help you make your decision. Many of the menus we reviewed were in Dutch, but thanks to Google Translate we had no trouble deciphering, comparing, and selecting a dinner experience that was perfect for us.
► Pick a hotel near the New Year’s Eve festivities
We chose a hotel just a 10-minute walk from Tivoli Gardens to make it easy to both get to and away from the New Year’s Eve celebrations, and we were glad we did. Copenhagen has a great metro system, but with so many people out and about we didn’t want to worry about long lines to purchase tickets or board a train. A little strategic planning can make your evening much easier!
► Try the salty licoriceA strange tip, but one we would be remiss if we didn’t share. Salty licorice is a popular snack in Copenhagen and throughout Scandinavia, and we stocked up on a few different types from Lakrids while we were in town. Salty licorice is, without question, an acquired taste. It’s nothing like the Twizzlers you might enjoy from a convenience store; its softer and more flavorful, and it really balances sweet and salty. If you enjoy trying local delicacies and have enjoyed your fill of smørrebrød, salty licorice might be a fun treat to try!
► Prepare for noise
Copenhagen is an exceptionally noisy place on New Year’s Eve, and the reason stems from an ancient Scandinavian belief that evil spirits came to life during the holiday season. To scare them away, farmers would make as much noise as they could. Today, that tradition continues in the form of noise makers, poppers, and unquestionably the fireworks overhead. We also thought the champagne bottles offered a nice contribution.
Hotels in Copenhagen
We stayed at the Marriott Copenhagen, which was the perfect spot for us. Just a 10-minute walk to both Tivoli Gardens and the main train station, which we used to get to and from the airport, the location is incredibly convenient. We appreciated the oversized rooms with plenty of space to unpack and settle in, but we really loved the huge breakfast buffet available every morning. From fresh fruit to a hot bar with pancakes and omelets to a mini herring bar, we never left hungry.
More Information: Booking.com/marriot-copenhagen
We found the Marriott on Booking.com while looking for a hotel close to our main points of interest; take a look to see if they have a hotel that will work for you!
Enjoy New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen!
Just as we finished our glass of champagne, the clock struck 11:00 and the sky lit up with a massive fireworks display that held our gaze for the rest of the evening. Around us, people cheered, blew into noisemakers, and laughed as the show took place overhead. As the park started to close, we spilled into the streets to hear the clock tower ring in 2023. The fireworks never stopped; throughout the city they boomed and echoed, and they practically followed us back to our hotel when we were ready for our own celebration to end.
If you have considered Copenhagen as a New Year’s Eve destination, we think you will love it just as much as we did!
Looking for more places to ring in the New Year around the world? Check out these posts from our archives!