Roskilde Festival, July
Copenhagen Jazz Festival, July
Aarhus Festival, August
After the festivities of Christmas and New Year’s Eve the first few weeks of the year can feel like a bit of an anticlimax – not helped by the short daylight hours and inclement weather.
Midwinter in Denmark can be scenic under snow and in sunshine, but more likely grey and gloomy, with a few events to brighten the mood. A midterm school holiday sees many locals head north to ski.
Danes love their summer jazz festivals; in February, those suffering from jazz withdrawal can get their fix from this smaller-scale event (www.jazz.dk) held at cosy venues countrywide.
Winter in Tivoli
New in 2018, Copenhagen's Tivoli (www.tivoligardens.com) will get its winter sparkle on, opening for three weeks and covering the local school break, plus Valentine's Day. Visit for hyggelig charm, ice-skating and fairy lights.
Spring has sprung! Warmer, drier days bring out the blossoms, and attractions that were closed for the winter reopen (including Legoland at the start of the month).
The marshlands of the west-coast Wadden Sea provide food and rest for millions of migratory birds, and in late March and April (and again in September/October) huge formations of starlings put on a brilliant natural show known as the ‘Sort Sol’ (Black Sun).
The sun comes out on a semi-permanent basis, more warm-weather attractions open, and the events calendar starts filling as Danes throw off winter’s gloom. Tourists have yet to arrive in great numbers.
In late May, Aalborg kicks up its heels hosting the biggest carnival celebrations in northern Europe (www.aalborgkarneval.dk), when up to 100,000 participants and spectators shake their maracas and paint the town red.
Specialist beer and microbrewing are booming in Denmark. This is the country’s largest beer festival (http://beerfestival.dk), held over three days in mid-May in the capital and drawing thousands of thirsty attendees.
3 Days of Design
Copenhagen's design fest (www.3daysofdesign.dk) celebrates the country's uncanny knack for producing clever, functional, easy-on-the-eye pieces. There are special events, exhibitions and product launches, plus access to design studios and showrooms.
Hello summer! Denmark’s festival pace quickens alongside a rising temperature gauge and longer daylight hours. The main tourist season begins in earnest in late June, when schools break for a seven-week vacation.
Known to get a little crazy, Distortion (www.cphdistortion.dk) is a celebration of the capital’s nightlife, with the emphasis on clubs and DJs. It’s a five-day mobile street party, rolling through a different Copenhagen neighbourhood each day.
Riverboat Jazz Festival
Jutland’s bucolic Lake District, centred on Silkeborg, comes alive with five days of jazz (www.riverboat.dk). It’s not quite New Orleans but you can buy a ticket and take a cruise down the river, or stroll the streets and enjoy the free performances.
The Danes let rip on the longest day of the year (23 June), known as Sankt Hans Aften (St Hans Evening), with bonfires in parks, gardens and, most popular of all, on the beaches. They burn an effigy of a witch on the pyre, sing songs and get merry.
Sol over Gudhjem
Bornholm is home to Denmark’s biggest one-day cook-off (the name translates as ‘Sun over Gudhjem’; www.sogk.dk). It sees some of the country’s best chefs battle it out using fine local produce. It’s a growing hit with visitors and is broadcast on TV.
A three-day midmonth music event (www.northside.dk) in Aarhus that’s building a big reputation – line-ups rival the legendary Roskilde Festival.
Kite-Flying on Fanø
Out in the windy west, Fanø is a mecca for kite-flyers from around the world. In mid-June, the island hosts a super-photogenic kite festival (www.kitefliersmeetingfanoe.de), when thousands of colourful kites are flown from various beaches.
Not to be outdone by Copenhagen and Aarhus, Odense now hosts its own three-day music fest (www.tinderbox.dk), bringing big-name international acts to 35,000 fans in a woodland venue on the town's outskirts.
Many Danes take their main work holiday during the first three weeks of July, so expect busy seaside resorts, chock-a-block camping grounds and near-full coastal hotels – book ahead to join in on the beachy summer-holiday vibe.
Skagen acts as a magnet in summer, drawing well-heeled holidaymakers to Jutland’s far-northern tip. Held over four days in early July, this festival (www.skagenfestival.dk) entertains with quality folk and world music.
Roskilde is rocked by Scandinavia’s largest music festival for a week in early July, with major international acts and some 130,000 music fans (many camping on-site). It’s renowned for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
Copenhagen Jazz Festival
This swingin’ party (www.jazz.dk) is the biggest annual entertainment event in the capital. For your sensory pleasure there are 10 days of Danish and international jazz, blues and fusion music. In 2017, 1400 concerts were staged at more than 120 venues.
You can unleash your inner pillager at a Viking-style market (www.moesgaardmuseum.dk) outside Aarhus in late July. There are crafts, food and equestrian events, plus Vikings of all nationalities competing to outfight each other.
One for the Americans, the Rebild Festival (www.rebildfesten.dk) is an annual July 4th celebration (held since 1912) that is among the biggest outside the USA. It's held in the forested hills of Rebild Bakker and features musicians and high-profile guest speakers (Danish and American).
Summer continues unabated, with beaches and theme parks packed to the gills, and the populace determined to wring every last ray of sunshine out of the season. School resumes around midmonth.
Helsingør’s grand Kronborg Slot was made famous as the Elsinore Castle of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Every summer it hosts outdoor productions – the festival does more than just perform Hamlet, with different plays by the Bard each year (www.hamletscenen.dk).
Out and proud since 1996, this week-long festival (www.copenhagenpride.dk) brings Carnival-like colour to the capital, culminating in a gay-pride march. Needless to say, there’s lots of dancing and flirting.
Copenhagen’s four-day electronic music festival (www.stromcph.dk) is considered the best of its kind in Scandinavia. Events include workshops and masterclasses, concerts, raves and parties across the city.
Regarded as one of Europe’s best folk-music festivals, this south Jutland shindig (www.tf.dk) draws some 20,000 attendees to its celebration of folk and roots music, and is renowned for its friendly, fun atmosphere.
This midmonth music marvel in Skanderborg bills itself as Denmark’s most beautiful festival (www.smukfest.dk), and is second only to Roskilde in terms of scale. It takes place in lush parkland in the scenic Lake District.
Denmark’s second city dons its shiniest party gear at the end of August, when this festival (www.aarhusfestival.com) transforms the town for 10 days, celebrating music, food, short film, theatre, visual arts and outdoor events for all ages (many of which are free).
Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival
The world’s foodie lens seems trained on Copenhagen of late, and this 10-day food festival (Scandinavia’s largest) focuses on the gourmet end of the food spectrum and is held in venues and restaurants throughout the city. See www.copenhagencooking.dk.
HC Andersen Festivals
Of course Odense honours its home-grown literary hero – this week-long program (www.hcafestivals.com) in mid-August features plenty of Hans Christian Andersen performances and lectures, plus concerts, comedy and family-friendly events.
The summer madness drops off as abruptly as it began, and crowds have largely disappeared. Good weather is still a possibility, but by month’s end many big outdoor attractions have wrapped things up for another year.
Held over two weeks from late September, this is Copenhagen’s feature-film festival (www.cphpix.dk). Expect flicks from Denmark and abroad, as well as a busy program of film-related events.
Code Art Fair
This major art fair (www.codeartfair.dk) in Copenhagen sees the participation of around 60 leading international art galleries, and showcases a number of contemporary artists from Nordic Europe.
Summer is a distant memory, with the weather crisp and cool and the countryside taking on a golden tinge. Business travellers outnumber those travelling for pleasure.
Copenhagen Blues Festival
If the shorter days have you feeling blue, this five-day international event (www.copenhagenbluesfestival.dk) should suit, with dozens of toe-tapping concerts staged at venues around the capital.
Kulturnatten (Culture Night)
Usually held on the second Friday in October, this wonderful, atmospheric event (www.kulturnatten.dk) sees Copenhagen’s museums, theatres, galleries, libraries, churches and even palaces throw open their doors through the night with a wide range of special events.
Historically Halloween hasn’t been a big Danish tradition, but its lead-up coincides with the midterm break, so the country’s big theme parks fire up for the week and highlight the fright factor (in a family-friendly way, of course). Tivoli, Legoland and Djurs Sommerland all come to the party.
There's no deying it: winter is coming. November is notable for its shorter daylight hours – but to offset the gloom, Christmas festivities are under way by the end of the month.
Sure, the weather is cold and damp, but Denmark cranks up the hygge (cosiness) and celebrates Christmas in style: twinkling lights, ice-skating rinks and gallons of warming gløgg (mulled wine).
Fairs are held countrywide throughout December, with booths selling sometimes-kitschy arts and crafts, and traditional Yuletide foodie treats. For an idyllic, olden-days atmosphere, visit somewhere with a strong connection to the past: Den Gamle By in Aarhus, or historic Ribe in southern Jutland.
Copenhagen’s Tivoli reopens for Christmas (in mid-November) with a large market and buckets of schmaltz. Attractions include special Christmas tableaus, costumed staff and theatre shows. Fewer rides are operational but the traditional gløgg (mulled wine) and æbleskiver (spherical pancakes) ought to be ample compensation.