Denmark is famed around the planet for its cinnamon-topped morning pastries, its fairy-tale maestro (one Hans Christian Andersen), and the uber-sleek capital of Copenhagen. It hits some serious superlatives, too, arguably coming up as the coolest place in Europe and the most livable spot on the continent. But what about the coldest places in Denmark?
Well…they’re a chilly bunch! Yep, this far north, on the fringes of Scandinavia, with Norway just across the strait and Sweden a little to the east, it’s hardly a surprise that winters can be laden with snow and riddled with sub-zero temps.
Cue this guide. It runs through a few of the chilliest spots in the whole country and reveals how the coldest places in Denmark are a pretty mixed bunch. From the big cities out east to bite-sized hamlets in the countryside of Jutland, they come in all shapes and sizes…
The locals generally agree that it’s the region of Hovedstaden that comes up trumps as the coldest of all the coldest places in Denmark. Otherwise known as the Capital Region, it’s the easternmost in the country, sat just on the cusp of the Baltic Sea over the strait from Sweden. As the name implies, it’s also home to the big city of Copenhagen, which sprawls over the salt-water quays on the edge of Zealand to offer up one super-cool (figuratively) and super-cool (literally, in the winter) experience to travelers.
There are a few reasons it can get so cold here. Firstly, being tucked between the Swedish headland on the far eastern edge of the country means the area is protected from the Gulf Stream currents that cross the Atlantic, occasionally bringing warming airs from the Azores and beyond. The geography of it all also means that Hovedstaden is closer to the cold-air currents that flow from the high-pressure bulges that hover over Russia in the winter, bringing plenty of snow and ice to bear across the Baltic basin.
So, what sort of temperatures are we talking? Well…the capital region manages a mere 12 C average throughout the year – that’s just 53 F. That’s dragged down by winter temps that tend to sit at a shiver-inducing 1-2 C in the months from January to March. Before Christmas it can be a touch warmer, but you’re still likely to need those steaming hot chocolates in the Copenhagen festive markets, because average highs in the Santa Claus month are only 5-6 C.
We’ve already mentioned the December craft markets in the capital, but there’s a whole load more to get through during the colder months in this enthralling part of Denmark. You could hit the Tivoli Gardens to ride merry-go-rounds as the snow falls. You could break out to the wild forests and wetlands of the Jægersborg Dyrehave for bracing hikes. Or you could visit the historic center of Helsingør for visions of haunting castles from way back when.
Skagen often hits the headlines and the fronts of Danish postcards for its eye-watering beaches. They are the stuff of pure drama, hooking around a headland that bends between the Baltic and the North seas in a wisp of white powder framed by dunes covered in grasses and sea oats, now and then punctuated by the outline of a vintage lighthouse that shimmers rays through the ocean mists. Yep, this is one seriously amazing place!
It also deserves a mention on this list of the coldest places in Denmark because it’s the northernmost point in the whole country. That helps to bring in record low temps in the region of -16.5 C (2.3 F) in January, and average daily temps of -1 C (33 F) in February. However, icicle-inducing as those stats may seem, it’s not really the thermometer readings that make this such a chilled destination. It’s also down to the wind…
Yep, being such an exposed spot, with open seas to the west, the north, and the east means that this part of the home of Danish pastries and fairy tales can be blustery to the T. There’s also zero in the way of particularly high mountains, peaks, or cliffs, so it can be tricky to find shelter from the oncoming blasts of the Beaufort scale. In winter, the chill factor from gusts is enough to make the coast of Skagen feel a whole load worse than it might seem.
The good news is that’s just about perfect for travelers who like to experience the wilder side of things. When December swings around, the summertime bathing and boating crowds are completely gone from the Skagen strands and you can hike boardwalk trails between wave-lashed shores, feeling the full brunt of the low-pressure weather systems off the North Sea.
Pint-sized Hørsted is little more than a hamlet in the midst of the rolling hills and forests of North Jutland. But it’s got one superlative that really puts it on the Danish map; the ice-caked, snow-covered Danish map, that is. It’s the official home of the coldest temperature ever recorded in the country…
Mhmm…way back when Eddy Grant was storming the pop charts and perms were the go-to haircut in 1982, this tiny little town stead was weathering a winter when the thermometers dipped to a positively (or negatively, more to the point) extreme of −31.2 C (-24.16 F). It happened on January the 8th of that year, welcoming in the new calendar with a bout of sub-zero numbers that challenged even the local Nordic folk.
Now, we’ve mentioned that Hørsted is small. But when we say small here, we really, really mean small. Check it for yourself: Google Maps reveals little more than a cluster of farm buildings, a quaint country church, and a single-lane roadway passing through the middle of it all. Granted, it’s hardly your usual European metropolis, but that surely makes things even worse – no cafés to drop into for hygge coffees, no urban saunas to frequent.
Odense holds the record for being the coldest of all the coldest places in Denmark in the 21st century. Yep, it’s official, this quaint little town on the island of Funen saw the readings sink to an icy -23.1 C (-9.58 F) as recently as February 2012. That might not bring it close to the low record for the country that was witnessed in aforementioned Hørsted, but it’s still enough to get you packing on the woolies and reaching for the thermal underlayers, no?
The thing is, Odense’s winters have long been chilly affairs. It’s usually somewhere between 1 C and -2 C (33.8-28.4 F) from the beginning of December to the end of February. That means three straight winter months hovering around the zero mark. Combine that with an estimated 45 days of precipitation in the middle of the season and you’re looking at hefty dumps of snow, which only bring that real-feel ambient temp down another notch.
On the plus side, Odense is a seriously gorgeous place to be when there’s a dusting of the white stuff and your breath is misting in the air. A 1,000-year-old city, it’s got an historic center of stoop Danish cottages that date back centuries. It was also the home of Hans Christian Andersen, so get ready for all manner of attractions and activities centered around his stirring texts – there’s even an enchanting Christmas market themed after his fairy tales here in mid- to late-December.
Not to be confused with retired Danish footballer Frank Løndal, the town that’s his namesake went and clocked up the second-lowest temperature ever recorded in the country. It happened way back in January 1942, when the thermometers in this largely unknown corner of the Jutland Peninsula ebbed to a frostbite-worthy -31 C – that’s enough to throw even the Fahrenheit counters into the negative, at -23.8 F!
That’s a considerable subzero accomplishment, sitting only 22 C off the lowest temperature ever recorded in Europe (which, incidentally, is a mighty -52.6 C, picked up on the registers way up in Swedish Lapland in 1966). Only, it’s worth noting that this town isn’t that far north. It also isn’t exposed to any big cross-ocean wind chills. And it’s not easterly like Hovedstaden, getting the Siberian chill factors out of Russia. The freak temp dips can only be attributed to an anomaly in one winter long ago.
To be honest, if we were caught up in an ice-cube-preserving bout of weather like that during our time in this corner of Jutland, we’d 100% head across to the welcoming student town of Aarhus. It’s not far from Løndal at all – something like 45 minutes in the car will do it. However, this cutting-edge port boasts cozy cafés like the Jumbo Bakery and La Cabra, along with the award-winning ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, where the thought-provoking installations should be more than enough to see you through until the warmth returns.
The coldest places in Denmark – our conclusion
The coldest places in Denmark cover the whole country. One or two sit on the wild Jutland Peninsula, either creeping up to the exposed tip of land that looks over the point where the North Sea crashes into the Baltic. There are also hamlets in the countryside, and fairy-tale cities with long histories in Funen. Oh, and the capital itself – happening, hipster Copenhagen – is in the midst of a region that regularly sees negative numbers in the months of December, January, and February.