Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 15: Denmark Mandelgave

Happy Friday! It’s Day 15 of our Advent Calendar and today we are headed to Copenhagen to find out why almost every Danish person is on the lookout for almonds on Christmas Eve. Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!


Risalamande, from the French riz à l’amande, is a traditional Danish Christmas dish. It is a rice pudding made with vanilla, chopped almonds and whipped cream, and it is usually served cold with cherry sauce in Danish homes on Christmas Eve. A lovely, sweet – and heavy – dessert, but what really has the Danes excited, is the tradition of mandelgave, ‘the almond prize’ in Danish. The host of the Christmas dinner hides one (or more) whole almonds in the rice pudding, and everyone will try to find it. Traditionally, one must keep on eating until the almond has been found, which can be quite the task after the lavish Danish Christmas dinner. The happy finder of the whole almond will receive a prize and a year’s worth of good luck. Not a bad deal.


Buy the Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide.

Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Only in Copenhagen

Copenhagen, a metropolis? Well, first of all it is the capital of a kingdom – the oldest
in the world – which, on the one hand, gives Copenhagen its historical charm.
Copenhageners would say their city is ‘hyggelig’ – cosy. On the other hand, architects
rave about Copenhagen as a breathtaking capital of modern architecture.

Let Marco Polo show you some unique experiences which can only be had in Copenhagen:

Image by Evelyne de Jong/the Buttercup Sisters, used with permission

Image by Evelyne de Jong/the Buttercup Sisters, used with permission.

Changing of the guard

It may bring a (wry) smile to some Copenhageners’ lips, but they are still proud when the Royal Life Guards march to the queen’s palace. At noon, on the dot, the order is given: ‘Attention!’

Opera in sight

It doesn’t always have to be Puccini or Verdi: you can also enjoy the Copenhagen Opera from the outside. Take a boat trip with the Havnebussen for a fantastic view of the building and the city skyline.

Image by Evelyn de Jong/The Buttercup Sisters, used with permission.

Image by Evelyne de Jong/The Buttercup Sisters, used with permission.

Café, bar or restaurant?

A question which is not always easy to answer in Copenhagen. What is a café in the daytime, becomes a restaurant in the evening and transforms itself into a bar at night. Café Sommersko was the first hybrid bar in the city and has been copied several times since opening. It’s still the one to beat, though.

Carlsberg and Co.

The green-brown bottles are a part of the cityscape: in Copenhagen no one bats an eyelid if you drink your beer on the street. Tuborg and Carlsberg used to be rivals, now they are siblings in the Carlsberg Brewery family. Visitors can savour a number of different beers here.


The mobile hot-dog stands are (still) holding their own against the ubiquitous American-style burger. And a good thing, too! Copenhagen would be a poorer place without the Pølsevogn on the squares. At lunchtime, have a frokost of hot dog with ketchup, mayonnaise, gherkin and fried onions, perhaps on the Rådhuspladsen.

I design, therefore I am

If you look carefully, you’ll find it almost everywhere: Danish design. That special combination of minimalism and elegance characterises both the roof of the Opera as well as the façade of the ‘Black Diamond’ or even the knives and forks in your hotel. The most beautiful and unusual designer creations can be marvelled at in the Dansk Design Center.



Buy the Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide.

Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Low Budget Copenhagen

Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, but there are many ways to explore it on a budget. Here are Marco Polo’s top money-saving tips:

 Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide



Many discos and clubs entice customers on Thursdays with free admission and cheap drinks. ‘Happy Hour’ offers are available from late afternoon to early evening.

Tickets which have not been collected for performances at the Det Kongelige Teater (Royal Danish Theatre) and the Operaen (Opera House) are available half price on the day of the performance – from 4pm. You have to collect the tickets yourself, but the wait is worthwhile. Billetcenter | August Bournonvilles Passage 1 | Tel. 33 69 69 69 | 10am–9pm

The Copenhagen Jazz festival takes place every July and many of the concerts are free. The public celebration of the entire jazz spectrum is certainly a highlight in the city’s calendar.



You can’t get much cheaper than camping! (from 60 DKK): Bellahøj Camping | Hvidkildevej 66 | Tel. 38 10 11 50 | | Bus: 2A, Rødkildevey

You’ll find a number of agencies offering bed and breakfast online (from 400 DKK), including and

The Saga Hotel has 78 rooms, which are simply furnished and most of them have their own bathroom. Families can ask for extra beds to be put in the spacious rooms. Colbjørnsgade 18–20 | Tel. 33 24 49 44 | | Bus: 1A, 5A, 6A, Main railway station



Used and well-loved: find good old vinyl records or second-hand CD rarities at reasonable prices from Accord. Vestergade 37 | Bus: 10, 12, 14, 26, 29, 33, 48, 67, 68, 250S | Rådhuspladsen

For fashionistas with an eye for a bargain: half-price Danish and international designers on sale at the Langelinie outlet store. Daily 11am–6pm | Langelinie Kaj | Bus: 26, Indiakaj/Langelinie

Souvenirs: Knick-knacks and all those things you buy which you don’t actually need – for just a few krone at Søsterne Grene. Amagertorv 29 | Metro: Kongens Nytorv | Bus: 15, 19, 26, 350S, Kongens Nytorv


Eating Out

If you want to eat traditional Danish food on a budget, the many smørrebrød (a Danish open sandwich) takeaways offer a great alternative to gourmet cuisine. Rådhus Smørrebrød (closed Sun) | Vester Voldgade 90, Ritz Smørrebrød (closed Sat/Sun) | Vester Voldgade 8 or Centrum Smørrebrød (open daily) | Vesterbrogade 6D

Look out for the ‘All you can eat’ signs. Many restaurants offer reasonably priced lunches between noon and 4pm, especially around the university. Some of the best include: Jensens Bøfhus (Gråbrødretorv 15), Restaurant Samos (Skindergade 29) and RizRaz (Kompagnistræde 20). All are open daily | Bus: 5A, 6A, Metro: Nørreport

Café Sorgenfri: If you love classic Danish cooking then order the warm national dish Flæskesteg med rødkol (roast pork with red cabbage). The crackling here is particularly crisp! Daily | Brolæggerstræde 8 | Tel. 33 11 58 80 | | Bus: 14, 15, Stormbroen

Ristorante Italiano: The chef prides himself on being the first pizza baker in Copenhagen. He serves up pasta and pizza at reasonable prices. In good weather there is also the option to sit outside. Daily | Fiolstræde 2 | Tel. 33 11 12 95 | Bus: 6A, Universität, Vor Frue Plads



The view from the Bascule bridge is just begging to be photographed: from up here you can see from the inner harbour as far as Christiansborg Slot. Once over the bridge, you are in Christianshavn – Copenhagen’s mini version of Amsterdam. There are two things here that you cannot afford to miss: the ‘free state’ of Christiania and the climb up the tower of the Vor Frelsers Kirke.

Had enough of the city? Then get down to the sea and the beach at Amager Strandpark. The sand has been piled up to create almost 5km (3 miles) of man-made beach along a lagoon – and there’s no admission charge either.

Architectural dreams in Ørestad: For some, the short journey by Metro to Ørestad is a culture shock but others are fascinated by the architecture along the overland section of the Metro line. Ørestad resembles a free open-air museum of modern architecture. The futuristic residential and office buildings seem to hail from another planet.

The state-owned museums Nationalmuseet (National Museum), Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery) and Frihedsmuseet are free. Others charge no admission fee on certain days of the week: Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek on Sundays, Thorvaldsens Museum on Wednesdays, and Dansk Design Center Wednesdays 5pm–9pm.


Buy the Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide.

Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.