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.


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Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide

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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.



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Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide

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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.


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Copenhagen Marco Polo Guide

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Top 10 Nudist Beaches

Ooh er missus! If sunbathing in your birthday suit is right up your street… then we have the perfect list for you! The top 10 best nudist beaches around the world, as chosen by Marco Polo authors…

Cuban dead tree

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

1. Grande Saline, St Barthélemy

St Barth, as the little Caribbean island is called for short, is popular among celebrities. Nudists also feel at home on the velvet sandy beach of Grande Saline in the area reserved for nudists.

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2. Nordstrand, Helgoland, Germany

The island’s secret jewel is not actually on it, but next to it – the 32 acre beach on the north of the dune has very fine sand. You can relax here with or without clothes on – or in a fur coat like the seals. The magical North Sea!

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3. Praia da Ursa, Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Praia da Ursa with its fascinating rocks is hidden between cliffs in the far west of Europe. Thanks to the fact that it cannot be seen from anywhere, the beach is especially popular among nudists. Be sure to take your own food and plenty to drink with you as there’s nowhere to buy anything in this secluded spot.

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4. Kordovon Beach, Jerolim,  Croatia

Anyone taking a boat from Hvar to this tiny island, one of the Paklenis, can shed their clothes and enjoy the untouched wooded scenery. Kordovon Beach is the perfect place for a totally relaxed holiday free from all constraints. As one sign proudly announces, nudists have
been more than ‘Welcome since 1896’.

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5. Platja del Mago, Portals Vells, Mallorca, Spain

The boats anchored in the bay seem to hover above the crystal-clear water. All along the rocky shoreline crooked pine trees have established themselves up the slopes around the cove where there are lovely views over the sea. The Platja del Mago is an official nudist beach.

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6. Cap d’Agde, France

It’s not just the fine sandy beach on the Cap d’Agde that makes this one of the most popular resorts for naturists on the Mediterranean. It is also the fact that this is a large village-like complex where nudism is the norm night and day.

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7. Kókkinos Ammos (Red Beach), Mátala, Crete, Greece

Picturesque Kókkinos Ammos, the ‘Red Beach’, enjoys a peaceful, sun-soaked location that can only be reached after a 20-minute hike. Naturists aim for the northern part of the shimmering red sandbank. Don’t forget to take enough food and drink with you!

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8. Nida, Lithuania

The regulations in the Baltic State of Lithuania are strict – at least as far as nudism on the Curonian Spit goes. There are separate areas for men and women to (sun)bathe in the nude. Make sure you observe the signs whatever you do – vyrų pliažas is the beach for men and moterų pliažas for women.

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9. Saltum Strand, Denmark 

There’s plenty of room for everyone here! The seemingly endless beaches in this kingdom stretch as far as the horizon and are seldom full, especially in the north. Since nude bathing is allowed on every beach in Denmark, as long as you are considerate to others, you don’t need to pack your swimwear for Saltum Strand either.

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10. Neuendorf, Hiddensee, Germany

The dunes where beachgrass grows and the hidden sandy hollows in between, very close to the conservation village itself, provide perfect, secluded spots for bathing in the nude. INSIDER TIP: Afterwards try something completely different – Karl Huck’s puppet theatre in Vitte.

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Do you know any other great nudist beaches you’d like to share with us? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Top 10 dog-friendly beaches

Sandy beaches, crashing waves and warm sunshine – it’s no wonder our furry friends love going to the beach. Sandy paws equal happy dogs AND happy owners, so Marco Polo have sniffed out the best beaches from all around the world where dogs are welcome with open paws…

Dog on beach

Photo credit: Henning Leweke [CC BY-SA 2.0]

1. Barneville-Carteret, France

Untamed nature and the wind in Fido’s coat… Anyone who loves the bracing sea air will feel at home on this beach in Normandy. Even when it is deserted and nobody can be seen far and wide, dogs still have to be kept on a lead.

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2. Wenningstedt-Braderup, Sylt,  Germany

Endless beaches to make any doggie’s heart beat faster. Where? On the designated dog beach in Wenningstedt on Sylt.

INSIDER TIP: The Hotel Windrose publishes a brochure for guests with dogs with masses of useful tips in it. A must for every dog owner.

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3. Böda Sand, Öland,  Sweden

The climate is harsh, especially when storms blow across the island in autumn. Dogs can run to their heart’s content on the clearly signed dog beach near Böda Sand. Their two-legged friends can relax after a long walk with one of Johan Theorin’s crime novels.

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4. Bagno 81, Rimini, Italy

Quietly relaxing with Lady and the Tramp on the beach and letting the sun warm their coats or even going for a doggie-paddle – everything is possible at Bagno 81. There’s even free Internet access. Woof!

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5. Neßmersiel, Germany

A holiday with a difference for our four-legged friends. Teach your dog new tricks at the ‘Fun Agility Park’ next to the dog beach on the North Sea or simply let them run around. They can then explore the hiking trail for dogs and their owners in Dornumersiel.

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6. Blåvand, Denmark

Chasing clouds, barking at seagulls, digging holes and getting wet paws. Dogs love it on the wide North Sea beaches near Blåvand. There is a fenced-in area of  woodland near Oksby so dogs can run off the lead.

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7. Swinoujście, Poland

Fetch! Since 2011 Fido, Bella & Co. are officially allowed to run around and play on the beach
in Swinoujście in Poland. However, dogs which tend to get over-excited or bite others have to
wear a muzzle.

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8. Grömitz, Germany

Barking, digging and paddling on the flat Baltic Sea beach in Grömitz. Our four-legged friends are allowed off the lead here and can run, jump and do whatever they or their owners like.

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9. Skagen, Denmark

Furry family members will feel especially at home at the northern-most tip of Denmark where the North Sea meets the Baltic. Apart from the fact that (Great) Danes love the wind, there is often an especially strong breeze blowing here, to the delight of all ‘wet noses’.

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10. Schönhagen, Schlei, Germany

When the ball lands way out in the water, all four paws go f ying as Fido chases after it in the waves. The largest dog beach in the Baltic Sea resort of Schönhagen is enough to turn any pampered pooch into a fierce sea lion!

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Do you know any other great dog-friendly beaches you’d like to add to this list? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.