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Danish traditions For Members

What's open and what's closed on May 1st in Denmark?

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The Local - [email protected]
What's open and what's closed on May 1st in Denmark?
With this many people off work in Denmark on May 1st, what's still open? Photo: Emil Nicolai Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

May 1st, or Labour Day, is widely celebrated in Denmark, with a large proportion of the workforce joining marches and attending political speeches across the country. But it's not a public holiday, so what's open and what's closed?

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International Workers' Day, or Labour Day, is an occasion keenly celebrated by thousands across Denmark, a country known for its social democratic traditions.

In Denmark, the state does not give you the day off on May 1st like in other countries including Sweden and Norway. In other words, it’s not a public holiday like Christmas Day, Ascension Day or Maundy Thursday, for example.

You could be forgiven for thinking that May 1st is a national day off if, for example, you pass by Fælledparken in Copenhagen on Labour Day. You’ll see huge gatherings of workers carrying banners, people gathering to eat and drink, and major speeches by both union leaders and politicians.

Many workers in Denmark do in fact have the right to a half or full day off on May 1st, provided by the collective bargaining system, the Danish labour model on which working terms are negotiated and agreed between trade unions and employers’ confederations.

But what does this mean for operating hours at businesses and services across the country?

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What’s closed?

Labour Day-related closures are arguably most common in sectors like construction and the production industry, where collective bargaining agreements are highly likely to stipulate a May 1st fridag or day off, as described by the Confederation of Danish Industry.

Builders, renovation companies and specialist production industries like carpenters all have the day off on May 1st under collective bargaining agreements, unless they have agreed to overtime on the day.

Social services like home carers are generally entitled to take the day off but can be paid Sunday rates if they work in the afternoon.

Your local borgerservice, the public-facing service desk at your local town hall, will probably be closed because public servants like municipal administrators have the day off. So if you need to pick up a new driving license, for example, leave this errand until later in the week or, in some cases, the beginning of next week.

GPs are generally open, but it’s best to check ahead because employers can choose to close their practices for the day (and thereby require doctors and other staff to use a day of their annual leave).

What’s open?

Childcare institutions like kindergartens and creches (børnehaver and vuggestuer) are not closed on Labour Day, so children can be dropped off at preschool as usual.

Schools are generally open. Last year, 10 of Denmark’s 98 municipalities closed for Labour Day, although both Copenhagen and Aarhus gave kids the day off.

Supermarkets and other shops are not generally closed on May 1st. Denmark is strict with shop opening times, with the Lukkeloven, or closing law, requiring most shops to remain shuttered on holidays, but this doesn’t apply on Labour Day.

Finally, if you are planning to do some sightseeing in Denmark on Labour Day, you'll find most museums – like the National Gallery of Denmark, for example – treat May 1st as a regular day and remain open as normal. Others, like Museum Østjylland, close – so check ahead before you set out.

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