No ice cream in July: Scenes from the Danish summer vacation period
Play • 7 min

In Denmark, the right to a long summer vacation is enshrined into law - the national vacation law, which states that all employees have a right to three weeks’ vacation between May and September.

Shops close, too. An ice cream shop in my neighborhood closed down for the entire month of July last year. You would think this would be peak time for ice cream, but for the owners of the ice cream shop, their own vacation was more important.

This year, I noticed that the bicycle store up the street is closed for three weeks – hope you didn’t want a new bike to enjoy the summer. So is the local "smørrebrød" sandwich shop. Too bad about your picnic.

Danes believe that if you take a good, long, Danish vacation, you’ll come back refreshed, with new perspectives.

Free time is precious in Denmark – certainly more important than prestige, since people don’t generally use their job titles, and far ahead of money, since whatever you have the government will be taking a big bite out of. Free time is cherished, free time is wealth, and that’s one of the reasons the summer vacation is so prized. 

You’ll often hear Danes ask each other how many weeks they’re taking for summer vacation. “So, this year, are you taking 3 or 4?”


This is the 123th episode of the "How to Live in Denmark podcast", and originally ran in 2023.

Get all of Kay Xander Mellish's books about Denmark at Book Kay for a talk to your group or organization at

More episodes
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu