When we visited Copenhagen, one of the biggest things that struck a chord with me is how friendly Danish people are! Not just friendly, Danes are unbelievably helpful, have amazing attitudes to life and most certainly know how to have fun (which led to a sore head on one of the mornings we were there but I’ll let you know more about that in another post). Even before we left London for Copenhagen, Lloyd, Chris, Georgia and I felt like we already had a great idea what to do in the city, where to stay and where to eat. This is probably the best testament to how helpful Danes are.
When we booked the flights to go to Copenhagen, I remember hurriedly calling Lloyd, Chris and Georgia on the phone and within 30 minutes, we’d all booked our flights (which was an absolute bargain at £40 return – hence the frenzied phone call to the others to lock in that deal). Of course, it was after that I kinda realised that we had no clue what to see or do in Copenhagen (bar the little mermaid – which I can now say is definitely NOT the most interesting thing to see in Copenhagen by a long shot!) but fret not, under the guidance of the fantastic folk at Visit Denmark we were able to get the lowdown on everything you need to see, do and eat in Copenhagen! The best part is that it’s from local Danes who have lived in Copenhagen and so the recommendations are coming straight from the horse’s mouth (so to speak) and so can be relied upon. (Plus, we got to test it out and it is one of the best tips and tricks we’ve received before going to visit any city).
The recommendations were just so amazing that it felt like a crime of sorts not to share with you so here they are – your complete guide on all the things to see, eat and do in Copenhagen.
The Danish capital Copenhagen and its culinary prowess has snatched the international headlines over the past five years with chef Rene Redzepi’s two Michelin star restaurant Noma taking the title of ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ for 4 years out of 5 since 2010. In the wake of Noma’s success, other Danish restaurants are successfully following suit, which leads to a total of 18 stars to 15 restaurants in the Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2015 – the highest number ever. It is no wonder the New Nordic kitchen has gained international appeal around the world, and the unique Nordic identity with its high commitment to organic, sustainable and local products, which has become accessible to the greater public thanks to restaurant groups as Cofoco, ensures a dining experience to remember.
- Höst: Cofoco restaurant Höst serves affordable fine Nordic food in central Copenhagen. At Höst, the focus is on raw materials from the Nordic kitchen, where you can enjoy lobster, beef or Danish cheese made at the coast of the North Sea. Besides the food, Höst has already won three international design awards, including the award for the World’s Best-Designed Restaurant at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards: www.cofoco.dk/en/restaurants/hoest/. This year’s food trend seems to be that top restaurants are opening ambitious bistro spin-offs in Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark’s second city. Amongst the most successful are Bror and Lillebror, Relæ and Manfreds & Vin, Formel B and Uformel, AOC and No. 2 and Frederikshøj and F-høj in Aarhus, of which both Uformel and No. 2. are new additions to Copenhagen’s dynamic culinary scene
- Uformel (Informal): In late May 2014, Kristian Arpe-Møller and Rune Amgild Jochumsen, the team behind Michelin-star restaurant Formel B, opened the self-proclaimed “cool and edgy younger brother,” Uformel. Chef Frederik Rudkjøbing, the former sous chef at Formel B, works closely with small Danish farms and continually looks for seasonal ingredients from across the globe to provide guests with simple and sustainable dishes like Danish Organic Lamb with Tomato and Grilled Salad, and Ceviche of Turbot with Green Strawberries, Grilled Fennel and Pickled Garlic. Sommelier Martin Iuel-Brockdorff Bek’s close relationships with wine suppliers allow Uformel to serve the best varietals possible with a list full of bottles and glasses in every price range. Along with hand-selected wines, cocktails from one of Denmark’s best bartenders, Hardeep Rehal, complement the chef’s creations: www.uformel.dk/en/
- 2: This new restaurant, which opened in June 2014, is the relaxed and laid-back accompaniment to the gourmet, 2 Michelin-starred establishments, AOC. Located on the water in Christianshavn, No. 2 gives guests a grand view of the Copenhagen Canal and the Black Diamond—the new extension of Denmark’s Royal Library—and provides Resident Chef Nikolaj Køster with the opportunity to feature fresh, local seafood. Together with Søren Selin, co-owner and chef de cuisine at AOC, Chef Køster focuses on elements such as beach, sea, forest, and field in the detail-oriented dishes that feature raw ingredients thoughtfully combined in innovative creations like North Sea Cod, Salt Baked Celeriac, Browned Butter and Sorrel, and Radishes with Smoked Cheese and Bottarga. The wine list at no. 2 was created by Christian Aarø, owner of AOC, and the “Best Sommelier” in both Denmark and Norway. It ranges from local to global selections, with an emphasis on sustainable wine: www.nummer2.dk/
- Torvehallerne: – great food market halls in the heart of the city
- Kødbyens Mad & Marked: Food market in Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District
- Copenhagen Street Food: The market opened in April 2014 in a warehouse previously used for storage for the Danish newspaper on Paper Island. The market currently offers 15 trucks, each with approachable prices and menus, aimed at promoting and supporting the global street food movement. Fan favourites include Danish hot dogs, Italian charcuterie, Mexican tacos, Belgian Frites, Cuban fare, and Turkish street food. The focus on sustainability is evident in the market’s use of recycled items. The stalls are old storage containers, benches are made from recycled wood, and the walls are insulated in an old-fashioned method using mussels: www.copenhagenstreetfood.dk/en/
Smørrebrød (open sandwich):
The traditional Danish open sandwich, or smørrebrød, is on everyone’s lips these days. Smørrebrød dates back to the 19th century when, for many agricultural workers, lunch was the main meal of the day. Smørrebrød is a daily staple for many Danes and a truly classic taste of the nation’s traditional cuisine. Invariably based on rye bread, smørrebrød can have an almost limitless number of different toppings, from herring to raw beef, seafood and egg. Smørrebrød has become very popular in recent years, especially among young people.
- Aamanns Etablissement: At the Michelin Guide-recommended restaurant Aamanns Etablissement in Copenhagen Adam Aamann and his team serve Aamanns’ signature smørrebrød and classic Danish dishes for lunch with home-made schnapps and local organic beer: www.aamanns.dk/us
- Royal Smushi Café: Royal Smushi Cafe in the heart of Copenhagen combines Danish food and Danish design in a humorous atmosphere. On the menu, you will find smushi, a Danish open-faced sandwich prepared in sushi size: www.royalsmushicafe.dk
- Peder Oxe: Located at Gråbrødretorv in the centre of Copenhagen, you can enjoy freshly made smørrebrød inspired by Nordic and French cuisine The menu is adjusted according to the seasonal offerings of fresh produce, ensuring a traditional Danish lunch of highest quality: www.pederoxe.dk/english
Other lunch favourites include:
- Øl & Brød: At Øl & Brød (meaning Beer and Bread) you can experience the traditional Danish open sandwich with a twist at the new addition to the Mikkeller brewery on Vesterbro in Copenhagen, just a few steps away from the original Mikkeller Bar: www.ologbrod.com/
- Traditional hotdogs or the luxury version from DØP: Organic hot dog stand located next to the Round Tower on Købmagergade Pedestrian Street. The sausages are made of organic meat. The bread is whole grain, from the slowly raised dough and topped with linseeds: www.doep.dk/en/
- Don’t miss the third-floor whisky bar of this former pharmacy lab. Housed within a beautiful listed building, off an innocuous alleyway, Lidkoeb is one of the hottest cocktail bars in Copenhagen and the cocktails are tasty and expertly mixed by über trendy bearded men in lumberjacks www.lidkoeb.dk/
- The cocktail bar Strøm Bar by Gråbrødre Torv square in central Copenhagen is reaping increasing recognition in the international bartending world. Here, you get so-called gourmet cocktails, where all the ingredients are homemade: www.strombar.dk/
- Balthazar: The luxurious champagne bar Balthazar at the iconic Hotel d’Angleterre from 1755 offers a selection of more than 200 champagnes, tapas-style cuisine, caviar service and live DJ’s on weekends: www.dangleterre.com/restaurant-bars/balthazar/
- Salon 39: This is a different kind of cocktail bar located in the district of Frederiksberg. Here you can try cocktails you will not find any other place. The Spotted Pig, contains bacon-infused tequila, Ducktail is made with foie gras cognac and Ox Blood is mixed with ox bouillon: www.salon39.dk/
- Canal cruise: One of the best ways to get a quick overview and introduction to the city is on a canal cruise. The boats leave every 15 minutes from Gammel Strand and the one-hour guided tour is free with your Copenhagen Card. The journey offers stunning views of the Opera House, The Little Mermaid, The Black Diamond (an impressive black marble addition to the Royal Library leaning gracefully over the water) The Parliament, Denmark’s National Museum as well as the charming Christianshavn area.
- Tivoli Gardens: Tivoli Gardens was founded in 1843 and has become a national treasure and an international attraction. Fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen visited many times, as did Walt Disney and many other celebrities, who all fell in love with the gardens: www.tivoli.dk/en/
- Amalienborg Castle: The home of The Danish Royal Family secured by The Royal Guard- Experience the changing of the guards, as they march from their barracks in Gothersgade by Rosenborg Castle through the streets of Copenhagen and end up at Amalienborg, where the changing of the guard takes place at 12:00 noon: www.slke.dk/eng/copenhagen/amalienborg-palace/
- Nyhavn: This was originally a busy commercial port where ships from all over the world would dock. The area was packed with sailors, ladies of pleasure, pubs and alehouses. Today the beautiful old houses have been renovated and classy restaurants dominate the old port. Nyhavn is filled with people enjoying the relaxed atmosphere by the canal, jazz music and great food: www.nyhavn.com/#!home/cd30
Great views of Copenhagen
- The Round Tower: The 17th-century tower and observatory Rundetaarn, or the round tower, is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe: www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/the-round-tower-gdk410741
- The Tower, Christiansborg Palace (The Danish Parliament): Dine in the midst of Danish politics in unique historical surroundings. With its 106 metres, the Christiansborg Palace tower is the highest tower in Copenhagen. The restaurant is run by Rasmus Bo Bojesen, who also manages the restaurant at The Royal Opera House in Copenhagen. The restaurant at the Tower presents traditional Danish dishes with a contemporary gastronomical twist to provide guests with an outstanding culinary experience. Ingredients include the very best, gathered from sea, woods and meadows all around Denmark: www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/the-tower-christiansborg-palace-gdk917422
- Alberto K: Enjoy spectacular views of Copenhagen, “The Bridge” and Malmø from the Alberto K restaurant at the iconic 5-star Radisson Blu Royal Hotel. Arne Jacobsen is the architect behind the hotel and has designed most of the interior décor, including lamps, doorknobs, lamps and cutlery, especially for this hotel: www.alberto-k.dk/uk/
Art and design
Denmark’s design heritage continues today, influencing everything from furniture and homeware to toys, architecture and fashion. Danish fashion is also a rapidly growing scene with high-end designers making their mark around the world. The Copenhagen Fashion Festival happens twice a year, showcasing the newest collections of the most talented designers Denmark has to offer. For some of Scandinavia’s best shopping, Copenhagen is a treat with one-of-a-kind boutiques, well-known designer names and classy department stores. For the top 10 Danish design, visit: www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/shopping/top-10-danish-design
- Designmuseum Danmark: Thanks to 1950s Danish Modern designers such as Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner who made Danish Design a household term, Denmark is one of the world’s leading epicentres of design and architecture which is reflected in the museum’s collections www.designmuseum.dk/en
- Hay House: Hay creates contemporary furniture and design products with an eye for modern living and has a great stake in Copenhagen’s position as a city of world-class design. Hay House is located on the second floor in Østergade street, also known as Strøget pedestrian shopping street, in central Copenhagen: www.hay.dk/
- Illums Bolighus is the premier centre in Scandinavia for Danish and international design. Furniture, lamps, kitchen and bathroom articles, ceramics, porcelain, silver, and glassware: www.illumsbolighus.com/
Copenhagen is a great city for art lovers. Copenhagen is home to internationally acknowledged art museums attracting artist from all over the world. Situated in scenic surroundings Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a little North of Copenhagen, and ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, a little south of Copenhagen, are both havens for lovers of modern and contemporary art. Whereas The Danish National Gallery in central Copenhagen houses temporary exhibitions as well as three permanent collections of paintings and sculptures, graphic art and plaster casts. Here’s a list of the 10 best art museums in Copenhagen: www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/sightseeing/top-10-art-museums
- The city area of Nørrebro is a multicultural hub of restaurants, bars and eclectic shops. Walkthrough the beautiful graveyard where Hans Christian Andersen is buried, Assistens Churchyard, and come out the other side at Jægersborggade, one of Copenhagen’s coolest streets and home to around 40 art galleries, organic produce shops, vintage clothes, ceramics and jewellery designers, as well as wine bars, coffee shops and restaurants – see: www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/culture/jaegersborggade
- The Meatpacking District is a creative cluster with trendy nightlife, such as Jolene, Mesteren & Lærlingen and Bakken, galleries, such as V1, Bo Bjerggaard, Gallery Poulsen and Butcher’s Lab – a combined gym and gallery, and a broad range of high-quality restaurants: www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/culture/trendy-meatpacking-district
- Bicycles: Daily, one-third of the inhabitants of Copenhagen ride a bicycle to work or school. There are more than 300km of bicycle lanes and many guided bicycle tours. So hop on a bike and discover Copenhagen by pedal power. When staying at hotels, you can sometimes rent bicycles directly from the reception: www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/bike-copenhagen-1
- Green and sustainable: Climate-friendly hotels, organic eateries and sustainable transportation the world’s most liveable cities – Copenhagen has much to offer the eco-conscious traveller: www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/gastronomy/green-copenhagen
- Clean water: Take a dip in the clean and swimmable harbour or enjoy a canal tour and experience the city from the waterside. Your Copenhagen cards allow you to sail the battery-powered bus 11, which runs in a circle around the city’s main attractions: www.copenhagencard.com/free-transport
- City beaches: Halvandet Beach Club: In summer, Copenhageners flock to the city’s parks, waterfronts and beaches. To get to one of the favourite summer spots, jump on the harbour bus (boat) to Halvandet, a remote beach club. You can lounge a day away on their beach chairs, walk barefoot in the sand and eat, drink and dance like you’re far from the urban world. Top 10 Copenhagen beaches: www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/sightseeing/top-10-baths-beaches
Adventures & Excursions beyond Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a relatively small city with excellent public transportation, so travellers can cover most of the attractions and diverse neighbourhoods over a weekend. For those interested in excursions outside the city, there are many options. Absorb wonderful art, architecture and sea views North of Copenhagen at Louisiana, one of Europe’s top modern art museums – or follows Shakespeare’s Hamlet to its setting, Kronborg Castle.
- Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: The beautiful museum, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, is located 40 kilometres north of Copenhagen and it has gained a reputation as a museum in touch with the zeitgeist of the contemporary art world. Besides the impressive permanent collection with over 3,000 works, the museum has 8-12 special exhibitions annually. See ‘events’ for further information: www.louisiana.dk
- Kronborg Castle: Kronborg Castle is known worldwide as Hamlet’s and Shakespeare’s castle. It was Frederik 2 – father of Christian 4 – who built and named the splendid Renaissance castle we know today. The castle was built 1574-85 inspired by European monarchs as a symbol of wealth and power. In 2000 Kronborg was admitted to the UNESCO World Heritage list.