A city where bikes outnumber cars and natural wine is as ubiquitous as water, the hip, design-friendly and seriously eco-conscious city of Copenhagen is a laid back exercise in excellent cuisine, cultural escapades and picturesque vistas with buildings stained in a Crayola box of colors. Think of Copenhagen as the Williamsburg of the Nordic countries — a happy, bohemian-natured hub with an artistic undertone and an all-around feeling of cool. Below, I explain why you should visit this compelling city, and how to do it right once you’re there.
For a hip hotel decked out in blonde wood and animal hides that’s also super affordable (rooms start at around $135, depending on the season) check out Axel Guldsmeden, located in Vesterbro. This gentrifying neighborhood — also considered the city’s Red Light District — offers a smattering of chic cafes and vintage shops… and it’s where you’ll find all the artists kicking it. The cozy, sustainably-minded property serves seasonal, organic Danish cuisine at its ground-floor namesake eatery, and there’s a tiny on-site gym, in addition to an organic spa. Rooms are on the small side, but that just gives you more reason to get out and explore.
Another option in an especially ideal location in the city’s center, Hotel Alexandra) is another eco-friendly boutique number that’s lodged guests for over 100 years. Taking inspiration from mid-century Danish design, vintage furniture in bright and neutral hues fill the rooms (which go for around $120). Hungry? Try the ground-level modern Vietnamese eatery LêLê. Additionally, Hotel Alexandra is just a quick 10 minute walk to the city’s best almond croissant (or mandel croissant — more on that below), and it’s also a breeze to reach City Hall Square and Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest amusement park.
Regardless where you choose to stay, it’s imperative to start at least one morning with Democratic Coffee’s almond croissant. While such pastries are easily found throughout the city, Democratic’s take involves airy and crisp paper-thin layers of dough surrounding a sweet, syrupy almond filling. It just might make you rethink France’s contribution to the world of breakfast.
Spend the day traversing the inner city streets, stopping in furniture and modern homeware design stores like Hay and Illums Bolighus. For lunch, Atelier September is a must, a sun-drenched café that looks straight out of a Kinfolk photo shoot… with food to match. Here, chef and owner Frederik Bille Brahe, a Noma alum, serves simple but delicious plates of avocado toast and yogurt with saffron-carrot jam. To help digest, take a stroll over to Copenhagen’s most photographed and iconic waterway, Nyhavn Canal, where you’ll want to nab that crucial Instagram photo.
Depending on how fancy you want to get for dinner, Geranium is one of Copenhagen’s top fine dining haunts, listed at number 19 on San Pellegrino’s esteemed World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. Here, chef Rasmus Kofoed plates a beautiful tasting menu of seasonal Nordic dishes using progressive technique. He also makes one of the best gluten-free breads I’ve ever tried. But, for a slightly more casual affair, Baest, the charcuterie and pizza-concerned wine bar from chef Christian Puglisi will do the trick.
Norway is known for having fantastic coffee brewed in a lighter manner than we’re familiar with in the US, the result being an almost tea-like beverage, heavy on caffeine, that shows off the bean’s fruity nature. And while you’re in Denmark, the best place to try a Nordic-style brew is via Coffee Collective. This local chainlet counts a number of locations throughout the city, and if you’re keen to checkout a new hood — one equipped with hip boutiques — rent a bike from your hotel and ride over to the Frederiksberg location. If you’re still a bit hungry, pop into Mirabelle for some of the city’s most exceptional chewy (yet crusty) organic sourdough. Pair it with some Vesterhavs cheese and a soft-boiled egg on the side and you have a typical Danish morning meal.
Spend the late morning shopping around (most stores open between 10 and 11am), then take a ride over to Torvehallerne, an indoor/outdoor gastronomic market filled with restaurants, stands and counters that specialize in cheese, meat, spices and more. You’re likely to feel overwhelmed with the number of dining options — there’s everything from sushi to tacos to tapas! Definitely try former Noma chef Rosario Sanchez’s flavor-packed tacos from her Hija de Sanchez stand, and if you’re in the mood for super thin crust pizza, Gorms is the move. But, you’re in Denmark, so it probably makes sense to sample some local specialties like those omnipresent open-faced smorrebrod toasts from Hallernes.
Pretty much anywhere you go in Copenhagen, you’ll encounter low intervention, natural wine. That’s thanks to Rosforth & Rosforth, the city’s top distributor who works closely with the Noma team and who commands a quirky space under the Knippelsbro bridge. While Rosforth & Rosforth isn’t really a retail store, come even slightly interested and owner Sune Rosforth might be successful in selling you some rare bottles and even pouring you a few tastes. After your wine, take a quick jaunt over to Christiania, the hippie-inhabited hood that’s best known for being a cannabis haven, where, in the past, the botanical was freely sold.
For dinner, talk a brief ride over to Noma’s former home. This past July, the space relaunched as Restaurant Barr — a project from Rene Redzepi and chef Thorsten Schmidt. Though you can recognize the old Noma, the restaurant has been redressed with a more relaxed feel and is known for their pretty plate assembles a Scandinavian grandma would be proud of. We’re talking heartier dishes like potatoes with lovage and goat butter, and dry aged, free range pork schnitzel. Skål!
*Header photo by Line Klein