A Well-Rounded Culinary Guide To Copenhagen
The Danish capital’s Michelin star heavyweights + casual eats, sweets, and coffee
Felicity—a 20-something travel lover—has teamed up with her friends from around the world to provide readers with local, insider knowledge of today’s most awe-inspiring destinations. Through writing, photography, and video, they’ll share the best tricks and tips for experiencing a place authentically and getting off the beaten path.
Ask any fine-dining foodie which restaurants are on their Bucket List, and noma is likely to come up. With very good reason, of course! It was one of the most widely acclaimed restaurants in recent history, and noma 2.0 has proven to be just as lauded. Chef Rene Redzepi’s success helped turn Copenhagen into a culinary Mecca, and those inventive and design-savvy Danes have only continued to capture the world’s attention.
Here’s the thing, though; while of course I want to eat jelly made from blackberries and flowers that looks exactly like a beetle (yes, Redzepi made that happen), I also want some great coffee, baking, lunch, and beer in Copenhagen too, right? It can’t all be desserts disguised as bugs, after all. So, to give you a well-rounded Copenhagen dining experience that covers everything from the mind-bending molecular stuff to good ol’ fashioned smørrebrød, I’ve put together a list! Here are some of the Danish capital’s most delicious/fun go-to spots throughout the day—because hot dogs deserve credit too, you know.
The New Nordic Kitchen
Photo: Claes Bech Poulson
The concept of the New Nordic kitchen was defined in a 2004 manifesto signed by twelve influential Scandinavian chefs. It “summarised purity, season, ethics, health, sustainability and quality in ten points”, helping to put their often-underrated northern culinary traditions on the map. In Copenhagen, noma is the perfect example of this kind of work, but another I’d like to highlight is Geranium. Not that it really needs my help. Chef and owner Rasmus Kofoed is the most winning chef ever in the Bocuse D’Ore, having captured gold, silver, and bronze medals over the past fifteen years. Located on the eighth floor of a building in the Østerbro area, there’s stiff competition for reservations in Geranium’s light-filled room overlooking the trees. They also have three Michelin stars. So yes, they seem to know what they’re doing.
Off the Beaten Path
Photo: Alison Vagnini
Alouette is as fun to find as it is to dine in; located inside a graffiti-tagged former pencil factory in Islands Brygge, (an old industrial neighborhood about 15 minutes by car from the city center), the journey there is an adventure in itself. Run by Camilla Hansen (a Dane) and her American husband, Chef Nick Curtin, Alouette draws on culinary influences from Curtin’s home and the seasonal offerings of Denmark, making for a unique dining experience in the city. Their ever-changing five course menu earned a Michelin star after just one year in business. Impressive, much?
Michelin Star Siblings
If you’re reluctant to pay Michelin star prices every night on your trip, I hear you. I also have good news. Many of those super fancy spots have younger, more casual siblings where the atmosphere (and prices) are more chill. Manfreds, the little brother of widely celebrated Relæ, is the city’s first natural wine bar and, in their words, “(probably) the world's only veggie-focused restaurant famous for its raw meat.” Also checkout 108, nomads younger sister, and The Corner 108, the youngest of them all! Vegetarian Veve, sibling to Kiin Kiin, is also worth a try.
Truly, a trip to Denmark wouldn’t be right without a lunch (or several) of smørrebrød, literally meaning ‘buttered bread’. These open-faced sandwiches always start with a small, rectangular slice of dark and densely seeded bread, to which all matter of toppings are applied (though tradition dictates ingredients like pickled herring, cured salmon, smoked eel, and cheese). The Danes are so serious about their smørrebrød that they literally hold an annual championship for them with chefs competing for top prize (you know, like the Sandwich Olympics). One year the title was claimed by Øl & Brød, a smørrebrød-focused restaurant opened by the renowned Mikkeller Brewery (Øl & Brød unsurprisingly translates to “beer and bread”). The restaurant offers beer pairings with each of their refined sandwiches, which include options like “beetroot tartar, pickled Shimeji, beer battered onion ring & cream cheese”.
If Øl & Brød is the more modern take on smørrebrød, Schønnemann's brings the tradition. Open since 1877, it’s one of Copenhagen’s longest-running restaurants and a true destination for lunch. This is where you’ll get the old-school toppings like smoked eel!
Finally, some of the most beautiful sandwiches are to be found at Aamanns’ locations, one of which is a takeaway deli and the other a swanky sit-down restaurant. Whichever you choose, their offerings are almost too pretty to eat. (Almost).
You know those tins of Danish butter cookies you used to get around the holidays? Well, Leckerbaer makes Danish cookies that are farrrr better than those. Owned and run by seasoned chefs Jacob and Gabi Mogensen, they offer eight different cookies a day and rotate their menu according to season (which, by the way, is one of the New Nordic principles). Order a plate of cookies with your coffee or hot chocolate, and cozy up in their beautiful space. Other great bakeries to keep in mind are Mirabelle and Sankt Peders Bageri—go to the latter on Tuesdays for their onsdagssnegle (cinnamon roll) special!
To say Danes are serious about their coffee would be the understatement of the year. There are good options for caffeine on nearly every corner in Copenhagen, but one of the smallest and sweetest is Rist. It’s quite easy to fall in love with its exposed brick walls and wooden bar, and the owners are seriously dedicated to the craft of coffee. They also have sandwiches and sweets, as well as some lovely ceramics to browse. Even smaller than Rist is Central Hotel og Café!
A delightful perch for people watching, Hooked is a seafood joint that’s quick, tasty, affordable, and—because we’re in Copenhagen—also stylish. Try the lobster rolls or fish burger with their salty, thick cut “Vinegar Fries” and a side of black garlic mayo. Heck YES. And finally, what’s more delightfully casual than a hot dog? Buy this traditional fast food from a street vendor or make your way to John’s Hot Dog Deli, where the prices are suuuper reasonable and you can customize your dog from their selection of ten housemade toppings. You'll probably want to get two.