Copenhagen

Copenhagen

Click to Tour Copenhagen via Photos
Copenhagen travel notes for first time visitors and people to travel to eat.

Copenhagen gives me hope for humanity. It feels like in recent history, the Danes have figured it out. All of it. The food. The biking. The canals. The people. The open spaces. The fresh air and clean water. The happiness. Oh, the happiness. There’s a sense that everything here is done with deliberate care and attention to detail. That the “why” is always asked and the answer is always impressive.

Granted I was here in summer and the sun didn’t quit. 

Here’s what to know about a trip to Copenhagen: Wear comfortable shoes, you’ll want to walk everywhere that you don’t bike to. Rent a bike for the duration of your stay or do one of the short-term rentals for a part day. If you can’t bike or walk there the subway is easy and there’s an app you can use to buy tickets. Never leave home without your swimsuit and a towel. You can swim everywhere. If you want to eat at one of the many impressive restaurants, especially those with tasting menus, book a reservation.

Biking

Biking is part of the routine in Copenhagen. Be sure to rent one for the length of your visit or snag one of the many that are scattered everywhere for a day. We used Donkey Republic. One thing to note, you’ll need a data plan to sign up. There are cars but few of them and often not found along many of the paths you’ll bike along. Do pay attention to which part of the walkway is for bikes or peds. It’s easy to get caught in the wrong lane. All of the bikes we used had a name so you can more easily figure out which one is yours.

Canals + Swimming

There are canals everywhere in Copenhagen and they are used for houseboats, recreational boats, tour boats, public transportation boats, fishin from, gazing into, strolling along, and swimming in. This is the only city I've ever been where I've seen swimming so accessible. Do you know of any other city like this?

When we first arrived our host nearly didn’t mention that we should swim in the canals. She was halfway out the door and then remembered to mention, what was one of the best pieces of advice. There are canals everywhere and you can swim in them. The water is clean and clear and when we were there it had that perfect take-your-breath-away temperature. There are ladders to help you in and out all over the place. Be sure to look for your way out before jumping in though… you can find your own quiet place or just look for the locals. It’s best to keep a towel in your bag. 

Metro

It was easy to get from the airport into Copenhagen via the Metro… and even easier if you get the app and purchased your tickets as you’re about to hop on. The stations were neat and tidy and easy to navigate. We used the DOT mobile app and think you should too. We ended up walking so much we didn’t get the City Pass but if your feet need a break or the weather is off, you might want to look into that.
https://dinoffentligetransport.dk/tourist/tickets/
https://www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/public-transport

Food

Oh, the food. Friends of ours who love food as much as we do said Copenhagen was one of their favorite cities to eat in. Then, while camping we met another couple who claimed one of the best meals of their life was had in Copenhagen, so good in fact they returned to the same restaurant twice during their short stay. To say we had high expectations is an understatement. 

We knew ahead of time that we’d be splurging for tasting menus at a few places so kept our lunches small or had them at our rental and stuffed our bellies most nights. What we found was a commitment to quality ingredients grown in sustainable ways which all were prepared with thought and creative attention to detail and unique tastes.

What I’ll remember most about Copenhagen contemporary food is the layering. Most (all?) dishes had elements that stacked beautifully and tastefully one on top of the next, with the top layer obscuring the rest.

Relæ and 108 are both places that I’m thrilled we tried and I recommend but feel they are a once-in-a-lifetime kind of place. 

Next time we visit we’ll focus more on street food and more casual places. I want to spend more time at La Banchani (you can swim from the restaurant dock, what’s more casual than that?!), eat hot dogs (especially at Dop), try Rosio Sanchez’s tacos at her place Hija De Sanchez, break the rule I just stated and try Amass Restaurant and do everything in my power to make it to Noma, become best friend’s with Nadine Levy Redzepi so she can show me how to make something at home, go to for seafood in the meatpacking district at Fiskebar, and head to Aamanns for smørrebrød.

If you have Netflix, check Somebody Feed Phil's Copenhagen episode. Many of the places on my "next time" list above are pulled directly from there.

Places we tried

The Corner Cafe

The Corner Cafe
Cafe and bar with a few tables inside and out. No reservations.

This was about three blocks from our rental and we ended up wandering here each morning. Summer temperatures were in full swing when we visited and the iced coffee was perfection. It was dark, smooth, and perfectly balanced. And I couldn’t help but grab a pastry.

La Banchina

La Banchina
Casual restaurant on the water. No reservations.
Bring a towel because you can swim in the canals right off their dock!

We hopped on our rented bikes and found our way to La Banchina. They make everything to order from a tiny glass house surrounded by some of their blooming herbs. We loved our lazy lunch, which included the best mussels in recent history. Our only regret was not wearing swimsuits and bringing towels. I had no idea what a charming dock this was going to turn out to be! 

That's a sauna! You can pay a little extra to use it.
That's the glass house where all the cooking magic happens.

Restaurant Barr

https://restaurantbarr.com/en/home
Fancy food, casual environment. Reservations suggested. 

Restaurant Barr is located in the former Noma space and blends the casual atmosphere with a creative menu that they proudly pair with interesting beers. 

The only miss, if you can it that, was the number of dishes… unlike other places with tasting menus we found the portion sizes here to be huge! I don’t think I ate again until dinner the next day. 

The Bridge Street Kitchen

https://thebridgestreetkitchen.com/
No reservations required. Dine outdoors along the waterfront in a casual, relaxing setting.

This open air market is a collection of food and drink stalls with a wide variety of offerings. It’s picturesque location is in Greenlandic Trade Square. The vendors stretch in a bent line which is flanked by canals (great for swimming or relaxing by) and capped with the Inderhavnsbroen bridge.

We opted for a Gasoline Grill burger (a must try!) and fresh naan with chicken, veggies, and a yogurt sauce from Dhab. The burger was outstanding and the chicken and naan were good but not remarkable. Sitting in the Denmark summer evening dusk with a gentle crowd of folks made this stop worthwhile. It’s also a great choice to end a day without needing reservations. 

BAR HVA BE´HAR

BAR HVA BE´HAR at Babbette Hotel
Casual but intentional. We didn’t make reservations but there’s a button to make them on the website.

What a surprise this place was! You know how when you’re exploring and wandering and getting lost and then found and then realize you’re starving and it’s past lunchtime and well before dinner and dear god you need to eat right now? Just me? Well. That’s how we found this place. I wasn’t sure if we’d be getting real food or factory frozen food prepared in the microwave but when we saw “organic” on the larger-than-life menu board I felt like we were at least leaning in the right direction. 

We had no idea there was a garden out back so when we tried to sit at one of the tables on the busy street the bar tender kindly asked if we'd like to see the garden first. It was more of back alley with a ton of green than a garden and it was perfect. We passed through one of the most cozy and deeply corner-erd restaurants on the way through that I can only imagine would be cozy like a dream in winter.

See that menu holding the door open? It’s really that big and that’s really the menu. It was delightful to try to manage holding it from that armed chair and seeing Mark over it. I felt like Alice. 

Each dish was perfectly made. The garden area was charming (what kind of car is that?). They were kind and dealt with my allergies with aplomb especially given the off hour we dined at. Sometimes when you do research you can be a slave to a schedule but you feel you’ve given a city it’s best shot of revealing them parts you want to see in a limited time. But more often than not being surprised by the unexpected is better than having a place meet your expectations. Why that is, I can’t say, but I can say that it is just the way it is. 


Ved Stranden 10

https://www.vedstranden10.dk/
Organic wine bar. We got there just before the wait started and snagged a table outside. Once they filled up they let people order sit with their wine on the canal.

My pal (I met her once but believe we'd be pals), Katie Parla pointed us towards this organic wine bar. When she says there's a place she returned to everynight during a trip, you know it's worth checking out for yourself.

Juul's Vin & Spiritus

https://www.juuls.dk/
Wine and bottle shop on Værnedamsvej street (a street worth a stroll for specialty stores and shops).

This isn't a bar, but a bottle shop. We love trying out local spirits and this place hit every note. We learned about so many unique spirits blended just for this shop, got a tour of the old (oooold) store room and staff area, and walked away with a dill eau di vie and an elderflower eau di vie. Rasmus, the man who gave us a full tour of the shop, explaining patiently and passionately as we went, explained that we should do what the locals do and try pairing the dill eau di vie with a fish dish rather than waiting to serve it as an digestif. Looking forward to giving it a try! If you love the story behind the bottle, find your way here and ask for Rasmus!

Relæ and 108

https://www.retaurant-relae.dk/en/manifest/

https://108.dk/en/home/

One Michelin Star each. Tasting menu and ala carte options. Reservations highly encouraged.

In short, these one-Michelin star tasting menus shine. (We didn't know that 108 had a star before going! It was the sister restaurant to the coffee shop (see above) that we loved and so we went in on our last night. Ha! What a surprise.) Each chef played with the freshest ingredients in new and creative ways. And the layers. The top layer often hid a complex stack of flavors and textures. Oh, and the edible flowers and greens! Many of the dishes were topped with a sort of bouquet that paid homage to the garden and the season.

If you enjoy the adventure of a tasting menu and experiencing food in new and creative ways, try to find your way to one of these!

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