Over the past couple of decades, copenhagen has transformed from gastronomic backwater to undisputed gourmet hotspot, with a dynamic, diverse and democratic food scene. At the fine-dining end of the culinary spectrum, a Copenhagen restaurant (Geranium) holds top spot in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, and the team from another (Søllerod Krø) took Denmark to victory at this year’s Bocuse d’Or awards. Meanwhile, it’s become increasingly easy to eat out well for less, thanks to an abundance of gourmet burger bars, great pizzerias, artisan bakeries and assorted street food stalls. More international, too, as a new wave of Asian, Latin American and Mediterranean restaurants shake things up on the flavor front.
The traditional favorites are still there, of course, often with a modern makeover. Make time for a lunch of smørrebrød (the famous open sandwiches); try a classic hot dog (the original Danish street food); and get your fingers sticky with delicious pastries, layer cakes and flødeboller (chocolate-covered marshmallow buns). And don’t forget to stock up on foodie souvenirs: goodies worth bringing back include small batch cheeses, gourmet liquorice, handmade chocolates and craft gins and liqueurs.
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Top dollar restaurants
Denmark’s national football stadium is the unlikely setting for this three-Michelin-starred restaurant, perched up on the eighth floor, with views over the neighboring parkland. Not that anyone’s looking at the view; they’re too busy admiring the succession of 20-odd exquisitely crafted and endlessly creative dishes that come to the table over the course of a three-hour tasting menu. You may have to scrimp and save (and book months in advance) to bag a table here – but you’ll soon understand how it got that ‘world’s best’ title. geranium.dk
Hotel D’Angleterre is the undisputed grande dame of Copenhagen hotels, and Marchal is its suitably swish restaurant. You could just come for the lavish breakfast spread and be set up for the rest of the day, but dinner is a real treat. The menu features fresh Nordic produce prepared with classic French techniques and beautifully presented on Bernardaud porcelain. Try to get a window seat so you can watch the comings and goings on Kongens Nytorv in between courses. dengland.com/en/dining/marchal
This long-standing favorite is always worth revisiting. It’s held a Michelin star since 2008 and continues to impress with its refined, contemporary take on Thai food. Dinners start with a series of street food-style snacks in the lounge before moving through to the dining room for the main event. If your time/budget/appetite won’t quite stretch to the full tasting menu, you can still enjoy the experience – just go for the reduced pre-theatre menu instead. kiin.dk
The rustic décor at Vækst – lots of potted plants, a full-size greenhouse and strings of bare bulbs overhead – aims to evoke an endless summer evening in Denmark. They’ve certainly captured that laidback vibe and deliver modern Danish food to match: dishes are light and flavourful, with seasonal vegetables and herbs playing a major part. The set menus include full-on veggie options, but if you love a perfectly cooked piece of fish or meat, they’re dab hands at that, too. cofoco.dk/en/vaekst
Meyers i Tarnet
Allow a little extra time to reach your table at Tårnet. The restaurant is in the tower of Christiansborg Castle (the Danish parliament building), so you have to pass through security first, then take the lift up to the top. It’s worth it. Come at lunchtime, and you get to enjoy excellent smørrebrød (Danish food hero Claus Meyer is the man behind the restaurant) in seriously impressive surroundings – think high, high ceilings, monumental statues and a great view. meyers.dk/restauranter/meyers-i-taarnet
This ever reliable stalwart of Vesterbro’s Meatpacking District launched in 2009 and shows no signs of flagging. Despite the fact that it’s located in one of the old butchers’ units, seafood is the main event here – they source the best, most sustainable catch and serve it super-fresh. Oysters are a specialty, but really whatever you pick – Limfjorden mussels, Swedish langoustine, North Sea turbot – you can’t go far wrong. fiskebaren.dk/en
Right in the city center but discreetly tucked away, this lovely lunch/brunch spot (owned by Danish design company & Tradition) has a small-but-chic indoors space, plus more tables outside in the leafy courtyard. The small menu morphs with the seasons, but expect the likes of chia porridge, burrata with salsa and avocado on rye. If the crispy Belgian waffle topped with shrimps, peas, herbs and a soft-boiled egg is on the menu, go for it – delicious. andtradition.com/lille-petra
If you fancy heading right off the tourist trail, take the harbor bus to Teglholmen (a 40-minute boat-ride from Nyhavn), walk 10 minutes or so, cross a narrow footbridge and – ta da – you reach Café Slusen. Nothing fancy, no Michelin stars – just a cute little waterfront tin shack with a large terrace. Choose from a selection of canned Spanish and Portuguese seafood and it gets served up with sourdough bread, lemon, mayo and tomato salsa for the simplest of sunny day lunches. (Open summer only.) facebook.com/cafeslusencph
Over the summer months, the former shipyards at Refshaleoen turn into one of the buzziest places in town, with Reffen at the heart of the action. The largest street food market in the Nordics, it’s made of up of old shipping containers housing 40-odd food stalls and bars that showcase a wide range of global cuisines. Expect anything from Nepalese dumplings to Louisiana seafood, which you can eat by the water’s edge while you watch the boats glide by. reffen.dk/en
Take the metro from central Copenhagen to Øresund (10 minutes or so) and you can enjoy a breezy beachside walk through Amager Strandpark before stopping off for lunch at Café Baaden. A floating restaurant permanently moored in the little harbor there, it serves simple but tasty food (sandwiches, salads, etc). What really sells it, though, is the location. Sit on the top deck, breathe in the sea air and enjoy the view across the waves to the bridge. That bridge. (Open summer only.) cafebaaden.com