Home of one the world's best restaurants (noma, which only recently relinquished the top spot after three consecutive years), Copenhagen is in the foodie spotlight. This cutting-edge Travelzoo favourite also boasts avant-garde design, art and architecture. Over the last two months, no fewer than four members of our UK-based teams have made the journey out to this charming, canal-ribboned city that some of us readily admit piqued our interest as the setting of The Killing. After shuffling our tips around to each other, we've compiled a list of a few options if you're headed there to enjoy the long days of summer. And if you travel at other times of year, keep your eye out for the comfort-inspiring candles in most shop and restaurant windows; this tradition is intended to inspire a feeling of at-homeness, and works a treat even on a windy, rainy evening.
It's a truth universally acknowledged that your chances of getting in to noma are close to none-a, so here are some alternatives:
The Michelin-recommended Kødbyens Fiskebar is set in the meat-packing district, Vesterbro. The industrial venue has been renovated with a contemporary finish, including aluminium stools and cylinder-shaped fish tank. The fresh fish come straight from the harbour, and the dishes are beautifully presented. Lonely Planet calls it "post-industrial cool", which we think sums it up perfectly.
Geist...Wow! The restaurant is jaw-dropping, with atmospheric lighting, oddly placed mirrors, duck breasts hanging to dry and shiny saucepans in the open-plan kitchen. Chef Bo Bech previously worked at noma and creates innovative dishes that are setting many tongues wagging -- Geist is hailed in several articles as a place where noma chefs eat on their days off. Book in advance and ask to sit at the bar so you can see the chefs at work. This place is not for penny pinchers, but it's definitely worth it. They recommend ordering three or four dishes between two, we tried the turbot and the beef tenderloin with beetroot. Even if you aren't a coffee drinker, order one, you won't be disappointed.
Les Trois Cochons is a French restaurant (obviously) that appeals to the more modest spender. It was just over £30 for three courses and we left pleasantly plump -- a first while in Copenhagen. Crammed with locals, this restaurant is definitely worth a visit and serves "peasant" dishes that appeal to the masses.
We strongly recommend serious advance planning for all the restaurants above, but if you are a little more by-the-seat-of-your-pants, you can also try Torvehallerne, the central food market. This is a great place to start your culinary exploration of the city, as you can try many of the local favourites (like the many varieties of pickled herring) at once without the commitment of a full meal. Many of the stalls have small seating areas, and the slick design divides the foodstuffs roughly into savoury and sweet. There are normally loads of samples available, too, so make sure you hit up both sides. The baked goods are other-worldly.
Speaking of bakeries, you'll never be more than five feet from delicious pastries in Copenhagen. Even 7Elevens and other convenience stores stock delights that would fit in at any branch of Patisserie Valerie. If you're near Tivoli or the train station, give Andersen a try (website is in Danish). The Japanese influence is readily apparent and we indulged in some of the finest cream- and custard-filled treats of our travels here.
Finally, you'll not be a true tourist without stopping for a lunch plate along the Nyhavn. The friendly restaurants are almost all in former merchant houses (just up the way is Hans Christian Andersen's former address), and offer plenty of outdoor or cozy indoor seating. The lunch plates typically include some fish, some pork and a chicken salad not unlike Coronation chicken.
Copenhagen is also known for cocktails. "If you're looking for a cocktail made to perfection and with mad skills, then bar manager Hardeep is your man", says worldsbestbars.com about 1105. We had the most amazing sugar snap pea cocktail there. Salon 39 has a similar vibe; just make sure you book in advance. Saving the best for last, try Ruby, a laid-back bar with leather armchairs and old-school bar staff wearing bow ties and braces. If you find yourself in need of a little slice of Britain, try City Pub on Vesterbrogade. It's not particularly trendy, but the barman is as friendly as they come, the footie's on and you'll be treated to an assortment of...ahem...poor renditions of pop songs while you enjoy your smokes and reasonably priced pints.
Among the most broadly appealing activities in Copenhagen, we'd have to recommend a trip to Tivoli Gardens (although we were somewhat put off by the hefty entrance fee), a walk through world-of-its-own Christiania, a ride on one of the canal boat tours (under a tenner for an hour), visiting the Rosenborg Palace Gardens (home of the Danish crown jewels) and maybe a quick shop along Strøget. If you've got some extra time, you can easily hop a 40-minute train over to Sweden's Malmö. There, you'll find a lovely apothecary that's been preserved and still operates as a chemist (just off the first large square, before the shopping street begins), as well as several museums and plenty of charming architecture.