For the last year or so, Copenhagen has been calling to me. Not in a siren-y, sing-you-to-your-untimely-death kind of way, but something sweeter and more gentle, like “Sarah…come eat our cinnamon rolls…”
Okay. It wasn’t like that exactly. But a girl can only look at so many kanelsnurrer photos on Instagram before she’s gotta go taste one for herself! I’ve always believed in Universal nudges towards moments or places, so this past month, feeling a bit crazy and impulsive (and thrilled out of my skin), I booked a last minute ticket to Copenhagen.
Spoiler alert: THIS CITY IS THE BEST. It’s clean, rich with history and culture, and home to some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. A week didn’t come close to being enough time to hit all the restaurants on my list, but I managed to sip and snack my way to an unforgettable trip. Here were some of my favorite spots:
ATELIER SEPTEMBER. This bright, minimalist café could be anywhere, but it feels distinctly Danish for its attention to detail and creativity with local produce. All of Atelier’s dishes are beautifully plated, and (bonus) taste freakin’ delicious. Don’t miss their avocado toast and seasonal yogurt bowls (mine had plum, housemade granola and saffron-scented carrots)!
GRØD. Grød opened in 2011 with the simple goal of redefining “the poor man’s breakfast,” or porridge. Today, they have five locations across Copenhagen and are whipping up some of the most delicious sweet and savory porridges imaginable: from Asian-style congee with organic chicken, spring onions and sesame, to sweet blueberry chia porridge topped with plum compote, Skyr (Icelandic-style yogurt) and roasted nuts. They even offer an “ALL IN” option for breakfast: porridge with all their morning toppings – close to 12! Talk about flavor in every bite!
HOST. Copenhagen is the center of New Nordic cuisine, a food movement pioneered by Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer of Noma (named the best restaurant in the world four times). Today, restaurants in Scandinavia are working to innovate traditional recipes and local ingredients to keep their heritage thriving. Host, an upscale eatery in Nørrebro, is one of the best (and least expensive!) ways to experience New Nordic. They offer three and five course tasting menus in an award-winning dining room – Host has won three international design awards, including World’s Best Designed Restaurant.
MAD & KAFFE. Tons of restaurants and cafes here feature the “make your own” meal model, and no one does it better than Mad & Kaffe. Meaning “Food & Coffee” in Danish, this brunch staple offers nearly 25 small tapas-style breakfast plates, from yogurt with house granola and berries to scrambled eggs with mushrooms and chive. When you sit down you’re given a card and asked to choose either 3, 5, or 7 dishes. You can mix and match dozens of combinations to create your perfect brunch board! A warning: M&K is one of the most popular spots in CPH, so if you’re heading in on the weekend, prepare to wait.
RESTAURANT SCHØNNEMANN. One of Denmark’s most classic lunch staples is “smorrebrod,” or open-faced sandwiches. Traditionally served on thin seeded (or rye) bread, smorrebrod can be found with an endless combination of toppings: from pickled herring to scrambled eggs. Restaurant Schønnemann, which opened in 1877, is the oldest, and most widely respected peddler of smorrebrod. Make a reservation, let your server guide you through the menu, and be sure to sample some traditional aquavit: Schønnemann has the largest selection in Copenhagen.
MEYERS BAKERI. One of my friends who went to Copenhagen last year gave me some advice: eat every cinnamon roll you can find. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Meyers is one of the most famous bakeries in CPH, and they’re known for their kanelsnurrer, or cinnamon swirl. If you mixed sweet challah bread with your traditional American cinnamon roll, you’re in the ballpark of a kanelsnurrer. The dough is soft and fragrant, but instead of heaps of frosting like the Americanized version, Meyers’ rolls rely more on the swirls of spiced cinnamon sugar throughout. Dreamy with a cup of kaffe and a side of Denmark sunshine!
TORVEHALLERNE. Want a taste of Copenhagen but don’t know where to start? Head to Torvehallerne, a massive food hall in central Nørrebro. With two sprawling glass-windowed halls, it’s filled with local restaurants and food vendors from all over the city. You can browse specialty goods, have a full meal, or buy a picnic spread (organic beer and ciders included) to take to the nearby park. Regardless – it’s a must-visit.
THE COFFEE COLLECTIVE. If you’re passionate about coffee, a trip to The Coffee Collective is a must. This local company, with multiple Copenhagen locations, works with coffee farmers all over the world and is committed to direct trade for a superior, intelligently sourced product. The offer all the standard café drinks and bagged beans, but don’t miss their decadently creamy espresso soft-serve!
ISMAGERIET. I’ve had a lot of ice cream in my lifetime, and Ismageriet is hands-down the best. Italian-style gelato made from organic milk and locally-souced ingredients, it’s well-worth the trip across the river. Samples here are unlimited (music to my ears, let’s be real), and they offer lots of unique toppings, like homemade marshmallow fluff, chocolate truffles and jam.
PAPIRØEN (PAPER ISLAND). If you stumble upon some warm weather and feel like adventuring, rent a bike and head on over to Papirøen, or Paper Island. This airplane hanger, on an island facing the Copenhagen waterfront, is home to dozens of food stalls and bars, peddling everything from fish tank-sized mojitos to Malaysian street food. There’s plenty of seating in the rows of wooden tables and lounge chairs out front, but feel free to take your treasures and sit anywhere along the river bank.
OTHER PLACES WORTH MENTIONING:
For pastry: Democratic Coffee, Lagkagehuset, Granny’s House (Torvehallerne), The Corner at 108, Sankt Peders Bageri, Det Rene Brød.
For ice cream: Østerberg Ice Cream, Social Foodies, Paradis Is, Istid.
For New Nordic: Geranium, AOC, Kadeau, 108, Manfred’s Og Vin, Relae.
For breakfast & brunch: Møller Kaffe & Køkken, Ipsen & Co, Granola, Next Door Cafe, Paludan Bog & Cafe, Social.