Are you wondering what to eat in Copenhagen during a food-focused trip to Denmark’s capital city? Read on to discover twenty must-eat Copenhagen food favorites and the best places to eat (or drink) it all.
Copenhagen isn’t just one of the great food cities in Europe. Along with global megacities like New York, London and Tokyo, it’s one of the great food cities of the world. But Copenhagen isn’t a megacity.
It’s the charming, happy, fairytale city that inspired Hans Christian Andersen to write The Little Mermaid. Copenhagen streets are immaculate as are the city’s well manicured parks and neatly laid bike paths. The city teems with great old and new architecture.
Additionally, the Danish capital city has a public transit system that’s the envy of the world with its electric powered buses and a well planned metro line where, with day passes, a passenger can literally ride a single elevator from the street to the train platform.
While we can imagine Andersen strolling down the Copenhagen’s cobblestone streets, we wonder if he ate well when he wasn’t writing. The Copenhagen food scene wasn’t much to write about in the 19th century since most meals involved meat or fish and potatoes.
What a difference a couple centuries can make! Today’s food in Copenhagen is both diverse and sophisticated. It’s the kind of city where almost any and every cuisine is available, albeit for a price.
Copenhagen ranks as one of the most expensive cities we’ve ever visited… and we’ve been to hundreds of cities. If you plan ahead and budget wisely, you’ll be better positioned to enjoy your trip without sacrifice or sticker shock. In other words, travel to Copenhagen with a well-funded credit card.
Spending a week in Copenhagen was just enough time for us to explore the thoroughly modern Scandinavian city. And, by explore, we mean sample a veritable smorgasbord of food at neighborhood cafes and internationally recognized restaurants.
Similar to cities like Barcelona, San Sebastian and Paris, Copenhagen’s cutting edge food scene has attracted young chefs like a magnet. These eager young chefs have brought a sense of excellence and adventure to what once was a simple, utilitarian food spot. They’ve also brought a learned precision to what they cook in not just high-end molecular gastronomy but also to international favorites like ramen, barbecue and pizza.
Copenhagen’s food scene is young and vibrant like an early Beethoven piano sonata. We ponder with excitement where the city’s cuisine is headed in the coming decades as chefs grow through their life journeys. The food in Copenhagen is great and we anticipate that it will get even greater.
Following in Andersen’s footsteps, we sampled the city’s best pastries, coffee and adult beverages as we traversed the city’s cobblestone streets. And, in the process, we fell in love with Copenhagen one bite and sip at a time.
Without a doubt, our first trip to the Danish capital won’t be our last.
Discover Danish food favorites to taste in Copenhagen and the rest of Denmark.
Table of Contents
- Copenhagen Food Favorites
Copenhagen Food Favorites
We expected the food to be great in Copenhagen. We also expected it to be expensive. We were right on both counts except that the food was even greater and a tad more expensive than we anticipated.
We don’t use hyperbole when we share that Copenhagen has shot up to the top tier of our favorite food destinations along with cities like Lyon, Bologna, New Orleans and Bangkok. The city’s food is that great. It’s also diverse with options spanning the globe at a variety of price ranges. Yes, there are cheap eats in Copenhagen, with the word cheap being relative.
We ate it all in Copenhagen from street food to fine dining. We also drank a lot, mostly coffee, along the way. Read on to discover our favorites, i.e. the 20 things you must eat and drink when you visit Copenhagen.
1. New Nordic Cuisine
With its focus on hyper-local, seasonal food, the birth of the New Nordic Cuisine coincides with the 2004 opening of Noma in Copenhagen. It’s not a coincidence. Claus Meyer didn’t just write the New Nordic Cuisine manifesto. He also partnered with René Redzepi to open Noma.
Sure, you can sample New Nordic Cuisine in Scandinavian countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden as well as at several of the best Copenhagen restaurants. However, there’s no better place to dive into the wonderful world of pickling, fermentation and extreme cuisine than at the Noma’s campus situated between Christiana and Refshaleøen.
After all, Noma is the restaurant that started Scandinavia’s culinary movement. Plus, it has three Michelin stars and topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list five times. Just plan way ahead to score a reservation and start saving now.
2. Top Copenhagen Restaurants
Noma may be considered the best restaurant in the world but it’s not the only top restaurant in the Danish capital – which is a good thing. Most people who visit Copenhagen won’t dine at Noma due to its high price tag and culinarily adventurous menu. Plus, it’s practically impossible to score a reservation.
While Noma may have topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List five times, three-starred Geranium currently tops the list. Then there are restaurants like Alchemist which offers cutting edge, transportive “Holistic Cuisine,” Amass which takes sustainable cuisine to new heights and Barr which puts new spins on classic Nordic dishes.
Copenhagen is filled with chefs and bakers who ‘earned their chops’ at Noma and now have their own restaurants and bakeries. To us, Copenhagen feels like a company town… and that company is Noma. That being said, we have more to discover outside Noma’s realm during our future visits.
Copenhagen currently has 14 Michelin-starred restaurants. Geranium and Noma each have three stars. Two-star restaurants include Alchemist, a | o | c, Jordnær, Kadeau Copenhagen and Kong Hans Kælder. Finally, each of the following restaurants has one star: Alouette, formel B, Kiin Kiin, Kokkeriet, Marchal, The Samuel and Søllerød Kro.
Top Restaurants in Copenhagen
Discover our picks for the best Copenhagen restaurants.
3. Traditional Danish Food
It’s easy to get swept up with Copenhagen’s food scene filled with New Nordic Cuisine and other modern culinary trends. However, skipping traditional Danish dishes would be a mistake for food travelers taking a deep dive into the city’s food scene.
Make no mistake, traditional Danish food isn’t fancy. It includes ingredients found on the land and in the water, with typical meals featuring fish, pork and potatoes. Rye bread is often on the table too.
While we associated salmon with Denmark before our visit, the country’s national dish, stegt flæsk, features crispy pork in addition to potatoes and parsley sauce. To us, though, no traditional dish personifies Danish cuisine more than smørrebrød. It’s the dish that both started and ended our culinary journey in Copenhagen and the one that we plan to incorporate into our lunch repertoire.
In simple terms, smørrebrød are open-faced sandwiches that compare favorably with other global sandwiches. However, Denmarks’s humble smørrebrød has grown from a basic, nourishing, utilitarian, bread-based 19th century meal to a platform for modern day chef-driven creativity.
Don’t attempt to eat Copenhagen smørrebrød with your hands. Instead, eat them with utensils like the locals do.
Copenhagen chefs top rugbrød, a dark whole grain rye, with a range of proteins that transcend simple slabs of pickled herring or sliced hard boiled eggs. Some of our favorite smørrebrød toppers in Copenhagen were beef tartare and a gravy teeming with chanterelles and oyster mushrooms. However, we also enjoyed eating smørrebrød topped more traditionally with herring and egg salad.
Ironically, Danish bakers didn’t invent the laminated pastries called danishes in the United States. That credit goes to Austrian bakers. However, it’s fair to say that Danish bakers have taken Austria’s layered pastry concept to new and exciting levels at bakeries throughout Copenhagen.
Cinnamon snail-shaped pastries called kanelsnegle are are easily the city’s most popular pastry. Many bakeries add bonus bits like chocolate to the kanelsnegle’s typical sugary glaze.
However, if you’re looking for a Copenhagen pastry that looks and tastes more like American danishes, that pastry is the spandauer. It’s a classic wienerbrød with flaky, laminated crust, a sweet marzipan filling and either fruit or cream on top.
Where to Devour the Best Pastries in Copenhagen
Check out our Copenhagen bakery guide with a round-up of the city’s sweetest spots.
6. Morning Buns
In Copenhagen, morning buns are portable breakfast sandwiches that demonstrate the power of top quality bread. It didn’t take long us for us to fall in love with the popular Danish breakfast sandwich. Actually, it just took one bite.
Follow our morning bun recipe and make the tasty breakfast sandwich in your kitchen.
Magnificent artisan sourdough hand rolls provide a stage for excellent aged alpine cheese (in this case, Comté from France) and butter. While these three ingredients stand on their own, Copenhagen bakeries combine these wonderful ingredients to make a simple elevated breakfast.
Where to Fall in Love with Morning Buns in Copenhagen
The best Copenhagen bakeries all serve morning buns.
7. Hot Dogs
We’ve eaten Hot Dogs in American cities like Buffalo, Chicago and New York as well as in Nordic cities like Oslo and Stockholm. We can now add Copenhagen to this auspicious list now that we’ve eaten the wonderful Danish food favorite called rød pølse at both a gourmet pølsevogn (i.e. sausage wagon) and a 7-Eleven located right by our Copenhagen hotel.
Although Danes have been stuffing slender ‘red’ sausages inside buns for a century, traditional toppings keep Rød Pølser from being boring. Popular toppings include onion (both fried and raw), mustard, ketchup, remoulade and sliced pickles. We piled all of these ingredients on top of our first rød pølse and then did it again with our second. We’re nothing if not adventurous creatures of habit with a shared passion for street food.
Considering that Denmark has coasts along both the North and Baltic Seas, you might think that seafood would be abundant in the country’s capital. You would be correct. Fish is available at all price points and in all shapes and forms including inside fiskefrikadeller (fish cakes) and on top of smørrebrød.
Seafood specialities like oysters and scallops are readily available at both upscale and traditional Copenhagen restaurants as well as at street stalls and in food markets. However, herring is the city’s favorite fish and the one not to miss. The bony fish is so abundant that it played a key role in establishing Copenhagen’s status as a European trading center.
Porridge is so popular in Copenhagen that local chain Grød, the Danish word for porridge, has ten locations throughout the city.
Nothing like instant oatmeal eaten in America or the gruel that Dickens’ Oliver Twist famously requested “more” of without success, Grød’s porridge is both rich and satisfying. The local chain restaurant takes the breakfast concept to the next level by topping bowls of steel cut oats with items like sliced apples, protein-filled nuts and caramel sauce.
Where to Start Your Day with Porridge in Copenhagen
10. Food Halls
Copenhagen food halls provide visiting foodies the opportunity to taste the best of Copenhagen without breaking the bank. We’re talking about oysters plucked from nearby waters and sweet treats produced by artisan chocolatiers and bakers.
These food halls are also a fun spot to mingle with vendors and locals who fill the halls. While the locals shop for fresh, high quality meat and equally fresh flowers, travelers can purchase edible souvenirs and gift items. We recommend bottles of Mikkeller craft beer for both now and later.
While Danes have been eating Hot Dogs called rød pølse for a century, burgers are newer to the Copenhagen food scene. However, don’t count out burgers in one of Europe’s most expensive cities.
Sure, McDonalds has a presence but there’s no need to eat at the American burger chain. It’s way more fun to chow down on a juicy burger at a former gas station unless you’d rather ‘get your burger on’ at a burger joint owned by the folks who own Noma. However, if you feel the need to eat burgers at a chain, you can do this without regret at one with roots in Iceland. In case you didn’t know, blue lagoons are way cooler than golden arches.
We have yet to visit a city that doesn’t love pizza and Copenhagen is no exception to this rule. But, just like with other foods, Copenhagen goes just a little bit further with pizza compared to other cities outside of Italy.
In Copenhagen, pizza lovers can eat pies at chain restaurants and in food halls. They can eat thin Roman style pies and doughier Neapolitan pies. However, the truly pizza obsessed can go to the next levels at pizzerias that utilize customized pizza ovens, ferment their dough and cure their meat. FYI, we fit in the pizza-obsessed category.
13. Asian Food
While the distance from Copenhagen to Asia is daunting, finding Asian food in the Danish city is both easy and satisfying. Not only is it possible to find authentic Asian food in Copenhagen, the options span the Asian continent with options involving Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.
Some of Copenhagen’s best Asian restaurants are fast and casual while others are more expensive. Most offer chopsticks to their customers but using them is optional.
14. Mexican Food
The concept of eating great Mexican food in Copenhagen seems like an oxymoron. After all, it’s hard enough to find good Mexican food in Lisbon where we live and Denmark is even further away from Mexico.
Color us surprised when we took our first bites into homemade tacos at Sanchez, Chef Rosio Sanchez’s flagship Mexican restaurant in Copenhagen’s edgy Vesterbro neighborhood. By the time we took our last bites into Sanchez’s open churros sandwich, we were smitten.
Sure, we expected the food to be good based on Sanchez’s Mexican-American heritage and her tenure at Noma. But Sanchez exceeded our expectations. Her Mexican food isn’t just great by European standards. It’s great period.
Where to Eat the Best Mexican Food in Copenhagen
15. Italian Food
We didn’t plan to eat Italian food in Copenhagen. That’s one cuisine that we can find anywhere and everywhere around the world. However, after eating great pizza at Bæest, we were intrigued to experience the city’s take on Italian food beyond pizzas and calzones.
As we discovered while eating pasta dishes topped with seafood and duck, Copenhagen’s Italian food game is strong beyond pizza. Many of the city’s best Italian restaurants have Italian chefs and some even have Italian servers. At the end of the day, Danes love Italian food and so do we.
16. Specialty Coffee
Thanks to Coffee Collective, Copenhagen is a mecca for specialty coffee drinkers who’ve enjoyed the roastery’s beans at coffee shops in cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin and Paris. However, Coffee Collective is just one of many excellent coffee shops that keep Copenhagen’s citizens both happy and caffeinated.
Danes rank fourth in the world in terms of coffee consumption.
Copenhagen is a city that embodies the cosy concept of hygge. Coffee shops here are more welcoming and friendlier compared to most European cities. More important, the coffee at Copenhagen coffee shops is good most and excellent at others.
Where to Drink Flat Whites and Pour Overs in Copenhagen
Check out our Copenhagen coffee guide with the city’s best specialty coffee shops.
17. Craft Beer
It seems like beer is all over Copenhagen for good reason – Danes produce, sell and drink a prodigious amount of lager. Not only do beer behemoths Carlsberg and Tuborg hail from Denmark as does the international craft brewer Mikkeller, but the city also has numerous bars and microbreweries that serve beer all day and into the night.
Although we were tickled by signs proclaiming Carlsberg to “probably be the best beer in the world,” we mostly drank craft beer at Copenhagen pubs and restaurants. A highlight was drinking Mikkeller at its original location. We’d previously visited a Mikkeller pub in Bucharest but there’s nothing better than drinking Mikkeller’s excellent beer at the source.
Finding cocktails in Copenhagen is easier than you might think despite Denmark’s commitment to beer. It makes perfect sense. It’s a slippery slope from using gastronomic techniques to create food to using those same techniques to create drinks.
The city has a variety of cocktail bars that rivals its variety of restaurants. Some of the best Copenhagen bars double as hotel lounges while others hide in plain sight as speakeasies. They all craft classic cocktails but also stretch their mixology muscles. It’s up to you whether you want to imbibe gin, vodka or whiskey.
While you can order a fine bottle of wine at Noma or another Michelin starred restaurant in Copenhagen, that’s not where all of the wine action happens. Much of the city’s best wine is served at neighborhood wine bars.
Catering to local oenophiles, these wine bars serve both natural and traditional wine. They serve red and white wine as well as pink and orange wine. They even serve wine produced in Denmark. However, in full disclosure, Copenhagen wine bars source most of their wine bottles from countries like France, Germany and Italy.
Not to be confused with your granny’s peppermint schnapps, snaps is a potent potable that provides a serious kick. Produced in dozens, if not hundreds, of natural flavors, the traditional Danish drink harmonizes with traditional Danish food like butter on toast.
Useful Copenhagen Facts
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: January 22, 2022