If you’re anything like us, the first thing you do when planning a trip—perhaps even before booking a plane ticket—is figure out where you’re going to eat while you’re there. Museums, sightseeing, and shopping are all well and good, but food is often the main attraction. To make trip planning a little easier, we’ve compiled lists of our can’t-miss spots in some of our favorite places. Below, our chief strategy officer (and resident globe-trotting gourmand) Mitchell Davis shares his top eats in Copenhagen, Denmark.
It’s hard to imagine a city whose food reputation has shifted in such a short period of time as Copenhagen, Denmark. Though long-recognized as a center of contemporary design, Copenhagen was never known as a hub of gastronomy. The pinnacles of Danish cuisine were once limited to open-faced sandwiches and flaky pastries (not to knock smørrebrød and danishes). But because of the pioneering work of visionaries like social entrepreneur Claus Meyer and influential chef René Redzepi, Copenhagen has become one of the most important food destinations in the world, a hotbed of culinary innovation where chefs cook with intention and pride.
In addition to great cooking and eating, Copenhagen has also become a center for great thinking about food. The last week of August 2018 saw the intentional confluence of a handful of food-related gatherings, from the annual Copenhagen Cooking and Food Festival to the launch of the local advocacy hub of the global Chefs’ Manifesto, to Redzepi’s chef jamboree MAD, to the Freja Symposium for women in food, to the Nordic Food Policy Council’s influential World Food Summit. I was fortunate to be able to participate in them all.
An extended stay gave me time to eat my way around town, sampling a combination of what might be called the first, second, and third waves of contemporary Copenhagen restaurants. I barely touched the surface. Of course, the hottest seat in town is at the new Noma, where Redzepi has built his dream home: a laboratory for the constant evolution of new Nordic cuisine. Anyone in the world with disposable dining dollars is trying to get in. But there’s so much else happening in Copenhagen right now you should visit even if you can’t get a table at Noma.
Refshalevej 96, 1432 København K, Denmark
I’ll begin with a disclaimer: I’m as much a fan of Redzepi’s mission and focus as I am of his food. And because the menu at the new Noma will change every three months, there’s not much point to getting into the details of what we ate. Redzepi is curious and inspired and his menus are an entrée into his personal journey of discovery, executed with such precision and warmth and humor by the staff that even eating the strangest insect or sea creature is a delight. There’s meaning and deliciousness in everything he serves. The new digs are gorgeous—the setting feels rural, though it’s close enough to walk, which I did. At one point during dinner my doctor husband, perhaps having had a little too much to drink, turned to me and said, “I don’t care what the lists say, this is the best fucking restaurant in the world.“
Peder Skrams Gade 15, 1054 København, Denmark
+45 3030 9589
Local seafood, simply prepared in a tiny kitchen, and served in a casual, almost austere environment that feels personal and homegrown. That about sums up the experience and the pleasure of dinner at Iluka, where Australian-transplant Beau Clugston settled after working for Noma in Sydney and in Copenhagen.
Refshalevej 153, 1432 København, Denmark
+45 4358 4330
It took me too long to get to Amass, where another ex-Noma chef, Matt Orlando, has created a fully integrated, near-zero-waste restaurant, a showplace for what can be achieved when you lead with your values. Amass is one of the most waste-conscious restaurants on the planet. And despite, or perhaps because of that, the food is creative and delicious.
Palægade 8, 1261 København K, Denmark
+45 7082 8288
Despite my appreciation for innovation, I’m a traditionalist at heart. I never leave Copenhagen without at least one smørrebrød lunch, usually at the century-old rathskeller Schønnemann. But this year I ventured out to Palaegade, which takes a slightly more creative approach. I fully approved of the smørrebrød and other offerings served in a cozy environment with a wide selection of schnapps to accompany them. In fact, I went twice.
Wildersgade 10b, 1408 København K, Denmark
+45 3325 2223
Once in a while I walk into a restaurant that makes me feel more chic and sophisticated just by being there. Kadeau is such a place. The sleek but warm design, moody lighting, open kitchen, and elegant service feel grown-up and comfortable at the same time. And chef Nicolai Nørregaard’s refined Bornholm-inspired food is equally as sophisticated and delicious. Like many New Nordic restaurants, the tasting menu takes you on a journey through foraging and fermentation, but with an elegance and style that begat the restaurant two Michelin stars.
J. A. Schwartz Gade 12, 2100 København, Denmark
On the other end of the formality spectrum from Kadeau is Trine Hahnemann’s organic bakery-cum-grocery-store-cum-cooking-school-cum-restaurant-café. It is an expression of the bright, fresh, CLEAN food and ethics Hahnemann has proselytized in her globally successful books on Scandinavian cooking. And it’s charming, out-of-the-way location gives you a sense of what the life of locals might be like.
Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 8. DK-2100 Copenhagen
+45 6996 0020
Put on a suit and tie. It’s the least you could do for the elegant, precise, and delicious cooking of Rasmus Koefed, who presides over Copenhagen’s only Michelin three-star restaurant along with his partner chef Søren Ledet, who now oversees the dining room. Koefed’s gold medal for Denmark at the Bocuse d’Or helped put Copenhagen on the global gastronomic map as much as Redzepi and Noma. Dish after dish is beautiful and delicious, giving a raison d’être for tweezers in the kitchen if ever there was one.
And don’t forget about Danish breakfast...
My husband, Nate, who did not have four conferences to attend while we were in Copenhagen, fell in love with Danish breakfast during our trip. He went out scouting daily and I followed his lead. Most Danish hotels include a pretty impressive spread for breakfast, but I’d encourage you to venture out into the streets to see what else the city has to offer. These were our favorites:
Guldbergsgade 29, 2200 København, Denmark
+45 3535 4724
This is the bakery/café in the growing farm-to-table empire of Christian Pugliese (Relae), all located within a stone’s throw of each other. The sourdough is excellent, the butter delicious, the farm-fresh, soft-boiled eggs cooked just right, the coffee strong and served in large mugs.
Strandgade 108, 1401 København, Denmark
+45 3296 3292
Another place you want to have breakfast is the coffee bar adjacent to Redzepi’s second restaurant, 108. It's small, the menu is limited, but everything is delicious. Come back throughout the day. And also plan to have a meal at the restaurant next door.
Store Strandstræde 16, 1255 København, Denmark
+45 3047 7788
Pricey but precious, this elegant dessert bar has a rather soigné breakfast, too, with a very fine tea selection to accompany it.
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