Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Living like a local in Copenhagen

Today's post on living like a local comes from the wonderful ladies at Scandinavia Standard, a lifestyle site built to integrate expats into local life in the Scandi countries. Whereas a lot of expat communities focus on introducing expats to one another, Scandinavia Standard has been working to introduce people to the sights, businesses, and cultural activities that will make them feel part of everyday life in their new home.

That's definitely a mission I can get behind - so read on for an introduction to Copenhagen!


Luckily for travelers and residents alike, Copenhagen is a small enough city that you can get to know it pretty quickly. Most of the must-see tourist stuff can be done in one or two days (hello, boat tour!). This doesn't mean, however, that there aren't plenty of corners crying out for deeper exploration, whether you're new to Copenhagen or have lived here for decades.

I've lived in Copenhagen off and on since 2008, so at this point I feel qualified to recommend my favorite spots for brunch, dinner, and everything in between. Here's how this Copenhagen local lives...

Living like a local in beautiful Copenhagen


I love my pastries. I love 'em. You can pry them from my cold, dead hands I swear to you (gross, you're going to eat something a dead person was holding?!). For a breakfast treat, my go-to is Meyers Bageri, a chain started by famous Danish chef and Restaurateur Claus Meyer (of noma fame).

Meyers Bageri

I especially recommend the kanelsnurrer and kanelsnegl, both Danish specialties. For something a bit more upscale or a sweet treat with your afternoon coffee, head to La Glace, the oldest patisserie in Copenhagen. For a quick sandwich that will re-establish your faith in humanity, Sankt Peders Bageri is it; their chicken sandwich with pesto is my #1 on my list of most-craved sandwiches ever.

Macarons displayed at La Glace


Look, I fucking ADORE brunch. I like that it's leisurely, social and that you can eat both pancakes AND tuna salad. Fortunately for me, brunch is quite the institution in Copenhagen. Both plated and buffet-style are popular; some places even combine them and let you choose several items off a menu for one plated meal. In the less expensive category (sorry, you're in Denmark now, there's no such thing as "cheap") Cafe Alma, Wulff & Konstali, Cafe 22 and Bang og Jensen really hit the spot.

A filling brunch at Bang og Jensen

Cafe Alma is located just off the water front in Islands Brygge, which makes for a lovely post-brunch walk. Cafe 22 is right over Dronning Louise Bro (Queen Louise's Bridge), sitting on the lake; on a sunny day the setting is unbeatable. Bang og Jensen, in Vesterbro, is one of my favorite brunch spots not only for their very Danish-style brunch plate but also for their endless coffee and cosy interior (bonus: turns into a great bar at night). For those who can spend a bit more, Restaurant Sult at the Cinemateket is a great option. The buffet is seriously good; spring rolls AND bowls of nutella?! Plus, all the specialty coffee you want (as in, endless cappuccino) and a fresh juice bar. If you're in the mood, you can catch a movie after you eat; this cinema shows mostly classic, international or art films. Finally, if you are a literal princess (are you?! Hi!) or just feel like something outrageously fancy, there's nothing more gilded than Hotel D'Angleterre. Their champagne brunch buffet, which will run you about 90 USD per person, has endless champagne, oysters, scallops, desserts and just about anything else you can think of. It's a real treat and you can spend your whole morning/afternoon pigging out in a very lady-like way.


All this talk about brunch has made me hungry for lunch (because I just finished brunch). The best place to go is Torvehallerne, sometimes called "The Glass Market." This large enclosed farmer's market has not only fresh produce stands but also an array of stalls with baked goods, sandwiches, and prepared meals.  Everything from sushi to traditional Danish smorrebrod is on offer at reasonable prices. Restaurant Maven, located in the Nikolaj Exhibition Building- an old church- has Danish classics like fiske frikedeller (fish meatballs) with modern twists. Beautiful food in a gorgeous setting; sit outside if the day allows! 42 Raw, a raw food restaurant, has a surprisingly varied menu, including some wonderful fresh salads and smoothies. Walking around the city you're bound to find a cafe or three; sometimes these little discovers are the best, so don't be afraid to walk in and try something new!

Torvehallerne, or "The Glass Market"

Omegn deli, in Torvehallerne,.


Since we’re not all millionaires, trying "new Nordic" cuisine can feel like a pipe-dream. Delicious options like Manfred's og Vin, Marv & Ben and Amass  can give you the full Scandi experience without the noma price tag (and I can heartily recommend all three for an extraordinary dinner). For something special that doesn't fall into the new Nordic category, give Vespa, Madklubben, or any of the Aroii restaurants a try. If you're looking for something low-key: Mother in the MeatPacking district serves up delicious sourdough-crust pizzas, Dyrehaven is a pub/cafe with a great steak-'n-potatoes vibe, Magasasa has authentic and reasonably priced Sichuan and Sabine's Cafeteria has one inexpensive & hefty daily meal. I'm also going to totally embarrass myself and recommend Dragon City, my local running sushi-cum-Chinese buffet restaurant. It may not be what you Wall Street fat cats are used to but it gets the job done at a fraction of the price; a true neighborhood treasure.

Cocktail & Wine Bars

There's no better way to get to know a city than by spending some time in its various bars and pubs. Well, maybe there are better ways but they're definitely less fun for me. Copenhagen has no shortage of comfy places to get a well-mixed drink or share a bottle of wine. My favorite cocktail bars are Ruby, Lidkoeb, 1105, Library Bar and Oak Room. PS Bar & Grill also has great deals on cocktail pitchers, an unusual treat in the city. Wine Bars are popular and slightly less expensive than cocktail bars. The cosiest include Beau Marche and Ved Stranden 10, both quite centrally located. Malbeck, a small wine bar in Vesterbro, hosts a half-price happy hour from 4-6; a great pre-dinner drop!

The author, seated to the left, at Ved Stranded 10


Coffee is one of my favorite indulgences. Coffee culture in Denmark has been elevated in the last few years thanks to a few strong roasteries and brands; combine that with minimalist but inviting Danish interiors and you have a pretty perfect way to kick back for an hour or so. The best coffee in town comes from one of three places: Estate Coffee, Risteriet or The Coffee Collective. One of my go-to places is Atelier September. On a sunny day, the wall-to-wall windows and pristine interior can't be beat. Just across the street, Coffee Factory has lovely outdoor seating for people-watching.

Enjoy the sunny atmosphere of Atelier September

To Do When You're Not Eating...

Do yourself a favor and rent a bike; it's inexpensive and makes traversing the city a breeze; you’ll feel like a real local! If you're not the cycling type, walking or taking public transport is just as easy in a small urban center like Copenhagen.

Wander around these streets for great shopping or just getting a sense of the city:

Elmegade & Birkegade
Dronning Louise's Bro & around the lakes
Wildersgade and surrounding canal area

Wherever you decide to go in Copenhagen, be sure to notice the low, charming skyline (the result of fire regulations), many beautiful parks, and distinct yet closely packed neighborhoods. It's a cosmopolitan center compressed into a tiny pearl; time to go diving!

Rebecca Thandi Norman is a co-founder and the Editorial Director at Scandinavia Standard. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. Be sure to check out Scandinavia Standard for more in-depth information on traveling in Copenhagen, including public transport and airport usage.

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