On the cutting edge of New Nordic cuisine — after all, Copenhagen’s legendary Noma restaurant has been lauded as the best restaurant in the world — Denmark is a promising place for foodies to step ashore. And for all the high-brow dining experiences that await in Copenhagen (the city’s restaurants claim a cumulative 20 Michelin stars), there are some deliciously inexpensive comfort foods to try here, too.
Whether you’re looking to enjoy a coffee and pastry with the locals or sample something more daring (preserved herring or a spot of seaweed, perhaps?), follow our lead for the most interesting foods and drinks to try during your Copenhagen port of call.
When Danes get a craving for fast and filling street food, a hot dog is usually what they’ll reach for. But forget any ideas of American wieners here. Made from pork and with a more intense flavor than American dogs, the Danish variety (called polser) is in a league of its own.
Where to find it: Polsevogns (street carts called “sausage wagons”) are found on the streets surrounding the port and all over the city, offering all the classic Danish hot dog toppings, such as crunchy fried onions (piled up in a small mountain), thickly sliced pickles and remoulade sauce.
For something different, try the organic dogs at DØP, a wildly popular restaurant located on Strøget, Copenhagen’s main shopping street. Served on whole-grain bread, the sausages here are made from organic meat. And vegetarian and New York-style versions are also available.
The Danish name is a mouthful for foreigners, but what it boils down to is “cinnamon roll” — and it’s a delicious mouthful, at that. Danes take any opportunity to meet with friends for a strong cup of coffee and something sweet to eat. And more often than not, that sweet treat is a kanelsnegle, which can be found at any of Copenhagen’s abundant bakeries and most coffee houses, too.
Topped with less icing than their American cousins (and sometimes lashed with chocolate), Danish cinnamon rolls are none-the-less a sweet and sticky affair. They are usually the size of your palm, at a minimum.
Where to find it: You’ll pay the equivalent of just a few dollars to try one at the popular bakery chain Holm’s Bager (Østergade 52, no website), with central locations throughout town.
You’ll marvel at how such a simple sandwich can taste so divine when you sink your teeth into Smørrebrød, the most essential of Danish sandwiches. Always served open-faced — and usually on dense, buttered sourdough rye bread — the sandwiches come piled with a variety of toppings that might include shrimp, smoked salmon, cold cuts or cheese spreads and veggies.
Where to find it: You’ll find Smørrebrød offered at cafes everywhere in Denmark, but the sandwiches are particularly pretty and appetizing at Lumskebugten, a cozy maritime-themed café near the citadel (Kastellet) that proffers a delicious shrimp and egg variety at lunchtime.
France may have the crown when it comes to Europe’s cheese mythology, but Denmark puts forth a top-notch effort with some fabulous Fontinas, blue, Havarti and Port Salut-style cheeses.
Where to find it: A fun place to browse the selections with fellow foodies is Torvehallerne, a marketplace hall with more than 60 stands; a healthy portion of them are devoted to artisanal Danish cheeses. You can also find various cheeses in grocery stores and on restaurant menus throughout town.
Ask any Dane and they’ll tell you that any time is a good time to break for a perk-me-up coffee, something sweet to eat and a chance to meet up with friends. And kaffe — most often served filter-style and strong, but available as espresso drinks, too — might very well be Denmark’s national drink. So it’s no surprise that Copenhagen’s coffee-house scene is booming.
Where to find it: With three locations around town (including one in Torvehallerne, the market hall), The Coffee Collective is popular with Copenhagers and is a prime place to sip an espresso or filter kaffe alongside smartly dressed locals.
Forget any notion that the athletic name of this classic Copenhagen cake means it’s a healthy dish. With a delightful macaroon bottom, layers of whipped cream and caramelized cream puffs on top, sportskage is worth every calorie you’ll later be repenting at your cruise ship’s gym.
Where to find it: The place to try it is Conditori La Glace, a legendary Copenhagen patisserie cafe open since 1870. The style is old-school and the coffee, hot chocolate and tea come with complimentary refills.
Ever since the Viking days, herring fished from the North Sea has been one of Denmark’s most popular dishes. Called sild in Danish, it comes pickled, marinated, smoked, curried and in many other versions, too. It’s a staple at cold buffets and always on the menu at traditional Danish restaurants.
Where to find it: A terrific place to try herring is Told Og Snaps, a classic restaurant in the colorful Nyhavn port area. The fish comes served with traditional sides such as capers, onions and egg yolk.
Danish for porridge, grød may not sound like the most appetizing of dishes. But you’ll be surprised by this delicious treat that’s beloved by Danes for breakfast, brunch and lunch, particularly on cold days. Start your day in a very Danish way with oat porridge and Danish yogurt, bananas or dulce de leche, or opt for ryebread porridge topped with homemade apple compote and hazelnuts.
Where to find it: The restaurant called Grød specializes in — you guessed it — porridge (the only thing on the menu).
Local, organic and seasonal are the key elements of New Nordic cuisine, a culinary niche that has stormed to the foodie universe in recent years. The cuisine continues to lead with innovative Scandinavian-sourced ingredients, such as mussels from the Faroe Islands, seaweed and kelp, and fish from the Norwegian fjords.
Where to find it: René Redzepi’s groundbreaking restaurant, Noma (located inside an old warehouse in Copenhagen’s harbor) is the mecca for the niche. But for something more affordable that focuses on seasonal Nordic eats, try the three-course set menus at Höst.
Germany may be Europe’s beer king, but its far smaller neighbor to the north produces an astounding number of quality beers for a country its size. You’ve likely heard of Denmark’s popular export brews, Tuborg and Carlsberg, which you’ll find on tap at any restaurant along Nyhavn and elsewhere in town. But there are many more types to try, including brews by microbreweries such as Brøckhouse, Grauballe and Skands.
Where to find it: For excellent microbrews in an historic setting, head to BrewPub Copenhagen, a microbrewery and restaurant located inside a 17th-century building in the heart of the city.