From its humble origins as a small Viking fishing town in 750, Copenhagen today is consistently ranked among the world's top cities. The Danish capital's natural harbour, the establishment of craft guilds, and architecture have led to its renowned style. Beyond the urban sprawl, unspoiled gentle landscapes offer a scenic escape from an already picturesque city.
On a visit back this summer, I was reminded why I love this city so much. A place I called home for two years, Copenhagen remains a beguiling part of the tapestry of my life. From my favourite places to stop in for breakfast to some of the best art in the world, below is an itinerary I often share with friends to take you through the city and beyond.
Located in the heart of Nørrebro, Andersen & Maillard is a must-visit for anyone who enjoys good coffee and exceptional baked goods. Co-owner Milton Abel boasts an impressive resume as the former pastry chef of Michelin-starred the French Laundry, Per Se, Amass, and Noma. Instantly, the glossy sheen of dark brown glaze on the chocolate croissant demands to be ordered. Filled with a generous amount of not-too-sweet chocolate ganache, it is the pastry of my dreams.
Nørrebrogade 62, 2200 København, Denmark. +45 42 67 21 00.
Designed in collaboration with interior design store Studio X, the cafe and kitchen are led by Stephannie Liu, the former head chef of popular Apollo Bar. The restaurant offers a variety of healthy and nutritious food options, such as vegetarian-focused breakfast and lunch dishes. Still, my personal choice is the moreish nduja folded eggs with blistered pardon peppers.
Dronningens Tværgade 52, 1302 København, Denmark.
A great spot between a café, bar, and convenience store, Depanneur is an easy option for a quick and delectable breakfast or lunch. With bagels inspired by Montreal, Canada, where owner Daniel Rørbæk personally believes you get the best bagels in the world, the menu includes classic lox and other dishes like roasted celeriac soup. They also work with local organic producers to create unique beverages.
Rantzausgade 36, 2200 København, Denmark. +45 44 12 93 94.
Although worth a day trip to roam the labyrinth of a gallery and its extensive outdoor collection, including Alexander Calder and Richard Serra, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art can be seen in an afternoon if pressed for time. A contemporary art museum just 30 minutes from Copenhagen, it’s considered one of the most significant works of Danish modernist architecture. When it opened to the public in 1958, it featured three pavilions that connected an old villa to the museum's cafeteria. The North Wing now features a central hall dedicated to Alberto Giacometti.
Gl Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, Denmark. +45 49 19 07 19.
The transformation of Jægersborggade is similar to that of Soho in New York City. With its cobblestone road and direct access from the historic and frequented Assistens Kirkegård, creatives and entrepreneurs have flocked to this area in the past decade. Unique shops, cafes like Coffee Collective, and restaurants with outdoor seating have made it the perfect place to linger on a leisurely afternoon.
Jægersborggade, 2200 København, Denmark.
Located in the former 7,000 square meters B&W welding hall, the Copenhagen Contemporary is one of the largest art centres in the world. Featuring various large format works, such as performance art, video, and light installation, art is experienced through the whole body here. Now, for the first time together in Europe, the Light & Space exhibit features prominent artists of the movement, including James Turrell, Helen Pashgian, Larry Bell, and Mary Corse.
Refshalevej 173A, 1432 København, Denmark. +45 29 89 80 87.
The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum is an extraordinary gallery showcasing works from over 3,500 years. It was founded by Carl Jacobsen, the son of the man who created the Little Mermaid statue. His collection includes relics from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt and exhibitions from Cézanne, Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh. The museum café, Picnic, is a green oasis inside the listed building.
Dantes Plads 7, 1556 København, Denmark. +45 33 41 81 41.
Even as the oldest European monarchy, Denmark’s nobles are one of the least divisive today. While a chance to see the queen is a draw for some (you'll know she’s home if the flag is hoisted), the quiet splendour of Rococo architecture along the waterfront is a real sight. Even if you’re just in the area, you’ll see the precession of changing guards through the city centre at midday.
Amalienborg Slotsplads 5, 1257 København K, Denmark. +45 33 12 21 86.
On a warm golden evening, there’s no place I think of before La Banchina. In a little corner on Refshaleøen, dip into the harbour as you open a bottle of wine. Bring a towel to dry off and sprawl out on the wooden deck as you fete on a delectable menu of seasonal small plates. If I were to set up a scene in the movie about summer in Copenhagen, it would be here.
Refshalevej 141, 1432 København, Denmark. +45 31 26 65 61.
The original Osteria 16, a charming little 35-seat Italian restaurant in Vesterbro, features a rotating selection of seasonal antipasti. Its large arched window and replete dining room offer a distinctly European and intimate setting. All of its dishes are made from scratch using Italian produce imported directly. The menu features raw marinated lobster tails with anchovies and chilli sauce, linguine with sea urchin, risotto with radicchio and lemon tart with meringue dessert, served family-style without airs is achieved with admirable ease.
Haderslevgade 16, 1671 København, Denmark. +45 33 21 60 60.
Right across the way from the inner city’s historic yellow row Nyboder houses (former Naval barracks built by King Christian IV) is this neighbourhood all-day eatery and wine bar. Serving natural wine and seasonal, Mediterranean-inspired small plates, Bottega Barlie is effortlessly charming and chic.
Fredericiagade 78, 1310 København, Denmark. +45 20 57 67 50.
Despite being located in Sweden’s Baltic Sea, Bornholm is only 35 minutes away from Copenhagen by air and a few direct hours by car. Driving across the famous “disappearing” Øresund Bridge through Malmö to reach the scenic ferry from Ystad to Rønne. A laid-back island full of emerging restaurants and bars by some of Denmark’s award-winning chefs and restauranteurs.
Surrounded by nature and vibrant local culture, Ærø is an island community that offers an idyllic storybook escape. Located in the South Funen Archipelago and only reachable by sea, the tiny island is bikeable from end to end. Grab an ice cream at the marina upon your arrival before heading down cobblestone roads and stopping at local shops and cafes. ■