The Danish capital is a captivating mix of Midcentury Modern design, forward-thinking restaurants, and storybook charm.

By Anya von Bremzen
March 18, 2015
View of Copenhagen
Credit: Ulf Svane

Lay of the Land

Christianshavn: With its gabled houses and canals, this man-made island is a quiet escape in the heart of the city.

Frederiksberg: Come to this historic neighborhood to see the city’s Neoclassical architecture and to picnic at Frederiksberg Park.

Frederiksstaden: The 18th-century Amalienborg Palace anchors this waterfront quarter, which is lined with antiques shops.

Indre: By In the medieval center, you’ll find indie bars and cafés, along with luxury shops, museums, and the Botanical Garden.

Nørrebro: A multiculti enclave north of downtown, Nørrebro has a creative, bohemian vibe.

Vesterbro: Trendy bars and clothing stores fill this former red-light district near Tivoli Gardens.

Getting Around: The metro is expansive, and taxis are efficient. Copenhagen also has a great bike-sharing program, Bycyklen.


The city’s best hotels are both buzzy newcomers and old favorites.

Hotel SP34: Spread across three town houses in Indre By’s Latin Quarter, this new family-owned hotel puts a spin on Danish design. A concrete-and-brass bar acts as the reception desk, the lobby doubles as a library lounge, and the tapas restaurant serves killer pimientos with anchovies. The stylishly spare rooms are small, but who wants to linger inside when the boutiques of Sankt Peders Street beckon? $$

Hotel D’Angleterre: After a $110 million renovation, the 18th-century Hotel d’Angleterre has been reborn with polished marble, rich carpeting, and a muted gray palette. At night, head to the lively Balthazar bar for a passion-fruit-and-champagne cocktail before tucking in to chef Ronny Emborg’s Nordic creations at the Michelin- starred restaurant, Marchal. $$$

Nimb Hotel: Book well in advance to secure one of the 17 rooms at this 1909 neo-Moorish extravaganza that lights up at night like a Christmas tree. The interiors mix colorful textiles and antiques with works by contemporary local artists. Bonus: free admission to Tivoli Gardens (go at night when the crowds disperse). $$$

Hotel Alexandra: A mecca for lovers of Midcentury Modernism, the obsessively curated Hotel Alexandra has furniture that rivals the holdings of the nearby Design Museum. Guests can hang out on a Finn Juhl sofa and listen to impromptu lectures on design by the knowledgeable staff. There’s also the psychedelic Verner Panton suite, where designer Christian Louboutin has been known to stay while in town. $

Babette Guldsmeden: Designed with Balinese teak, Oriental rugs, and four-poster beds, the 98 rooms at this boho-chic property offer a respite from Scandinavian minimalism. We love the cowhide walls in the elevator and views of the Marble Church from the rooftop spa. $

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000


There’s more to Copenhagen’s culinary scene than Noma (but go there if you can get in). These six places also deliver big on taste and atmosphere.

Relæ: Chef Christian Puglisi, a Noma alum, now has a cult following all his own. At the 40-seat Relæ, dishes like poached trout topped with raw mushroom shavings alongside a terrine of cucumber, nasturtium, and umeboshi-style strawberries are spectacular in their simplicity. $$$

No. 2: This casual sibling of the Michelin-starred restaurant AOC is perennially packed, thanks in part to its sleek Scandinavian aesthetic and views of the Black Diamond Library on the waterfront. But it’s the confident New Danish dishes—scallop tartare with pea tendrils and dill oil, steak with smoked bone marrow—that linger in your memory. $$$

Kul: Even die-hard Nordic food fans tire of kohlrabi and gooseberries, which is why this newcomer is such a hit. The inviting aroma of char fills the slate-toned dining room, where the creative menu by chefs Henrik Jyrk and Christian Mortensen swings from the Mediterranean (jamón ibérico with squid tempura and black aioli) to Asia (pepper-glazed veal ribs with romaine kimchi). $$$

Torvehallerne Market: The designer food hall has revitalized the Israels Plads area in central Copenhagen. The perfect snackathon should include a new-wave Asian rice porridge with chicken at Grod and fluffy fish cakes from Boutique Fisk.

Amass: To get to this airy, repurposed shipyard building, hop a water-bus from the Royal Library. Here, charismatic chef Matt Orlando—a veteran of Per Se and Noma—elevates classic Danish ingredients in dishes like wild duck with black garlic and pickled yarrow flowers. $$$$

Kebabistan: When celebrity chefs like David Chang come to town they head to this Turkish-Kurdish takeout dive. The draw? An epic shawarma sandwich—order yours with mixed meats—loaded with pickles, sauces, and trimmings in a round bun. The fries are great, too. 45/3582-8993. $

Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150


Covetable Scandinavian design worth shipping or schlepping home.

At the modern design emporium Hay House, the two floors are filled with furniture and accessories by Danish company Hay along with geometric wares like Ori pepper mills and George Nelson bubble lamps.

Nearby Storm sells iconic fashion labels (Givenchy, Pucci) and up-and- comers, including Swedish sneaker brand Eytys and jeweler Mads Trolle.

In addition to his own boldly patterned clothing line, native artist-musician-couturier Henrik Vibskov also carries Comme des Garçons shoes and small-batch gin.

With its Hans Wegner armchairs, Ole Wanscher desks, and Borge Mogensen sofas, Dansk Møbelkunst is ground zero for fans of vintage Midcentury design.

In an otherwise drab corner of Vesterbrogade, Designer Zoo showcases one-offs from local artisans, like asymmetrical cups and colorful slanted vases.

IKEA meets the dollar store at the spacious Tiger, which peddles everything from reading glasses to retro toys and tea sets.

See + Do

Four ways to get a crash course in Danish culture.

In the Rococo building that once housed Denmark’s first public hospital, Designmuseum Danmark puts Danish design into historical perspective. Expect fresh insights on streamlined Poul Hennigsen lighting and Hans Wegner seating— along with a newly opened fashion and textile gallery.

Far more intimate than Europe’s usual imperial palaces, the turreted 17th-century Rosenborg Castle has three cozy floors with gilded chambers, chinoiserie, and intricate tapestries. In warm months, pick up lunch to go from the nearby smørrebrød shop Aamanns and go for a picnic on the lush grounds.

One of the Continent’s oldest amusement parks, Tivoli Gardens, is known for its lake, flower beds, and Chinese pagodas. You’ll also find great shopping (Illums Bolighus has an outlet here), concerts, and the new restaurant Kähler i Tivoli, where open-faced sandwiches are served on signature ceramics.

Whether it’s handcrafted caramels, custom-built bikes, or wood-rimmed eyeglasses, CPHmade champions the city’s most creative artisans. The walking and biking tours include stops at the workshops of chocolatier Rassmus Olsen, goldsmith Ragnar Jørgensen, and ceramist Inge Vincents.

Local Take

Three tastemakers share their go-to places in the city.

Tal R
“The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum, in Vesterbro, has beautiful classical sculpture. Stop in the café for a slice of apple cake. Several blocks north, Arbejdermuseet, or Workers’ Museum, traces the daily lives of laborers in Copenhagen over the past 150 years. Denmark is a trove of foreign antiques, thanks to its seafaring history. For Chinese treasures, check out Oliver Antik (45/ 3311-0202), whose owners advise the queen’s husband—an avid collector.”

René Redzepi
Chef-owner of Noma
“My favorite spots for breakfast are Café Det Vide Hus (45/6061-2002), which serves delicious coffee and avocado on toast, and Atelier September, a stylish all-day café like the kind you’d find in London or TriBeCa, in New York City. In the spring, I like to go for a picnic at the King’s Garden, where you can pick mulberries and walnuts from a 300-year-old tree. Ismageriet, which sells artisanal ice cream in house-made waffle cones, is a great place for an afternoon treat.”

Malene Malling
Publisher of Cover magazine
“At LOT#29 downtown, there’s a well-curated selection of Scandinavian and international clothing designers. In Amager, Andersens Contemporary (andersens shows works by big-name artists like Olafur Eliasson. For lunch, I love the smoked salmon and steak tartare at Lumskebugten ($$$$), near the border of Frederiksstaden. When I want to escape town I go to Bellevue Beach on the northern outskirts of the city. It has these incredible lifeguard towers designed by Arne Jacobsen.”