Copenhagen has become somewhat of a hot spot in the past few years. As the world has become enamored with Scandi culture, the concept of hygge, and new Nordic cuisine, Denmark’s capital has garnered a lot of well-deserved attention.
I was lucky enough to live in Copenhagen’s vibrant Vesterbro neighborhood for a year and a half, and though I never became chic enough to truly fit in in this hip neighborhood (Lonely Planet listed it as one of the top 10 coolest neighborhoods in the world in 2017), I did manage to eat, drink, and shop my way through it. Below are a few of my favorite spots in Vesterbro:
Eating in Vesterbro
Kødbyen, which literally translates to “meat city,” was once Vesterbro’s meatpacking district, and is now a popular area for dining and nightlife (you’ll notice several of my suggestions are in this area). Fiskebar was among the first of the wave of restaurant openings in this formerly seedy area and remains one of the best restaurants in the city to this day. Opened in 2009 by Anders Selmer, a former member of the team at Noma, Fiskebar features an array of locally sourced wild fish and organic produce. The menu is designed for sharing – I’d recommend going with a group so you can try as many dishes as possible or ordering the seven course chef’s menu. If you have other dinner plans, consider just popping in for a glass of wine and some oysters at the bar.
Hija de Sanchez Taqueria
I know, I know…why go all the way to Denmark to eat Mexican food? Just trust me. This tiny restaurant in Kødbyen, owned by ex-Noma chef Rosio Sanchaz, serves tacos that are heads and shoulders above what I grew up eating – and I’m originally from Texas. Sanchez and her team make everything from scratch. They import corn from Oaxaca, Mexico to make masa for fresh tortillas, spit roast local pork for perfect al pastor, and make a range of delicious Paletas (ice pops) for dessert. The taco selection rotates based on seasonal availability. (Note: Hija de Sanchez has another outlet in the amazing Torvehallerne market.)
The enthusiastic owner of Le Gourmand travels to France regularly to meet with producers and then imports his favorite cheeses, charcuterie, wine, and accoutrements to stock this cheery shop-cum-café. The knowledgeable staff is always more than happy to provide suggestions on food and wine whether you choose to enjoy it there or take it away (perhaps for a picnic by The Lakes). If it’s raining out, whiling away the afternoon here over a cheeseboard and a bottle of Burgundy is not a bad way to dry off.
This pared back little restaurant flies under the radar, but seek it out and you’ll be delighted by the delicious Italian cuisine made with local ingredients. Enjoy a Campari spritz at the bar before settling in for a great meal – don’t miss the outstanding homemade pasta. My old flat was right around the corner from this neighborhood spot, so it was a go to for date nights with my husband. The laid back atmosphere always made us feel cozy and relaxed, but the polished cuisine made for a special night out.
When I lived in Vesterbro, my favorite way to start the day was with a with a kanelsnegle (cinnamon roll, literally translated to “cinnamon snail”), tebirkes (poppyseed covered pastry with a sweet filling), or, if I was feeling virtuous, a slice of rugbrød (a dense rye bread with seeds). My go to spot for these treats was Laura’s, an organic bakery that’s tucked away in a tiny courtyard off of the popular shopping street, Værnedamsvej. I would always take a loaf of bread home with me when I stopped here for breakfast (usually the hvedebrød, a wheat sourdough), something that I would recommend to anyone who has access to a bread knife and some good Danish butter.
Drinking in Vesterbro
Tucked away in a back alley off of busy Vesterbrogade you’ll find Lidkoeb – a 19th century laboratory for a Danish pharmacy that has been transformed into a magnificent three story cocktail bar. The first and second floor have lovely cocktails, which often feature unique, local ingredients as well as a nice selection of craft beer and wine, but my favorite part of Lidkoeb is the whiskey bar that occupies the top floor. You’ll find rare whiskies from around the globe as well as a curated list of whisky cocktails. Sipping a stiff drink on a leather sofa while basked in the flickering light of the dozens of candles that illuminate the space is a sure fire way to combat the dreary Danish weather.
Copenhagen’s most popular microbrewery, Mikkeller, joined forces with the wildly popular Indiana based brewery, 3 Floyds, to open the epic brewpub, WarPigs in a former slaughterhouse in Kødbyen. And it truly is epic. On any given day, you’ll find upwards of 16 original beers on tap ranging from well-executed “normal” beers (like the mouth-watering Lazurite IPA) to truly wacky (like the Watermelon Gose). In addition, there are usually a few Mikkeller beers and a couple of guest taps. The kitchen cranks out solid Texas BBQ, and while I think there are too many great restaurants in the neighborhood to eat a full meal here, the hush puppies are a pretty great drinking snack.
Shopping in Vesterbro
This eclectic home goods and gift shop is the perfect place to pick up a little piece of Denmark to take home with you. Featuring a mix of vintage and new items, you’re sure to find something unique to infuse your home with a little bit of Scandi-chicness. I found this to be a great place to shop for host gifts and housewarming presents – as an added bonus, they would always beautifully gift wrap my purchases for free!
Clothes in Denmark can be outrageously expensive, but this cute little women’s clothing shop is surprisingly affordable. The cute dresses in the window always tempted me in the summer while the knit gloves and hats always seemed to suck me in during the winter months.
The friendly owner of this pint sized shop hand makes beautiful stuffed animals and children’s clothes out of gorgeous, patterned fabrics. The hippos that unfold into a pillow are particularly cute as are the stuffed elephants. If you’re on the hunt for something more practical (and easier to pack) the drool bibs are a great option.
Biking in Vesterbro
The best way to feel like a local in Copenhagen is to rent a bike for the duration of your stay – the Danes do everything on two wheels! The city is built for biking, so you’ll have no trouble getting around. Just make sure to keep to the right and get out of the way when you hear bells behind you (unless you’re an experienced biker, even the little kids will be passing you)! One of the best and most affordable places to rent a bike is Basikelli – a shop and rental company with a mission to promote the bicycle industry in developing countries. A portion of the proceeds from their shop goes towards collecting and sending used bicycles to Mozambique and Sierra Leone where they are repaired and sold. All the money earned in Africa is then reinvested in the local bicycle shops.
Basikelli has a nice selection of regular bikes in three different price tiers and they also rent Christiania bikes (pictured above). Though we used this Christiania bike to transport a Thanksgiving turkey to our friend’s house last year, they can also be used to transport people. I’ve seen a mom, two kids, and a dog all crammed into the front of one on multiple occasions – they’re basically a Danish mini van.
Sightseeing in Vesterbro
Though this amusement park is a massive tourist attraction, it’s also equally popular among the locals who buy season passes to enjoy fairytale-like setting whenever they fancy. Said to be the inspiration for Disney Land, it’s worth a wander around the beautifully landscaped gardens during any season, but it is particularly captivating at Christmas time when the entire park is transformed into a winter wonderland. Grab a cup of gløgg and enjoy the spectacle or go on one of the roller coasters to enjoy a great – if fleeting – view of the city.
About the author
Chelsea Ball is part of Euro Travel Coach, a family run business focused on making travel dreams come true. She along with her parents, Greg and Betsy Ball, are dedicated to “coaching” people through planning amazing European adventures as well as creating custom itineraries, leading small group tours, and blogging about their own travels.