Danish food hadn’t really made an impact on the International stage until a new wave of chefs brought restaurants like Noma into the public eye. There are a huge range of restaurants in Copenhagen, serving up everything from elegant cuisine to traditional homely fare, but if you are wondering exactly what to eat in Copenhagen there are several Danish dishes which consistently feature on menus in some form or other. I’ve chosen my favourites for this Copenhagen food guide, so here are 10 dishes which you simply must eat in Copenhagen!
What to Eat in Copenhagen: Porridge
On those long, cold winter days there is nothing better than a warm bowl of porridge to start the day. Danes love a good porridge but banish those thoughts of soggy flavourless mush that passes for porridge in some places. Porridge in Copenhagen is a wonderful thing, complemented with fresh fruit toppings, tasty sauces, crunchy nuts and even savoury flavours as a kind of porridge risotto. Head to Grød in the Torvehallerne for steaming bowls of deliciousness. The ‘All In’ porridge will keep you full for most of the day, but I was more than happy with a small bowl of oat porridge topped with homemade caramel sauce, fresh apple and roasted almonds.
A Tasty Burger
I’m not sure if the proximity to Hamburg has anything to do with it, but burgers in Denmark are INSANE! There is no shortage of restaurants serving up fat juicy burgers, but some of the best burgers in Copenhagen are from an unlikely source. Gasoline Grill is a burger stand perched on the platform of a train station, which doesn’t make for an ideal ambience, but the burgers are incredible. The fries were too salty for me, but a dip in the Gasoline Sauce helped! There are several outlets across Copenhagen, so keep an eye out for them. Your stomach will thank you, especially if you had a few too many beers the night before!
What to Eat in Copenhagen: Hotdogs
Another perhaps unlikely staple of Copenhagen cuisine is the humble hotdog, elevated to an enticing meal with the help of piled high toppings and lashings of mustard. You will find hotdog stands all around the city, and they are a fabulous cheap meal in Copenhagen. I don’t even like pickles but was won over – just give it a try!
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Smørrebrød Open Sandwiches
Originally a farmer’s lunch; the open sandwich has become an essential part of Danish cuisine and is a dish you simply must eat in Copenhagen. The base for the sandwiches is usually dark rye bread, spread with lard or butter (if you’re vegetarian check which!) layered with an assortment of toppings from egg mayonnaise to pickled herring, shrimp salad, meatballs and pretty much everything you can imagine. Hallernes Smørrebrød is a great place to eat some of the more gourmet open sandwiches in Copenhagen, which cost anywhere between n62 DKK and 125 DKK.
Fiskefrikadeller Fish Cakes
Seafood is excellent in Copenhagen – a city almost surrounded by the sea has an abundance of fresh seafood to choose from, but fishcakes are a real crowd-pleaser that even the hardiest carnivore can’t help but love. Made from chunks of white fish and fried, you can find them as a dish in their own right or a common topping of smørrebrød open sandwiches.
Danish Food in Copenhagen: Pickled Herring
If you only eat one Danish dish in Copenhagen, make it pickled herring. I admit I was wary about the fish, curled around looking decidedly uncooked. However, it is nowhere near as pickled as I had expected, and instead of tasting like sour vinegar, the herring is delicate and light, almost sweet. Pickled herring is usually served with capers, raw onion, and a generous sprig of dill which you pile on top of rye bread and eat as an open sandwich.
Skipperlabskovs Danish Sailor’s Stew
This traditional dish is the opposite of the New Nordic Cuisine you’ll find at upmarket restaurants like Noma. This simple ‘stew’ reminded me of corned beef hash; it’s made with boiled potatoes, roughly mashed, mixed with stewed beef. Mine was served sprinkled with chopped chives and pickled beetroot on the side, with an extra dab of butter to make it extra rich. Simple yet delicious, and a huge portion made me one satisfied customer!
Not necessarily the stereotypical Danish pastry we know and love, but rather all things pastry related. Cinnamon rolls are popular in Danish bakeries, and cafes have lots of delicious treats to choose from.
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Hindbærsnitter Raspberry Bars
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Pop-Tarts, but actually tasty, hindbærsnitter are flat cakey pastries, sandwiched with raspberry jam filling. They are often topped with icing and sprinkles but are also left plain. Either way, they make a sweet and delicious dessert or a welcome addition to a cup of coffee.
Copenhagen Food Culture: Coffee in a Café
Even non-coffee drinkers like me can appreciate the Danes’ love of coffee. Coffee shops and cafes are everywhere in Copenhagen, and the best are those which fully embrace the Danish concept of ‘hygge‘ which roughly translates as cosiness and comfort. Cafes often have blankets to keep you warm and cosy and candles to really feel like you’re snug as a bug in a rug.
Where to Eat in Copenhagen
Frk. Barners Kælder
I didn’t eat a bad meal in Copenhagen, but for traditional Danish food, I highly recommend Frk. Barners Kælder. The restaurant is a popular spot with tourists and locals alike, with friendly staff serving up delicious Danish dishes and platters. I was fortunate to go with someone else, and we decided to share the Miss Barner’s lunch plate – a huge platter including pickled herring, egg and shrimp salad, fried fillet of plaice, homemade chicken mayonnaise, fried meatballs, roast pork loin and organic Danish cheese.
This cosy restaurant was around the corner from my hostel in Copenhagen, so came here after reading the good reviews. They serve up tasty dishes from a relatively small but typically Danish menu. Ask about the daily specials too, the friendly waitress was more than happy to explain the dishes to me and even told me how to eat the herring like the locals do.
Torvehallerne Food Market
This fabulous market is a mix of stalls selling local produce like fresh fish, cheese, wine and chocolate and restaurants serving up traditional Danish food. This is where I found Grød for the porridge, had an open sandwich at Hallernes Smørrebrød and a Hindbærsnitter raspberry bar at Laura’s Bakery. It is a great place to browse and sample lots of food in Copenhagen so don’t miss it!
I already mentioned this hole-in-the-wall-type burger joint earlier, but it was so good I’m listing it again here so you don’t miss it!
I’m not vegetarian so rarely pick out a specific vegetarian restaurant – although RizRaz has a variety of meaty dishes on the menu (including tasty burgers) their vegetarian buffet is a good option for vegetarians after a hearty meal. The selection includes salads, vegetables, falafel and a couple of hot dishes like vegetarian lasagne.
I feel like you can’t have a Copenhagen food guide without mentioning Noma, which was awarded the title of Best Restaurant in the World for several years. It is of course rather expensive, and to get a table you’ll need to book way in advance, but if you’re in Copenhagen for a special occasion, then what better place to celebrate than here?
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Where to Stay in Copenhagen
I stayed at the fabulous Steel House Copenhagen, which is an upmarket hostel with dorm rooms and private rooms. Despite being extremely good value in Copenhagen, the hostel has lots of social events, an in-house bar and excellent facilities including a swimming pool, gym and fully equipped kitchen (all accessible for a small fee). I loved my stay here and it is walking distance from the city centre and just around the corner from Gasoline Grill and Restaurant Fridas so it’s a great base to explore the city and the food in Copenhagen! Read my full review of Steel House or check rates and availability on Hostelworld.
What do you think about the food in Copenhagen? Are there any dishes you have tried or would like to? Please let me know, I’d love to read your comments below. If you like the post please share this Copenhagen food guide with your friends on social media!
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