Weekend in CopenhagenSeptember
Scandinavian cool, great coffee, and fantastic shopping
Home to the world’s happiest, bicycle riding population, and the birthplace of hygge. I’d been dying to come to Copenhagen for years and finally got the chance to make a quick weekend of it in late September. I wanted to walk, cycle, shop all those famous Danish brands (Acne, Wood Wood, Ganni among others), drink third wave coffee, and eat smørrebrød. I asked the coolest guy in my office (who happens to be Danish) for his recommendations, as well as a few design-minded friends. Thanks to a clean, efficient transportation system that connects CPH airport to the center of town in 15 minutes, this is a very doable weekend destination from London.
- Sight Seeing 80% 80%
- Food 85% 85%
- Ease of Transportation 100% 100%
- Activities 80% 80%
I almost always stay at Airbnbs as they’re cheaper and generally get you far more space and comfort for your money, but in Copenhagen I couldn’t find great options for one person, and I wanted to be up in the mix, so I splurged on a hip design hotel. SP 34, part of the trendy Brochner group (they have five different hotels in Copenhagen) ended up being money well spent. The lobby was always buzzy, (similar to an Ace Hotel) with a mix of hipsters on laptops, people having cocktails, and a crowd that looked like they might all be graphic designers or creative directors. The organic breakfast included in the room rate was indulgent and a crowded scene in it’s own right. Copenhagen is pricier than other European cities particularly when it comes to food and drinks, so this was a valuable inclusion in the room rate. There was a fitness studio for hotel guests and best of all, a happy hour at every Brochner location in Copenhagen where you can stop in for a free glass of wine each afternoon. As long as you’re staying at one of their hotels, you can pop in to any of the other Brochner properties, which I made use of a few times and was a great way to see their other hotels. I would stay in the SP 34 again as it’s location put me smack in the middle of everything. A note on the room size; this is always a bit shocking from American size standards but when you book single rooms in Europe, you’re often booking what looks like the cabin of a ship, with a single bed you haven’t seen since 4th grade. Granted, this was a very stylish and well appointed ship cabin, with higher ceilings, but it was tiny nonetheless. It worked out fine for me as I wasn’t planning on spending any time in my room aside from sleeping, but it is something to be aware of. Particularly at hip design hotel prices.
What to do in Copenhagen:
Aside from eating, drinking, shopping, cycling, and strolling, these two activities stood out:
Canal Tour my Danish friend told me that, though touristy, this is actually a great way to get an introduction to the city, and a nice way to see the little mermaid, without wasting time making the trip out to this (underwhelming) statue. It’s always nice to see a city from the water, and I enjoyed the commentary, ample photo opportunities, and getting oriented with the layout of the city. I didn’t feel the need to see any museums while in Copenhagen, so this was the one sort of touristy thing I did and felt it was time well spent.
La Fontaine Jazz Club I stumbled upon this jazz club (Copenhagen’s oldest), and caught an amazing show featuring a badass female saxaphone player. She was fantastic, and the small intimate club was really fun, even if you’re not a jazz aficionado. There isn’t a bad seat in the house it’s so tiny.
We still want to get to:
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art located 25 miles north of Copenhagen, the museum has stunning views of Sweden in a coastal setting that combines landscape, architecture and art. They host a rotating series of exhibitions as well as cultural events and activities in the evening. I am dying to go.
Best Food & Drink
Sadly, Noma was out of my price range but Copenhagen is a dream destination for coffee and seafood fiends. Ex-Noma chefs are scattered at restaurants throughout the city, so you can get your taste of ‘new Nordic’ cuisine at a variety of prices.
1. Torvehallern – is the covered market filled with various stalls. It’s particularly popular with families (in the morning at least) and a good place to see Danish dads sporting baby bjorns (I know these are technically Swedish, I’m just saying I saw a lot of Danish dads in full on care-taking father mode wearing them and it was cool to see Danish equal parenting in action). I had my first of an embarrassing amount of cappuccinos and cortados here at Coffee Collective, a local chain recommended by my Danish friend.
2. Manfreds– I made the trek out to Kobenhavn through the cypress tree lined park and cemetery after reading this recommendation. Former Noma chefs are scattered throughout Copenhagen, and I wanted some of that trickle down new Nordic goodness. I lucked out as a single walk-in, but would make reservations going forward as this is a small and popular spot. I was seated next to the kitchen where I could watch the parade of dishes go by. Order the set menu to try four small courses covering a huge range of ingredients. This restaurant nails style and substance. Nice NYTimes writeup here.
3. Funder– this was my favorite coffee shop in Copenhagen. Small, hip, with comfortable seating, vinyl records playing, and tasty third wave. Yes it’s every cliche in the book but somehow it just works.
4. Tivolihallen– My Danish colleague recommended this for a super traditional Danish lunch and it was perfect! I called ahead to make sure they had a seat and I would recommend reserving as it is popular with locals and tourists. It’s folksy and traditional in decor, but the smørrebrød and wine were just what I was looking for, and the owners are friendly and cheerful. There were many groups of families having their weekend lunch here.
5. Ruby– this amazing cocktail bar came recommended by my Danish friend. I would absolutely try to make reservations as they have many different rooms with seats and you’ll likely have to wait for a table. Since I went alone, I was able to get a seat at the beautiful bar, and watch all the work that goes in to each cocktail. My drink tasted delicious and I would come back here with friends on my next visit to Copenhagen.
6. Reffen– this was a kind of outdoor food hall with various booths. It’s a looooooong walk across the water and the far reaches of Refshaleoen, but it does have nice views back to the rest of Copenhagen across the water. Next time, I would definitely bike, not walk here. It did feel like it was popular with locals, but I’m kind of over food trucks and food stalls. They always seem great in theory, and then you go spend more money than you would in a restaurant, cobble together a strange meal that ends up leaving you overly full but rarely satisfied, and you sit on freezing benches and outdoor tables trying to convince yourself you like dining this way. Maybe that’s just me…If you like Off the Grid in San Francisco, or the Street Food markets on Rupert St and all around London, then make the trip out here. If, like me, you keep going to these thinking you like them, and leaving kind of disappointed and annoyed every time, then skip Reffen.
7. Lille Bakery– one pleasant discovery on my sojourn to Reffen, was this off the beaten path, but very popular bakery. It gave me a pang of homesickness for Tartine, and then I looked up and saw the Tartine cookbook. I sat outside in one of several Adirondack chairs, happily eating toast with butter that might be the best humble toast I’ve ever eaten. I finished off my carb-fest with a gooey cookie and yet another coffee while I read my book sitting in the sun. I would love to come back for their communal dining seasonal dinners next time I’m in town.
8. Restaurant 108– more ex-Noma chefs, in a bright, airy, wooden space on the water, plus 1 Michelin star. I wanted to splash out for lunch here, but they were closed for a private function, so I made do with a coffee and pastry at their charming little café bar. It was a beautiful space and the coffee and pastry were super high quality, as one would expect. A nice mix of beautiful and hip people of all ages in here as well.
I still want to try:
3. Palaegade– this highly recommended, traditional Danish restaurant was going to be a splurge lunch, but I didn’t make a reservation and couldn’t get in. It seemed very popular and I’ll have to plan better for the next visit.
6. Atelier September– I later saw this cute cafe on a design blog later and it looked right up my alley. I walked all around here, so I have no idea how I missed it, but I want to go next time I’m in town.
9. Les Trois Cochons – classic French bistro with modern Scandinavian elements. A favorite among local creatives.
Best Shopping (and window shopping)
Scandinavian interior design, fashion brands, unique vintage, Copenhagen is an amazing city for shopping (and it’s not all expensive!)
1. Stilleben -this bright home decor shop has fantastic prints, modern light fixtures, fun notebooks, and interesting jewelry. I bought a few prints here and really loved the selection
2. Episode– amazing, amazing vintage/thrift store just down the street from my hotel. It was filled with cool kids, and was well organized and merchandised and the prices were super reasonable. I went to town buying vintage dresses and sweaters and when it was time to ring them up, was told I’d actually exceeded the allowance of what one person could buy in a given ‘category.’ Apparently, they want to preserve the store as a place cool kids shop, and they fear people coming in, buying a bunch of stock, and then going to resell it. Understandable, but I was pretty surprised as I’ve never heard of a place trying to curb your spending. It spoke to a sort of Scandinavian restraint, so I was forced to edit and leave a few things behind. Overall, a total score for vintage lovers.
3.Paloma Vintage– I stumbled upon this impeccably curated, upscale vintage designer boutique and fell in love with a totally modern looking navy blue bomber jacket, that happened to be from the iconic ‘76 Yves Saint Laurent ballet Russe collection. I couldn’t quite justify spending the same amount of money as my Copenhagen weekend on this jacket…but I still think about it. The store has a great Instagram account that shows pieces as they come in, so shoppers around the world can place orders. The owner has developed an International clientele and ships worldwide. For vintage aficionados or anyone looking for unique designer pieces that won’t show up on anyone else, this is an amazing shop.
4. Project 4– I walked passed this boutique repeatedly and bought a cool, reasonably priced ear cuff here. They have nice boots, bags, and jewelry, and a range of Danish designers I’d never seen in the U.S. / London which was fun to find.
5. Hay House– is a multi story furniture store, and a beautiful place to take in Danish modernism with hygge flourishes. Soft rugs, big beds, green plants, interesting chairs, it’s all here. I just don’t know who has an apartment big enough for any of it!
6. Norse Store– has a great selection of the coolest designers. I made the mistake of trying on an Acne coat that I promptly fell in love with and spent the rest of the weekend feeling inadequate in my outerwear.
I still want to try:
1. Galleri 14– Sadly this was closed when I went, but it looked interesting. This list by SFGirlbybay had great food and design tips that I cross referenced with other sources and ended up with quite a bit of overlap.
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