In Copenhagen, you’ll see more bikes than cars on the road, babies in prams unattended outside cafés, and loads of tall Viking men. Danish people are unabashedly liberal and comfortable in their own skin. One of the things I found most refreshing is how little makeup Danish women wear, if any. They all seem to have great skin, so they can get away with it. Take it as an excuse to forego makeup for a couple of days and see if you can’t embrace your bare face – a cute hat and scarf are much quicker ways to look chic. And you’ll fit right in with the locals.
What to Do
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Copenhagen is best experienced by bike or by foot. Trying to drive will only be a frustrating and harrowing experience, with many roads closed off to motorized vehicles. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, so rent a bike (many hotels offer bikes – ask if yours does) and explore all the quirky neighborhoods that make up the city – including the newly trendy Meatpacking District in Vesterbro, home to several galleries (Gallery Poulsen and Galleri Bo Bjerggaard are fun) and nightlife. The buildings here are blocky and utilitarian, striking me as something out of a former Soviet Bloc country. Don’t miss riding across the Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake, an elevated orange bike lane across the harbor with stunning city views that was just completed last year.
On a rainy day, there’s nothing better than relaxing with a dusty old book and coffee at Paludan Café. The cozy coffee shop is in old Jewish quarter, right next to the University of Copenhagen and cathedral. Within walking distance is Tivoli, the world’s oldest amusement park with a wooden roller coaster, old-school carnival games and live entertainment each day.
Get out of the city for a day trip to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, located conveniently off the train line. The collection spans Danish and international paintings, sculptures, and more from 1945 to the present day. The current Yayoi Kusama In Infinity exhibition (through January 24th, 2016) features this Japanese artist’s vibrant polka dot paintings and phallic symbol sculptures with interactive rooms of mirrors, balloons, and stickers.
Where to Spa
Hotel Kong Arthur’s Ni’mat Massage & Spa is an unexpectedly exotic Thai temple in the midst of a practical, efficient city. The indecisive should book the Buddha massage deluxe for an hour-long full body massage followed by a mini-facial with either Kalahari or Thailand’s Pañpuri skin care lines. I had never tried either one, and loved the light floral scent of the jasmine from Pañpuri. My lovely esthetician, originally from Hungary, assured me that the antioxidant properties in jasmine would help my skin heal more quickly. Be sure to bring your swimsuit so you can enjoy the water temple after your treatment. There’s a smaller Ni’mat Spa at the Hilton by the airport too, so if your flight gets delayed, you know where to go.
Kokkedal Castle & Spa is a short train ride north from the city, in an idyllic countryside setting. The small Spa by Sodashi tailors each treatment to individual needs using 100 percent natural products from Australia’s Sodashi line. Complete your castle experience by trying Danish pastries with a decadent tea service.
Where to Dine
Noma dining room
If you can get a reservation, there’s nowhere better to experience New Nordic cuisine than Noma, a restaurant that has been named the best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino four times since 2010. It currently holds the number three spot, but that doesn’t diminish its influence. Chef René Redzepi plans to transform the restaurant once more in 2017 by relocating and adding an urban farm, so try to get a seat before it closes at the end of 2016. Noma’s philosophy revolves around using local, seasonal ingredients in imaginative ways – a fermentation laboratory behind the restaurant houses pickled berries and vegetables alongside various sauces and the R+D kitchen upstairs is where chefs test individual components, like oils and dehydrated ingredients while composing a new dish. Some courses are simple – cold-smoked mackerel barbecued with a mushroom glaze – while others are incredibly labor-intensive – six cooks line up in the back kitchen peeling walnuts for a single course of shaved fresh walnuts served atop a seaweed tart with parsley paste. I dined here the first day of the new main course for autumn – whole wild duck barbecued on the yakitori grill out back. The bird may change throughout the season, but expect wild game to figure prominently on the menu. Several former cooks at Noma have opened their own restaurants in Copenhagen – Relæ, Amass and Kødbyends Fiskebar are just a few examples. Trace their path and see how these chefs have adapted what they’ve learned at Noma and injected their own personality and style.
For a casual meal with a plethora of options, Torvehallerne is the city’s food hub, with markets hawking fresh produce alongside stalls with prepared foods to take home or enjoy there. Hija de Sanchez serves incredible tacos on freshly made tortillas with corn imported from Mexico.
You can’t leave Copenhagen without trying classic Danish smørrebrød – open-faced sandwiches served on slices of dense rye bread. Øl & Brød has a fantastic selection paired with 10 Mikkeller beers on tap and a huge selection of Aquavit and housemade schnapps.
Where to Shop
Jægersborggade street in Nørrebro has a high concentration of independent shops and art galleries. If you like the plates at Relæ, you can pick them up at Inge Vincents Ceramics. You can swap clothes with locals at Resecond, an app-driven resale shop.
Put together a chic Scandinavian outfit at Samsøe & Samsøe, a Danish fashion brand that has several locations in town. Other great Danish designers include Bruuns Bazaar, (creative director Lene Borggaard won a 2013 Elle Style Award for Designer of the Year), urban bohemian Munthe and more avant-garde Ivan Grundahl. For one-stop shopping, Illum and Magasin are the city’s premium department stores, carrying local brands along with recognizable international fashion houses.
Where to Drink
Try the Nordic cocktails at Lidkoeb, a pharmacy laboratory transformed into a three story cocktail bar. There is an old wives’ tale that a warm glass of milk helps you get to bed. What if the milk is cold and mixed with hay syrup, crème fraîche, and rye-infused vodka? Et Glas Mælk is a Nordic cocktail that captures Denmark’s farming legacy with each sip, not too sweet nor too creamy, and topped with a bright sprig of lingonberries. On Friday and Saturday nights, head upstairs to the whiskey bar where you can try 200 different whiskey varieties straight up and in classic stirred cocktails.
Most recent from Travel & Play