17 Our long weekend in Copenhagen – Podcast

Episode 17 in my travel podcast series takes us for a long weekend to Copenhagen in the early summer. You’ll hear the sounds of the children’s carnival that we came across while shopping, and the gastronomic specialities from Smørrebrød to Michelin star cuisine, that have given Copenhagen such a reputation as a foodie destination. Just like the Copenhageners we got on our bikes and took the train to visit the Karen Blixen Museum at Rungsted, cycled back along the coast road and enjoyed the band and old fashioned amusements at the Tivoli Gardens. We also took the canal tour to see the sights of the harbour area, such as the Royal Yacht and the Little Mermaid and had to duck to avoid banging our heads on the low bridges of Nyhavn.

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Show notes

  • We flew from Heathrow to Copenhagen airport and easily made our way directly to the hotel by Metro, buying a ticket from the machine in the airport that takes credit cards.
  • We stayed at the Ibsens Hotel, a neighbourhood boutique hotel in Nansensgade, an area that has a studenty feel with plenty of small bars and restaurants and is near the Copenhagen lakes. The hotel aims to be CO2 neutral – breakfast it is served on a plastic tray with a selection of different cereals and fruits in glasses and sandwiches in paper bags to avoid waste. The decor is colourful, funky and modern with items from local artizans who have shops nearby.
Library at Ibsens Hotel, Copenhagen

Library at Ibsens Hotel, Copenhagen

  • We spent our first morning shopping, walking around the main shopping street of Strøget and Amagertorv, exploring the big 3 Danish designer shops, starting with Illums Bolighus, a homeware store that sells beautiful Danish and Scandanavian design for the home. You can walk directly through from the 1st floor to the Royal Copenhagen store with the famous blue and white Copenhagen pattern that we also saw in many of the restaurants that we visited as well as the Christmas plates that we saw on sale in the flea market beside the canal. We also visited the Georg Jensen store with silver jewellery and watches – I visited the Georg Jensen workshops in a previous visit to Copenhagen and saw some of the heritage pieces being made.
  • As we walked along Amagertorv we saw a parade of children dressed in green and pink, drumming and dancing in a procession as part of the Copenhagen Carnival that was taking place that weekend.

 

Childrens carnival in Copenhagen

Childrens carnival in Copenhagen

 

  • Copenhagen is known as a gourmet destination and is scattered with a number of Michelin star restaurants, with Noma being one of the best known as it was voted the ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ We wanted to try the Danish open sandwich known as Smørrebrød and stopped at Gitte Kik for lunch, then later tried Aamanns where there is a deli with Smørrebrød made with fresh and seasonal ingredients for a late afternoon snack. The chef Adam Amaans started his deli after he wanted to make good food for his children to take to school for their packed lunch and couldn’t find the quality he was looking for, so ended up making it himself.
  • At Gitte Kik I interviewed the owner Frank about the Danish tradition of Smørrebrød. At Gitte Kik, rather than a menu card they have a counter where the dishes are laid out so that customers can choose from 80 different combinations of toppings. The restaurant has been on this spot since 1797 and as it’s right opposite the Danish Parliament Building, its a popular lunchtime spot for the Members of Parliament. Herring is very popular topping and is generally washed down with beer or schnapps. One of the specialties is known as Dyrlægensn natmad or the Vet’s night snack, with a topping of liver pate with salt veal and onions which was traditionally prepared by the farmer’s wife when the vet came out to tend to the livestock.
Gitte Kik in Copenhagen

Gitte Kik in Copenhagen

  • I interviewed Christian, the owner of Ved Stranden wine bar close to the canal – apparently it’s the favourite off duty haunt of René Redzepi, the chef at Noma. The wine bar, which opened a year and a half ago, tries to create a convivial atmosphere for guests. The speciality here are cold climate wines from Austria, Germany and Eastern Europe with great minerality, structure and fruit.
  • Later we moved on to look around the neighbourhood of Nørrebro, where we stopped in the Claus Meyer bakery, known for the great Danish bread – I had visited the Claus Meyer production bakery when I was last in Copenhagen, so I know how passionate they are about their sourdough!
Coffee Collective in Copenhagen

Coffee Collective in Copenhagen

  • Just across the road  we stopped in at Coffee Collective where they are equally passionate about their coffee. There’s only one small shop and a few tables outside and most people get their coffee to take away although they sell coffee all over Copenhagen.The owners work with the farmers in Brazil, Guatamala, Kenya and Panama paying the best prices for the best quality coffee.
Heather Cowper and Henrik Yde-Andersen at Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen

Heather Cowper and Henrik Yde-Andersen at Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen

  • We finished the day with Champagne and canapes at Kiin Kiin, the only Michelin star Thai restaurant in the world, where I chatted to the owner-chef Henrik Yde Andersen. Henrik was a chef for 4 years in Thailand – his signature dish is the frozen Red Thai curry served with a lobster salad with coriander seeds and for desert the Khao Niaow Ma Muan with sticky rice and sweet mango or the Pandan ice cream with roasted coconut.
  • If you want somewhere low key to eat, Henrik also has a number of other restaurants in Copenhagen such as AroiDee just next door to Kiin Kiin, Rice Market and Dim Sum. Henrik is also on a suicidal mission to take Thai food back to Bangkok and has rcently opened his latest restaurant at the Kempinski Hotel in Bangkok.When he’s off duty he takes his Dad for lunch at for Smørrebrød at Schoenneman
On the train in Copenhagen

On the train in Copenhagen

  • We hired bikes and took the train out to Rungsted to see the house of the famous Danish Writer, Karen Blixen. I had visited her house in the neighbourhood of Karen (named after her) in Nairobi built on the site of her coffee plantation. When her plantation failed in the 1930s she returned with no money to her childhood home at Runstedlund
  • In one wing you enter the shop and cafe with an exhibition room upstairs where you can see the typewriter on which she wrote all her books. In the other wing are the private rooms which are furnished as they were in her life where you can walk through the rooms that she lived in, the dining room and drawing room  where she entertained guests and a chest given to her by her servant Farah.
  • She was known for the beautiful wild flower arrangements from the garden where there is a cut flower garden. In her later life Karen Blixen became a celebrity and she travelled to America to speak on American Radio. At the back of the Karen Blixen House, through the garden is a bird sanctuary in the woodland where she is buried under a shady tree. Everyone I met seemed to have a story at Karen Blixen, she was such a strong character who inspired many people.
Karen Blixen House near Copenhagen

Karen Blixen House near Copenhagen

  • We rode our bikes back to Klampenborg station along the coast road catching glimpses of the sea between the houses. At Klampenborg we stopped for a while on the beach to look at the apartment complex designed by the famous Danish designer Arne Jacobsen. It’s easy to travel with your bike on the train in Copenhagen – there’s a special carriage at each end of the train where you can put your bikes.
Pantomime Theatre in Tivoli Gardens

Pantomime Theatre in Tivoli Gardens

  • In the late afternoon we visited the Tivoli Gardens where we strolled around looking at all the attractions and sat listening to the band in the bandstand. As you come in the gate you can see the Moorish Palace style building of the Nimb Hotel and there is a lake with boats and a pirate galleon. It’s said that Walt Disney visited the Tivoli and it gave him the idea for the Disney parks.
  • Although there are many restaurants in Tivoli, we decided to eat in the neighbourhood of our hotel where there were many small bars and restaurants. We found a restaurant called Nice, which sold Moules and Chips which my husband fancied trying. We realised when we sat down that the restaurant didn’t take credit cards and we had 500 Krone which would normally not go very far in Copenhagen where eating out is expensive, but luckily it was enough for our meal.
Copenhagen Canal tour

Copenhagen Canal tour

  • On the Sunday morning of our last day we decided to take a canal tour which is a good way to see a lot in just an hour. We took the one with DFDS boat that was included in our Copenhagen cards although there is a cheaper Netto tour boat a little further along the quay. The tour goes through the canal areas under the low bridges and then we moved into open water, passing the Royal Yacht and the Royal Library nicknamed the Black Diamond. We saw the Little Mermaid with crowds of people waiting to have their photo taken. The areas which were once the run down areas of Copenhagen are now the most sought after with expensive apartments with boats moored alongside and merchant houses looking like Amsterdam.

If you enjoyed this travel podcast please check out my other podcasts in my Travel Podcast Archive


More about Copenhagen

In search of the perfect Smørrebrød – in Copenhagen
Out of Africa and other Danish stories – At the Karen Blixen Museum
What can you buy for 500 Krone in Copenhagen?
A tour of the Georg Jensen workshops in Copenhagen
Modern Thai cooking with Danish style at Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen

Links to the places mentioned in Copenhagen

Ibsens Hotel
Illums Bolighus
Royal Copenhagen
Georg Jensen
Aamanns
Slotskaelderen hos Gitte Kik
Ved Stranden
Claus Meyer
Coffee Collective
Kiin Kiin
Restaurant Schønnemann
Karen Blixen museum in Copenhagen
Tivoli Gardens
DFDS canal tours

Resources for visiting Copenhagen

  • The Visit Copenhagen website has information about places to visit in Copenhagen
  • We used the Copenhagen Card that gives free entry to 65 museums and attractions as well as free public transport around the city

Thanks to Wonderful Copenhagen for sponsoring our weekend in Copenhagen.

Music credits: The music at the start of the podcast was Venus as a girl by Andy McKee on Musicalley.com and the Mozart music from Out of Africa was Clarinet Concerto Adagio played by Umeshshankar with other music recorded at the Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen.

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In search of the perfect Smørrebrød – in Copenhagen

In anything epitomises Danish food, it must be the Smørrebrød. This open sandwich is made with dark rye bread topped with an endless combination of pickled herrings, cured meats and onions or salad and is not to be confused with the Swedish Smörgåsbord, which is more of a buffet style meal (better not mention the Swedes, Denmark’s old enemy)

Smørrebrød at Gitte Kik in Copenhagen

Smørrebrød at Gitte Kik in Copenhagen

Copenhagen seemed the perfect place to seek out the Danish Smørrebrød and we started our quest at Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik, a lunchtime only restaurant that is on an unobtrusive street corner, yet a stone’s throw from Amagertorv and close to where you take the DFDS Canal Tours. Down a couple of steps and you’re in a homely, packed restaurant where the owner Frank will talk you through the dishes laid out on the counter with the day’s specialities. This is the place to try the traditional style Smørrebrød with endless different styles of herring (we tried pickled, curried and fried) or combinations of cured meats, vegetables or paté as well as plenty of vegetarian toppings.

Smørrebrød at Gitte Kik in Copenhagen

Smørrebrød at Gitte Kik in Copenhagen

As the restaurant is just opposite the Danish Parliament building it’s a popular lunchtime haunt for Members of Parliament but even if the Prime Minister had been eating at the next table, I would have been none the wiser, although I can claim to have eaten in the same restaurant (at the same time) as Baroness Thatcher. I suspect that all those MPs really like Gitte Kik because the grandfather clocks, old fashioned pictures and cosy, low beamed ceiling remind them of a home-made lunch with their mother.

While we tucked into our plate of Smørrebrød, elegantly served on Royal Copenhagen bone china, our lunch companion Henrik educated us in the finer points of Danish table etiquete. As I love to try a little of everything, I thought that the Smørrebrød might be a bit like a Tapas where you all share a few dishes, but in fact it’s a rather polite one person, one plate affair – so no picking allowed.

You also need to remember that you should “swim before you fly” and eat the fish toppings first, then the chicken or poultry, although of course in these modern times people can please themselves . Most people would enjoy a beer with their Smørrebrød lunch but you’ll also be asked if you’d like a glass of chilled schnaps to wash down the herring – as they say in Denmark, “the fish has to swim”. You might also like to try that old favourite, Dyrlægensn natmad which translates as The vet’s night snack and is a topped with liver paté and a slice of corn beef, that the farmer’s wife would traditionally prepare for the vet to eat when he had come out to the farm to attend the livestock.

Smørrebrød at Gitte Kik in Copenhagen

Smørrebrød at Gitte Kik in Copenhagen

Then there’s the drinking etiquette which is even more tricky. Before you drink, be sure to shout a cheery Skål, clink glasses with everyone at the table and take a drink before you put the glass down. You can repeat this toast randomly throughout the meal as where the Brits might think that one toast is enough, the Danes apparently like to continue every time they raise a glass. Oh, and if you wonder why everyone is fixing you with a gimlet stare, it’s only because it’s considered polite to make eye contact with each person around the table as you clink glasses.

Smørrebrød at Aamanns in Copenhagen

Smørrebrød at Aamanns in Copenhagen

This is because if you were drinking with your enemy in the old Viking days, you’d want to keep an eye on the amount he was drinking and keep him at table as long as possible so he wouldn’t be burning your house down when your back was turned. I found this trait of locking eyes with everyone I shook hands with a bit un-nerving, as in England it would be considered rather rude to stare or make eye contact for too long.

The next place we sought out to try Smørrebrød was the Aamanns deli, a place that is as modern and fresh as Gitte Kik is cosy and traditional. It all started when chef Adam Aamans was looking for good quality ingredients to make packed lunches for his children to take to school and ended up by opening his own deli where they make everything for the sandwiches from scratch. I had a tear in my eye at such devotion, as I remembered sending my kids off to school with a bag of hula hoops, cheesy strings, prepacked mini peperoni and a penguin bar (the best that Waitrose could offer of course!)

As we arrived at Aamanns in the mid afternoon things were winding down and we had the place to ourselves as we sat at one of the modern white cafe tables, having chosen our Smørrebrød from a selection at the Deli counter. It was all impeccebly free range, organic and seasonal and looked very pretty too. I was trying to get my head around how you might get a take-out without the toppings flying around into an unappetising mess, but they have ingenious little boxes with partions to prevent that happening. I’d say that you could take out your Smørrebrød and head either for the Copenhagen lakes in one direction or to the local park in the other to enjoy your perfect open sandwich al fresco.

Smørrebrød at Aamanns in Copenhagen

Smørrebrød at Aamanns in Copenhagen

Anywhere else you might try out  Smørrebrød in Copenhagen?

I’d have loved to check out the Royal Cafe on Amagertorv, through an archway between the Royal Copenhagen shop and Georg Jensen – it’s a funky cafe with a few tables al fresco in the small courtyard and specialises in Smushi – a miniture open sandwich that’s a cross between Smørrebrød and Sushi.

I was also recommended Restaurant Schønnemann by top chef Henrik Yde Andersen at Kiin Kiin who takes his father for lunch there each week – I reckon that if it pleases a Michelin star chef, then it’s worth checking out.

Do you have any recommendations for where to find the best Smørrebrød in Copenhagen?

This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday – head over to Wanderlust and Lipstick for lobsters, stinky cheese and other foodie delights

More things to enjoy in Copenhagen

Where can you eat for 500 Krone in Copenhagen?
Modern Thai food with Danish style at Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen
Out of Africa and other Danish Stories – at the Karen Blixen Museum in Copenhagen

Resources for visiting Copenhagen

Thanks to Wonderful Copenhagen for sponsoring our weekend in Copenhagen.

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heatheronhertravels' Copenhagen - Food & Drink photoset heatheronhertravels’ Copenhagen – Food & Drink photoset

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Subscribe to Heatheronhertravels Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels