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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Slotskaelderen hos Gitte Kik
Karen Blixen museum in Copenhagen
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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