Traditional Danish Cuisine
Many Danish cuisine recipes nowadays originate from the Viking era. For Vikings it was a necessity to preserve almost all food—meat, fish, dairy, fruits and vegetables alike. Therefore their food was mostly salted, pickled, marinated or dried so that it would keep for a very long time. While Danish cuisine was inherited from the Viking era, it has been adjusted to the modern Danish taste buds. When visiting Denmark, especially Copenhagen, it is a must to pay a visit to a traditional restaurant, as Danish and Nordic cuisine has become increasingly popular worldwide and this is a great opportunity to sample some!
Restaurant Schønnemann is one of the oldest restaurants in Copenhagen, established in 1877. It is a lunch-only destination and is well known for its wide variety of choices, its delicious open sandwiches (smørrebrod), and for its seafood dishes. Another restaurant with typical Danish dishes is Restaurant Puk, which offers many exciting choices for those wanting to sample something traditional. Both these restaurants offer high quality food with medium prices, so expect to pay around 200 DKK for a meal.
New Nordic Cuisine
In recent years some Danish chefs have been part of the New Nordic Cuisine movement, which is an innovative way of cooking based on high quality and local production. The restaurant that took the lead and had a great impact on the success of the New Nordic Cuisine movement was the internationally acclaimed, two Michelin star restaurant noma (set menu: 2,250 DKK). Noma (short for Nordisk mad – Nordic food) was ranked the world’s best restaurant in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Before it closed down in 2016 (in order to reopen with a new concept in 2018), it had two stars in Guide Michelin Nordic Cities for 2015 and 2016. After its huge success Noma opened a spin-off restaurant 108 (full tasting menu: 1,950 DKK) in 2016, which has already been awarded with one Michelin star.
Other Danish restaurants that follow the New Nordic Cuisine are Geranium, Restaurant AOC, and Radio. Geranium (set menu: 2,500 DKK) has a very dynamic style and its chef Rasmus Kofoed, considered one of the world’s best chefs, tries to involve all the senses in the restaurant’s dishes. Radio (set menu: around 400 DKK) was established by famous chef Claus Meyer and is focused on Nordic and organic cuisine. All ingredients are organic, Danish, and contribute to an extraordinary taste experience.
Traditional with a twist
Kadeau (set menu: 1,800 DKK) is a restaurant that was initially established on the island of Bornholm. It offers high class dishes inspired by Bornholm specialties and Danish ingredients. The menu and opening hours change according to the season so be sure to check beforehand!
The Standard is a Michelin awarded restaurant situated right next to the main Copenhagen canal. It offers food from the Nordic kitchen. In Almanak (set menu: 1,195 DKK) you can eat ”food that a grandmother would have made if she had known what we know today”, or you can have a taste experience like never before in Studio (set menu: 1,300 DKK), with dishes that represent Danish nature.
Of course, Danish cuisine is not only about fancy restaurants. The Danes also love their street food. There are hot-dog stands (Pølsevogne) all over the centre of Copenhagen. On Amagertorv 31 there is an organic hot-dog stand called DØP (Den Økologiske Pølsemand) (30-50 DKK). It was established in 2009 by Claus Christiansen; all bread and sausage recipes are his own, and his hotdogs are said to be the best in town! In Denmark there is an obsession with sausages (pølser in Danish), maybe even as much as in Germany. Rød-pølse (red sausage) is one of the local favorites and you can find it at any hotdog stand.
There are also many food halls in Copenhagen. A popular and very central one is Torvehallerne. There you can find stands with traditional Danish food such as Smørrebrød, but also different cuisines from other countries. Another food market, which opened in 2017, is Tivoli Food Hall – a great way to enjoy lunch in Copenhagen from all over the world and have fun in one of the oldest amusement parks in the world!
If you prefer a more rough setting you should check out Reffen Street Food market.
Even though Denmark is one of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world, it is also one with the highest meat consumption per capita in the world (even though it has been falling continuously). Of course, this means that in almost all traditional Danish dishes there is some kind of meat. However, vegetarians are just as easily able to find something to eat too! An example of vegetarian restaurants would be Veve (set menu: 750 dkk). It offers a special experience to its customers and its menu is inspired by kitchens from all around the world.
Some of the most traditional Danish dishes, can probably be found in any traditional Danish restaurant. Smørrebrod (an open sandwich) is one that Danes love, and eat at any time of the day. It is rye bread buttered and garnished with a variety of ingredients—meat, fish, eggs, vegetables etc. Stegt flæsk med persillesovs (fried pork with parsley gravy) is not as well-known to the outside world, but it is considered Denmark’s national dish. Another favorite is frikadeller, which is fried meatballs (pork) or fishballs (fiskefrikadeller).
One of the most well-known pastries is a “Danish”. What is surprising however, is that a “Danish” is not Danish! The Danes call it Wienerbrød because it actually originates from Vienna. The danish came to Denmark in 1850 during a bakers’ strike. Bakery owners had to hire bakers from abroad, especially Austrian bakers, who started making Wienerbrød. The Danes liked it so much that they started asking for it even after the strike and the recipe was adjusted to the Danish liking.
Lagkagehuset is a pastry house, with locations all around town, where you can find many pastries, bread, cakes and desserts if you are hungry while walking around Copenhagen! Lagkagehuset is also located at our walking tour start point - try it out!
Lakrids (liquorice) is relished by the Danes! It comes salty, sour, sweet, fruity, chili or chocolate coated. So many different flavors! The best lakrids you can find is at Lakrids by Johan Bülow(from around 80 DKK).
Danes like to have a drink during their meals. Usually, and especially during celebrations, they have “snaps”. In Denmark Akvavit (in Latin this means water of life, how ironic…) is always used for “snaps” and is considered the national drink. Don’t forget to “Skål!” (cheers) whenever you drink “snaps”!
Denmark also has a long history of beer brewing. It has Carlsberg (probably) the best beer in the world, Tuborg (which is beloved, especially for its annual Christmas beer), and many microbreweries that are growing in number and strength. A great place to try some beers would be Brus or BrewPub, which also has a restaurant and a great courtyard to enjoy a beer during the sunny summer days in Copenhagen!
The Danes have made food an experience and a pleasure for the senses. If you are wondering what to eat in Copenhagen and you are a foodie you shouldn’t miss visiting at least one of the places listed above or trying some of our traditional Danish foodsuggestions. You won’t be disappointed!