Copenhagen Restaurants and Food Scene
Danish Food? It’s probably not something you eat back home. The Danes aren’t known worldwide for their cuisine like the Italians and French. Still, when you’re in Copenhagen, you have to try some local dishes – food tours, pastries, New Nordic restaurants and open-faced sandwiches are just a few. In fact, Copenhagen restaurants are among the best in the world! Some tourists visit the city simply to enjoy the experience of dining at Noma and the other Michelin Star Copenhagen restaurants.
This page is designed to give you an overview of every food option in Copenhagen. Our aim is to give you a complete guide to Copenhagen restaurants, foods, and drinks. We’ve done this by giving you a comprehensive overview here with links to more in-depth reading and resources for your itinerary planning.
New Nordic Cuisine and Copenhagen Restaurants that do it Right
New Nordic cuisine has been increasing in global notoriety and popularity in the last decade. It dates back to 2004 when the concept was created and agreed upon by the greatest culinary minds of Scandinavia. The top chefs from each country met and agreed upon a manifest that would change the way people in the Nordics ate and created food. The premise is simple but the results are complex and, well… delicious.
New Nordic cuisine is the idea of fresh, seasonal and local ingredients being fused with traditional Danish culinary techniques and presented in a unique and new way. The way that it’s influenced Copenhagen restaurants is seen in an ever-changing menu at fine dining establishments. As the seasons progress through the year, local vegetation changes and so do menus at Copenhagen restaurants. It also involves an array of flavors and spices that are native to Scandinavia and may be new to visitors to Copenhagen.
What to expect at a New Nordic Restaurant
When you dine at a New Nordic restaurant in Copenhagen, you can expect a tremendous experience from beginning to end. It’s going to involve complex dishes and flavors and you’ll be given excellent service and attention throughout the meal. Most New Nordic Copenhagen restaurants will have a fixed menu of 3 or 5 courses and optional wine pairings. It’s also typical for them to offer a “snack” menu that is a la carte. This is a list of traditional and innovative appetizers and starters that are usually 3-4 small items. Think Nordic tapas. It’s normal for them to be served to to the group in a 1:1 ratio – meaning that if you are a party of 4 there will be 4 portions of the featured starter.
Some places to try New Nordic
There are loads of options for New Nordic in Copenhagen. These suggestions are by no means the best or only ways to jump into the New Nordic trend, but they’re three great examples.
- Noma: If you have the money to spend – enjoy New Nordic at the place where the concept was born, Noma. It stands for Nordic Food (the Danish word for food is mad) and it’s owned by the chef who started a movement, René Redzepi. It will cost you to dine there at $400 for the food menu and $200 for the wine pairings. There are three seasonal menus and reservations are opened once per year for each season. They book quickly, so if you want to eat at Noma, which has won the distinction of World’s Best Restaurant several times, you need to plan ahead.
- Marv og Ben: If you want a delicious New Nordic experience without the wallet-shattering bill, consider trying Marv og Ben. It’s a relative newcomer to the Copenhagen restaurant scene but their culinary work has yielded well-earned praise. They execute the New Nordic cuisine to perfection and the service is next-level. They offer several menu options and an al a carte option with two and three hour seating options. It’s wise to make a reservation, but it’s a bit easier than Noma and you can count on a fantastic experience for about $100-150 on food and $100 for the wine pairings.
- Restaurant Meille: If you’re looking to try New Nordic on a lean budget, you can get maximum value at Restaurant Meille. Without compromising taste, service or quality, Meille delivers New Nordic for roughly $50 on food and $65 more to add a wine pairing for each course. Just like the other two Copenhagen restaurants, Meille serves fresh ingredients that change each season and prepares them with traditional Danish techniques, spices and flavors. You can’t go wrong with any of these options, but Meille is a tremendous value for top-level New Nordic in Copenhagen.
Breakfast foods and cafes in Copenhagen
The Danish word for breakfast is morgenmad which translates to the very literal phrase “morning food”. When it comes to starting your day with a Danish breakfast you can expect typical foods like bacon, eggs, fresh fruit and breads. A breakfast roll with cheese served with butter or jam is a quintessential Danish breakfast. There are plenty of other options for a meal to start your day in Copenhagen, however don’t expect as many cafes as you would find in Paris or breakfast restaurants and diners like in the USA. Compared to many countries, Denmark prefers an understated breakfast. Many restaurants skip breakfast and some choose to open for dinner only.
In Copenhagen, the two main ways to get food in the morning are to visit a coffee house cafe or find an actual sit-down restaurant that serves brunch. There are also chain coffee house cafes that you’ll find all over the city – like the Danish take on Starbucks (and also a few Starbucks franchises).
Copenhagen street food
Copenhagen street food is among the best in the world. Part of the reason for this is the combination of amazing culinary talent, municipal investment in street food spaces and the entrepreneurial spirit of Denmark. When you visit Copenhagen, you have to pay homage to Copenhagen street food and pamper your taste buds with some delicious local flavor.
There are a few ways to make this happen. One is with food trucks – they’re all over town and can be found in most squares, public parks and near transportation hubs like Nørreport Station. One of the most sought after food trucks is the DØP hot dog wagon near the Round Tower. It serves Copenhagen’s favorite hot dogs, the rød pølser or “red sausage” as well as other grilled hot dogs. Try it yourself and find out what all the buzz is about. You’ll enjoy the food trucks elsewhere around the city and the nice thing is they all take debit and credit cards as well as cash.
A second way to enjoy Copenhagen street food is by visiting a street food park. The most famous and largest by far is Reffen! It’s a little far from city center, but worth the trip and easily reached by bike, bus or ferry. It’s a massive park of food stalls and international street food. There are bars and entertainment in the park and it’s a great place to watch the sun set. There are a few great parks like Reffen and you should make a point to visit at least one while in Copenhagen.
A third way to try Copenhagen street food is via a street food hall. There are also a few around town from the posh Torvehallerne to Tivoli’s take on the street food hall. The scene is growing and popular and well-supported by the city so expect even more options when you visit Copenhagen.
Money-saving tips for eating in Copenhagen
- In Copenhagen, like all of Denmark, the price quoted on a menu is the final cost of that item. It’s inclusive of all taxes and in Denmark, you do not tip your wait staff, barista or other service workers. This may seem strange to travelers from other countries, but you often won’t even have the option to include gratuity on a credit card transaction. You can factor that into your currency conversion when deciding where to eat and feel a little better about the money you spend.
- Almost every restaurant, even Noma (voted worlds best) offers a generous student discount. Most will advertise this on the counter or door, but in some places, you should ask for it if you are a student or traveling with one.
- Paying with cash is acceptable, but locals will joke that “only tourists use cash”. Credit and debit card transactions are done everywhere you can get food from a street food counter to a gourmet meal. This can save you on converting currency and ATM withdraws. Take advantage of electronic payment and it can add up over your visit to Copenhagen.
Copenhagen's Food Scene FAQs
Danish food is something you should try when you’re in Copenhagen. There are essentially two ways to try Danish food in Copenhagen – traditional and New Nordic.
Traditional Danish food is meats – often pork – and root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and beets. There’s also a lot of fish, especially pickled and smoked fish, served with sauces. New Nordic meals use traditional Danish recipes and ingredients prepared with modern, gourmet techniques. New Nordic cuisine became popular in the early 2000s and it’s delicious. Copenhagen has the most Michelin stars of any Scandinavian city so there are many great places to try Danish food.
In Denmark, tipping is not necessary. It will seem weird for some travelers, especially Americans, but you may not even have the option to tip if paying by card. Dining out can be a little pricey, but when you factor in a 20% tip (like in the states) you won’t be paying much more. Service staff is paid a high enough wage that tipping is not necessary. You’ll get used to it after a few days in Copenhagen.
There are a lot of food options in Copenhagen. Some will not require a reservation, but it’s smart to always make one – especially in the summer months.
Because wait staff and kitchen staff are paid a higher wage, restaurant owners schedule only the staff they need for dinner reservations. Many restaurants are even closed for lunch due to the same reason. Make a reservation if you want to be guaranteed a dinner.
Many restaurants are smaller than some travelers are used to. Copenhagen is an old and historic city, so many buildings are not suited for large dining rooms. This makes for an intimate meal, but less seats available for dinner – so reserve yours.
Service in Copenhagen is typical of Europe, but may be different than some non-European travelers are used to. Many guests will linger at their dinner table for a long time, so fewer tables will be available through the night. This contributes to the need for a reservation.
In the summer months, especially July, it’s common for restaurants to close for the month. Supply and demand will dictate the need for a reservation in the summer months when it is peak travel season. Just be safe and make a reservation.
Restaurant service in Copenhagen is similar to dining service across Europe. Servers will often share tables, are comfortable with you waving them down for help and generally leave you alone while you eat. It’s a bit different for Americans who are used to servers being extremely attentive. In Copenhagen, a server will often assume you are happy unless you speak up or wave them down for something. They don’t find this rude, and you shouldn’t consider it bad service for them to allow you to eat your meal in peace. It’s just a different dining culture for most Americans.