A city of just half a million people, Copenhagen is perhaps best known for the outsized influence it wields in the culinary world. Awash in accolades, Rene Redzepi's Noma blazed a path now followed by a diaspora of chefs who have brought creativity to every level of the city's dining scene, from smørrebrød sandwiches to Michelin-starred dining. Eminently walkable, the Denmark capital offers visitors more than just culinary delights, with a historic Old Town, museums devoted to design and art and shopping meccas.
In and around: City Hall Square
Copenhagen's compact center draws crowds of shoppers and diners. Amble past Tivoli's fantasy playland to the Radhus and admire the City Hall building dating back to 1905. Then head up the Stroget, a car-free promenade and year-round shopping mecca. At its easternmost point, follow the crowds to Nyhavn, a picturesque wharf lined with 17th- and 18th-century townhouses painted in a kaleidoscope of colors.
Pop into the House of Amber (Vesterbrogade 1A, 1620 Copenhagen V), located in one of the city's oldest houses, dating back to 1606, to peruse a collection of exquisite jewelry before taking the stairs to the museum on the second floor. The nearby Designmuseum Danmark (admission 100 DKK, about $15, and free for students and people under 26; Bredgade 68, 1260 København) welcomed two new exhibits this year: "Fashion & Fabric," presenting 600 items from over 400 years, and "The Century of the Child," displaying Nordic children's design.
In and around: Vesterbro
South of the Central Station, the area of Vesterbro has emerged from its red-light-district past. Emblematic of the change is the newly reopened Hotel Absalon (Helgolandsgade 15, 1653 København), now offering 161 renovated rooms while remaining in the same family for more than 75 years. Around the corner, drop into the Mikkeller Bar (Viktoriagade No. 8 B-C, 1655 København) for one of Mikkel Borg Bjergso's award-winning beers (fun fact: Bjergso's twin brother, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso, runs Greenpoint bar Tørst).
Next door, Bjergso's Ol & Brod (Viktoriagade 6, 1655 København) brings the humble smørrebrød, a traditional open-faced sandwich served on dark rye bread, into the modern era with delicious toppings like curry herring or beef tartare with pickled carrots. Don't miss their house infused aquavits.
On weekends, visit the newly opened Kødbyens Mad & Marked (Flæsketorvet, 1711 København), a sprawling food market in the city's former meatpacking district that's open Saturday and Sunday during the spring and summer. Afterwards, drop into Lidkoeb (Vesterbrogade 72B, 1620 København V), a three-story bar tucked into a courtyard, for cocktails like the dark, boozy Rapscallion, a mix of scotch and sherry, and, on weekends, samplings of rare whiskeys at the third floor bar.
Where to eat
Dining in Copenhagen skews either very traditional or modern "New Nordic," but either way the ingredients will be of the highest quality. The microbrewing trend led by Mikkeller is evident, while natural wines are de rigeur for any upscale restaurant. Here are three places to know:
With only 12 tables, it's notoriously difficult to get into Noma, among the world's great dining experiences. The menu, 18 courses give or take, focuses on unusual combinations of seasonal produce, seafood and foraged items, all served with a surprising lack of pretension. After dinner, take a tour of the test kitchen to learn how they create the restaurant's exquisite dishes. Dining here takes some planning ahead -- reservations become available the first Monday of every month for the third month from that date (so on Sept. 7, reservations will open for the month of December). You won't be disappointed if you manage to snag one. Strandgade 93, 1401 København K
Noma disciples helm kitchens throughout the city, and two former sous chefs run BROR. Its $60 four-course menu recently garnered it a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Expect more rustic cooking here with dishes like beef heart salad and cod head with horseradish and dill. Skt. Peders Stræde 24A, 1453 København K
For more casual dining and a stellar list of sustainably made wines, drop into Manfreds in the Nørrebro neighborhood. Here, a seven-course menu of sharing plates will set you back just $37 a person. Jægersborggade 40, 2200 København