Distinctly Danish: Bites of Copenhagen Culture

Food is an essential part of experiencing a country’s culture. The tastes, techniques, and presentations all reflect a culture’s roots, attitudes, and experiences. From New Nordic cuisine to onsdagssnegle, Copenhagen’s food scene has something to offer for every budget and interest. Here are five faces of Copenhagen’s culinary culture, and some places to go to experience them.

Cafe Culture

Copenhagen is well-known for its cafe culture. One unique trait of Copenhagen’s cafes is that many of them have particularly hygge, or cozy, settings. The Living Room and Next Door Cafe are two coffee spots that are close to DIS, making them perfect for a pre-class coffee run or post-class workspace. The Living Room offers a wide variety of seating, from high-top chairs overlooking the colorful Latin Quarter streets to a room in the basement lined entirely with couches and pillows. Next Door Cafe is more tight-knit, though it offers sidewalk seating and a funky basement with retro décor for those seeking a novel study space. It is also one of a number of businesses in the area that offer a discount to DIS students (and their sweetened iced lattes are particularly amazing!).

The Living Room’s innermost seating area is effortlessly hygge.

Next Door Café’s basement room features a more retro-funky hygge, making it a unique spot to enjoy coffee.

Traditional Danish Lunch
Located in Downtown Copenhagen, DIS is close to a number of restaurants. Just around the corner from many DIS classes is Husmanns Vinstue, a traditional Danish restaurant that has been open since 1888. It offers a large selection of classic smørrebrød featuring a variety of herrings, seafood, meats, and cheeses. I opted for the herring as that is one of the most popular options. While I was nervous to try something so far out of my comfort zone, it ended up being one of the best dishes I’ve had in Denmark. The flavors were sweet and vinegary with bursts of brightness from the onions and undertones of butter and saltiness from the egg yolk and lard. If you want the authentic Danish lunch experience, this is absolutely the place to go.

My pickled herring smørrebrød from Husmanns Vinstue, featuring red onions, green onions, herbed lard, raw egg yolk, and the traditional rye bread. 

Sweet Treats
When people think about Danish food, many often think of Danish pastries. A particularly famous pastry here in Copenhagen is the onsdagssnegle, or Wednesday snail, a cinnamon roll resembling a snail’s shell. These can be found at Sankt Peders Bageri, the oldest bakery in Copenhagen (operating since 1692!). These cinnamon rolls are only available on Wednesdays so I would recommend setting aside a Wednesday morning to go try one. The price is low and the pastry is large, so onsdagssnegle make an excellent Wednesday brunch treat!

Some of the 4000 onsdagssnegle that Sankt Peders Bageri makes each Wednesday. These ones with the icing were my favorite!

For chocolate lovers, I would recommend Peter Beier Chokolade, a Danish-owned chocolate franchise. Their store across from Tivoli Gardens (the theme park that inspired Walt Disney) is a chocolaterie, where they make the chocolates on site. For those who want a refreshing break from the Scandinavian sun, I would recommend the chocolate milk, playfully dubbed “chocolate on the rocks”. This drink allows you to pick one from approximately thirty different kinds of chocolate, then have it blended with milk and topped with Danish-style egg white whipped cream. Alternatively, if you want to take some sweets back to your Residential Community or Kollegium to snack on, Peter Beier also offers delicious truffles and candy bars.

The greatest chocolate milk of all time. It also comes with a sample-sized chocolate bar.

Instagrammable Food
With a world-renowned reputation for design, it is no surprise that Denmark also has a lot of beautiful food. For DIS students who live near Vesterbro and Amagerbro, Mad & Kaffe is the perfect Instagram hotspot. Using the Copenhagen-endorsed small plate style, Mad & Kaffe allows visitors to choose 3, 5, or 7 different small dishes to design their own brunch. Each menu category has distinctly Danish foods: elderflower and beetroot accent the Greens section, Havarti cheese features in Dairy, a variety of Danish baked goods and pastries comprise the Bakery category, a wide variety of meats are offered, and completing the experience are fantastically fresh Danish desserts. As the name Mad & Kaffe suggests, they also offer a variety of (aesthetic) coffee choices, along with fresh juices and delicious home-brewed iced teas. Overall, this is a great place to catch up with classmates over the week’s events.

A sampling of many delicious Danish foods. Clockwise: Havarti cheese and marmalade, apple compote with whipped cream and shaved almonds, home-brewed passionfruit iced tea, smoked salmon topped with smoked cheese mayonnaise, cucumbers, and green onions, a Danish poppyseed pastry, and avocado filled with beetroot hummus, topped with fresh herbs. 

New Nordic Gastronomy
Copenhagen is a stellar city for fine dining, with a staggering number of Michelin Stars (considered one of the highest culinary honors) for a city of its size. New Nordic cuisine – food focused on sleek simplicity and fresh, local ingredients – is a particularly hot theme here at the moment. If you want to splurge on New Nordic food without totally breaking the bank (a lá Noma), I would recommend Marv & Ben. Located in an old apartment situated in a charming cobblestone street, Marv & Ben has a cozy atmosphere housing modern dishes, epitomizing the stylistic contrasts comprising Copenhagen. As of the current menu, you can try a modern Danish dish for as low as $16, although the most popular choice at the restaurant is the four-course tasting menu. The tasting menu guides the eater through New Nordic gastronomy, letting them sample traditional Danish culinary staples like smoked fish and cheese, rhubarb, potatoes, and meats while adding a twist of modernity with fresh and locally-sourced ingredients. Whether your family comes to visit at the end of your DIS journey and you all want to have a final special dinner together, or you are simply a huge foodie who wants to try just one New Nordic dish, Marv & Ben is a grand finale to any stay in Copenhagen.

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The four favorites (at the time of my visit) at Marv & Ben. Asparagus, cucumber, and blackcurrant leaves over a purée; new Danish potatoes with herbs, smoked mackerel, and a smoked cheese foam; lamb in lamb jus, white asparagus, salted gooseberries, elderflower, and bone marrow cream; yogurt with rhubarb and woodruff. The meal was served with the best bread I have ever had (sourdough basted with bone marrow) and butter.

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