In the almost two decades since The New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto was published in 2004, the city of Copenhagen has become one of the top dining destinations in the world. Inspired by the challenge of creating ethically sustainable dishes focused on fresh ingredients, tastes, and seasonality, a new generation of chefs quickly made their mark.
For a city with less than a million residents, it has led to an embarrassment of riches. While iconic establishments like Noma and The Alchemist continue to inspire, the city has also seen an infusion of chefs from across the globe arrive over the last decade. It has created a smorgasbord of flavors that touch every corner of the planet.
Nowhere is this vibrant mixture more evident than in the city’s food halls and markets. Local produce, meats, and spices are showcased next to the ingredients from around the world that arrive daily at the city’s docks. Often acting as incubators for well-known chefs and relative newcomers, the teams behind the numerous small stalls spread throughout the city serve cuisine that highlights Copenhagen’s creativity.
The most beloved of these institutions is Torvehallerne, with its over sixty restaurant stalls and specialty food shops. Its two glass-enclosed halls, with large outdoor courtyards, draw tourists and residents daily in all types of weather. Throughout the year, Torvehallerne hosts cooking exhibitions, farmer’s co-ops, and numerous other events highlighting the culinary skills that have made the city a culinary Mecca.
Outposts from some of Copenhagen’s best restaurants offer dishes alongside plucky newcomers. They are surrounded by glass-fronted stalls filled with fresh fish brought in that morning on the docks, cured and fresh meats, and a wide array of cheeses, chocolates, and fresh fruits. Distillers and wine merchants hawk their wares while beer drinkers search Mikkeller and Friends, an outpost of the famous brewery, for rare brews. Wafting over all of that is the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and bread.
It is both a working food market and kitchen that commonly draws chefs and gourmands alike to roam its corridors looking for inspiration.
Not far away is Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest operating amusement park in Europe. Founded in 1843 to provide the populace of Copenhagen with a place to relax, its gardens and dining scene are exemplary. Over fifty restaurants, many white tablecloth establishments, are arranged throughout the property showcasing Copenhagen’s culinary skills.
They opened the Tivoli Food Hall in 2017. An extension of the park, you don’t have to pay admission to enter; it allowed their dining program to expand into the burgeoning food hall movement that was taking hold. Home to fifteen stalls with flavors ranging from South Asia to Northern Africa, it showcases a wide range of dishes.
In a city as urban as Copenhagen, it only makes sense that outdoor street food would thrive. Bikes outnumber cars, its waterfront is bristling with activity, and its residents are out in force in all types of residents. Broens Gadekøkken and Reffen both are a resounding testament to Copenhagen’s culinary community. Each sits next to the waterfront that has shaped the city since its beginning, and both see dishes served out of repurposed shipping containers.
Between the two, they offer over seventy different food and drink stalls, each showcasing items that shine a bright spotlight on the culinary finesse so ingrained in Copenhagen.
Broens Gadekøkken, due to its proximity to the city’s downtown core, is perennially packed. Located just off one of the city’s more popular bike paths, on the way to the hippie Freetown Christiania, another interesting dining scene, it serves as a popular dining spot. A popular tourist destination, it offers a glimpse into the city’s international flavors.
Located just a few kilometers away, inside an old shipping yard, is one of the largest open-air food halls in the world, Reffen. Surrounding a skate park and bracketed on three sides by water, it is a bouillabaisse of international flavors. Chefs from across the world showcase their skills, creating a wide array of delectable offerings. Vibrant flavors abound. Fresh barbequed meats, the tang of Mexican spices, and freshly made pastries sit alongside Mikkeller and the Nørrebro Bryghus craft beers.
The one thing that unites all these venues is one of the core commitments of the New Nordic Manifesto-sustainability and creativity. To operate in Copenhagen’s culinary orbit, restaurant operators and chefs must execute at a high level. That focus is evident at a three-hour tasting menu experience or a walkup pizza stand.
Copenhagen is a city that can quickly overwhelm food lovers; there are just so many options. Luckily for them, a quick stop at any of the city’s thriving food halls and markets will allow them to gather their bearings and understand what makes the city so unique.