It's estimated that Copenhagen has more than 2,000 cafes, snack bars, and restaurants, and a higher number of Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in Europe in 2008 (10 with at least one Michelin star), each within an area measuring 4 sq. km (about 1 1/2 sq. miles) on each side. The most convenient restaurants are in Tivoli Gardens, around Rådhuspladsen (Town Hall Square), around the Central Railway Station, and in Nyhavn. Others are in the shopping district, on streets off of Strøget.
You pay for the privilege of dining in Tivoli; prices are always higher. Reservations are not usually important, but it's best to call in advance. Nearly everyone who answers the phone at restaurants speaks English.
At Gråbrødretorv -- Gråbrødretorv (Grey Friars Square), in the heart of Copenhagen's medieval core, is named after the monks who used to wander through its premises in medieval times. Now viewed as charming and hip, the area is a late-night destination that's not unlike what you'd find in the Latin Quarter of Paris. The setting is low-key, unpretentious, and representative of the brown-brick architecture that fills most of the rest of historic Copenhagen.
In Tivoli -- Food prices in the Tivoli Gardens restaurants are about 30% higher than elsewhere. To compensate for this, skip dessert and buy something less expensive (perhaps ice cream or pastry) later at one of the many stands in the park. Take bus no. 1, 6, 8, 16, 29, 30, 32, or 33 to reach the park and any of the following restaurants. Note: These restaurants are open only May to mid-September.
Copenhagen Corner -- A special children's menu features such dishes as shrimp cocktail and grilled rump steak.
Kobenhavner Cafeen -- Sturdy and reliable, this has long been a family favorite in Copenhagen with both locals and foreigners, who dig into old-fashioned Danish fare. Kids go for the frikadeller, or ping-pong-size meatballs.
Restaurant/Café Nytorv -- One of the best children's menus in town is a regular feature at this landmark cafe/restaurant on Copenhagen's most elegant square.
In Praise of the Smørrebrød
The favorite Danish dish at midday is the ubiquitous smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) -- a national institution. Literally, this means "bread and butter," but the Danes stack this sandwich as if it were the Leaning Tower of Pisa -- and then throw in a slice of curled cucumber and bits of parsley, or perhaps sliced peaches or a mushroom for added color.
Two of these sandwiches can make a more-than-filling lunch. They're everywhere -- from the grandest dining rooms to the lowliest pushcart. Many restaurants offer a wide selection; guests look over a checklist and then mark the ones they want. Some are made with sliced pork (perhaps a prune on top), roast beef with béarnaise sauce and crispy fried bits of onion, or liver paste adorned with an olive or cucumber slice and gelatin made with strong beef stock.
Smørrebrød is often served as an hors d'oeuvre. The most popular, most tempting, and usually most expensive of these delicacies is prepared with tiny Danish shrimp, on which a lemon slice and caviar often perch, perhaps even with fresh dill. The "ugly duckling" of the smørrebrød family is anything with a cold sunny-side-up egg on top of it.
Quick Bites in Copenhagen
Copenhagen has many hot dog stands, chicken and fish grills, and smørrebrød counters that serve good, fast, inexpensive meals.
Hot dog stands, especially those around Rådhuspladsen, offer polser (steamed or grilled hot dogs) with shredded onions on top and pommes frites (french fries) on the side.
The bageri or konditori (bakery), found on almost every block, sells fresh bread, rolls, and Danish pastries.
Viktualiehandler (small food shops), found throughout the city, are the closest thing to a New York deli. You can buy roast beef with free log (fried onions). The best buy is smoked fish. Ask for a Bornholmer, a large, boneless sardine from the Danish island of Bornholm, or for røgost, a popular and inexpensive smoked cheese. Yogurt fans will be delighted to know that the Danish variety is cheap and tasty. It's available in small containers -- just peel off the cover and drink it right out of the cup as the Danes do. Hytte ret (cottage cheese) is also good and cheap.
The favorite lunch of Scandinavians, particularly Danes, is the open-faced sandwich called smørrebrød. The purest form is made with dark rye bread, called rugbrød. Most taverns and cafes offer smørrebrød, and many places serve it as takeout food.
You can picnic in any of the city parks in the town center. Try Kongsgarten near Kongens Nytorv; the Kastellet area near Den Lille Havfrue; Botanisk Have (site of the Botanical Gardens); the lakeside promenades in southeastern Copenhagen; and the old moat at Christianshavn. Remember not to litter!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.