There are several restaurants in Copenhagen that symbolize the finest in Danish dining – Noma, Geranium, AOC, and Kadeau. Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2019 awarded a total of 22 stars to 17 restaurants in Copenhagen, according to VisitCopenhagen.com, and Geranium holds three of the stars. Noma, AOC, and Kadeau each hold two.
Frankly, you don’t have to eat at the Michelin starred restaurants to enjoy some of the most delicious foods in Denmark. Special treats are available in cafes, hot dog stands, and even in touristy areas. You can find cuisines from around the world particularly in Copenhagen, but for a true Danish experience, we suggest these 10 foods to eat in Denmark:
Smørrebrød, a Danish open-faced sandwich is a national dish invented in the 18th-century. It was offered in restaurants like Restaurant Schønnemann in 1877 and at Restaurant Nimb in Tivoli Gardens in 1883.
A smørrebrød consists of the following ingredients: rugbrød (Danish-style dark rye bread), spread with butter or pork fat, and topped with meat, seafood or vegetables.
The most common smørrebrød are roast beef, small shrimp, smoked salmon, pickled herring, hard-boiled eggs, and liver pate. Smørrebrød is eaten with a fork and knife. A variety of smørrebrød is available in Torvehallerne food hall, most restaurants in Nyhavn, and Tivoli food hall. For the best, go to Slotskælderen Hos Gitte Kik, one of Copenhagen’s oldest and most traditional smørrebrød restaurants and Schønnemann.
2. Pickled herring
Started by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago, pickled herring is still a favorite Danish food. This fish pickled with salt and vinegar is served as a cold dish. To add more flavor to the usual, most restaurants serve this fish dish curried, marinated, smoked, and fried.
Be sure to sample pickled herring with Aquavit (also known as snaps or Akvavit), an alcoholic drink similar to vodka.
You don’t have to venture far from the city center to get an excellent pickled herring with Aquavit because it’s served at Restaurant Heering, a restaurant at Nyhavn.
3. Hot dogs
Look out for white and red carts, locally called pølsevogne, that sell Danish hot dogs. You can find them in squares and also near tourist spots. Danish hot dogs are made of pork, and are extra long, embellished with crispy fried onions, remoulade sauce, and thinly sliced pickles.
Fiskefilet is fried fish fillet that is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It is served with vegetables and remoulade sauce on the side or on a piece of bread as smørrebrød.
Danish meatballs of frikadeller is flat and pan-fried served with brown sauce, boiled potatoes, and sweet and sour cabbage. Frikadeller’s ingredients include ground pork, onions, milk, eggs, salt, and pepper.
6. Smoked salmon
Eating fish is a must if you are a pescatarian, and even if you’re not, you should at least try smoked salmon when you’re in Denmark. For centuries, fish plays an essential part in the Danish diet. In the olden days, to preserve the fish, it was pickled or smoked. Today, Danes still love to prepare smoked fish at home. There are two versions – hot-smoked fish and cold-smoked fish.
Be sure to sample cold smoked salmon and pair it with locally brewed beer or Italian prosecco. Smoked salmon also pairs well with Aquavit, dry riesling, and chardonnays.
7. Danish pastries and cinnamon buns
Austrian bakers first made Danish pastries or wienerbrød (Vienna bread) in Denmark in the 1840s. These sticky puffed pastries stuffed with custard, sugar, chocolate, or jam are delightful treats for the whole family. You can find them on breakfast buffet tables in hotels and also in bakeries and coffee shops.
Another sweet treat to try when in Denmark is kanelsnelge or cinnamon buns. You can have it for breakfast or any time of day.
Espresso House, a Scandinavian chain coffee shop, serves good enough cinnamon buns that go well with coffee. One place that sticks out among the many bakeries that sell kanelsnelge (cinnamon buns) in Copenhagen is Juno. You can smell the sweet aroma from a distance and see a line forming in front of the shop.
Stegt flæsk med persillesovs or fried pork belly with parsley sauce is Danish comfort food. In 2014, Danes got together and voted this crispy pork dish as the national dish. It is an inexpensive dish. It is available in many restaurants throughout Denmark.
You can get all-you-can-eat stegt flæsk med persillesovs at Nyboders Køkken, a delightfully old school restaurant in Copenhagen.
9. Barbecue ribs and beer
Besides being the birthplace of the new Nordic cuisine – the foraging and farm-to-table cooking, Copenhagen offers an array of food choices, cooked in different methods and styles. But who would have thought eating barbecue ribs is a thing in Copenhagen. It is a must-eat food for those who love meat and a cold glass of home-brewed beer.
If you’re visiting Tivoli Gardens, check out A Hereford Beefstouw, the oldest steakhouse in Copenhagen. Get a full rack of barbecue ribs and a tall glass of home-brewed beer for dinner. You’ll probably need a doggy bag for your leftovers. But Restaurant Flammen offers more. This Danish family-owned restaurant chain strives to create a restaurant with hygge (a cozy and homely atmosphere) and amazing barbecue meat. Check out their story and an extensive barbecue menu.
10. Coffee (not a food group but a must when in Denmark)
Hygge, a Danish word loosely translated as “cozy,” is best with a cup of coffee in a coffee shop. There are ample coffee shops to get a hygge experience throughout Denmark. To learn more about Hygge, read What is hygge on VisitDenmark.com.