Fine Dining Without Frills: Discover Copenhagen’s Food Markets
Photo: Martin Heiberg
In recent years, the Danish capital of Copenhagen has become something of a food mecca, enticing discerning diners from across the globe to come taste the innovative ‘new Nordic’ cuisine. Pioneered by chef Rene Redzepi at his wildly popular restaurant noma, new Nordic aims to balance the demands of Scandinavian tradition and local, seasonably available ingredients with gastronomical innovation. Today, Copenhagen is brimming with dozens of chic new eateries featuring variations on the new Nordic style. For those looking for a formal meal, or a meticulously plated tasting course, the city has plenty of options to choose from.
The options, however, don’t stop there. For those who crave a variety of Nordic and non-Nordic flavors, and want to be able to taste the spectrum of Copenhagen’s vibrant culinary production without breaking the bank, the city is also home to some of Europe’s most exciting outdoor food markets. Especially in Covid times, these markets have the advantage of offering easy outdoor, on-the-go dining, without compromising on quality. Plus, the concentration and diversity of vendors in interesting, creatively designed spaces makes for culinary scenes that hum with the joy of many people enjoying good food together.
Below are a few of our favorite Copenhagen markets, all of which have delicious, sustainably sourced food and drink in spades, and the good company to match:
Taking sustainability as its guiding principle, this start-up food market sits on the banks of Copenhagen harbor and encourages all its vendors and customers to reduce and reuse their consumption of food and service items. This means that compostable flatware, and local, organic ingredients are the standard. Of course, rather than compromise quality, this commitment to sustainability only enhances it: the beloved market offers unexpected and diverse dishes and drinks from over fifty vendors, ranging from el pastor tacos to sushi to Kurdish street food to the classic Danish hotdog (complete with fried onion bits). Once you’ve eaten your way around the world, circle back to one of the half-dozen bars that are sprinkled across the 6,000 m2 market to grab a local brew or mixologized concoction that you can sip as you gaze back across the harbor on the downtown area.
Perhaps one of the most visually striking food markets in the world, Torvehallerne’s immense glass enclosures occupy one of downtown Copenhagen’s more prominent city blocks, just opposite the Nørreport metro station. The indoor market spaces are split between vendors selling local fish, meat and produce of the highest quality and those selling freshly made Danish classics like smorrebrod (an elegant open-faced sandwich crowned with a medley of meats, fish and/or cheeses) and fiskefrikadeller (some of the lightest, most beautifully seasoned fish cakes you’ve ever had). In addition to these local staples, there are a number of flavors from abroad on offer, including flatbread pizza, Korean barbeque, tacos and tapas. There is also simpler, yet no less delicious fare to be had: several vendors make and serve incredible Danish breads and pastries, chocolates, coffees and wines, as well as to-order butchery and cheese slicing. The many seating areas scattered across the market makes it easy to forage your way through the stalls and sit down for a gourmet meal—without the frills yet with all the flavor of the finest restaurants, plus a great deal more choice.
Another highlight of downtown Copenhagen’s food scene, this unique market relives the intercultural exchanges that once occurred in the very same Greenland Trade Square where the market now stands. The square—tucked in the shadow of the Inderhavns pedestrian bridge, just across the water from the picturesque Nyhavn Street—was once a hub where traders from across the North Sea could hawk their wares. Today, the square plays home to over a dozen food vendors, each bringing their own unique cuisine and flair to feed hungry visitors. Organized by the same folks who created noma, the selection of stalls at Bridge Street is carefully curated, yet vibrant and organic in its diversity and depth of flavors. Try a near-perfect fish-and-chips at Haddock’s, a light and tangy Greek gyro at Strangas, or perhaps a creative, plant-based pita at Simple Feast—the standards are high and ingredients impeccable, so it is hard to go wrong. Enjoy your meal by the water, and you may get to watch the Inderhavn bridge being ‘raised’ to allow a large boat through, which it does in its own unique, sideways fashion.