As a former shopaholic and aspiring but often weak minimalist (let’s say still a long way in the making), if there’s one thing that has been cemented in my mind over the my past few years of travel, it is this: Experiences bring more value to our lives than material possessions and they fill whatever void we’re looking to fill better than things can.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that over the last two years, every time I’ve wanted to buy a gift for a loved one’s birthday or anniversary, I’ve turned to my favorite experience provider Tinggly Experiences. I didn’t do any different when this past summer I was happily exploring the Danish countryside and Ankit decided to join me in Copenhagen for his 30th birthday, almost on a whim.
On our travels together, we’ve found that we bond over new cuisines that we love and it makes us more adventurous about what we’ll sample in foreign places. So even though I’d spent over two weeks familiarizing myself with Danish cuisine and falling in love with fresh, delicious, and easy on the pocket smørrebrød or Danish open sandwiches, a walking food tour of Copenhagen sounded like the perfect way for him to sample some Danish classics during his four days in the city. Given the resurgence of traditional Nordic foods and the entire buzz around new Nordic cuisine, it would be a shame if he left the city without any insight into traditionally used Danish ingredients and must-try foods in Copenhagen.
And what could be a better way to begin your birthday than with a stroll around a lively food and fresh produce market, sampling sweet treats, craft beer, and delicious light meals including Copenhagen’s most famous hotdog? So, off we went on our little food adventure with Tinggly Experiences and Copenhagen Food Tours, for a morning of culinary exploration.
A Copenhagen Food Tour
Market Musings at Torvehallerne
Our food tour began at Torvehallerne, a bustling covered food and fresh produce market where it’s easy to lose yourself among rows of dewy pink tulips, fresh peach roses, crates of yellow lemons, and countertops dressed with rhubarb pies and creamy chocolate cakes, and fresh marmalades and cheeses. This market is a great place to sample everything from varieties of cheese, smørrebrød topped with salmon, shrimp, or chicken, wood-fired pizzas, and sushi to fiery tacos, all sold at reasonable prices by different restaurants, cafes, and stores, many with branches around Copenhagen.
We sampled local artisanal cheeses at Arla Unika, and at Bornholmer Butikken, we tried crackers with marmalade along with flavored schnapps, caramel, and Johan Bülow liquorice from the island of Bornholm.
Bornholm is often referred to as the sunniest part of Denmark, and lies in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Poland. I’d spent the last week exploring Bornholm on my own, hiking on its fantastic coastal trails and enjoying dreamy lakeside sunsets. The days there were much warmer than in Copenhagen. The island’s unique nature and climate makes it ideal for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables you wouldn’t fine elsewhere in Denmark.
As for the licorice, whether it was in Sweden, Iceland, or Denmark, I have never understood the Nordic love for this strange taste and flavor (so much that they have it as an ice-cream flavor); I have tried it but it does not appeal to me.
Our small group followed our guide across the city through the beautiful botanical gardens where we stopped on our way to taste some organic honey and hear stories about the city’s food trends. Copenhagen is not only the most bike-friendly city in the world, it’s also a great city to walk around in when the weather allows it and our walk worked up an appetite for our next tasting.
Smørrebrød: The Danish Open Sandwich
You can’t come to Copenhagen and not notice smørrebrød, the artistic-looking open sandwiches that grace the countertops of the city’s delis and cafés. Topped with pickled herring, crunchy onions, pork mince, shrimps, sliced boiled eggs, smoked salmon and dressed with horseradish cream, tartare, mayonnaise, and capers, these open-faced sandwiches are built on a base of dense sourdough rye bread called rugbrød. They taste even better than they look and are the go-to meal for the working class.
While I’d enjoyed plenty of smørrebrød over my three weeks in Denmark, it would be Ankit’s first time trying these on the tour at Aamann’s Deli. Founder Adam Aamann is regarded as the man responsible for bringing back this traditional dish that was born out of necessity and often consisted of unhealthy, processed toppings and meats, and reinventing it to include organic, local, and often seasonal toppings, making it a mainstream lunch meal, also re-embraced by other ambitious and creative chefs in the city. Aamann’s Deli comes Michelin-guide recommended and their simple but delicious smørrebrød did not disappoint.
What could be better than a microbrewery for a mid-afternoon stop and a happily full tummy? We arrived in trendy Nørrebro, known for its cool bars and pubs, at Nørrebro Bryghus, a microbrewery where visitors can sample up to ten different beers every day created by prize-winning brew master Anders Kissmeyer.
The brewery is housed in a brick building that dates from 1857. We sat on the first floor with a great view of the microbrewery’s processing facilities, fermenter, storage tanks and all. An interesting thing to know about Nørrebro Bryghus is that it is Denmark’s first CO2-neutral brewery with the production of the first CO2-neutral beer Global Ale.
Copenhagen’s Most Famous Hotdog
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the Nordic countries, then I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of hotdogs, the go-to street food in the region that does not burn a hole in your pocket. During my month in Sweden, hotdogs were my every day comfort food in Stockholm, and this was also the case during my first trip to Iceland where I ate one or more hotdogs every single day of road tripping around the country.
I’d heard about Copenhagen’s most famous hot dog and was excited that it turned out to be one of our stops on the food tour. Den Økologiske Pølsemand, also known as DØP has two stands in Copenhagen, one by The Round Tower (that we visited) and the other by The Church of The Holy Ghost on Strøget, the main pedestrian street in Copenhagen. What is special about the hotdogs here is that they are completely organic; the meat (beef, pork, goat, or chicken) is organic, the bread is whole grain, and all of the toppings including the remoulade are organic.
You can get your hotdog as a sausage served with a single bun, as a French hotdog, or a sausage with a side of mashed potatoes and turnips, or stewed kale and beetroots, or get the traditional one with fried and fresh onions, remoulade, mustard, ketchup, and pickles. While they have a wide variety of sausages to choose from including a vegetarian (also vegan) one, I chose the parsley-seasoned chicken sausage as a traditional hotdog.
I kid you not, but it turned out to be the best hotdog I’ve ever had in my life with the fresh sausage, seasoned with the goodness of herbs, simply melting in my mouth. Of course, once wasn’t enough, so on our last day we went back but they were out of chicken hotdogs, so we tried the vegetarian and it was so juicy and delicious, you couldn’t even tell it was tofu and not meat.
You know how everyone’s talking about that one hotdog stand in Reykjavik, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur? I’ve tried their hotdogs and they have got nothing on DØP! It isn’t surprising that the sausages at DØP have won several awards. So if you’re ever in Copenhagen, I’d say this is one place you’ve got to try.
Denmark has one of the highest sugar consumptions in the world and that is hardly surprising given how much the Danish love their pastries and candy. Sømods Bolcher is one of the oldest producers of bolcher or hard candy and still uses the same techniques and recipes handed down through the generations since it first opened in 1891. They are a Danish ‘Royal Purveyor’, so you know that the candy you buy at this store is fit for the royals. They have over 70 varieties of candy including sugar-free ones.
We made our way back to Torvehallerne for our final treat of flødeboller, a much loved Danish treat that I’d seen everywhere from supermarkets to cafés but hadn’t tried yet, having wanted to try it with Ankit.
Sometimes love means denying yourself the pleasure of a chocolate-coated dreamy cream ball with a crispy wafer or marzipan base, just so you can share the delight of that first bite with your significant other.
The heavenly flødeboller at Summer Bird, that do gourmet versions topped and filled with rhubarb, berries, nuts, and other fruits (and excellent gift boxes) were affirmation that it was worth it to have waited to sample this delicious, happiness-inducing sweet treat with Ankit.
After four hours of walking around Copenhagen, during which we probably consumed more calories than we burnt, we came away with an appreciation for local flavors, plenty of great recommendations, and some great ideas about edible gifts for our friends and family. The tour was a wonderful start to Ankit’s birthday that saw us spend the evening at an award winning Italian restaurant and explore Copenhagen’s amazing cocktail bar scene.
Whether you’re looking to spend a weekend in Copenhagen or a few weeks, this tour serves as a great introduction to Danish flavors and sets the tone for first-timers in the city to have memorable dining out experiences.
We were guests of Tinggly Experiences on this tour with Copenhagen Food Tours. All opinions, as always, are honest and independent.