For those who don’t already know, the Copenhagen of 2015 is a fantastic “foodie” city, but this wasn’t always the case. I don’t recall Copenhagen ever being singled out as a great place for food lovers when I lived here as a teenager. All that changed, however, with the rise of restaurants like noma (four times ranked the best restaurant in the world) and the entire “new Nordic cuisine” movement. There is a huge amount to be said about the restaurant culture of Copenhagen, and I certainly intend to say more on the subject in a later post. For now, though, I’d like to give you the inside scoop on my very favorite Copenhagen “Quick Food” Tour, one that I always suggest to visitors and that I am always eager to join!
“Quick food” doesn’t necessarily mean this food is quick or simple to prepare, but the amazing eats and sweets on the tour can be purchased and consumed quite quickly. They don’t require sitting down at a restaurant; rather, the various stops along the tour will take the diner (or diners) from Nørreport Station all the way to Rådhus Place (City Hall) and Tivoli, which means not only will you eat extremely well, you will also see one of the most charming stretches of the city as you travel to each food destination. As an extra bonus, you’ll even get a bit of exercise between “courses”.
I don’t claim to have discovered these foods and establishments. Many of them are well-known and already very celebrated. I do lay claim to the genius, albeit slightly gluttonous, idea of putting them all together into one walking tour. If you want to avoid having to be rolled home after the tour, I highly recommend sharing the treats among two or three people. If you have a big appetite and expandable waistband, by all means order your own at each stop. Either way, enjoy some of the tastiest quick food in Copenhagen! Also, many thanks to my younger brother who was my model and partner in “quick food crime” back in August.
1. The tour begins at Nørreport Station, where you can admire what is usually a sea of bicycles parked outside. Follow Frederiksborggade for a block until you come to Torvehallerne, two large glass buildings that house a delightful food market. You may be tempted to stroll through at a leisurely pace and browse all of the offerings, but take my advice and resist the urge to buy anything until you come to Ma Poule. Ma Poule specializes in French food and is home to “byens bedste sandwich” (in case you couldn’t guess, the city’s best sandwich). It is a duck confit creation that is sublime in its fresh simplicity: a perfectly golden baguette heaped with warm, tender duck confit and garnished with bright, tangy mustard and crisp arugula. I have tried my fair share of sandwiches in Copenhagen, and this truly is the best. At 58 kroner, it is also a very good buy. 2. Once you have licked the last few smudges of mustard and duck fat from your fingers, head back to the main plaza at Nørreport. You will see a handful of white vogne or food trailers, but don’t bother with anything but the trailer labeled “Toni’s Langos“. Self-described as “warm, crisp, Hungarian potato bread,” this trailer is where a bit of Hungarian magic happens in Denmark. As the granddaughter of Hungarians, I have eaten some amazing langos at various places throughout Hungary. Still, I think Toni’s can compete with the best. Langos is basically a savory fried dough made with yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oftentimes mashed potato. In Hungary, it is usually served with some combination of garlic, butter, creme fraiche and cheese, which is a completely divine way to eat it. Toni’s also offers an unconventional twist on the Hungarian standard. For 45 kroner, you can order a thick, freshly fried langos topped with a spicy, paprika-laden meat sauce and drizzled with creme fraiche. I like to consider myself a purist and usually only go for the traditional toppings, but my husband always orders the meat lover’s version. Then I always have a bite and wish I’d ordered it, too. However you top it, Toni’s Langos will take you to street food paradise in the first bite.
3. From Toni’s, hop back on Frederiksborggade, this time heading away from Torvehallerne. Keep strolling through Kulturtorvet, at which point the street becomes Købmagergade. Stay on this until you see Rundtårn (the Round Tower) ahead on the left, then turn right onto Krystalgade. A short stroll down this street will bring you to Copenhagen’s Hovedbibliotek (Main Library), which is fortunate enough to have the lovely Democratic Coffee Bar attached to it.
At this point, run — don’t bother with strolling any longer — to the counter and order the most amazing almond croissant you will ever try. From the outside, it may appear to be an especially lovely croissant bedecked in almond flakes and powdered sugar, but not necessarily something to get worked up about.But wait until you see what’s inside.I honestly don’t know what this oozing almond goodness consists of, but I can promise that this is a 20 kroner indulgence that will change your life (at least your life as it relates to eating pastries) forever. If you don’t believe me, just ask the Mafia Princess. Although the almond croissant is the pièce de résistance, to be sure, I also want to give the birkeboller — rolls with poppy seeds — some credit. With butter and cheese, they are fantastic.
4. At this point, your belt may be feeling a bit tight. Never fear, you have a nice little walk to the next stop to digest and prepare for more. Head back to Købmagergade and keep walking towards Amagertorv and Storkespringvandet (the Stork Fountain). This is one of the loveliest squares in Copenhagen, with Christiansborg (the Parliament building) off to the left and some of the most beautiful paving stones I’ve ever seen right beneath your feet, so enjoy the view looking both up and down. Then continue on Strøget, the famed pedestrian street, until you come to Skoubogade, where you will hang a right. There you will find Conditori La Glace, Copenhagen’s oldest confectionary, which was founded in 1870. Walking into La Glace feels like stepping back a couple of centuries.
There are all kinds of extravagant cakes and confections on the menu, but my order always remains the same: a pot of varm chokolade (hot chocolate) with whipped cream and a slice of Efterårskage (Autumn cake). The chocolate is made of rich chocolate bars melted directly into whole milk and cream. The cake consists of layers of chocolate truffle and chocolate cake with the tiniest hint of marzipan, elegantly smothered in what La Glace calls “butter chocolate”. I am a complete chocolate addict, so this is right up my alley. But even my husband, who has a much less passionate relationship to chocolate, has been known to gush about this cake. A former colleague, a Russian epidemiologist, actually introduced me to the cake years ago, warning me that he was sure it was laced with cocaine because he was so addicted to it. I am fairly sure it’s not, but I can’t promise that its truffle-y, chocolate butter-y deliciousness won’t appear in your dreams. La Glace is a bit pricey, with cake and hot chocolate costing around 135 kroner, but I can promise you that it’s worth every last øre.
5. For Copenhagen residents, this would be the logical conclusion of the food tour. A quick stroll to Rådhus Plads helps digest the cake and hot chocolate, but no other eating is necessary. For Copenhagen novices, I recommend going a bit further and partaking of the most classic Danish street food of all — a hotdog from a pølsevogn*. Whether you get a fransk hotdog with its hollow baguette bun and tangy, creamy dressing or a ristet hotdog topped with pickled cucumber, crispy onions, ketchup, mustard and special remoulade sauce, you will probably be surprised by just how delicious a hotdog can be. There are pølsevogne all over the city, but one of the best is John’s Hotdog Deli just outside of the main train station and across the street from Tivoli. Plus, then you can always pop into charming Tivoli for the evening and finish your epic food tour with an enormous ice cream from the Vaffelbageriet. Can you imagine a more perfect ending to a perfectly decadent food tour?
*Note: The day I wrote this post the World Health Organization announced that processed foods like hotdogs can increase your risk of cancer. So…I guess I should say “eat fransk hotdogs at your own peril!”