Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Copenhagen seems to have somehow only become more thoroughly itself. With restrictions long gone (they were lifted in January) and summer is just around the corner, the city’s outdoor spaces designed to take all the joy out of summer have multiplied. There are more places on the harbor to drink wine and swim, while dedication to environmental sustainability has opened up a whole new meeting place for green-thinkers. The Danish buttery pastry fetish has transformed itself into a veritable burst of new bakeries, while the wider food scene – already world-class – has gotten bigger and better. And in a city where the bicycle is already the main mode of transport, Copenhagen is preparing for its cycling apotheosis: the Tour de France starts here on July 1.
What is going on
For the first time in history, the Tour de France Grand departure starts in Denmark, with a 13-kilometer time trial through the streets of Copenhagen, before moving on during days 2 and 3 to stages that start further west in Roskilde and Vejle. On June 29, the participating teams is being presented first on a ride through the city and then in a special event, complete with live music, at Tivoli Gardens. The first day’s race will finish at Copenhagen City Hall, but there will be a big bike themed party in Fælledparkenon Days 1 and 2, with live music, bike games for kids and big screens to watch. On the morning of July 2, the route will open for cyclists of all levels to cycle a “Tour de Copenhagen”.
But that won’t be the only celebration. Danes love a festival and greet a summer calendar that is full of it again with palpable relief. This year all the old favorites – from the heavy metal eruptions of Copenhagen and smooth vibes from the Copenhagen Jazz Festival to the gastronomic indulgences of Copenhagen Cooking to the elite discussions of the Louisiana Literature Festival are back, and have been supplemented with new additions such as South of the sun.† But the biggest of all – more rite of passage than mere festival – is Roskildewhich takes place from June 29 to July 2. This year it will try to channel all that pent up energy with a postponed 50th anniversary celebration and the largest roster – 132 acts, including Megan Thee Stallion, Dua Lipa, Post Malone and the Strokes – in its history.
what to see
Several of Copenhagen’s cultural institutions used the pandemic to complete long-planned improvements. The Danish Design Museum, which for a while was a jumble of rooms full of chairs, reopens on June 19 after a two-year restoration, with an exhibition on how design can tackle global challenges such as climate change and pandemics. And one of Europe’s finest collections of 19th-century French art was given a new display earlier this year when Ordrupgaard debuted its new wing, underground but open to the sky, on the outskirts of the city.
But perhaps the most up-to-date relevant innovation is the Freedom Museum† Formerly called the Museum of the Danish Resistance, it was destroyed by arson in 2013 and has been rebuilt from the ground up. The interactive exploration of how the largely unfettered takeover of Denmark by Germany in 1941 gradually turned into active resistance that sabotaged German weapons and assembled a volunteer fleet of fishing boats to carry the country’s Jews to safety provides a particularly poignant lesson today.
Where to eat
Perhaps spurred on by two long lockdowns in which takeaway coffee and cake were among the few pleasures, the city that invented the Danish (although they’re called Wienerbrød here) has entered a new Golden Age of pastry. There is now an independent chef-run bakery in almost every neighborhood, and often long lines stretching across the sidewalk. Some of the latest to try: Albatross & Friends† benjic and Ard – and that doesn’t count Pharmacy 57 and Studio Xtwo cafes attached to different design shops, where they also bake delicious in-house.
The rest of the food scene is also thriving – maybe a little too much. For all its fame as an international dining destination, prepandemic Copenhagen still struggled to convince locals that restaurants were for more than just birthday celebrations and weekend nights. But since the restrictions were lifted in January, they seem to have gotten the message; suddenly places at all levels of the food chain are fully booked most nights.
Fortunately, there are a whole host of new places to meet the demand. Chef Christian Puglisi’s groundbreaking Relæ and his natural wine bar, Manfreds, have both been closed during the pandemic, but those losses have created three exceptional spots. Bee KoaniHoused in what was Relæ, Chef Kristian Baumann injects some of the flavors and techniques of his Korean heritage into his precision-cut Scandinavian cuisine, for dishes like a plump, peppery mandu with fjord shrimp or a baked Jerusalem artichoke served with a luscious langoustine cream. . Across the road, in the cramped, cozy space that was Manfreds, former chef Mathias Silberbauer serves joie de vivre at Silberbauers Bistro, along with relaxed Provencal fare with an emphasis on invigorating fresh seafood and soul-satisfying conveniences like onion tart and white bean stew.
After a residency at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Chef Jonathan Tam returned to Copenhagen and opened jatak, an intimate gem of a restaurant designed by his wife, Sara Frilund, where the refined dishes – delicate curves of raw brill twined with sweet steamed pumpkin; strips of endive whose tart bitterness is both enhanced and softened with a house-made sesame sauce – are a deeply personal reflection of Mr. Tam, his many years as head chef of the vegetable-forward Relæ and his dedication to local produce.
New eating neighborhoods are also emerging. Hidden in a postage stamp of a forest on the southwestern edge of town, station used to house Copenhagen’s railway works, but the wooden buildings have now been repurposed by green food companies, including a farm shop, a locavore restaurant and, yes, a bakery – one with excellent croissants and a commitment to sustainability so serious is that there are no disposable cups; you can only get takeaway coffee via a deposit system for the thermos cups.
But perhaps the most exciting transformation is the stretch along the south side of the city’s lakes. Bee PropagandaYoura Kim’s Korean fried chicken, all the stickiness and spice, is already iconic, and it, as well as her other high-voltage dishes, such as the knockout grilled white asparagus and tteok, pairs well with the impressive selection of natural wines. and with Brasserie Prinswho manages to be cozy without falling in two, American-born chef Dave Harrison draws on his cooking time in Paris to create some very old-fashioned French dishes – tender quenelles in sauce Americaine, a crispy fried veal , even a tough île flottante – somehow seems utterly modern.
Where to stay
A city that has long lagged behind in terms of places to stay is finally catching up by transforming architecturally interesting spaces with history into inviting new hotels. A former university building centrally located behind the Ronde Toren has been transformed into a 25 hours Copenhagen (from 1,296 kroner, or about $182, double occupancy), where the colorful rooms provide a nice visual break from all that Scandinavian minimalism, while the city’s former post office, opposite Tivoli Gardens and Central Station, has been transformed in the stately Villa Hotel (rates start at 2,331 kroner). The canal house (also starting at 2,331 kroner) has transformed a canal-side home in the very hygge neighborhood of Christianshavn into a beautifully designed apartment hotel that offers optional communal dinners every evening. And two new places offer an even more individualistic experience: the bright, welcoming houseboat And (from 3,000 kroner), which comes with its own kayaks for guests to use, and the intensely chic the Darling (from 7,440 crowns), which showcases Danish design and is hung with works from a varying roster of acclaimed local artists.