Noma’s co-founder on the best spots in Copenhagen to walk, take the kids – and eat the odd meal, too
Copenhagen feels like one of the sleepiest capitals in Europe. A million people live here but everything’s relaxed, nobody’s in a rush and it’s very safe. It’s very easy to find a big space, and there’s plenty of history.
One of the best parks for kids is just outside Copenhagen. It’s called Dyrehaven (visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen/the-deer-park), which means animal garden and that’s what it is. There are deer and rabbits roaming free and you can walk among them. And there’s tons of things to eat there, like wild mint or the tender leaves of birch trees. Kids truly love it. I don’t know if anyone does organised foraging there though – I’m thinking of a business model …
Once you’re at Dyrehaven, you may as well continue 20 minutes further north to a modern art gallery called Louisiana which is also really good for children. It’s a nice way to give them that culture hit. And since you’re there you may as well keep going another 20 minutes further north to see Kronborg castle in Helsingor (the setting for Hamlet).
The best view of the city is from Kastellet (kastellet.info), an old military ground. You can see across the harbour, the residential areas and all of historic Copenhagen. You can walk all the way round the top, and it’s free. It’s a great for a morning run, too.
Copenhagen has one of the best food scenes in Europe, but also some of the best coffee. The first thing I would do in the city is grab an espresso and a croissant at Det Vide Hus (Gothersgade 113), right across from the King’s Garden, which is a nice place to walk.
The first big contribution Denmark made to cooking has to be smørrebrød. Something’s definitely gone wrong with the way we describe it, though, because it’s just known as a sandwich. But the people who make it go to school for four years. It’s not just a sandwich; it’s a whole cuisine. There’s one restaurant called Schønnemann in the city centre which has been open since the 19th century, and you really feel like you’re stepping back into a different age. It’s really old-fashioned. It’s only open for lunch, and it’s always booked. You go there to drink lots of schnapps, lots of beer, and big slabs of cured stuff with a bit of bread underneath them.
I’m not a big fan of the visuals of the new Opera House exterior. It’s just another grey building in Copenhagen, where it’s grey six months of the year. But, on the inside, I find it stunning – it’s worth trying to see a show there. The same thing goes for the concert hall at the Danish Broadcasting Company (dr.dk/Koncerthuset): they’ve just rebuilt it and inside it’s astonishing, with amazing sound.
This is the biggest Copenhagen secret I’ve ever given away: in the King’s Garden, there are five 200-year-old mulberry trees and, in summer, they produce the best mulberries you will ever taste. You have to wear clothes that you can afford to throw out afterwards because they stain so much, but I can guarantee you that better ones than in that garden don’t exist.
Vesterbro is the coolest area, as it feels most multicultural, but there’s a lot going on in Christiania, too. The cultural thing the locals do is go to Christiania. I used to go there for the sauna and the smith shops: we used to have a lot of our ironwork done by a group of lesbian smiths. The bike shop is astonishing, too – hand-made bicycles by people from Christiania.
I don’t eat out much. I’m more of a park guy, but the last restaurant I went to was Amass , across the harbour from Kastellet, which is outstanding. I ate one of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve ever had in my life there – biodynamically grown pumpkin, cooked slowly with freshly made hazelnut oil. It sounds like nothing but when you eat it, it’s just extraordinarily good. The chef, Matt Orlando, used to be my sous chef, and if he continues the way he is going right now, he’s going to be the next king of Europe.
Quite a few people who have worked with me have set up restaurants in the city. One of the affordable ones is a place called Bror which means brother, owned by Victor Wågman and Sam Nutter. It’s quite new, always packed but very relaxed – you could almost come naked if you wanted to. And there’s Manfreds , set up by Christian F Puglisi and Kim Rossen. You go there to eat vegetable dishes and have a glass of biodynamic wine – you almost feel healthy as you leave.
There’s a wine bar called Ved Stranden that’s one of the most sophisticated, coolest wine bars in Scandinavia. I also love a beer bar called Mikkeler , in Vesterbro. The owner has 50 brews on tap, and they change all the time.
Hotels are a big Achilles heel for Copenhagen. I’m sure there are a few that are a bit personal; I just don’t know of them. The place I send people to is called the Admiral. It’s an old warehouse on the harbourside and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a room with beams everywhere, so you feel like you’re in medieval Copenhagen. The service is gonna be crap, and the breakfast is gonna be shit – like anywhere in Copenhagen. Most of the time the Danes are not good at service. But the people are friendly.
A lot of people are immensely disappointed by the little mermaid – it’s just a bronze statue lying on a rock. There’s no show, no fountain: it’s just there. But the walk to it, through the park, seeing all the churches, that’s really nice.
• René Redzepi’s book A Work in Progress – Journal, Recipes and Snapshots (Phaidon, £39.95) is out now. To buy a copy for £31.96 with free UK p&p, call 0330 333 6846 or visit guardianbookshop.co.uk