René Redzepi, the chef of Noma, the world's greatest restaurant, gets away from the stove in Copenhagen's secret garden
Copenhagen's Royal Library Garden is, of course, an outdoor space surrounded by buildings – but it is my favorite room. Perhaps I have chosen it because I spend 16 hours a day or more inside Noma (my restaurant), so it is a relief to have fresh air. Even though it is smack in the middle of Copenhagen, very few people know about it – or actually go there – because it is a bit secret and hidden. It is one of the most tranquil places in all of Copenhagen. I came across it about ten years ago, when I was working at Kong Hans Kaelder, which is close by. I was searching for a place where I could have a think and unwind while sitting on the grass.
On any given day in Copenhagen, there will be masses of people occupying every patch of grass, so I wanted to find somewhere where there were no sounds or city noises. Suddenly, I found this space in a neighborhood that I had blindly walked by many times, imagining that the pathway led to another building. But one day, I followed it in a spirit of exploration. All of a sudden this place revealed itself to me.
Now I go there often, even at night after work, and sit there on the lawn. Sometimes I am the only person there. There isn't much to see – a fountain in the middle of an ornamental pond, some flowers and a lawn. Another thing I like about it is that Kierkegaard used to wander through here – in fact there is a good statue of him in the garden, too.
Its origins are fascinating: in the 17th century it was a shipyard, but it was reclaimed and turned into a square 100 years ago. On one side is the Royal Library, on the other lies Parliament, and there is a lovely old place that used to be the Royal Riding School, although now there aren't any horses. It's a place where you can feel history ambling by, but at the same time you can tune out of city life. I just sit there, think, go through the day in my head. I take my family there all the time, and occasionally foreign friends. They are always amazed to discover it. The only other people are usually couples or families. There are no girls in bikinis sunbathing or boys drinking from a six-pack or youths playing football with ghetto blasters – it is a different kind of place.
Royal Library Garden, Copenhagen
René Redzepi is the chef-owner of Noma in Copenhagen. Noma has been voted the top restaurant in the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants for three years in succession.