René Redzepi's Noma, in Copenhagen, has just been voted the world's No.1 restaurant. Every month, 20,000 people try to make a reservation. For those who aren't lucky, René has ideas for where else to eat
Ah, Copenhagen. Where to start? I walk the streets everyday, I know every nook and every cranny. I've seen the streets at their most beautiful, but also when things aren't as charming. In your home city, you notice mainly only the things that you want to change. What Copenhagen does have is big, wide roads, a gentle skyline not broken by cement skyscrapers, and it has proximity to water – you're never more than ten minutes away from the gentle splash of water against the quay. It's the sum of small things that makes Copenhagen special. We can't boast about the one magnificent museum that's worth a journey. Or a single monument that symbolizes the city – the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower or Sydney Opera House – that fills people with awe when they first encounter it. (Our Little Mermaid doesn't quite do it.) In Copenhagen, it is about renting a bicycle, traveling through the city at a slow speed, going from park to park and getting lost in the village atmosphere that our capital has. Besides biking, read up on the city's history so that you can walk in the footsteps of Hans Christian Andersen or Kierkegaard. Then of course, there's the food, the coffee and the wine, all of which are experiencing a brilliant moment. There is some of the best coffee anywhere in Europe, a progressive wine movement with great bars ... and then the restaurants. As much as Copenhagen is about experiencing the old city, this is also the time to see – and eat – something new.
Where to eat and visit – apart from Noma
Places to enjoy a morning coffee include the Coffee Collective at Torvehallerne – an upscale market space that's well worth a tour. Once you've spent an hour or two at that market, nearby there is a great museum that very few people know about called Arbejdermuseet. It translates literally as 'the worker's museum' and is a terrific little gem where you can see how the working-class of Denmark would arrange their homes. On the ground floor, there is a nice restaurant for lunch – solid classic Danish fare, which nicely rounds off the whole experience.
A great place for a late afternoon drink is the wine bar Ved Stranden 10. It has outdoor seating on the canal and if the sun is out, this is the place to sit, have a glass of wine and unwind. Right next to here, there is also another great coffee shop – the Copenhagen Coffee Lab – a neo-classic spot filled with uber coffee-nerds obsessed with these golden drops.
A must-visit restaurant is Amass. During the weekend, it is open for lunch, and has its own private garden and a view of the water. You could spend half the day here. Getting there can be either difficult or fun, depending on how you see it. If you take the public boat, it's a lovely five-minute ride from Hotel Admiral. If you don't like boats, then it's a 20-minute taxi ride from central Copenhagen for you.
Additionally, there are a couple of excursions, each worth a detour. The first involves driving north of Copenhagen (90 minutes) and spending the night at Dragsholm castle, where there is a great kitchen, all vegetable-based, and the 800-year-old structure is set on picturesque grounds.
The second is a day-trip to the magnificent island of Bornholm. A short 20-minute flight gives you the chance to eat lunch at Restaurant Kadeau (there are two Kadeau restaurants: one in Copenhagen proper and the other on this island). If you visit the city during spring and summer, be sure to head to this island, where the restaurant is set right on the beach with gorgeous ocean views and the food is the perfect distillation of the island's summer ingredients.
Where to stay
This is Copenhagen's Achilles heel. Most hotels are focused on business guests or more formal luxury and one common weakness amongst most hotels is, unfortunately, the poor level of service. Scandinavians aren't meant for service – although they are friendly, their bluntness and directness may come across as a bit rude. If you can live with these factors, one place that many enjoy for the atmosphere is the Admiral. It's an old, historic building with exposed wooden beams everywhere – a genuine Copenhagen place to stay. Make sure to get a room with a view of the harbour.
If you feel like splashing out on some deluxe pampering, there is the D'Angleterre. Or the more affordable Axel Guldsmeden, just behind Central Station and near where I grew up. It's also certified organic, if that interests you.
Art of Copenhagen
Founded in 1888 by the brewer Carl Jacobsen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek houses excellent collections of Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman art, 40 works by Gauguin, Degas' bronzes and 35 sculptures by Rodin.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: One of the most beautiful museums in the world. Set 40 kms from Copenhagen, with a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art. This summer's major exhibition is Emil Nolde.
The Hirschsprung Collection has wonderful Danish art from the 'Golden Age' (with works by Købke, Krøyer and Hammershøi) to the Skagen painters.
Originally built as a private residence, Ordrupgaard – with its new extension by the ubiquitous Zaha Hadid – has one of Northern Europe's finest collections of 19th and 20th century French art. (All the greats are here ... Delacroix, Corot, Courbet, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Cézanne)
René Redzepi is the chef-owner of Noma in Copenhagen. He is widely recognized as one of the world's most influential chefs and Noma has taken the number one spot in the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. His latest book is A Work in Progress (Phaidon).
Noma, Strandgade 93, 1401 Copenhagen
+45 32 96 32 97; noma.dk/reservations