Dining in Copenhagen: The good, the bad and the best alternative for a summer dinner

I have no problems with paying a sizable sum of cash for a truly delicious meal.  At the same time, however, I’m not particularly into paying $400-500/person for dinner, nor am I a fan of paying $100/person for blah food.  Unfortunately, much of the dining in Copenhagen fits into one of these two categories – outrageously expensive or mediocre (at best) food.  That proved challenging to deal with during our three nights in town, but we managed to get by while experiencing a broad spectrum of the options available and not going broke in the process.

A kid enjoying an ice cream cone one afternoon in Copenhagen

First off, the bad.  Our hotel was on the Nyhavn, a truly tourist district just across from the opera house.  The quarter-mile long strip used to house Copenhagen’s red light district, with brothels and tattoo parlors along the sides of the canal.  The storefronts have now converted to a couple dozen restaurants, bars and ice cream shops along the uneven, paving stone drag.  And I suppose a few of them might have offered up good food or a reasonable value but we didn’t manage to find that.  We did find a $5 scoop of ice cream that was OK and plenty of $12 beers.  And we found a place that had a reasonable seafood salad and hamburger, but there is no way that the meal was worth the $85 that it cost.  The food wasn’t particularly bad but the value certainly was.  So dining on the Nyhavn was pretty much off the list for us, though hundreds of others didn’t seem to mind the mediocrity that it offered based on the crowds we saw.  Indeed, I think that having it revert to its previous use might actually be a better use of the space, though that is a different story.  And it seemed that dining around Tivoli Gardens was simply asking for more of the same so we were forced to search farther afield for a reasonable meal.

That search led to the Internet (of course) and then to an interesting concept restaurant called Madklubben (translated version here).  The restaurant is a couple years old and takes after the typical Danish style of a menu offering a prix fixe menu rather than a la carte dining.  But unlike most of the other good restaurants in town the price points on the Madklubben menu were very much in the $50-75/person range rather than the $300/person range.  Toss in a bottle of wine from the rather broad wine list and the meal came out to about $200 for the two of us but I was much happier paying that price for the food we got than the Nyhavn meal the previous night.  The menu seems to change roughly monthly so there is always something different to try should you go back again.

Our meal at Madklubben was a three course affair meaning that we tasted six different items between the two of us.  The smoked herring appetizer was delicious and typically Danish.  The broiled bone marrow was plentiful and served with a nice pesto sauce spread that was quite tasty.  For main courses we had a pork belly and a brine-cooked beef.  Both were quite delicious, with the beef approaching corned beef in flavor and the pork juicy and savory.  And then we had the cheese plate and the ice cream with summer berries.  It is hard for me to say definitively that any one of the items served was particularly a huge stand out winner and the meal wasn’t the best of my life by any stretch, but the food was all very well prepared and at the end of the night I didn’t feel any disdain or annoyance when the bill came.  Oh, and the restaurant had a full-size plastic moose with a lamp sticking out of the head in the entryway which was quite entertaining.


And then there is the best alternative we could come up with for dining – DIY!  We were fortunate that our hotel was very close to the Magasin du Nord, the largest department store in Copenhagen.  And inside the store, on the bottom floor, there is a grocery, a deli, a coffee shop and a bakery.  The bakery and coffee shop served as a great alternative to the $30/person breakfast in the hotel and we managed to put together a quite respectable dinner on our last night in Copenhagen with a quick tour through the aisles of the grocery.  A block of cheese, a baguette, some sliced meats, some smoked herring, some grapes and a bottle of wine were more than enough to sate us and it was incredibly affordable.  We borrowed some flatware from the hotel restaurant, took our food out to the waterfront at the end of the canal and had a fantastic picnic while watching the traffic pass by on the water and the people pass by on land.  All in all, a great alternative to the high priced options of dining in Copenhagen.

And, if you dare, there are always the hotdogs.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. The picnic looks and sounds delicious – reminds me of the linoleum picnics I had with friends when I lived in France: bread, cheese, tomatoes, pate, and pickles … all we could afford!

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