When you get off the train at Copenhagen Central Station and exit the building through the doors that lead towards Istedgade you feel, instinctively, that you are heading in the wrong direction, away from the city centre. That is in some ways true – the city centre part at least – but continue for 150 meters you will emerge into Vesterbro, surrounded by restaurants, coffee shops and bars.
Istedgade, the near-kilometre long ‘main street’ of Vesterbro, has historically been home to the city’s workers. During the second world war, it was the centre of an uprising and a general strike. Nowadays it still has a bit of that rebelliousness vibe, an echo of times gone by, and many of the most interesting spots around the area maintain their own counter-cultures that all add up to give Vesterbro its own distinct character.
Turning right off Istedgade, you’ll find the former meatpacking district which has undergone a transformed in recent years. Where butchers and fishmongers once reigned, restaurants, galleries and cafés are opening up. Luckily some of the old businesses have survived and live happily side by side with their new neighbours making the area a relaxed melting pot of new and old.
Vesterbro, in general, is a vibrant area that changes over the course of the day. In the early morning you will find mothers and fathers with their kids – probably riding their bikes – on their way to kindergarten or school and then on to work. During the day the tempo declines a bit and a mellow and relaxed vibe permeates the neighbourhood. As the sun draws low in the sky, people start returning home from work and visitors to the area’s many restaurants, wine bars and pubs begin to fill the streets. After darkness falls the party continues in the bars and clubs located in the old meat packing district – Kødbyen.
Whatever time of day you find yourself in the neighbourhood, there’s plenty of shopping, eating or watching the world go by to be done. In no particular order, here are my top spots.
Here you can buy yummy, freshly baked bread every day of the week from as early as 7 am. Perfect if you want to grab a party based breakfast while on the move.
Here you will find the work of both established and new artists. Owners Jesper Elg, Peter Funch and Mikkel Grønnebæk strive to challenge both audience’s norms and themselves within the mediums of visual art, installation, video and sculpture. An approach that no doubt lead to the gallery being listed as ‘Copenhagen's coolest art gallery’ by The New York Times and featured in ArtNet's ‘Best contemporary galleries in Europe’.
A combined butcher and restaurant this place seems very at home in the Meatpacking District. Here you can get delicious food in authentic, industrial and cool surroundings including working butchers and associated meat hooks. As the name implies – Fleisch is German for meat – this is probably not the place for you if you are vegetarian.
Dansk Made For Rooms
Dansk is a home furnishings store with large, bright rooms hailing Scandinavian minimalism. Dansk carries a range of Danish design furniture and homewares, including gallery-worthy kitchenware and sculptural lamps. You'll also find decor and gift items, including Copenhagen tomes and posters.
Here every single cup is brewed with dedication and the ambition to deliver an extraordinary experience. If you’re lucky you might even find the Danish Barista Champion – one of the owners, Jonas – behind the counter.
Sanchez + Hija de Sanchez
The chef behind Sanchez, Rosio Sanchez, used to work as a dessert chef at Copenhagen's Noma – awarded four times in the past eight years as the best restaurant in the world. In 2018, a panel of 73 food experts was tasked by the EasyJet Traveller magazine to find the best street food Europe had to offer. And who do you think won? Hija de Sanchez of course.
The bar with the unpronounceable name Rbabarrab Ølbar is a fun place with often changing craft beer. Buy a beer and a pizza from next door and happiness awaits you.
The family-owned Jernbane Caféen is a traditional Danish pub and the perfect place to get a no-nonsense beer. They have live music weekly. Authentic Danish atmosphere. If the sun is out the tables outside are a great spot in the afternoon hours.
Raw and urban, H15 is centrally located at the entrance of the old Meatpacking District. In a renovated 1950s warehouse you’ll find delicious food and drinks in an informal atmosphere. When the weather is good they open up the wide doors and you can sit outside on the terrace.
A Japanse ramen bar, where everything is freshly homemade – especially the tender noodles.
Danish brewery Mikkeller and American brewery 3 Floyds got together and established WarPigs with the aim of creating the world’s best brewpub. With 22 different beers on tap and traditional Texan barbeque, it’s the place to head for if you have a huge thirst/hunger to cure.
Bang og Jensen
At Café Bang & Jensen, the atmosphere is cosy and relaxed. On sunny days, it can be tricky to find a table outside, but with luck or patience, you should be just fine. A wall in the front room is covered with old oil paintings and tapestries portraying the same sailor. Other parts of the café are dedicated to different guest artists presenting their work on a rotational basis.
1656 Cocktail Bar
The cocktail bar 1656 is located on Gasværksvej, just a stone's throw from the Meatpacking District. It has a speakeasy feeling – hidden behind a blacked-out window and an anonymous door. The staff here are extremely sweet and knowledgeable about the drinks and will sit down with you and help you navigate the menu to find just the perfect drink for you, should you need a helping hand when choosing.
Sourdough, brick-oven baked crusts, simple but high-quality toppings and a place in the sun. What’s not to like?
Crisp, low-carb, high-taste gourmet pizzas with seasonal toppings, a heap of salad and freshly grated parmesan … and cocktails on the side.
A kiosk and a modern grocery store turned popular meeting point for Copenhageners. Along with speciality foods and a variety of organic products it has a very wide selection of Danish and imported beers as well as one of their very own.
Cocks & Cows
Voted the best burger in Copenhagen in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016, we can be sure they know how to make a great burger. The cocktails they serve on the side are not bad either.
The Plum Guide opens in Copenhagen from July 2019 along with five other new cities: Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid and Tel Aviv. These will join a collection that already includes London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Paris and Rome.