The apartment we stayed in was directly above a bakery. It was founded in 1988, the year after I was born. I don’t think this is a coincidence.
“A child has been born”, they told one another with hushed reverence. “A beautiful and hungry child, who will one day come to this very place. And she will require pastry.”
And so they founded the bakery. And lo, just twenty seven years later, as it had been foretold, so she came.
I have eaten a lot of cinnamon swirls in the last four days. In Denmark they are called Kanelsnagels, or “cinnamon snails”, and if that isn’t one of the most charming things you’ve heard today then… Well, then I would like to know more about your delightful life, pixie.
COPENHAGEN, friends! It is just LOVELY! By complete coincidence, a couple of weeks ago the ever-wonderful Two Bossy Dames introduced me to the Danish word hygge – which doesn’t translate directly into English, but essentially means the sweet spot where cosiness and conviviality meet. Copenhagen, fittingly, is the very embodiment of hygge. I encourage you to go there immediately.
If you take my excellent advice, here are some fun things you could do.
Visit Tivoli Gardens
Look, this isn’t Secret Escapes, OK? I’m not about to give you exclusive insights into the hidden Copenhagen. I am the definition of mainstream; I enjoy middle-of-the-road things.
So, go where everyone goes: to one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, which apparently inspired Walt Disney. But I have been to Disneyland Paris, and it lacks many of the essential elements which made Tivoli Gardens so pleasant. Plentiful mulled wine (“gløgg”); a Danish homewares store; abundant opportunities to purchase open-faced sandwiches; almost too many fairy lights.
There are also rides. But maybe you didn’t hear about the gløgg?
Get the train to Louisiana modern art museum
It’s a little way out of the main city, but it doesn’t feel like a trek because the train is warm and comfortable and takes a route through scenic woodlands. Hygge.
When you get there, brave the icy coastal winds to explore the sculpture garden. Keep your eyes peeled for a nameplate on the ground which seems to belong to nothing more remarkable than some narrow metal steps leading nowhere. If you take them, you’ll find that they not only lead somewhere, but that that somewhere is a wide wooden platform with spectacular views out across the sea and right to the coast of Sweden.
If you’re lucky, a friendly Danish man will appear from nowhere. “Well done,” he’ll say, “not many tourists find their way here.” You will feel smug.
Inside, there are many interesting and beautiful artworks. The temporary exhibitions, on our visit, were fascinating and thought provoking. The cafe sells tasty food and sparkling rhubarb juice. The gift shop sells beautiful Danish homewares.
Rent a bike a see the city like a local!
I mean, this isn’t something I actually did, you understand. I never passed my cycling proficiency test, and it was snowing. But there are bikes everywhere and well laid out cycle lanes and respectful drivers and you totally could and should do this if you want to.
Go to the Design Museum
It’s full of really great chairs and has improbably delicious food in the cafe.
Visit MEAT CITY
This is their name for the old meat packing district – but doesn’t MEAT CITY sound so much more dramatic and mysterious?
It’s quite hipster, but in an acceptable way. We found a warm and well-lit bar called WARPIGS which served many, many craft beers. The man who served us was, like almost everyone we met in Copenhagen, very friendly indeed. He was Bristolian, but the point still stands.
From there we went to Mother, a pizza place that multiple people had recommended – and rightly so. Perfect sourdough crusts and generous toppings and tasty beers and so, so many candles. Hygge.
Spend all your money on the best meal imaginable at Kadeau
It was sleeting, and dark, so we got in an Uber. The driver reached the address we’d given him.
“Is this ok?”
“Well, it is if this is where the restaurant is.”
“Yes, this is it.”
First impressions were not promising. We appeared to be in an alleyway down the side of an abandoned office block. The sleet was really very sleety.
Then, on a plain wall next to an unmarked grey door, we saw a doorbell. Kadeau.
I’d read about modern Danish food: precise, prissy, pickled. I was readying myself for stark white plates and austere table settings and humourless men describing my dinner with a slight frown.
Instead, we were ushered to two deep, soft armchairs, in a candlelit glow. To our right, a calm and happy group of chefs prepared food in a beautiful, brushed-copper kitchen. To our left, a window, through which we saw that the wet, driving sleet had transformed into fatly-falling snowflakes. You might think the restaurant didn’t control the weather, but they orchestrated literally everything else so I’m pretty sure they did.
A friendly man brought us “tea”. It was savoury and strange and more delicious than any other tea I have ever drunk.
This set the standard for the next twenty – twenty! – courses.
At the end they gave us a a printed menu, but it does not begin to capture the sheer delightfulness of the food we ate. Every course was a leap of faith; as the chefs described it, the food sounded unfathomable bordering on inedible. Somehow, though, it was all just perfect.
I know I’m gushing. It’s not hyperbole, I swear.
When my sister and I play Guess Who, there’s one character we always identify by asking, “is he a Viking?” (It’s Charles). In Kadeau, that question would be useless. All the chefs look like beautiful young Vikings. They are The Most Nordic Men In The World.
We opted in (of course) to the wine pairings. They were (of course) perfect. At one point, I rashly claimed that since the portions of food were so small and the pace at which they were served so precise, I could carry on eating the food forever. I was wrong, but if you gave me the opportunity I would definitely give it a go.
At the end, along with the menu, they bring you a thick, creamy, embossed envelope containing, among other things, a limited edition print. Until science makes it possible to frame the memory of a flavour, I will put that print in pride of place in my home and gaze at it lovingly over my fishfingers.
Just revel in being in a wonderful city with the person you love
Stroll around the botanical gardens. Take unflattering selfies with a statue of Hans Christian Andersen. Browse the Christmas markets. Go see the statue of the Little Mermaid even though everyone has told you that it will be disappointing (and it is). Get shouted at by a guard outside a royal residence because you’re getting too close to their guard box in your quest for the most Instagrammable angle. Explore glitzy churches. Trek to Christiania and spend approximately twelve minutes there before concluding that a commune is not for you. Spend upwards of an hour browsing the homewares floor of a department store because everything is just so gorgeous. Wonder whether, if you got married one day, it would be feasible to have your wedding list at a Danish department store. Decide one morning that since you have blankets and cards and candles and Christmas music and each other, there’s really no need to venture out into the snow, when you could just snuggle into your own self-contained hygge bubble. Except, of course, for a quick dash downstairs to replenish your cinnamon snail stocks.
Copenhagen, you guys. Go now.