After Dark: Copenhagen
If it’s actual after-dark action you seek – dark being the crucial word – then eschew the endless summer sunlight and beeline here in winter when the sun sets early and the hygge (cosy) hipster nooks spark with action.
Socially progressive, design forward, global thinking and life loving, it’s no wonder the Danes are consistently rated as among the happiest people in the world. Rug up and head out to discover the warm embrace of Denmark’s hottest ’hoods.
In keeping with other global creative urban centres, formerly dilapidated areas are being transformed into hamlets of hip. Jægersborggade is the ultimate strolling street. The cobble-stoned strip in Nørrebro sprouts more than 40 art galleries, vintage shops, bars and restaurants in just 300 metres. There’s Grød, a porridge-only restaurant, and an all-female jewellery collective at Lady Fingers. But fuel the night with caffeine at Coffee Collective, the crown jewel of Copenhagen’s third wave coffee movement.
Jægersborggade 57, 2200 København
Oh, happy accident. Opposite Coffee Collective is wine bar Terroiristen, studded with tiny tables and saturated with vinous aromas. As other shops pull their shutters, the windows of this small space begin to fog as the crowd packs in. Natural wines are the heroes here and small yield, small batch grapes from Eastern Europe are being thrust into the limelight like startled showgirls. Expect the unexpected as varieties like Serbian kadarka – it’s a bit like pinot noir – or a melnik from Bulgaria are recultivated post the Iron Curtain. And if you haven’t heard of Czechian wines yet, we’re tipping they’re about to enter stage left.
Jægersborggade 52, 2200 København
If being adjacent to a skate park with a graffiti-covered halfpipe is the Copenhagen zeitgeist, then former blacksmith workshop Friheden (meaning The Freedom) is a microcosm of all that makes the city pulse. A DJ starts spinning vinyl at 10pm on weekends, but earlier it’s a rendezvous point for laid-back locals. Few know about this mini cantina, which by day services the former warehouse turned workspaces behind it. Yet there are multiple reasons to hunt down this newbie: the cheapest (and best) filter coffee in town, wines also sold by restaurant Noma (but a lot cheaper), truffle oil and cheese toasties, and views of the skaters.
Esromgade 15, 1 1, 2200 København
Hello, happy hour! Bodegas, or brown bars, would be called dive bars anywhere else in the world and visiting one is a Danish cultural experience. They’re murky and mysterious, usually featuring varnished wood, snooker tables, low ceilings and clients ranging from Faro fishermen to beer-swigging politicians. Plus, they’re cheap. At Gensyn Bar you’re in good company. This is where bartenders tend to go before or after a shift (it won Best New Cocktail Bar in the 2017 Bartender’s Choice Awards). A recent injection of chic means that, apart from beer and violently hard liquor, there are 150 types of whiskey on its shelf.
Rolighedsvej 20, 1958 Frederiksberg
We’re slowly sliding down a southwest arc across the city, and the hip-o-metre is high in Vesterbro. If it’s froth you seek, the most famous place for beer is Mikkeller Bar, with 20 beers on tap. When arranging to meet be specific – as well as Mikkeller Bar, there is a Mikkeller cafe, fine-dining restaurant and Chinese eatery all on the same block. In fact, there are 51 Mikkellers around the world, but this one is the original and where founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø comes to pour beers himself. If a NY Blueberry Cheese Cake with Chocolate & Maple Topping – it’s a stout, if you’re wondering – doesn’t tempt you to try beer nothing will.
Viktoriagade 8 B-C, 1655 København
Drifting further south still, just as empty bellies begin rumbling, you’ll find the smorgasbord of the Meatpacking District. Focus on Restaurant Kul. Kul means charcoal, and all the restaurant’s dishes flirt with the flame, whether prepared on the grill or in the Josper oven. For more than a century this area was a rough industrial ’hood, but today the former meat halls are considered prime functionalist architecture. Inside, the decor champions the raw-materials aesthetic, but the food is far from basic – sophisticated dishes like Ibérico ham with tempura squid and oyster soy foam are delicious flights of fancy.
Høkerboderne 16B, 20, 1712 København
A night has many stages, and Curfew is for when it’s time to whisper sweet nothings into a lover’s ear. If you can get in. Hidden behind wrought iron doors and accessed by ringing a doorbell, it has space for just 70 to be seated, so book ahead. It’s a step back in time to when barmen wore braces, the music was jazzy (sorry Britney fans, there are no post-1970s tunes here) and the menu hinged on cocktails. Everything murmurs gangsters, from the Prohibition-style bar to the velvet couches in tucked-away corners. And the scent? That’s licorice. Danes are lovers of the salty confectionery and a smoking licorice root sits atop the signature tipple, the Unfaithful. But you’ll never cheat on this cocktail bar – it’s a keeper.
Stenosgade 1, 1616 København
All roads lead to Jolene. Set in a supermarket car park, it’s at the end of the road, literally. If you want grit, this is it, confirmed by a sign specifying there are no f*$%ing cocktails here. What you will find here is buckets of tolerance from the LGBTQIA staff and actual buckets. Below the disco ball remain the floor and wall tiles that nod to its slaughterhouse origins. “No one dies here any more, but we still hose it down sometimes,” says bartender Alicia. Last call is at 4.30am when the first delivery vans arrive, because even Jolene needs to sleep.
Flæsketorvet 81-85, 1711 København
Even more than licorice, Danes love dogs. Hot dogs. But not mongrel dogs; more the purebred sausage variety containing organic applesauce sausage or beef from the island of Funen (well, that’s this week – it changes constantly). A hot dog from John’s Hotdog Deli is an amazing experience sober, but in the wee hours that same meal becomes outstanding. Located no more than 50 metres from Jolene, it also represents urban planning at its best. If the 15 toppings don’t whip your taste buds into a frenzy, two skips away is Warpigs Brewpub, Tommi’s Burger Joint and Bollyfood.
➥JOHN’S HOTDOG DELI
Flæsketorvet 39, 1711 København
Travel to Copenhagen via Doha with Qatar Airways, which flies from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, and offers connections from other Australian cities.
The Steel House is a luxury hostel with a pool, gym and cinema located right in the heart of Vesterbro. Double rooms with bathrooms start at about AU$80 a night.
For more information on what you can see, do and eat in Copenhagen during the day, visit the official Copenhagen tourism site.