Copenhagen is a small capital, but it’s growing and expanding. Innovative architecture and inviting eateries set for the scene for the city’s new neighbourhoods.
For many years, Copenhagen was a small city. Small as in almost tiny; sort of like a capital the size of a town or village. Locals and visitors mainly moved around the same couple of neighbourhoods; popular areas known to locals as the ‘bro’-parts of town. If you’ve ever read about Copenhagen, I am sure you know of these already – Nørrebro, the hipster and multicultural part of town; the family-friendly Vesterbro with the many playgrounds and the famous Meat Packing District; and Østerbro offering wide boulevards and an abundance of cafés and fancy shops.
Today, Copenhagen is changing. It’s growing, evolving, and expanding. The old waterfronts of the city, traditionally used as industry and commercial port areas are being rebuilt and now, these spacious areas offer both innovative student housing and new private homes. New eateries are popping up, cool shops are opening in the old warehouses, and interesting architecture is emerging from the ground. It might take some pedal force on your rental bike, or a 10-minute bus ride from the city centre, but a visit to one of these up and coming neighbourhoods will be worth the trip here.
In the northern part of Copenhagen, Nordhavn – directly translated into ‘Northern harbour’ – is on the rise. A new coastline of the city, this area thrives during summer with the large harbour baths offering people a refreshing jump in the sea to cool down, as well as long stretches of bike-friendly sidewalks. Winter looks beautiful here as well, as the large open spaces and water make for pretty sunrises and sunsets. The handful of cafes, restaurants and shops here offer cosy breaks when exploring the area.
For the best of modern Danish design, visit the Menu Space located on Hamborg Plads 2. A combined showroom and café, the beautiful surroundings welcome both freelancers working on their laptops and tourists enjoying a great cup of coffee from the coffee shop, and delicious pastries from the local bakery Andersen & Maillard.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Menu Space you will find the open air rooftop playground and training facility Konditaget Lüders. Families travelling with kids, the business traveller staying at the nearby STAY Seaport Hotel with time for a quick workout session and architecturally interested people looking for a great view of the old port area visit this red roof atop a parking garage.
An icon of Nordhavn, the Portland Towers rise directly opposite of the rooftop. Originally built in 1979 as a cement manufacturing silo, the towers were rebuilt into offices in 2013. From the red rooftop, you will also get a view of the spectacular restaurant in Nordhavn, namely The Silo. With a magnificent view of the sea and the city, The Silo has a vision to welcome everyone to their premises atop the city. With an emphasis on seafood and local, seasonal ingredients, the chefs prepare modern Danish dishes with a twist such as gravad lax with golden beets, mustard and dill; or grilled cod with Jerusalem artichokes. If you’re only looking to enjoy a coffee or cocktail, the café and bar is open to all visitors as well.
Straight opposite of Nordhavn on the quay of the water lies Refshaleøen. The latter part of the word ‘øen’ means island, but Refshaleøen is not an island per se but a part of the bigger island known as Amager. For first time visitors, this part of town may seem a bit deserted, or at least somewhat quiet, but don’t worry; there are many hidden treasures waiting to be explored here.
On the far end of this piece of land you will find a magnet for anyone with a love of street food; the ‘Reffen’ food market is the most popular in town offering more than fifty food stalls selling everything from a gourmet version of the classic Danish hotdog to delicious bahn mi, warming porridge, and falafel pita wraps. Enjoy your lunch at the open air market or under the covers in case of rain.
Besides a wide range of food stalls, Reffen also houses a number of colourful containers used as workshops and studios of young, local artists and craftsmen. Here, artist collectives such as Bloom Bloom Box and Von Plast create organic skincare products, and interior pieces such as lamps and quarry tiles from recycled plastic used in the food stalls.
A quick bike ride from the outermost tip of Refshaleøen back towards the city passes by two eateries both immensely special in their own way. Don’t be fooled by the somewhat simple appearance of the old blue shack facing the water housing La Banchina. A favourite amongst locals, this eatery is a hybrid between a café serving a simple breakfast of eggs, rye bread and home-baked croissants, as well as a lavish yet down-to-earth, 10-course dinner during the evening. The restaurant only has 16 seats, but they fill up quickly. In summer, guests arrive either by boat or bike, and jump into the clean harbour water from the wooden piers by the small blue house. During winter, they warm up inside with candles burning with friendly staff behind the counter in the small room with a homey atmosphere.
Together with La Banchina, Refshaleøen owes a great deal of its newfound popularity to Lille Bakery that opened up in the spring of 2018. Located in a spacious and light-filled room with an industrial feel, three chefs formerly from Copenhagen Michelin-starred restaurants such as Noma and 108 have started on their own. Lille Bakery has fast become known as the best bakery in town, and their sourdough bread, cinnamon donuts, and homemade pies are perfectly enjoyed in the light-filled inviting space with quality filter coffee.
Towards the city centre facing the waterfront and neighbouring the Royal Library known as ‘The Black Diamond’ lies a new destination for architecture, design and innovation in Copenhagen. BLOX was designed by Internationally renowned architects OMA. The building, made up from stacked green glazed blocks, holds a restaurant, gym, playground, and the Danish Architecture Centre overlooking the waterfront.
About a three-minute walk down the street you will find the impressive entrance arch into Tivoli, the second-oldest amusement park in the world. With colourful and exotic architecture inspired by the entire world, historic sights and a lush garden, Tivoli opens its doors to a magical fairytale.
Besides plenty of great eateries for both lunch and dinner, a must-try when visiting the park is the newest attraction Fatamorgana; a first-of-its-kind, 45 metre-tall tower combining three rides in one. Offering something for family members of all ages, a mini version of ‘The Bumper Cars’ will entertain the smaller children at ground level, whilst the next floor offers a ride with two different experiences; a wild one for the most hardened speed fans with guests being slung around and propelled at the same time, and one at a more moderate pace for the more faint-hearted.
Whether looking for innovative architecture, interesting eats, or up-and-coming young artists, these new neighbourhoods in Nordhavn and Refshaleøen showcase the changing architectural landscape of Copenhagen. They are expanding the city as we know it, offering a wide selection of places to visit. So hop on your bike, get in the bus, or jump on the water taxi, and enjoy the ride to the newest sights in town.