(All photos by Sandra Vinge Jensen unless otherwise stated)
The Danish capital is great because you can get laid and stoned while eating a meat sandwich in a quasi-autonomous anarcho commune. If you don't like meat, weed, sex, or anarchists then you have just stumbled onto the wrong website, friend.
Jump to sections by using the index below:
– WHERE TO PARTY
– WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
– POLITICS, PROTESTS, AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
– WHERE TO EAT
– WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
– WHERE TO DRINK
– WHERE TO STAY
– LGBT COPENHAGEN
– WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
– HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
– HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
– PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
– TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
– A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
– VICE CITY MAP
WHERE TO PARTY
An average Wednesday night out in Copenhagen ends at about six in the morning. A shitty Thursday night with crappy cranberry cocktails rolls into bed at around noon. A good Friday night—with friends, MDMA, and one of the many deep house dens littered around the city—and you’ll be lucky if you’re not stumbling out of a “morning” party at 4PM on Sunday. If you want to rave, Copenhagen’s got you covered.
The line outside of Culture Box on a Saturday night never ceases. Rain, hail, sleet, or snow, the deep house bros are posted outside drinking cheap beers and waiting to get the chance to spill drinks on the dancefloor with one of their idols. We say bros, because the ratio of men to women at Culture Box is almost always about 70 to 30. Apart from lots of coke Vikings, it draws some of the biggest names in deep house and techno, from Marcel Dettmann to Ben Klock, Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin, and other legends of the scene. The price of drinks and entrance is definitely more “exclusive club” than underground rave though, so don’t turn up empty-handed or sober.
Exile is a new club night that’s going to be responsible for a lot of messy sex but never, ever be anyone's chosen destination for a date. It happens monthly at Vesterbro and has played host to such names as Triky, J Tijn, Reeko, and other people who have somehow forged a living out of nosebleed techno. As with many of the best places in Copenhagen, the bar at Exile nights mostly seems to make its money selling water and chewing gum.
If pissing outside your local bakery in the middle of the day while you listen to slightly more mainstream music and drink vodka out of a water bottle is more your style, get ready for Distortion, Copenhagen's most ridiculous street festival. Every year different neighborhoods are sectioned off for all-day raves that only stop when everyone's ushered inside clubs to drink more and stop scaring children. Unbelievably, this is allowed to happen for five days in a row, and the day rave is always completely free. Pop, indie, hip-hop, and techno fans will all find something for them at Distortion as they long as they're sober enough to find the right tent.
Look, there’s loads of shit going on in Copenhagen, and the people are nice and beautiful, so just get drunk or whatever and start making friends.
(Photo by Esben Elborne)
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
Because Amsterdam is depressing as shit, Copenhagen is just about the best place in Europe to be a stoner. Christiania, an anarcho-hippie commune, is best described as a city within a city. Since the 1970s, when a gang of hippies squatted its old military facility, Christiania has been a weed marketplace with more than 50 shops (that's a conservative estimate) selling a broad selection of cannabis products from all over the world.
The police made an effort a couple of years back to crack down on Christiania's flagrant dopeheads, but it failed horribly, pushing hash dealers into the inner city and flaring up a gang war. So, for the most part, they leave Christiania alone now. All the hash stalls are still out, morning to night, their owners and customers living by the huge commune's topsy-turvy rules. Christiania is a place where people can have a beer outside and smoke up in the sun without being hassled by the cops. What you can’t do, though, is take pictures or run on the main street, both of which will get you in serious trouble.
The police don’t patrol Christiania, but they try to bust people once they've left, which is why visitors tend to leave on foot and avoid taking the subway home. Elsewhere in the city, the cops are still pretty laidback about weed and the classic pusher-types tout hash in most Copenhagen parks. First-time offenders are fined €250 ($340) if they're dumb enough to get nabbed by the filth.
In truth, beyond Christiania, drugs have been somewhat hard to come by lately after the police tapped a prominent dealer’s phone and busted hundreds of people in the process. They should have been busting people in the red light district, Istedgade, though. It's located just behind the central train station and as you might expect, it's a thoroughly nasty part of town full of pushers whose sketchiness has been known to extend to fucking people over and/or stabbing them up.
Anyone caught with MDMA or coke faces a fine of about €350 ($480), depending on how much they're holding. Compared to other countries though, the relationship with the cops is pretty relaxed and people only really get in trouble when they’re being overt about drug use, either in public or, typically, by filling a toilet stall with about 50 pals all hungry for lines.
(Photo by Esben Elborne)
POLITICS, PROTESTS, AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
Copenhagen is pretty well segregated when it comes to overzealous political factions. They’ve each carved out their own little corner of the map so they can act like nutters in peace.
There is a tiny minority of neo-Nazis in central Copenhagen. For the most part, these dicks are to be found hiding out in Sydhavn (the South harbor). They rarely rear their heads in the city, as they’d probably have the shit kicked out of them by the rest of us. To be honest though, hardly any immigrants are well-treated by Danes here. Stereotypes abound about untrustworthy Eastern Europeans, despite the fact that many have been hired by tight Danes (i.e. all Danes) to do virtually any manual cash-in-hand job the native population deem to be beneath them. However, there are various public programs set up to provide the few immigrants we do let in the chance to get started economically. As such, Denmark isn’t actually the worst place in the world to pitch your tent.
Nordvest (Northwest) is one of the city's most ethnically eclectic areas. Full of greengrocers, mosques and fast-food joints selling all sorts of unpronounceable fried foods, Nordvest is colourful, enticing and also a stronghold for Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic group who would fucking love to bring Sharia law to the streets of the capital. The group, who are banned in Germany, aren't fond of democracy and encourage Muslims not to vote in any parliamentary elections.
Nordvest also plays host to Copenhagen’s biggest autonomous social centre. After the legendary squat Ungdomshuset was evicted in 2006, there were ongoing street battles between the cops and the kids, and, simply put, the kids tore up so much shit that they forced the city to offer the town’s anarchists a brand new HQ. We now know this as Dortheavej 61; a stronghold of spiked hair and vegan soup kitchens. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the hub of the city’s punk scene, hosting several gigs each month featuring bands with names like Sommerfuglebræk (Butterfly Puke) and Bestiality. They’re all sweethearts really. The house’s politics are of the far-left variety, and they live up to their egalitarian ideology with absurdly reasonable bar prices.
If you like your political decisions made by people who are under the influence of cannabis and wearing ponchos, look no further than Christiania. The commune is run on fully democratic lines by its inhabitants, known as Christianites. It’s extremely simple to find the commune—just exit the metro at Christianshavn and follow the sea of dreadlocks and bulldog-dragging thugs to Copenhagen’s very own hippie mecca.
(Photo by Esben Elborne)
Considering this is supposed to be the happiest city on earth, protests are quite common here. They’re usually polite though, which makes this type of moderate complaining a sort of national sport, complete with an abundance of teams. Recent competitors include: The squatters who wanted a new house, the students disgruntled by reform, the Brazilians who didn't want Brazil to host the World Cup, and of course the perennial posse of weed lovers fighting for legalization.
The only stuff that gets the city riled up is when far-right extremists demonstrate against building mosques in Denmark—supposedly to keep the city free from extremists. That's when the lefties get mad and the police briefly get to enjoy their riot gear.
WHERE TO EAT
Look closely enough and you'll find a bunch of these kinds of "folk kitchens" around town. On a travelling budget they’re a gold mine; you can get a vegan dinner for a donation of €3 ($4). The staff members are all volunteers, and it tends to be full of foreigners and students, so there’s a good chance people will be chatting in English—handy, because the only two Danish words you know are “Lego” and “Duplo” and you’re not even totally certain that “Duplo” is Danish.
Madklubben Grill Royal, Kongens Nytorv
For €26 ($35.50), eat half a fucking cow.
Bror is the best place in Copenhagen to satisfy your cravings for cod heads, lumpfish sperm, and bull testicles. Their beer selection is very affordable, not to mention stronger than rocket fuel. Dinner will set you back about €40 ($55), which is kind of normal for Copenhagen, but don't hold that against us. If your governments were run by responsible adults, you'd all be sitting around burning money and eating sperm, too.
Nørrebo basically used to be just an alleyway full of drug dealers, but thanks to the horrors of gentrification it has swapped all the seedy whispering men for an array of Michelin stars. In an objective sense, the food here is insanely good; Relæ has been ranked in the top 60 restaurants in the world and as such it’s a fucking pain to get a table, so obvs book ahead. Like two months ahead.
Economists reckon the bottom’s going to fall out of Denmark’s affluent liberal pleasure palace soon. If it does, they can probably point to the day we opened a champagne and hotdog bar as the moment the country lost control. But whatever. Come here, have three cocktails, two gourmet hotdogs, and toast the fact that one day Scandinavia will be as fucked as the rest of Europe.
This might surprise you, but porridge is a big deal in Denmark, bigger even than soccer and music. Nowhere is this more true than at Grød. There are many, many different kinds of porridge to choose from here, including a lunch-dinner option of risotto porridge. It’s located on Jaegersborggade, which sounds like it means you should be able to get Jägerbomb porridge, but it definitely doesn’t mean that.
WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
Ribbensstegssandwich (Pork Rib Sandwich)
We eat a shitload of pork and we know what we’re doing with it. So, when you’re down at the hotdog stand, don’t be afraid to venture beyond the humble sausage. Try the pork rib roast sandwiches complete with crackling, pickles, and red cabbage. Wash it all down with chocolate milk—it's fine to eat like a child here.
Stegt Flæsk (Roasted Pork Served with Crackling and Parsley Sauce)
Same deal as before: It’s basically bacon for grown-ups. We warned you we fucking love pork.
Rebelling against the top slice of bread on a sandwich may seem pointlessly contrarian, but it’s not. Two slices of bread is a silly extravagance and halves the actual flavor of a sandwich. Try an all-time Danish favorite like liver paste on rye bread, or go for the "Shooting Star," which involves caviar, salmon, and shrimp. You’ll agree.
WHERE TO DRINK
The Free Beer Club
In case the name didn't give it away, every single night, there will be some fashion, art, magazine, or music event that is handing out free booze to people. So how do you get in on it? Facebook, obviously. Find the free booze club page, and follow the trail of idiots on its route through the city. Danes love it. Who wouldn't? It's free booze.
Mikropolis, Copenhagen K.
This bar is a welcome new addition to Copenhagen, and their speciality is cocktails made with beer. Although it’s marketed as a place to “tantalize your taste buds,” the fact they mix beer with strong spirits suggests that their main ambition is getting you absolutely shitfaced.
Vin Hanen, Nørrebro
This bar imports its wine directly from suppliers and stores it on the premises in giant tanks. This allows them to do takeaway bottles of wine from €6 ($8), which is cheaper than what you would pay in the local supermarket. Plus, if you return the bottle you get a Euro back, so try not to smash it over your head in a fit of drunken joy at how reasonably priced it was.
LINK Floss, Copenhagen K
Unlike you and me, Europeans still believe in rock 'n' roll. This place basically looks like what you thought bars were when you had posters on your wall: cheap beer, clouds of smoke, fat men with beards, punks, artists, writers—it’s heaven, basically.
LINK Kayak Bar, Copenhagen K
A place for summer. It’s on the water under the bridge that takes you from the centre of the city to Christianshavn. As the name suggests, it’s actually a kayaking club/sauna/cafe by day, but by night it transforms into a Williamsburg-esque dungeon with live bands. I once saw someone fall in the river there and a hero saved them in a canoe.
The fail-safe option when you want a good night out. This is the meatpacking district of Copenhagen and is scattered with bars occupying old slaughterhouses. If one place sucks, just move on to the next. Jolene, Bakken, Basement Bar, and Maester og Laerling are a few of my favorite places to lose my memory while surrounded by slaughterhouses.
WHERE TO STAY
Central Hotel and Café
I know this great little place. It’s the world’s smallest hotel, and it’s located in Vesterbro on top of the world’s smallest café. It’s literally wedged in the narrow space between two buildings and only has one tiny room, but for €200 ($274) per night you do get a double bed and a mini-bar. I imagine it’s quite hard to get a room there.
It’s clearly going to be regulated at some point soon and become shit, but before then Vesterbro, Nørrebro, or Copenhagen K are the places to look if you want to sleep on a sofabed that's absorbed millions of strangers' farts.
The anarcho-hippies are nice guys, so make mates and try and find yourself a bed for the night that hasn't already been claimed by someone's dog.
Or just go without sleep. The sun comes out at 3AM in summer anyway. Try and find a "morgen fest" (morning party) and join the straight-through crew. (Presumably you can only do that for about three days before you die, though.)
(Photo by Mads Schmidt)
Copenhagen is probably about as gay-friendly as capital cities come. Don’t get us wrong, venture out to the countryside and towns like Tønder (sadly not a Danish dating app), and you’ll get punched in the mouth just for having long hair or wearing tight jeans, let alone making out with your partner. By contrast, Copenhageners tend to be all about love for their fellow citizens. Denmark was the first country to legalize registered partnerships between homosexual couples and went on to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012.
Nowadays, it’s definitely not uncommon to find straight groups partying and getting shitfaced at gay bars. Though some of the raunchier places have shut down, you can still visit the legendary Monday night amateur hour at Cafe Intime on Frederiksberg, or check out drag shows at the pop-up bar Star Factory near the recently renamed Rainbow Square.
In particular, there’s an abundance of gay drinking dens around city hall, some of which have been quenching the thirst of the LGBT community for over 40 years. You can even go sauna-clubbing just a couple of blocks off the busiest shopping street in the country. Hizb ut-Tahrir probably don't like it but until their dreams of stoic, bigoted joylessness come true. It's a blast.
WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
Okay, it’s not revolutionary, but go and drink in a park, we’ve got loads of them. The good ones are Nørrebroparken, Kongens Have, and Enghave Parken. They’ve got all that good park stuff; like grass and trees and people in bikini tops.
During summer, the temperature rises to about 25 degrees. Danes, euphoric for having survived yet another winter, storm to the beaches where we all get sunburned and one drunk person always drowns. So, basically like England, but everyone's closer to the water, richer and more attractive.
Dronning Louises Bro
It’s a bridge, bro. From June to September it’s packed with young people drinking beers and soaking up the sun.
They’re canals. They’re pretty. Go and get a beer and look at the pretty canals.
Bispebjerg Sex Clinic
Everyone’s going to have sex with you in Copenhagen, which is great. But there's a chance they might make your genitals unwell, at which point, you should go to this STD clinic. Free for all, no appointment required. Located at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen NV. Or just use a condom, which you can also get from the Bispebjerg clinic.
HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
As a tourist, you should feel pretty welcome. Copenhagen is a very safe city. Like all the safest cities, the most common crime is bike theft, so unless you've brought your bike with you on the plane there's not much to worry about. Should a situation emerge where you need to call the police, dial 112. They're almost guaranteed to speak English and they're almost guaranteed to be surprised if your call is not at least partially related to some form of bike crime.
HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
Everyone has a bike here—it’s very flat and we’re trendy, healthy Scandos, so we’re obsessed with them. Please, join in and rent a bike. BUT cycling in Copenhagen is not a novel form of sightseeing, it's a real means of commuting and as a tourist you need to respect that. Ride fast, never ever stop, only use the outside lane for passing (which you won’t do), and apologize constantly.
PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
Guys with Boom Boxes Attached to Their Bicycles
These guys cruise the streets with no evident purpose beyond blaring obnoxious music. And because they’re Danish, you won’t like their music.
Copenhagen, being the green city that it is, promotes the recycling of plastic and glass by putting quite a high deposit on the return of each bottle. Which is great! Except that it’s created an over-zealous load of bottle collectors who’ll snatch them out of your hands, even if it’s still half full. As far as evils wrought by global warming go, they're up their with dead baby polar bears and the Beijing smog.
The Little Mermaid
Copenhagen's major landmark is a severe let-down. Unless you're really into battling through busloads of ancient tourists to take a picture of a small shit statue of a mermaid, go eat some pork instead. Strøget
The Scandinavian Oxford Street. The spiritual home of shit jeans.
The world’s oldest amusement park is actually a really nice place to hang out. Unfortunately, every single tourist coming to Denmark already knows this, so it’s best to give the place a wide berth in summer unless your idea of a great trip is lines, crushes, and children.
The Red Light District
I'm sure I don't have to explain to you why sleeping with a hooker is a bad idea for everyone involved.
Cheap Party Bars
Sam's Bar, Billy Booze, and Den Glade Gris—who’d have thought places with such cool names would suck? Well they do. They’re the absolute worst of the worst.
What was once the landing spot for hooker-hungry sailors is now densely populated by scum-of-the-earth tourist guides showing fanny-pack foreigners the best of Denmark’s wide selection of strip clubs.
Pretty Much All of Amager
Known by Danes as “Shit Island,” Amager’s vast undeveloped areas are only an attraction if you’re hoping to turn up as the inspiration for a victim in the next series of The Killing.
The indoor market that combines New Nordic pretentiousness with the intimacy of a public swimming pool. Steer clear unless you really, really need Israeli gourmet olives.
TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
In Denmark, the service charge is always included in the price. This means waiters get paid a fair salary, and don’t rely on your spare change to survive the winter or anything. Also, if they ask you directly whether you want to add a tip to the bill, you can tell them to fuck off without having to feel bad. The same goes for cab drivers. If you do feel like the service has been otherworldly, an extra 10 to 15 percent will do just fine. As for bartenders and cafe workers, they’ll think you're weird if you try to tip them personally, so leave something in the tip jar if you’re so inclined.
"Please" is a bit tricky in that Danes don’t really have that word, because we're rude assholes. You can, however, add a “tak” (thank you) to the end of your request if you're feeling awkward.
As for insults, you might be met by a casual “Din fucking luder” if you offend the spray-tanned crowd. This eloquently translates to something like "you fucking slut."
“Kan jeg få en øl?” means "Can I get a beer?" Don’t be intimidated by the weird letters, though. The å sounds a bit like the oh in “oh ma gawd” and the ø is pronounced like a very long fart sound—you'll feel silly saying it, but trust us.
In case you need to give that special someone an extra little nod in the right direction, try shouting, “Kys mig, for fanden.” It translates to something like: "Kiss me, for fuck’s sake."
A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
Here's some music you might have to listen to in bars around town. It's probably best to get acclimatized so you don't get all sadface when you go out for the first time.
VICE CITY MAP
Well, there you go. When you get here, we'll be the ones shouting at you to get the fuck out of the bike lane.
Lots of love,