Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Copenhagen, Denmark, somehow seems only to have become more thoroughly itself. With restrictions long gone (they were lifted in January) and summer at hand, the city’s outdoor spaces, designed to extract every bit of joy from summer, have multiplied. There are more harbour side spots to sip wine and swim, while devotion to environmental sustainability has generated an entirely new hangout for the green-minded. The Danish fetish for buttery pastries has transformed itself into a veritable eruption of new bakeries, while the broader dining scene — already world class — has become bigger and better. And in a city where bikes already constitute the primary method of transportation, Copenhagen is preparing for its cycling apotheosis: The Tour de France starts here on July 1.
For the first time in history, the Tour de France’s Grand Depart begins in Denmark, with a 13-kilometre time trial through the streets of Copenhagen before moving on, during Days 2 and 3, to stages that start farther west in Roskilde and Vejle. On June 29, the competing teams will be presented first on a ride through the city and then in a special event, complete with live music, at Tivoli Gardens. The first day’s race ends at Copenhagen’s City Hall, but a big cycling-themed party will take place in Fælledparkenon Days 1 and 2, with live music, bike games for kids and large screens for watching. On the morning of July 2, the route will open for cyclists of all skill levels to bike a “Tour de Copenhagen.”
But that will hardly be the only celebration. Danes love a festival, and they are greeting a summer calendar that is once again full of them with palpable relief. This year, all the old favourites — from the heavy metal paroxysms of Copenhell and smooth vibes of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival to the gastronomic excesses of Copenhagen Cooking to the highbrow discussions of the Louisiana Literature Festival — are back, and have been complemented with new additions like Syd for Solen. But the biggest of all — more rite of passage than mere festival — is Roskilde, which takes place from June 29 to July 2. This year it will attempt to channel all that pent-up energy with a postponed 50th-anniversary celebration and the largest roster — 132 acts, including Megan Thee Stallion, Dua Lipa, Post Malone and the Strokes — in its history.
What to See
Several of Copenhagen’s cultural institutions used the pandemic to finish long-planned improvements. The Danish Design Museum, which for a while was basically a warren of rooms filled with chairs, reopens on Sunday after a two-year restoration, with an exhibition on how design can address global challenges like climate change and pandemics. And one of Europe’s finest collections of 19th-century French art got a new showcase earlier this year when Ordrupgaard debuted its new wing, underground but open to the sky, on the edge of the city.
Where to Eat
Spurred perhaps by two long lockdowns in which takeaway coffee and cake were among the few pleasures left, the city that invented the Danish (although here they’re called wienerbrød) has entered a new Golden Age of pastry. There’s now an independent, chef-led bakery in almost every neighbourhood, and often long lines stretching down the sidewalk. Some of the newest to try: Albatross & Venner, Benji and Ard — and that’s not counting Apotek 57 and Studio X, two cafes attached to different design shops, where they also do some mouthwatering in-house baking.
The rest of the dining scene is thriving as well — maybe a little too much. For all its acclaim as an international dining destination, pre-pandemic Copenhagen still had a hard time convincing its locals that restaurants were for more than just birthday celebrations and weekend date nights. But since restrictions lifted in January, they seem to have gotten the message; suddenly places at all levels of the food chain are fully booked most nights.
Luckily, there’s a slew of new places to meet the demand. Chef Christian Puglisi’s groundbreaking Relæ and his natural wine bar, Manfreds, both closed during the pandemic, but from those losses, three exceptional spots have risen. At Koan, housed in what was Relæ, chef Kristian Baumann injects some of the flavours and techniques of his Korean heritage into his precision-cut Nordic cuisine, for dishes like a plump, peppery mandu with fjord shrimp or a baked Jerusalem artichoke served with a luscious langoustine cream. Across the street, in the cramped, convivial space that was Manfreds, its former chef, Mathias Silberbauer, serves joie de vivre at Silberbauers Bistro, along with relaxed Provençal cooking with an emphasis on bracingly fresh seafood and soul-satisfying comforts like onion tart and white bean stew. — NYT