Although Copenhagen's pretty small compared to some other European capitals, its foodie reputation is outsized. Most of that is down to one place – Noma, 'New Nordic' pioneer and possibly the most famous restaurant in the world. If you want to go, for dinner at least, you should have registered interest in a booking months ago. Same goes for the genre-pushing Alchemist in Refshaløen, although for a less-trying taster of the type of cooking that put this city on the map you could try big hitters like Amass, Geranium or Barr (a Noma sibling). So here's our more casual list of the city's best restaurants – they're no less loved, just a little easier to access…
Expect queues down the pavement for this three-level izakaya and cocktail bar, ramen joint and basement speakeasy. The creamy, rich noodle soup is heavenly, and is served in a high-ceilinged, dimly lit dining space that'll make your broth-gulping sounds feel almost chic. You’d expect nothing less from the people behind Slurp, Copenhagen's go-to for quick ramen. There's sake and natural wine aplenty, plus ultra-memorable ferments from Kala's Kimchi.
Bag Elefanterne 13-15, Carlsberg Byen
From the team behind Noma – maybe you've heard of it? – comes this downtown burger joint that undoubtedly serves the best patties in town. Veggies are well catered for with the fermented quinoa tempeh burger, while everyone else must order the outrageously delicious cheeseburger with beef garum, onion, burger sauce and nothing else. Their sides are limited in choice – like any decent burger bar – but incredibly satisfying, and include beef-fat fries, pickles and ice cream for pud.
Strandgade 108, Christianshavn
Set on a little hill in a buttercup-yellow mansion full of brightly coloured art and twinkling lights, Lola makes diners feel like they’ve been invited to a private dinner party at an eccentric collector’s house. The food is as cheerful as the decor, gleefully technicolour and spiritedly piquant – pulled meat, marinated beans, pineapple salsas, that sort of thing. Warm, slow-cooked Indian classics offset all that zippy heat, like the fall-off-the-bone butter chicken or spiced aubergine. Everything comes in small enough portions to pile onto taco-like flatbreads that come straight from the oven. Must-order cocktail: Habanero Old Fashioned.
Christianshavns Voldgade 54, Christianshavn
The Somali owners of this pan-African booze-free favourite are the best. You'll find them joking around with besotted customers, who return time and time again for the wonderful food and fun atmosphere (look out for live music most nights). Peanut stews, jollof rice and chakalaka (tomato-bean relish) are inspired by countries all over the African continent – from Burundi and Kenya to Somalia and Ghana. This is the spot for reliably filling, nutritious dishes made with ingredients you won't find in most Copenhagen kitchens. Hydrate with sparkling grape fizz or baobab and pineapple juice.
Blågårdsgade 2A, Nørrebro
Copenhagen is chocka with breathlessly praised big names that brandish year-long waiting lists, but this Japanese restaurant is one of the few that actually feels worth the hype. It’s where those looking for that 'wow' meal go after waiting months and months for a booking in a tiny eight-seater space. It's proper Jiro Dreams of Sushi vibes, with to-die-for nigiri and mind-bending, experimental dishes you have to see to believe.
Sandkaj 39, Nordhavn
An absolute classic. There are so many reasons why this restaurant is enduringly popular: faultless service from straight-talking waiters, wonderful people-watching from the wobbly tables outside, seafood towers served with fresh baguette and yellow butter, and those irresistible gruyere-slathered croques. Affordable opulence that embraces tradition – a welcome respite from New Nordic's seasonal fetishism.
Larsbjørnsstræde 12, Indre By
On lively Blågårds Plads square – often the site of outdoor gigs, peaceful demonstrations and flea markets – you'll find this Northern Thai joint with a largely pescatarian menu. Softshell crab tempura is perfectly crunchy, served alongside the best green and red curries in the city. Save room for the tuna nam tok salad and the unusual banana leaf and fish khanom chin nam ja (red curry). The sunny decor, tidy natural wine selection and lovely staff all add to the appeal.
Blågårds Plads 10, Nørrebro
Offbeat and brilliant, the dining space here evokes a chic Danish designer's apartment, with a rarefied menu to match. Brunch is a Japanese-inspired spread, while hearty bouillabaisse (Provençal fish stew) and reliably moreish ragu show up on the dinner menu. Settle into a cosy Thonet rattan chair and try not to pant over the gorgeous Danish midcentury furniture and artfully mismatched glassware and ceramics. Its sister bar, Ved Stranden 10, is worth a visit for its laidback elegance, and the newer baby sister, Lille Blå, serves wine and bar snacks, and is five minutes by bike or metro.
Admiralgade 26, Indre By
Hija de Sanchez Cantina
The now-famous Rosio Sanchez has one of the most impressive cheffing CVs in the world, and after a stint at NOMA launched her own Mexican-Scandi empire in Copenhagen, made up of restaurants that are big on local produce and experimentation. In the fast-developing harbourside district of Nordhavn, her taqueria and dining room does a roaring trade in tostadas, tacos and ceviches, all served on glorious heirloom corn tortillas. Don't skip the agave and mezcal cocktails.
Located in a beautiful conservatory in the King's Garden, this darling café is worth visiting for two very good reasons: the classic smørrebrød (open sandwiches) and homemade snaps (Danish schnapps). After a visit to the glorious David Collection across the street (it's Scandinavia's largest Islamic art collection), grab a seat on Orangeriet's courtyard and fill up on mackerel, herring, shrimp, salmon and other fresh delights, all served on classic Danish rye bread – and perfectly paired with an ice cold Tuborg Classic and dill-flavoured snaps.
Kronprinsessegade 13, Indre By
This is a wonderful place to stop by for a simple, elegant dinner near the lakes and Rosenborg Palace. Just 275DKK (around €40) will bag you a splendid five-course tasting menu – almost unheard of in the Danish capital. Housed in a former butchery, the unassuming space belies the brilliance going on in the kitchen. Retro classics get a trendy revamp with produce from the restaurant's farm, like prawn cocktail, mushroom toast and the odd bit of organic game. Well-sourced natural wine is what you'll be drinking.
Nansensgade 30, Indre By