Last month, we spent a week in Copenhagen (København), Denmark! I will be sharing our experiences in a series of six posts with recipes inspired by our travels. Today, I am covering Nyhavn, Christiansborg Slot (Christiansborg Palace), and Strøget along with a recipe for Tebirkes (Danish Poppyseed Pastries).
Copenhagen wasn’t originally on my shortlist, but it definitely should have been! Back in October, I did a search for our specific spring break dates and found relatively inexpensive flights to Copenhagen from LAX. This was my first big trip alone with the kids (unfortunately Chad had to work) and the city was so easy to navigate with lots for us to do and plenty of delicious food to try.
We left Los Angeles at 5:25 pm on a Saturday, had a nearly 11 hour flight to LHR, then another 1 1/2 hr flight to Copenhagen with an arrival at 5:25 pm on Sunday. After we landed and made it through customs, it was easy to take the less than 15 minute train ride straight from the airport to København H (Copenhagen Central Station). We picked up a Copenhagen Card at the airport (one adult can take up to two children under the age of 10 for free, so we only needed one card for the three of us), but otherwise the trip would require a ticket that covers three zones.
This was my first experience arriving in Europe in the evening (all of my previous trips have involved leaving from the east coast of the US with an early morning arrival) and it was so nice to only have to grab a quick bite to eat before settling into our apartment for the night after such a long day of travel. The kids nearly slept through the night immediately, but I did have a bit more difficulty adjusting to the 9 hour time difference. Overall, we still had such a wonderful time and fit so much into our week!
One of the most recognizable sections of Copenhagen with its rows of colorful buildings is Nyhavn. This roughly 437 yard (400 m) long canal was built between 1670 and 1673 by Swedish prisoners to connect the old city center to the sea. Once home to less than reputable inns, brothels, and other establishments frequented by sailors and artists, the area was revitalized in the 1960s and is now filled with restaurants, cafés, bars, and historic boats. Hans Christian Andersen even lived here (in no. 20- where he wrote his first fairytale, The Tinder Box; 67; and 18).
We visited Nyhavn twice during our trip- on our first full day via a boat tour and a couple of days later while walking. It was perfect to be able to see the canal from both viewpoints.
Our first full day in Copenhagen was also the warmest. Temperatures reached into the 50s˚F (10s˚C) with sunny skies, so we took advantage and made sure to fit in a canal tour. There are dozens of options available. We used the Copenhagen Card to take an hour long Canal Tours Copenhagen cruise with a departure from Ved Stranden 26. The boat was covered with heaters under the seats and the option to open windows during this still slightly chilly day.
The cruise included a guide speaking in Danish and English (some departures also have a third option of German, Italian, French or Spanish). It was a great introduction to the city and took us by many sites that we otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to see. The tour begins at Ved Stranden and makes its way into the harbor. Along the route, we were able to see Nyhavn, Royal Danish Playhouse (Skuespilhuset), The Opera House (Operaen), Black Diamond Library (Den Sorte Diamant), Amalienborg Palace, Kastellet, The Little Mermaid (Den lille Havfrue), The Sixtus Battery, Church of Our Savior (Vor Frelsers Kirke), National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet), and Christiansborg Palace.
Broens Gadekøkken (The Bridge Street Market)
In 2016, Inderhavnsbroen (The Inner Harbor Bridge) was completed after much delay and connected Nyhavn to Christianshavn. We walked the 180 meters (197 yards) across the harbor during our second visit to Nyhavn to eat lunch at the outdoor market, Broens Gadekøkken (The Bridge Street Market), located just on the other side of the bridge.
I often seek out food halls while traveling and there was definitely no shortage of unique offerings in Copenhagen. With the children in tow, we can all choose exactly what we want to eat (which this trip usually involved Danish food for me and pizza/pasta for Evan and Claire- apparently we need to take them to Italy soon).
Broens Gadekøkken was created as a collaboration between the owners of Copenhagen Street Food and noma. This market features food and drinks from around the world. Current stalls include Grød, Kejser Sausage, The Pizza Bro, Mak-Cik by Ibu, California Kitchen, Palægade, Gasoline Grill, Dhaba, Will at the Bridge, Haddock’s, Barabba, Isoteket, Banana, and Sweet Treat.
Kejser Sausage features hot dogs and chocolate milk. I went with The Usual (pork sausage with seasonal herbs in a brioche roll with relish and lime pickled red onions) and a Chokolademælk (chocolate milk- Claire was a huge fan). The other option is The Unusual which includes a beef sausage.
The kids split a sausage from Kejser Sausage, then shared Ravioli from Barabba while I enjoyed the Tiramisu.
After lunch at Broens Gadekøkken, we walked along Havnepromenade to make our way to the Lego Store on Strøget (for the second time during our trip). We came across some trampolines built into the sidewalk along the waterfront across the street from Copenhagen Strand. Evan thought this was the coolest thing ever.
One of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, Strøget runs 1.1 kilometers (0.7 miles) long from Kongens Nytorv to Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square) in Copenhagen’s Indre By. It became car-free in 1962 (for a trial period, then permanently in 1964) along with a collection of surrounding side streets. There are a variety of shops here from local to international, souvenir shops to luxurious brands. Some of the more popular stops include Royal Copenhagen, DØP (Den Økologiske Pølsemand), Disney, Hotel Chocolat, Søstrene Grene, Karrusella, Lego Store, H&M, Conditori La Glace, Mads Nørgaard, and more.
Our first stop on Strøget was ILLUM at Østergade 52. This large department store has a collection of restaurants on the top floor with sweeping views of the surrounding rooftops and street below.
I was in dire need of some caffeine to help combat the jet lag following our boat tour. Luckily, ILLUM’s rooftop has an Original Coffee open Sun-Wed 10-20 and Thurs-Sat 10-22 (there are additional locations throughout Copenhagen). Other rooftop restaurants and shops include Palæo (paleo), Løgismose (gourmet supermarket with wine and delicacies), After Work Drinks, Skagen Fiskerestaurant (fresh fish and seafood), Bar Jacobsen, Rossopomodoro (Neapolitan kitchen and pizzeria), and Copenhagen Diner ‘n Steak.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time during our trip to visit Legoland and the impressive LEGO House in Billund. The kids were still quite happy to get their lego fix at the Lego Store at Vimmelskaftet 37. It was definitely a favorite for them and we ended up stopping by twice!
This store isn’t the largest we have been to, but we enjoyed many of the unique displays such as replicas of Nyhavn, Strøget, R2D2, C-3PO, logos over the years, and more. They even had a Hans Christian Andersen set exclusive to Denmark. The kids especially loved taking some time to just relax and build legos between all the shopping and sightseeing.
Peter Beier Chokolade
Delicious chocolate can be found throughout Copenhagen and Peter Beier Chokolade on Skoubogade 1 is no exception. We visited the week before Easter, so we were able to sample a variety of their chocolate eggs (Vagtelæg/Quail Eggs). The caramel was my favorite. They have locations throughout Copenhagen, Denmark, and in Sweden. A classic brunch and tapas experience is available at their stores in Axel Towers, Store Kongensgade, and Østerbro.
Before walking to the Nationalmuseet (National Museum- more on that later!), we had pastries at the Strøget Lagkagehuset location at Frederiksberggade 21. There are locations throughout Denmark (and now even in New York City under the name Ole & Steen).
We tried the Direktorsnegl (chocolate glazed cinnamon roll), Træstammer (Tree Logs), Varm Chokolade (hot chocolate for Claire- definitely fitting for the weather outside), and of course a Pain au Chocolat (his go-to) for Evan.
We walked by another Lagkagehuset stand while going to our gate at the airport. Evan of course had to grab one last Pain au Chocolat before boarding the plane. I finally decided to try their Tebirkes (Poppyseed Rolls) after seeing them at bakeries all week. This ended up being my favorite pastry of the trip. Unfortunately, I never took a photo. The incredibly flaky layers from the laminated dough surround a sweetened buttery marzipan filling and is topped with a layer of poppyseeds (Lagkagehuset covered theirs with white poppyseeds, but I also saw others with the blue). If I had known how good Tebirkes actually were, I would not have waited until our very last moments in Copenhagen to try one!
Christiansborg Slot (Christiansborg Palace)
The last stop on our last day was a visit to Christiansborg Slot (Christiansborg Palace). I really wish we had done this earlier, because we didn’t give ourselves nearly enough time to see the palace in its entirety. It is located at Prins Jørgens Gård 1 in Indre By on the islet of Slotsholmen and open to the pubic daily 10:00 (9 am April to October)-17:00 (closed on Mondays October-April). Check the hours before your visit as the Reception Rooms are occasionally closed for events.
The current building is actually the fifth on this site. The original fortress was founded in 1167 by Bishop Absalon, but demolished following King Valdemar Atterdag’s defeat in 1370. The second castle, Copenhagen Castle, was built at the end of the 14th century over the ruins. It was demolished by King Christian VI in 1731 to make room for a more elaborate palace which burned down in 1794. The fourth castle (second palace) was completed in 1828, but also burned down in 1884. Construction on the present-day palace began in 1907.
While large portions of the palace are still in use by the Danish monarchy (it was their main residence until the fire in 1794), Christiansborg Slot is also the seat of the Danish Parliament, Prime Minister’s office, and Supreme Court of Denmark making it the only building in the world to hold to all three branches of the country’s government.
After stopping by the ticket office (we used our Copenhagen Card, otherwise a combined ticket is currently 160 DKK with children free or you can pay to see each section individually), we put on these blue shoe covers to protect the floors of the palace. For additional protection, large bags/items and strollers are also not allowed through the rooms, but there is a cloakroom with lockers available.
Our self-guided tour of the Royal Reception Rooms included walking through the Queen’s Staircase, Alexander Hall, Flora Danica Cabinet, Princess Chamber, Queen’s Library, Abildgaard Room, Dining Hall (photo above), Green Room, Swedish Gallery, Great Hall, Velvet Room, Corner Room, King Frederik VI’s Room, Fredensborg Room, King Christian IX’s Room, Throne Room (photo below), Tower Room, King’s Staircase, and Hall of the Giants.
It was incredible to see the elaborately decorated rooms and such attention to detail. I especially loved all the different chandeliers.
The Queen’s tapestries in the Great Hall are another highlight not photographed. Designed by Bjørn Nørgaard, these 17 tapestries were a gift for Queen Margrethe II’s 50th birthday in 1990 and feature over 1000 years of Danish history.
We only had time to see the Royal Reception Rooms, but other areas available for touring include the Ruins (the remains of Bishop Absalon’s original castle), Royal Stables, Royal Kitchen, and Tårnet (the Tower- Copenhagen’s highest tower). Guided tours take place once a day for The Royal Reception Rooms and on Saturdays for the Ruins and Royal Stable. Plan about 2-3 hours to see everything.
Tebirkes (Danish Poppyseed Pastries)
After trying the memorable Tebirkes at Lagkagehuset, I immediately wanted to recreate them at home! Also known as Københavnerbirkes, the Tebirkes are formed by folding a soft and smooth dough over many times with butter, optionally filling with a Remonce (a buttery Danish pastry filling), and topping with lots of poppyseeds before baking until golden and flaky.
I have very little experience with laminating dough and struggled a bit in forming the Tebirkes. I tried a few different recipes before finally settling on one that involves plenty of rise times and folding over many hours. During my research, I came across so many ways of making these delicious pastries.
To make the Tebirkes for later, the formed and filled pastries can be frozen (in a single layer until solid, then transferred to a freezer safe bag) for up to a month in advance. Before baking, arrange the frozen Tebirkes in a single layer about 2 inches apart, cover, and refrigerate for one day. Bring to room temperature for another 3 hours before baking.
The Tebirkes I tried at Lagkagehuset were covered with white poppyseeds, but I have also seen them with blue. For mine, I alternated with both. Want to try a different shape? Twist the dough to make Frøsnapper.
Tebirkes (Danish Poppyseed Pastries) Recipe
Adapted from Pilens Køkken
Tebirkes (Danish Poppyseed Pastries)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2/3 cup lukewarm water 105-115˚F
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter chilled
- 3 1/2 ounces marzipan grated
- 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter softened
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Poppyseeds blue or white
To make the dough:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough blade or a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water. Allow to sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.
- Mix in the flour, egg, sugar, and salt until a smooth dough comes together. If too sticky, add a little more flour. If too dry, add a little more water. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3 hours.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the rested dough into a large square. Thinly slice the chilled butter and arrange in a layer at a 45˚ angle of the corners to make a diamond inside the square. Fold in the corners of the dough towards the center and seal to enclose the butter layer.
- Being careful to not crack the dough and expose the butter, roll the dough into a rectangle about 7x23 inches. Fold 1/3rd of the dough inward towards the center followed by the other side to create three layers. Cover in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the dough out again and fold inwards again, then refrigerate another 30 minutes. Repeat the process one more time for a total of three times.
To make the filling:
- In a medium bowl, mix together the grated marzipan and butter. Fold in the sugar, vanilla sugar, and flour until smooth.
To form the Tebirkes:
- Line two baking sheets with parchment or lightly grease.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the laminated dough into a rectangle about 8x25 inches.
- Spread the marzipan filling down the center third of the dough. Fold each side inward over the filling to create about 1 1/2 inches of overlap.
- Cut the filled pastry crosswise into 2 inch wide pieces and arrange about 2 inches apart, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheets. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
To bake the Tebirkes:
- After refrigerating, allow the Tebirkes to rest at room temperature for another 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 425˚F.
- Beat together the egg and milk. Brush over the tops of the Tebirkes and cover completely with poppyseeds.
- Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 400˚F and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden.