During the coronavirus pandemic, Copenhagen, Denmark somehow seems to have come more fully into itself. With restrictions long gone (they were lifted in January) and summer at hand, the city’s outdoor spaces, designed to make the most of summer, have mushroomed.
There are more places by the harbor to sip wine and swim, while the devotion to environmental sustainability has generated a whole new hangout for eco-friendly people. Denmark’s fetish for buttery pastries has blossomed into a veritable eruption of new bakeries, while the broader – already world-class – food scene has gotten bigger and better.
And in a city where the bike is already the main means of transport, Copenhagen is preparing for its cycling apotheosis: the Tour de France started here yesterday.
What is happening
For the first time in history, the Grand Départ of the Tour de France begins in Denmark, with a 13 km time trial in the streets of Copenhagen before moving on, on Days 2 and 3, to stages which go further west, to Roskilde and Vejle.
On Wednesday, the competing teams were first showcased on a ride through the city, then at a special event, complete with live music, at Tivoli Gardens. The first day’s race ended at Copenhagen City Hall, but a big cycling-themed party will take place on Days 1 and 2 of Fælledparkenon, with live music, bike games for kids and large screens to watch. Today the route will be open to cyclists of all levels to take a “Tour of Copenhagen”.
But this will not be the only celebration. The Danes love festivals, and they welcome a summer calendar that is again full of them. This year, all the great classics – from the heavy metal paroxysms of Copenhell to the mellow vibes of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, to the gastronomic excesses of Copenhagen Cooking and the scholarly discussions of the Louisiana Literature Festival – are back and have been complemented by new new additions like Syd for Solen.
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But most important of all – more of a rite of passage than just a festival – is Roskilde, which takes place from Wednesday until today. This year, it will try to channel all that pent-up energy with a postponed 50th anniversary celebration and the biggest roster — 132 acts, including Megan Thee Stallion, Dua Lipa, Post Malone and the Strokes — in its history.
What to see
Several cultural institutions in Copenhagen have taken advantage of the pandemic to complete long-planned improvements. The Danish Design Museum, which for a time was essentially a maze of rooms filled with chairs, reopens tomorrow after a two-year restoration – with an exhibition on how design can meet global challenges such as change climate and pandemics.
And one of Europe’s finest collections of 19th-century French art was put on display earlier this year when Ordrupgaard inaugurated its new wing, underground but open to the sky, on the outskirts of the city. But perhaps the most relevant renewal is the Freedom Museum. Formerly called the Danish Resistance Museum, it was destroyed by arson in 2013 and completely rebuilt from scratch.
Its interactive exploration of how Germany’s largely unfettered takeover of Denmark in 1940 gradually morphed into active resistance that sabotaged German weapons and assembled a fleet of volunteer fishing boats to put Jews the country safe, is a particularly poignant lesson these days.
Where to eat
Prompted perhaps by two long lockdowns in which takeaway coffee and cakes were among the few remaining pleasures, the city that invented the danes (although here they are called wienerbrød) has entered a new age of pastry gold.
There is now a chef-run independent bakery in almost every neighborhood, and often long lines stretch out onto the sidewalk. Some of the newer ones to try: Albatross & Venner, Benji and Ard – not to mention Apotek 57 and Studio X, two cafés attached to different design shops, where they also prepare delicious homemade pastries.
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The rest of the culinary scene is also booming – maybe a bit too much. For all its fame as an international foodie destination, pre-pandemic Copenhagen still struggled to convince locals that restaurants were serving more than just birthday parties and weekend nights.
But since the restrictions were lifted in January, they seem to have gotten the message; suddenly places at all levels of the food chain are full most nights. Luckily, there are plenty of new places to keep up with demand.
Chef Christian Puglisi’s groundbreaking Relæ and his natural wine bar, Manfreds, both closed during the pandemic, but from those losses three exceptional places have emerged. At Koan, housed in what was once Relæ, chef Kristian Baumann injects some of the flavors and techniques of his Korean heritage into his precision Nordic cooking, for dishes like plump, peppery mandu with fjord prawns or Jerusalem artichoke. baked in the oven served with a creamy langoustine cream.
Across the street, in the tight, friendly space that was Manfreds, its former chef, Mathias Silberbauer, serves up joie de vivre at Silberbauers Bistro, as well as casual Provençal cuisine with an emphasis on comforting fresh seafood like onion pie and white bean stew.
After a residency at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, chef Jonathan Tam returns to Copenhagen and opens Jatak, an intimate gem of a restaurant designed by his wife, Sara Frilund, where he serves fine dishes. These include delicate curves of raw brill paired with sweet steamed pumpkin; and slices of endive whose crunchy bitterness is both spiced up and softened by a homemade sesame sauce.
The dishes are a deeply personal reflection of Tam’s Cantonese origin. New restaurant districts are also emerging. Nestled in a forest postage stamp on the southwestern edge of the city, Banegården was once home to Copenhagen’s railway works.
But the half-timbered buildings have now been repurposed by green food businesses, including a farm shop, a locavore restaurant and, yes, a bakery – one with great croissants and a commitment to sustainability so serious that there are no disposable cups: You can only get coffee to go through a deposit system for thermos-type cups.
But perhaps the most exciting transformation is the stretch along the southern end of the city’s lakes. At Propaganda, Youra Kim’s Korean fried chicken is already iconic. And at Brasserie Prins, chef Dave Harrison prepares old-fashioned French dishes.
This article first appeared on The New York Times and has been republished with permission. Read the original article here.