European Travel: A Philadelphian’s Guide to Copenhagen

Go for the reservation you landed at Noma before it closes. Stay to choose your own adventure.

noma copenhagen denmark european travel vacation

The dining room at Noma in Copenhagen / Photograph by Ditte Isager

For some of us, a visit to Copenhagen is linked with a reservation at Noma, rated World’s Best Restaurant five times. Using hyperlocal ingredients, including ones from its own garden, Noma presents tasting menus of 15-plus dishes that stand as culinary works of art — celery root carved like lamb shawarma, cardamom-saffron caramels shaped like candles, and reindeer brain jelly served inside the animal’s skull. (YOLO!)

When I snagged a table last summer, I told Christian, my husband, “This is like seeing the pyramids of Giza! We’re going.” We had nothing booked — only this $900 dinner reservation. But that’s the thing about Noma: Scoring a table there dictates your trip. Reservations are coveted, expensive (the optional wine pairing is an extra $250 per person), and difficult to get — no doubt more so now that Noma is ceasing full-service dining at the end of 2024 to become a test kitchen.

But Noma isn’t the only reason to visit Denmark’s capital. Check into the Socialist (rooms from $293), a 31-room boutique hotel outfitted with a rooftop terrace. Strøget, the main shopping drag, is around the corner, and Nyhavn, the 17th-century canal district, is less than a 10-minute walk.

After taking a Stromma canal tour, embark on your choose-your-own adventure. Those young at heart shouldn’t miss Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park said to have inspired Disneyland.

For history buffs, visit the National Museum of Denmark, where you’ll find treasures from the Viking Age — including the world’s largest Viking ship, part  of “The Raid,” an exhibit that runs through the end  of the year.

In the city center, tour Christiansborg Palace — seat of the Danish Parliament and Supreme Court — and Amalienborg Palace, the royal family’s official residence. The cherry on top: the Rosenborg, a 400-year-old castle safeguarding the crown jewels and surrounded by Copenhagen’s oldest park.

Traveling with kiddos? Try to find Thomas Dambo’s Six Forgotten Giants. The large wooden sculptures are scattered across the ’burbs and can be accessed by bike or car. For an adults-only jaunt, wander through Freetown Christiania, a self-governing commune where cars and photography are banned and vibes are “high,” if you catch our drift.

On non-Noma days, eat like a local at Torvehallerne for pay-as-you-go Nordic fare. Bobo Food Studio, inside the Socialist hotel, offers a tasting menu curated by a Noma alum. Catch a nightcap at Ruby, a no-fuss bar in an 18th-century townhouse, and stock up on spandauer at Hart Bageri. As for our Noma visit? We ate every bite of tempura-fried marigolds, chewed honeycomb wax like gum, fan-girled over Dua Lipa dining next to us. And unlike The Menu diners, we lived to tell the tale.

Getting there
While there are no direct flights from Philly to Copenhagen, most major airlines offer routes with a short layover. For nonstop, fly Scandinavian Airlines out of Newark.

>> Click here for more European vacations from Philadelphia.

Published as “European Vacation: Copenhagen, Denmark” in the March 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.