Copenhagen Street Food & Danish Dishes
Copenhagen is a beautiful and walkable city that hosts a vast number of incredible culinary options. From high-end Michelin Star restaurants to a blossoming Copenhagen street food scene, there are flavors for every person on nearly any budget. Although the weather isn’t always the most accommodating for a typical food truck, the Danes have come up with a brilliant solution.
This post was originally published on August 31, 2015. It was revised and updated with additional information on July 25, 2016.
Paper Island (PapirØen): Trangravsvej 14, 7/8, 1436 København K
Enter Paper Island (PapirØen). Once a storage facility for a paper company, these side-by-side buildings on the pier have been repurposed into a market housing around 32 Copenhagen street food vendors. Offering common eating areas indoors, diners can enjoy this food year-round. When weather permits, there is also a wonderful view of the water and the picturesque Nyhaven (New Harbor), which is pictured here in the background. When it’s cold, sit inside and find yourself some hygge (more than standard coziness) next to one of their fireplaces.
I was very excited to come across this listing of all 32 Paper Island vendors and headed here as soon as I could. There really is something for everyone with meat, vegetarian, local dishes and foreign culinary options. Upon entering, the first thing that will catch your eye is a large suspended disco cow covered with mirrors. Because, why not?
Handmade: In PapirØen, Right Aisle, Right Side
The national dish of Denmark is Smorrebrod, an open-faced sandwich on buttered rugbrød (dark rye). It is usually topped with a combination of cold protein such as fish, potatoes, sauce, vegetables and herbs. Going back to the mid-1800s, these sandwiches were packed and brought to work by all types of farmers, laborers and other workers. The butter or animal fat spread on both sides prior to adding toppings prevents the juices from getting into the bread and making it soggy.
Smorrebrod can be found at nearly every restaurant in Copenhagen but I was eager to try it here on Paper Island. I wanted the Danish street food version. At Handmade, they offer four to five different types each day. At their recommendation, I tried the crawfish in a remoulade with dill and asparagus, topped with shaved asparagus.
The asparagus was particularly intriguing, as this was a new preparation style for me. The buttered rugbrod was not at all soggy and made a nice base for the rich and sweet creaminess of the crawfish. The dill and asparagus provided light and fresh qualities and it served as a perfect appetizer for what was next. I was tempted to try the other options as they all looked great. They included a schnitzel option with an olive, salmon with lemon and dill and potatoes with remoulade and herbs.
If you would like to make smorrebrod on your own, some recipes can be found here.
Pølse Kompagniet: Paper Island, Front Row
Another Danish street food vendor on Paper Island is Pølse Kompagniet which serves up gourmet hotdogs. The Danish option I went with included a beef and lamb sausage, ketchup, mustard, remoulade, fried onions, raw onions and a cucumber salad. Small enough to enjoy along with something else, this complemented the smorrebrod nicely.
The sausage was very flavorful, albeit smaller than I hoped. The toppings and bun contributed a majority of the flavor, which was a little strange to me, but I enjoyed the hot dog. The toppings were reminiscent of my hot dog at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur in Iceland, the fried onions and remoulade standing out as flavorful toppings different from what is typical in the USA. The freshness and acid from the cucumber salad was also a nice touch. This hotdog is worth trying but I would venture to try a pork sausage when I’m able to return.
I think the small size of the sausage was a missed opportunity for additional flavor. They really needed to be closer to those that are advertised. Still, I think this food truck has potential.
Here’s a link to the complete Pølse Kompagniets menu.
Fisch Art Street Food: Paper Island, Back Right Corner
On my next trip to Paper Island, I had only one street food in mind. Although there are many great options, this one stood out to me and locals had commented this was a must-try. I knew ordering it would mean I could only try one dish, based on its size, but I didn’t care. It had to be done.
Fisch Art Street Food is recognizable in the back corner to the right with their large banner that proudly displays this monster of a burger. It’s called The Overload Surf & Turf Burger. An all-beef patty is topped with cheese, whiskey onions, king prawns, scallops, bacon, triple cream cheese sauce and sweet potato fries on a small homemade sourdough roll. Even opting for the fries on the side, this monster of a burger was a challenge to eat, but that was part of the fun! Nearly every person who walked by me just stared when they saw my plate.
The burger and scallops were both cooked about medium rare, which was perfect. Surf and turf together have always been one of my favorite flavors but add in some sweet whiskey onions, cheese, cream and bacon and I’m in heaven. The sweet potato fries were also some of the tastiest I’ve ever had. Savory, sweet and rich, this burger is an experience to enjoy. They offer slightly less filling versions of this burger and I would strongly recommend checking this place out. Regardless of what selection you make, it will be worth it. This might be the best Copenhagen street food I tasted.
Danish Hot Dog Stands: Look for them all over the city center!
The standard version of a Danish street food hot dog can be found in one of the many stands downtown. One big difference I enjoyed in this country is that you can order your hot dog wrapped in bacon! It’s then covered with ketchup, mustard, remoulade, raw onions, fried onions and pickled cucumbers. A definite must eat street food in Copenhagen.
If you’re a vegetarian, many stands have a vegetarian option or two as well. Each hot dog runs around $5-8 depending on the size you order. They were out of large sausages so this one pictured is a small. It wasn’t really that small, though.
Strøg Shawarma: Frederiksberggade 5, 1459 København K
Many of the Copenhagen street food shawarma options are great but I found myself returning to Strøg several times. Open late night and centrally located, this is an ideal spot when you’re hungry in the city center. They aren’t the cheapest option but their quality exceeds that of every other local shawarma spot I came across.
The volume of meat they have cooking at any given time is testament to the volume of customers they see each day. This is also different from some of their competitors as the meat is of higher quality and is generally cut right in front of you and placed on your sandwich. Other places may cook their meat in a similar way but the meat may appear to me a large chunk of meat instead of the many strips of meet shown here that are rotating. Other shawarma shops may also cut the meat when it’s done and leave it sitting on the grill where it dries out, or they may place it in a liquid, resulting in a loss of the crispiness from having been cut and immediately placed on your sandwich.
It’s clear that none of those mistakes are made here at Strøg. Their preparation style is truly the best way to enjoy a shawarma. Sliced fresh, available as a plate or in a pita, I couldn’t get enough of this place. The lamb and beef combination as well as the chicken were all fantastic.
The red chili oil is also a must try. The savory flavor of the meat, creaminess of the tzaziki and fresh tomatoes and lettuce are all wonderfully brought together with a little bit of this spice. Be careful, though. It doesn’t taste as hot at first but it continues to build as the meal goes on and can pack a powerful punch. I don’t know what they do to the chili oil here but it’s wonderful.
Hija de Sanchez: Torvehallerne, Frederiksborggade 21 & Slagterboderne 8
What happens when you take a chef with an affinity for traditional Mexican street food and allow them to hone their skills under the famous Rene Redzepi of Noma for a few years? You get some incredible taco shops!
Taco standouts here include traditional pork carnitas, huevo ranchero with a fried egg (!), fried fish and the “El Paul” with crispy fish skin. Chef Rosio Sanchez sited a lack of quality, traditional Mexican food in Copenhagen as one of her primary reasons for opening Hija de Sanchez. With her resume and taco lineup, I will venture to guess these taco stands are done right.
Though I was able to find incredible food while traveling around Europe, the thing I missed the most from home were good tacos. I sadly missed the opening of Chef Rosio Sanchez’s Hija de Sanchez by a matter of days but can’t wait to give them a try next time.
Belgian Waffles: Vimmelskaftet 39, 1161 København K, Denmark
Although I generally prefer savory to sweet, who can say no to a Belgian waffles covered with cinnamon and ice cream? Not far from Strøg Shawarma, and a few doors down from the Lego Store (another must see!) is a great little Copenhagen street food dessert spot pictured here.
Although the menu doesn’t list the option to add ice cream instead of whipped cream, they are happy to do it for you for an extra dollar or so. It was a nice sweet treat on a rather warm day in June. Highly recommended for anyone interested in satiating their sweet tooth.
Copenhagen Street Food Map
Read More: Street Food in Europe & Around the World
Street Beers & Drinking in the Streets
Be aware that it’s also legal to drink alcohol in the streets of Copenhagen. This makes it possible to enjoy some incredible street food alongside some of your favorite drinks, without having to pay too much for them. My friends and I took full advantage of this option that is not available in many other countries.
Read More: What is Danish Hygge?
Will Copenhagen Break the Bank?
Nearly every meal I enjoyed was in the $6-12 range and only maybe three were closer to $20. Six-packs of local brew run around $9-10. These aren’t the cheapest prices but they aren’t the most expensive, either. For anyone who is afraid Copenhagen will break the bank, I would encourage them to check out some of these affordable Copenhagen street food and drink options, as well as one of the city’s many amazing hostels.
Copenhagen Downtown Hostel is my favorite place to stay and they serve free coffee – and even free shots of vodka if you are feeling brave – to your door every morning. During my time in Copenhagen I was even able to get into Tivoli Gardens and see Elton John one night and then Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett another night for around $20 each. Deals can be found in Copenhagen and it is a city well worth the time and money to do so. It remains one of my favorite places to which I’ve visited. The Copenhagen street food is also difficult to rival. I’ll continue to search throughout Europe to see who can rival them. I highly recommend considering Denmark as a travel destination.
Skål! (Cheers in Danish)
What’s your favorite Copenhagen street food? Join the discussion below!