What’s the deal with Vesterbro?
There’s little evidence today of the seedy nightlife that once gave Vesterbro such a sordid reputation. As the drug dealers and prostitutes moved out, students, artists and other creatives moved in, turning this formerly industrial district into Copenhagen’s new epicentre of cool. These days, dive bars and tattoo parlours sit happily next to offbeat boutiques and charming courtyard restaurants, while abandoned warehouse spaces have been converted into huge studio and startup complexes.
The vibe is laid back yet sophisticated; above all, diversity reigns supreme – you’re as likely to encounter heavily pierced rock’n’rollers as you are young families or MacBook-toting yopros. The sheer range of cultures contained within Vesterbro gives the neighbourhood its allure, bustle and vibrant array of shops, bars, galleries, cafés and restaurants. Whatever you’re after, you’ll find someone doing it – and doing it well – in this part of town.
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Photograph: Martin Heiberg
It may be a Copenhagen cliché, but deservedly so. Don’t miss the rickety wooden rollercoaster at Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest theme park. You’ll also find a whole host of other thrilling rides and traditional games, plus live theatre and a beautiful Japanese garden. The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum next door is also worth going to for its rooftop views and room dedicated to Degas’s bronze ballerinas.
The Fotografisk Centre, a former bottling plant in the Meatpacking District, focuses on contemporary Nordic photography, while V1 has an ever-changing programme of thought-provoking international exhibitions. Head to Vess for boundary-pushing multimedia art.
Hide from the rain
Shop-hopping is an excellent way to escape the unpredictable Danish weather. Danish design fans are well served by a wander along Istedgade, the main shopping street, and if you do pick up some new threads, wear them to a show at Vega, the coolest gig venue in town.
Soak up the sun
When the sun does shine, the Danes love to be outdoors; both the long, leafy Sønder Boulevard and calm, impossible-to-spell Skyedebanehaven make for ideal picnic spots.
Cofoco. Photograph: Chris Tonneson
The old industrial warehouses of the Meatpacking District have been transformed into a haven for foodies, with all manner of inventive bars and restaurants now pulling in gourmet travellers. Hip brewpub Warpigs, the seafood at Kødbyens Fiskebar, and KUL’s quirky, ultra-modern fusion food are three good reasons why.
Lighter grub is available at both ØL & BRØD, who specialise in smørrebrød – the traditional Scandinavian open sandwich – and Bodil, a bright, down-to-earth restaurant that’s light on the wallet, too. Cofoco’s simple, elegant sharing plates showcasing the finest local produce offer a classier dinner option, as does the good-value family menu at its French sister restaurant Les Trois Cochons. But for the true Vesterbro vibe, head to Ramen To Bíiru for tip-top ramen and local craft beer.
The Danes love their beer, but while Carlsberg ruled for decades – their old brewery, at Vesterbro’s eastern edge, is being turned into a museum and cultural hub – craft beer and microbrewing now reign. Mikkeller, the brand started by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, was born here, and a trip to their bar on Viktoriagade, with 20 beers on tap, is an absolute must. Prefer wine? The relaxed Ancestrale has a great selection – don’t miss their after-work tasting menu, served from 4pm every day. Mouth-watering cocktails and late night revelry surrounded by beautiful people can be found at Lidkoeb, a converted 18th-century apothecary, while Märkbar offers a very different experience. ‘Rough and ready’ is the best description of this dive bar where the rock music’s loud, the pints strong, and almost everyone smokes.
How to get to Vesterbro
Copenhagen’s central station is on the western border of Vesterbro, so getting here is easy from almost anywhere. Enghave Plads, on metro line M3, sits at the heart of the area, and many buses meander westwards from the centre.
What else is nearby?
Upscale Frederiksberg, with its sprawling park and zoo, lies just to the north of Vesterbro, while harbourside bathing spots can be found to the south, in Sydhavnen.