by Liz Hoggard, The Independent, May 31, 2017
Located just behind Tivoli Gardens, the once seedy Vesterbro area, famous for its red light district, is now the coolest part of Copenhagen. In the streets radiating down from Copenhagen's central railway station, you’ll find new bars and restaurants, independent hotels, organic food shops and vintage outlets.
The area has become a creative hotspot, inspired by the likes of New York’s famous Meat Packing District, as artists, designers, photographers and filmmakers move in. It’s always fascinating to visit a neighbourhood in transition – think Brooklyn or Berlin’s Kreuzberg 10 years ago – before the tourists arrive en masse. And true to Vesterbro’s diversity and independent spirit, there are many different ways to explore.
Go for an urban run
Copenhagen will always be the city of the bicycle, but the newest craze is urban running. And Vesterbro’s kilometre-long Istedgate, one of the hippest shopping streets, is a fascinating route. Running Copenhagen (runningcopenhagen.com) offers a running sightseeing tour of Vesterbro with a local guide.
Try a breakfast pizza
After all that exercise, you deserve carbs. At Neighbourhood (neighbourhood.dk), an organic pizza and cocktail bar on Istedgade, they serve up breakfast with a difference. Try a pizza with eggs, potatoes, fried pancetta, red onions, parmesan and smoked cheese.
Turn coffee into an art form
Danes take their coffee extremely seriously. Istedgade is full of independent cafes-cum-galleries. Try breakfast bar Kaffee (kaffeistedgade.dk) or Petrol (@petrolkaffeoggear), a cosy pit stop with retro decor and old slot machines. Prefer green tea? Head for Byoh (byoh.dk) on adjoining Helgolandsgade, where you’ll find Denmark’s first matcha bar.
Lunch in the Meatpacking District
For over 100 years, Vesterbro’s Meatpacking District (dubbed White Meat City) was a rough industrial space. But today the white concrete buildings from the 1930s – which once housed the huge meat halls – are considered a masterpiece of functionalist architecture. The old Bosch warehouse is now the 200-seater Bio Mio Organic Bistro (bobbistro.dk), Denmark’s largest organic restaurant. Meanwhile, Italian restaurant, Mother (mother.dk) offers hearty soul food cooked in a wood-fired oven. And make sure you sample the craft beer at hip brewpub, War Pigs (warpigs.dk).
Get an art fix
Located in Tap E, a former bottling plant just off the Meatpacking District, the Fotografisk Center (fotografiskcenter.dk) is an elegant, hangar-like space which focuses on Nordic contemporary photography. Or visit the V1 Gallery (v1gallery.com), the first gallery in Scandinavia to showcase the work of street artists such as Banksy and Eine.
Become a Scandi minimalist
Istedgade is full of achingly desirable homeware stores. You’ll find modern Danish lighting, furniture and kitchenware at Maur (maur.dk) and DANSK Made for Rooms (danskshop.com), while stylists love concept shop A Door (@adooristedgade), which offers cult skincare, ceramics, jewellery, magazines, plants and, yes, coffee.
Watch a chocolatier at work
In the “live kitchen” of his Vesterbo store on Godsbanegade (ankerchokolade.dk), Mikkel Anker (who has worked in Michelin-star kitchens) creates mouthwatering hand-made chocolates from Fairtrade cacao and seasonal ingredients, including tomatoes, strawberries, mangos and peanut butter. Top up with coffee and a glass of champagne.
Jazz it up
Copenhagen is Europe's jazz capital from 7 to 16 July. Artists performing include Dee Dee Bridgewater, Anoushka Shankar and Herbie Hancock (jazz.dk).
Sip a Nordic cocktail
The stylish Lidkoeb cocktail bar (lidkoeb.dk) just off Vesterbrogade is arranged over three floors of a former 18th-century apothecary. The decor includes pendant lamps, sheepskin-draped wooden banquettes and classic film posters (oh, and the most handsome bartender in the world…).
Eat your greens
If you’re craving fresh air, walk up the Frederiksberg Alle to Copenhagen’s magical Royal Danish Horticultural Garden Society (kobenhavnergron.dk). Housed in a historic building, the garden restaurant Mielcke & Hurtikarl (mhcph.com) has an 18-course tasting menu made from flowers and herbs; Noma chef Rene Redzepi is a fan.
Norwegian (norwegian.com) operates five flights per day between London Gatwick and Copenhagen from £29.50 each way.
Boutique hotel The Absalon (absalon-hotel.dk), located in the heart of Vesterbro, offers complimentary bikes to guests and a package which allows late departure at no extra cost. Doubles from £130, B&B.