The best places in Copenhagen to eat a traditional Danish Christmas lunch
Every year, Danes unite in the weeks leading up to Christmas, to enjoy each other’s company in the setting of what is called a "Christmas lunch". Confusingly enough, it can be eaten for dinner as well. Get a grasp of the concept of the Danish Christmas lunch here, and get our recommendations for the best places to have it in Copenhagen.
The tradition of the Danish Christmas lunch arose in the post-war period, as workers gathered to eat lunch on their last day of work, before heading home to family and the celebration of Christmas Eve.
Most Danish Christmas lunches mainly consists of different variations of the Danish open sandwiches aka smørrebrød. This means rye bread topped with different sorts of cold and warm cuts of meat and fish. Examples of what can be included in a Danish Christmas lunch are marinated herring, pan-fried flounder with remoulade, roast pork with pickled red cabbage, liver pâté with fried mushrooms, and last but not least, the true original; pork sausage with pickled beetroots and creamy kale with roasted and caramelized potatoes. Regardless of the choice of dish, it must be accompanied by beer and occasional breaks of schnapps.
And yes, we are awfully aware of the terror that may appear in any foreigner’s mind when visualizing the stated above. But since its arrival, amazing Danish chefs have slowly perfected the art of the Christmas lunch decade by decade. So, if you’re visiting Copenhagen during November or December, missing out on trying the Christmas lunch would be an absolute tragedy. We have listed our favourites below.
Take a seat and enjoy a wonder of well-dressed plates at the traditional, cosy restaurant, Ravelinen, placed at the crossing of Christianshavn and Amagerbro. The name refers to an old fort, which was established in the 17th century, to protect the southern border. A couple of years ago, the place went through a serious upgrade, which now allows guests to enjoy delicious classic smørrebrød with homemade remoulade and a variety of pickles – still surrounded by the retro interior and view of the fort waters. Depending on your dining choices prices go from 288-458 kr. per person. Here, the Christmas feeling is guaranteed.
1400 København K
Christianshavns Færgecafé (The ferry café at Christian’s Habour)
When speaking of Christmas lunches, the iconic Christianshavns Færgecafe is impossible to leave out. Here, you’ll find a classic Christmas menu and more than 30 different sorts of self-infused schnapps and maritime décor. The ferry café located at Strandgade in Christianshavn puts a lot of pride in cooking traditional Danish dishes – with a built-in love for Danish Christmas servings. Make your choice between The Great Christmas Table of Christmas herring, crusted pan-fried flounder, savoury pork sausage, roast pork with gravy, and of course, the traditional Danish Christmas dessert – risalamande (a sweet rice pudding with almonds and cherry sauce). The price for The Great Christmas Table is 385 kr. per person and must be pre-ordered by your entire party. If you’re a larger group, going all in with the merry celebrations, the original ferry anchored outside of the restaurant can be rented for exactly these festive purposes.
Restaurant Palægade is one of the newer additions to our Copenhagen Christmas darlings. Palægade is settled in the city center of the old part of Copenhagen, as a tiny gem in the hectic city traffic. Hereby lives classic virtues – no exaggerated cheffy versions of smørrebrød to find here – as good craftmanship is timeless, and classiscs are classics for a reason. Produce is at the highest of quality, and although the food follows tradition, the space offers an experience of some of best modern restaurants. And by that, we mean impeccable table settings and long-stemmed wine glasses. With a big focus on the origin of the produce and the seasons, Restaurant Palægade shows that tradition can easily resist the hard competition of the ever changing Danish restaurant scene. The holiday menu includes cod terrine, smoked tartare, fried duck breast and apple pie for 550 kr. per person.
Told & Snaps
At Told & Snaps, everything is made from scratch and if you want to secure your table, you must be quick. The restaurant has existed for more than sixteen years but is still one of the younger restaurants serving smørrebrød in the city. Here, you can enjoy nothing but an amazing selection of open sandwiches and seasonal home-spiced aquavits –18 in total, to be exact. The main part of the produce at Told & Snaps is organic, as the market increasingly demands. The Christmas menu found here counts old fashioned matured herring, butter-fried flounder, hot liver paté and roast pork with pickled red cabbage. To put it short, this is the place to go if you want to experience a traditional Danish lunch and the beautifully decorated cellars. Not trying to be modern perfectly suits the food served here. Unpretentious and good.
1253 København K
Close by Kultorvet you can, very conveniently, walk down a stairway beneath two Danish flags, to a bite of Danish nostalgia. At Restaurant Schønnemann they serve a good old fashioned Christmas lunch consisting of nicely made classic slices of smørrebrød – and as you might have guessed – Christmas aquavits, schnapps and beer. Whether or not you choose the slice of rye with chicken salad or the crusted flounder piece, all elements are meticulously dressed with the absolute right abundance. Restaurant Schønnemann has existed since 1877, and its dark wooden paneling, green walls and white table cloths, creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere in the old basement spaces. Prices range from 99-150 Danish kroner per person for the diverse selection of smørrebrød. The list here includes salmon, duck breast, veal paté, eel and much more. If you want to go around the ryebread, three variations of tartelettes or five types of tartare can also end up on your plate.
Hauser Pl. 16,
1127 København K
Another great take on the joyous lunch for you and your party, is Restaurant Kronborg at Brolæggertsræde. The keyword here is the Danish ‘hygge’ and homecooked food from good produce – and plenty of it. At Christmas time, you’re served different sorts of fish like fried herring, herring in curry cream with eggs, onions and capers, pan-fried flounder with remoulade and salted salmon with an apple and celery cream. The next part of the menu describes different cuts of meat like confit de canard with red cabbage, liver paté with bacon and mushrooms and Christmas sausage with mustard and pickled beets. Also here, you can end your meal with risalamande – but also a selection of different good cheeses. All these wonderfull things cost between 399-429 kr. per person depending of the day.
1211 København K
Located at Niels Hemmingsens Gade in inner Copenhagen, by Gråbrødre Torv, the king of smørrebrød Adam Aamann opened his newest restaurant about two years ago. Aamanns 1921 is decorated with inspiration from the esthetics of churches mixed with a modern feel from cobber lights and terrazzo floors. But not only the interior at Aamanns 1921 has had an update – also the open faced sandwiches and the classic Danish dishes has been refined and reinterpreted. So, if you’re looking for a different and cutting edge Christmas lunch, try visiting Aamanns 1921. Make your choice between seven courses, which includes curried herring, tartare and paté for 395 kr. per person at lunch time or choose between three different Christmas menus at night for 425-525 kr. per person.
Niels Hemmingsens Gade 19-21,
1153 København K