Copenhagen's 10 Best Lunch Restaurants

For those who prefer eating out in the middle of the day, Copenhagen excels when it comes to lunch restaurants. In fact, for those who wish to sample the best local cuisine, many of Copenhagen’s most traditional Danish restaurants open for lunch only.

You’re not just going to walk past our favorite Copenhagen lunch restaurant Rabes Have by chance, as it’s located off the beaten tracks of Christianshavn at the far end of the southern canal. This historic eatery serves traditional Danish fare indoors as well as outside in the restaurant’s idyllic courtyard.

Dine amongst prominent Danes in the historic surroundings of Kanalcafeen, sandwiched between Slotsholmen and the Nationalmuseet. The traditional smorrebrod restaurant has a long menu of classic Danish open sandwiches and plenty of herrings.

Other restaurants serving excellent traditional Danish lunches include Slotskaelderen Gitte Kik, just off the canal, and in Frederiksstaden, Ida Davidsen and Cafe Petersborg. Note that some of these restaurants close for the whole of July.

If you prefer a less traditional lunch, a decommissioned tram car makes up the premises of established, offbeat burger cafe Sporvejen on Grabrodretorv Square, while Restaurant Julian in the Nationalmuseet offers climate-friendly lunch menus and a lavish, organic brunch. Organic produce and fresh fish dominate the menu of Cap Horn on Nyhavn.

Combining lunch with shopping is always popular and Copenhagen’s most exclusive stores also boast some of its fanciest cafes. The Royal Cafe of Royal Copenhagen Porcelain on Amagertorv serves dainty finger food on Danish blue plates while Spisebaren, on the top floor of Stroget department store Illum, is stylish, handy and boasts great views.   


Spisebaren in Illum
Photo courtesy of Group Shafi

The top floor of downtown department store Illum is a surprisingly stylish restaurant, owned by the same team behind Michelin-starred Kokkeriet. While the aspirations for department store dining are more casual, they're no less high, and Spisebaren is a place to enjoy coffee and cake, or a champagne brunch to kick start an indulgent shopping tour. Sit inside or out on the veranda with a great view of walking street Stroget below. The restaurant offers some creative and imaginative twists on contemporary Danish cuisine as well as some standards like burgers and steaks. Takeout is also available. Open first and last Sunday of month only; follows opening hours of Illum store.

Local Expert tip: All dishes on the menu are served all day long.

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The Royal Cafe
Photo courtesy of The Royal Cafe

This cute cafe next to the flagship store of Royal Copenhagen on Amagertorv has put its own dainty twist on the traditional Danish lunch, building up quite a reputation for its own invention: "Smushi", a fusion of smorrebrod open sandwiches with Japanese sushi. The rye bread is cut into small, dainty fingers and makes dining here feel like a dollies' tea party, except for the fact it's all served on the finest Royal Copenhagen porcelain. Should you be in the mood for something more grown up, the cafe also has a selection of normal-sized sandwiches and cakes. It can get very busy and you may have to wait a while to get served, but the Royal Cafe has enough going on on its walls to keep you entertained.

Local Expert tip: Don't forget to take a look in the Royal Copenhagen store next door, even if you're only window shopping.

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Cafe Petersborg
Photo courtesy of Cafe Petersborg

You could be forgiven for assuming there was a Russian menu on offer at Cafe Petersborg, but this traditional Danish eatery takes its name instead from its past connections with the Russian Embassy that was previously located in the same building; the restaurant thus became a favorite with Russian sailors. It's one of Copenhagen's oldest restaurants and can trace its roots back to the mid-1700s. Petersborg is a well-established, traditional Danish restaurant that's particularly popular for lunchtime dining but also open for evening meals. In addition to the open sandwiches on offer, Danish dinner classics served here include frikadeller meatballs with red cabbage and potatoes and the restaurant's homemade 'biksemad', made with cubes of potatoes, meat and onions, and served with the traditional fried egg on top. Cafe Petersborg is located at the far end of Bredgade, close to Kastellet and Churchillparken.

Local Expert tip: Try the Petersborg lunch platter or the dish of the day.

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Photo courtesy of Sporvejen

An established cafe that has hardly changed over the past few decades, tiny Sporvejen ('the tram') on attractive Grabrodretorv Square is ideal for all vintage tram and train enthusiasts. It's actually the carriage from a decommissioned Copenhagen tram, with the original seating; wooden booths that might be a little cramped but certainly provide a quirky diner atmosphere. The place specializes in burgers, with a range of omelettes for vegetarians, and many of Sporvejen's regulars have been enjoying its tried-and-tested menu since they were brought here as kids. Be prepared for busy lunchtimes: As you might imagine, the place offers rather limited seating.

Local Expert tip: Avoid dining between noon and 2pm and between 6-8pm for a quieter meal and less waiting time.

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Slotskaelderen hos Gitte Kik

A small, historic basement lunch restaurant a few yards away from the old canal Gammel Strand, Gitte Kiks' traditional Danish menu consists almost entirely of smorrebrod (open sandwiches). The Kik family have been running this smorrebrod establishment since 1910; women were allowed to dine with the men here in the '60s, when a ladies' restroom was also introduced. Perhaps because of its reputation as a place where men came to talk and to eat, Slotskaelderen has always had a reputation for attracting politicians. Closed July.

Local Expert tip: The perfect place to enjoy the Danish lunch classic: Herring smorrebrod washed down with schnapps.

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Cap Horn
Photo courtesy of Cap Horn

There are so many restaurants on tourist street Nyhavn that it can be hard to single just one of them out, but Cap Horn is exceptional for its charming interior and its high quality ingredients, most of which are organic; specialties include freshly caught fish, free-range lamb and steaks. Cap Horn is open for both lunch and dinner and diners can choose to sit out on the cobbled quayside (with a blanket in case of chilly winds) or inside Cap Horn's historic, perfectly restored premises, with its dark wood panelling and leather-backed seats.

Local Expert tip: Private parties can easily be accommodated upstairs in either of Cap Horn's banqueting rooms.

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Restaurant Julian Nationalmuseet
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Julian

The cafe of the Nationalmuseet is a surprising find. Owned by the same team behind harbor restaurant Toldboden, Julian is attractive and charming but also casual and informal enough for a museum refreshment break. It's also one of Copenhagen's few climate-friendly restaurants, and should you wish to do so, you can select dishes where the carbon footprint has been logged and reduced to the exact figure. Other dishes use ancient Danish produce or cooking techniques, harking back to older times and echoing the next door collections. The restaurant overlooks the museum foyer on the first floor, and feels open and airy. Brunch is especially popular.

Local Expert tip: Julian has plenty of children's dishes and is popular with families.

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Quite possibly Copenhagen's most famous smorrebrod establishment, this lunch restaurant has been adding the toppings to the national Danish dish, open sandwiches, for three generations. Ida's son Oskar now runs the establishment, along with a team of well-trained smorrebrod cooks that are as skilled as a Japanese sushi chef. Like a New York subway joint, new sandwich creations at Ida Davidsen are often named after famous people who have eaten here, including the "Victor Borge" (salmon, lumpfish caviar, crayfish tails and Greenland shrimp) and one named after Copenhagen's lady mayor, the "Ritt Bjerregaard". Though Oprah Winfrey is a fan, she's yet to have her own smorrebrod. Closed during July.

Local Expert tip: Listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having the longest list of open sandwiches in the world (250 kinds).

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Photo courtesy of

One of the few dining options close to the Slotsholmen district of museums and attractions, Kanalcafeen is situated on the opposite side of Frederiksholms Kanal. This location, added to its old-fashioned ambience and long history, makes it a popular place for politicians on a break from meetings at nearby Christiansborg. Dating from the 1850s, this basement lunch restaurant is a real taste of old Copenhagen. Its maritime feel is emphasized by the variety of objects and pictures on the walls and window sills, which can also make the cafe seem a little cluttered. The cafe has a vast list of toppings on its smorrebrod list (prices start at 49kr); though we recommend you share one of the cafe's selections with your companion or group.

Local Expert tip: Especially known for its large assortment of differently-flavored herrings.

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Rabes Have
Photo courtesy of

You're unlikely to stumble upon Rabes Have as it's located out of the way at the south-west end of Christianshavn, past the canals and along the old defensive bastions of the city at Christianshavns Vold. From the road it might look a little abandoned, but this traditional Danish lunch restaurant is one of Copenhagen's oldest and most authentic eateries, dating right back to when grocer Rabes opened it in 1678, and has a great dining terrace around the back (in Rabes' "Have" or garden). Though the restaurant's history radiates from its heavily varnished interior, we recommend heading out into the quiet, secluded courtyard: A pleasant place to get to know Danish cuisine.

Local Expert tip: Expect to wait for service at lunchtimes on Saturdays - come later or phone ahead to reserve a table.

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Meet Jane Graham

After touring most of Europe in her twenties, Jane was charmed by Copenhagen's relaxed tempo and moved there from her native northern England in 1999. Four young children at home has meant...  More About Jane