Sample the Best of Copenhagen's Harbor Catch

Harbor city Copenhagen has recently witnessed a surge of new fish restaurants as Denmark’s relationship with the sea and its catch becomes renewed in its kitchen. Those looking for fish restaurants in Copenhagen will find both gourmet bids, contemporary sushi bars and modern takes on the fish and chip shop and harbor grill, with something in all price ranges.

Copenhagen's catch includes upmarket restaurants like Krogs on Gammel Strand - a place that has been synonomous with fish for decades - and floating restaurant Viva moored next to Langebro Bridge, with its Danish-French set menus. It also includes more casual dining spots like Toldboden, not far from the Langelinie dock, and Michelin-recommended Kodbyens Fiskebar, where a laidback atmosphere certainly doesn't mean skimping on quality ingredients.

Copenhagen has too many sushi bars to count on both hands, but the latest in the pack is Alex Sushi, an Oslo establishment with Norwegian specialties as well as Japanese. Those craving a simple helping of fish'n'chips on the other hand should check out Kodbyens Deli - eat in or take out.

Not surprisingly, a good portion of our selection is found on harbor street Nyhavn. Nyhavns Faergekro is known for its herring table, while Cap Horn has an excellent fish selection and a focus on organic ingredients. For oysters, Havfruen is the place - or check out the recent competition, lively Oysters & Grill in Norrebro.    


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: Freshly-caught fish on the waterfront, with a focus on organic produce.

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City Centre
Restaurant Viva
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Viva

Copenhagen's floating restaurant Viva affords dining with one of the best views of Copenhagen's skyline, particularly on a summer evening at dusk. Moored next to Langebro Bridge since 2004, a new kitchen team came on board this upmarket eatery in 2012 aiming to clean the decks. With a resume that includes some of Denmark's top restaurants, the new team promise an improved Danish-French menu with focus on fish and shellfish. Three and five course set menus are offered as well as the a la carte card and while the wine list is pretty extensive, real wine lovers may want to ask for a list of the specially selected wines in the cellar. Viva seats less than 100, so reservation is advised.

Local Expert tip: A new kitchen team focus on fish, shellfish and Danish-French cuisine at this floating restaurant.

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Like the other restaurants on quayside Nyhavn this traditional restaurant is located in a historic building and boasts a charming, maritime atmosphere. What makes it stands out from the others is its traditional lunch and dinner menus, particularly its extensive herring buffet; the Faergekro has been noted as one of the best spots in Copenhagen for sampling this very Danish of fish, and offers 10 different specialities, all accompanied by small potatoes and rye bread – help yourself as many times as you like. An early morning brunch breakfast (from 9.30 until 11.30) is also on the menu, while mains range from lamp chops and beef entrecote to grilled salmon served with a soufflé.

Local Expert tip: Famed for its all-you-can-eat herring buffet.

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Restaurant Havfruen
Photo courtesy of Debarshi Ray

This cute, traditional seafood eatery right on the quay in popular tourist street Nyhavn is probably the closest Copenhagen gets to a real French-style oysters bar, and its loyal clientele have been coming here for years. Havfruen ('the mermaid') has remained pretty much the same for decades, with its dark wooden tables and royal blue tablecloths, and serves a range of reasonably-priced, fresh fish and seafood specialties - though its restaurant's highlight is undoubtedly the oysters. It's all washed down with a glass of wine - the wine list is exclusively French.

Local Expert tip: Great seafood on the waterfront.

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Alex Sushi
Photo courtesy of Alex Sushi

A well-known restaurant in Oslo's dining scene, Norway's Alex Sushi opened a Copenhagen edition in 2011 on Hovedvagtsgade just up from Kongens Nytorv, next door to the long-running Cafe Victor. This dynamic, contemporary sushi bar focuses heavily on the fish, mixing Japanese sushi art with the rich seafood of the Scandinavian kitchen. Where else can you eat sea urchin or deep-fried salmon skin, cucumber and avocado or eel and cucumber?

Local Expert tip: Japanese meets Norwegian seafood traditions.

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Restaurant Julian Toldboden
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Julian

Located in an old customs and excise building on Copenhagen's harbor front not far from The Little Mermaid (Toldboden's name means custom house) this modern, innovative restaurant keeps its decor simple, its windows large and open to the panoramic view and its menu sustainable and local. Toldboden is one of a handful of climate-friendly restaurants in Copenhagen offering a special sustainable menu where the exact carbon footprint of a dish has been calculated and kept to a minimum. Helping the planet is combined with an informal atmosphere, modern kitchen and a menu that invites families and other larger parties to enjoy mix and match grill and brunch buffets. Note that Toldboden closes during the winter.

Local Expert tip: There is plenty of herring in the lunch buffet - and a fishcake specialty.

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Kodbyens Deli
Photo courtesy of Kodbyens Deli

As a budget alternative to Kodbyens Fiskebar around the corner, Kodbyens Deli is a great choice. The small menu card uses fresh, seasonal ingredients but its main draw is its fish'n' chips, presented in ladies' (accompanied by salad and cucumber sauce) and gents' editions (tartar sauce and especially thick chips), and will costs you a mere DKK 70. There is also a changing dish of the day as well as a dessert. On a summer evening, the tables and benches outside the deli in the vast yard of the meatpacking district are lively with locals enjoying a good old helping of fried fish.

Local Expert tip: Good quality fish'n'chips without the frills or expense.

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Oysters & Grill
Photo courtesy of Cofoco

Oysters, in varying types and sizes, are on the menu at reasonable prices at local chain Cofoco's fresh and vibrant seafood department, located in Norrebro next to Empire movie theater. The bright tablecloths and busy staff bustling between the tables makes for a lively, informal atmosphere. With the same concept as the chain's other restaurants – good quality food at affordable prices – Oysters & Grill provides fresh, simple dishes; as well as oysters there are also clams, tiger prawns, lobster and squid, all sold by weight. Finish off the meal with a dessert like strawberry pie or a Danish-styled panna cotta. Note that Oysters.. cannot currently take cash payments, but all major credit cards are accepted.

Local Expert tip: Oysters sold by weight in a lively setting.

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Kodbyens Fiskebar
Photo courtesy of Thomas Ibsen

One of the big surprises of 2010's Michelin Guide was a bib gourmand for this small, informal fish restaurant, with its long tables, open kitchen and fresh atmosphere; suffice to say it's retained its "good value gourmet" award. Situated in the urban renewal district of Kodbyen, a former meatpacking district, the fish bar is all about fish and shellfish – freshly caught and accompanied by good organic ingredients. As quality is high, expect prices a little above your average grill. Portions are also a little smaller, but on the other hand – here, you eat your fish with a good glass of chardonnay.

Local Expert tip: A fish bar worth lingering in with a glass or two of wine.

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Krogs Fiskerestaurant

Copenhagen's oldest fish restaurant is also one of the city's most upmarket eateries. Located overlooking the canals on Gammel Strand, this white tablecloth establishment is a place for fine dining. Krogs' French/Danish kitchen has kept up its reputation of exclusivity for decades; a recent rebranding hopes however to make it a little more mainstream and push the focus more on good quality dishes based on sustainably caught ingredients, with new lunchtime servings providing a chance to dine a little cheaper at one of Copenhagen's top restaurants.

Local Expert tip: Krogs has adjusted its upmarket image with more mainstream prices and lunchtime serving.

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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