Nightlife in Copenhagen: beers, cocktails and wine bars

by Andrew Stone

The days of mass market lager and average wine are fading as Copenhagen cultivates a more refined palate. Whether your poison is fine wine, real ale or toothsome cocktails you'll find them all here

Copenhagen's many excellent cafes serve as places to eat, drink and, in some cases, dance in so don't exlude these usually smart, cosy places from your itinterary. Bars and pubs run the gamut from spit and sawdust British and Irish-style pubs to gleaming, modern microbreweries. The growth of wine and cocktail bars in the last five years has further improved the incredible breadth of choice that the financial crisis seems to have done little to stop.

Beer

Denmark has the most breweries per capita in Europe, and five of the best of them are in Copenhagen. It's an amazing transformation from the days when the two large local breweries dominated the scene utterly with their rather ordinary mass market lagers.

Mikkeller Bar (Viktoriagade 8B-C; +45 3331 0415; www.mikkeller.dk) run by passionate soul Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, is perhaps my favourite beer bar in Copenhagen. Mikkel started out as a hobby brewer and realised he had found his calling. His bar serves 10 own brews and five guest beers, plus decent cheese and cold meats to accompany them in this tiny, cosy, friendly place. Whether you're a pilsner-lover or a cask ale fiend, I can't recommend Mikkeller highly enough. It's open every day too.

Close to trendy café square Sankt Hans Torv, Ølbaren (Elmegade 2; +45 35 35 45 34; www.oelbaren.dk) is something of a haven for beer enthusiasts. Owners Lars and Jan, former engineers, offer ales and lagers from small, independent Danish and foreign breweries.

For a uniquely Danish beer experience and an authentic taste of a Copenhagen of yesteryear, you'll need to make the pilgrimage out to Frederiksberg and 90'eren (Gl. Kongevej 90, Frederiksberg) - The Ninety. It takes about a quarter of an hour to pour a beer here. Why? Because the end result tastes so good - it's old school, uncarbonated beer, rather like classic English ale, packed with flavour. Open since 1916, this institution is as classic as its evocative 1920s decor.

Tiny Charlie's Bar (Pilestræde; +45 3332 2289; www.charliesbar.dk), occupying an unlikely city centre nook near Copenhagen's high-end fashion boutiques, is a little bit of England on Danish soil, right down to its hop-festooned walls and English beer mats. Cask beers, British and continental are the focus. The selection changes regularly but is invariably a good one. A distinctly non-Nordic gem.

If you're staying north of the city centre you could do worse than opting for Nørrebro Bryghus (Ryesgade 3; +45 3530 0530), a Nordic brasserie-cum-micro-brewery that has won awards for its brews. The beers here are a decent step up from lager, although I much prefer the deeper flavours of the more artisanal Mikkeller. The scrubbed wood and gleaming metal vats add drama but the food offers few surprises.

Cocktail and wine bars

The locals' newly acquired taste for proper cocktails in smart, cosy venues (rather than jugs of sweet alcopops in dive bars designed merely to get you drunk) is a welcome addition to the city's nightlife scene. Copenhagen is also now home to four or five really decent wine bars, with in-the-know wine lists and experienced sommeliers. Very civilised.

Dark to the point of being gloomy, Bar 1105 (Kirsten Bernikows Gade; +45 3011 9326; www.1105.dk) is my favourite speakeasy in the city. They do the classics properly in this tiny and hard-to-find spot. Ideal if you know your Martini from your Martinez.

The fantastic, convivial cocktail bar Oak Room (Birkegade 10;  +45 3860 3860; www.oakroom.dk) vies with Bar 1105 for top spot in Copenhagen. Tiny and packed with a crowd of chic twenty and thirtysomethings, it also happens to be just around the corner from one of the city's top nightclubs - Rust (see my Nightlife in Copenhagen: live music and clubs) for more information).

Bibendum (Nansensgade 45; +45 3333 0774), a smart little wine bar and tapas joint, also offers about 59 wines by the glass, mostly European. The food is ballast for the wine tasting rather than the reason to come.

Way out 'vest' in Vesterbro, Boutique Lize (Enghave Plads 6; +45 3331 1560) is the cheerfully scruffy place to come and down decent cocktails (for surprisingly little cash) while getting up the courage to indulge in a bit of flirting with the smart young crowd in here. It's jumping at weekends.

If you just can't decide between wine or cocktails, try Hotel Twentyseven's (Løngangsstræde 27; +45 7027 5627; www.hotel27.dk) two drinking dens either side of the lobby. The cocktail bar, Honey Ryder, is dark, louche and at weekends transforms into a club. The lounge, meanwhile, is a calm and quiet spot in which to contemplate the fine wines you select and serve yourself from the enomatic vending machine on the wall. There's also an ice bar next door, if you want to pay over the odds to sip from and sit on ice.

The talk of 'gourmet' cocktails and the inevitable and annoying use of the word 'mixologist' seems like an excuse to hike prices at Nimb Bar (Bernstorffsgade 5; www.nimb.dk), but while it's not cheap, the cocktails are good and the space, a huge room filled with chandeliers, open fires, and giant mirrors, is a great place for a glam, if low-key, cocktail. A great place to come with company if you want to chat.

Easy to miss, Ruby (Nybrogade 10; +45 3393 1203; www.rby.dk) looks like a regular apartment, but inside you'll find a terrific and laid-back cocktail bar with multiple levels, lots of little snugs and a bohemian air - all high ceilings and mismatching sofas. It attracts a smart, local crowd and at weekends you'll have to fight for a seat.

More expert advice on Copenhagen

For suggestions on where to stay in Copenhagen, see my Copenhagen Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Copenhagen page.

Read my overview on Copenhagen nightlife.

Andrew Stone

A travel journalist for more than ten years, I have been writing about Denmark and Copenhagen ever since my first visit in 2000, writing Lonely Planet's Denmark Guide.

Copenhagen is an amazing city I keep coming back to not least because I have some very good friends there. There are many reasons to love Denmark. Despite its diminutive size (you can cycle across it in a morning) it's a hotspot for amazing food (including Noma - voted the world's best), an amazing sense of design, an incredible heritage, brilliant little bars and chic boutiques. The locals are a handsome bunch and the vibe is easy going.

Over the years I have nosed around most hotels in town, eaten at many of the restaurants and hung out in many of its bars. I also know the wider region around Copenhagen very well.

I have  now worked on three editions of Denmark plus several editions of the Lonely Planet Scandinavian Europe and Europe on a Shoestring. I have also contributed to Time Out's Copenhagen guide and have written numerous features on Europe's most perfectly formed little capital city.

My Copenhagen

My favourite stroll - A wander along the harbour front between Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid takes in the Opera House, warships, cruise ships, parked-up gin palaces, historic dockside buildings, the fairytale Rosenborg castle and in the distance flickering wind turbines. It's wonderfully atmospheric and ends up beside the Little Mermaid statue (something of an anti-climax perhaps).

Where to be seen - Swish new cocktail bar 1105 is a dark, moody spot and the cocktails are the best in town.

Where to grab a coffee - Vinyl & Coffee is a supremely chilled out little cafe down a quiet Vesterbro side street, selling the latest hip cool indie albums on vinyl and spinning said releases on the decks beside the coffee machine. Most importantly of all the coffee is the best I've tasted in town.

Where to eat - You're really spoilt for choice in this foodie's playground, now officially home to the world's best restaurant, Noma. You won't get in, mind. So, try Relæ, home to some ex-Noma chefs busy developing their own amazing and usually successful gastronomic ideas.

Where to go for some peace and quiet - Kongens Have, the gardens beside Rosenborg castle are beautifully manicured and blissfully quiet. The perfect spot for a picnic.

What to shop for - Copenhagen is your town for original design, quirky one-offs and 'up-cycled' furniture. The city is thick with design talent, whether it's interiors, fashion or accessories you're after.

The best views - I still get a kick out of climbing Vor Frelsers Kirke near Christiania with its spire that winds to a dizzying finish right near the top and offers panoramic city views.

Don't leave without... riding through the streets on a bike. You can't come to the greatest cycling city in the world and not get on a bike. It's the best way to feel like a local. Bike hire is cheap, in some cases free, and you can cover lots of ground on its mostly very flat terrain.