Unpacking Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District: The top 15 things to do in this hipster hood
Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District was once exactly what it sounds like. Today it’s an eclectic, artsy, bohemian spot where locals and tourists rub shoulders and eat great grub.
Savvy travellers are by now well aware of just how much the trio of Scandinavian countries have to offer: epic natural beauty, clean and safe urban life, a rich history, and fun, youthful population centres, just for starters.
But even with as many must-see tourist spots as Scandinavia has—and you should definitely see them!—a lot of people are ready for a different kind of travel. These days, people long for a truer, more connected kind of travel experience. No longer are we satisfied with stepping down from the tour bus just long enough to snap a selfie with some monument or natural wonder before heading off to the next one.
Travellers these days want to leave the bus behind and get in the mix of local life. We want more on-the-ground experiences. And if you’re planning a visit to Copenhagen, a great way to experience the city on a more personal, local level is to spend some time in the Meatpacking District.
Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District: Welcome to Meat Town
Copenhagen as a whole is of course a jewel of a city. The capital is as international as can be, perched as it is on Denmark’s easternmost edge betwixt Sweden and Germany, and you’ve got an endless array of various neighbourhoods and communities all offering their own fascinating and unique opportunities for the adventurous visitor, not to mention an urban metropolis with a fantastic nightlife, a historic and beautiful city centre, and tons of green spaces and pristine waterfront beaches.
But the Meatpacking District is often lost in the mad swirl of all that Copenhagen has to offer, and that’s a shame, because it’s a neighbourhood that’s a favourite of locals as well as in-the-know visitors.
Known in Danish as Kødbyens, which literally translates to “Meat Town,” the Copenhagen Meatpacking District was once just what it sounds like: the place where various businesses relating to the slaughter of cattle were housed starting in 1879. A huge holding area stabled up to 1600 head of cattle awaiting their ultimate fate, and eventually there were slaughterhouses specifically for pigs, calves, and sheep as well as several for cattle. Meat-adjacent businesses like butchers, tallow renderers and blood meal producers sprang up here as well.
The Meatpacking District today is much different, yet still retains some qualities relating to the old days. It’s located in Vesterbro, southwest of Tivoli Gardens and the central city area near Copenhagen Central Station, bordered by the railroad tracks leading in to the station on one side and Sønder Boulevard on the other.
The buildings in the district are distinguished by the colour of the brick used in their construction over three distinct periods of growth: the oldest buildings are made of brown brick and are closest to the train tracks. These buildings were the original Meatpacking District structures dating back to 1883, while the grey and white brick buildings are the newer, dating to the first few decades of the 20th century.
If the name of the Meatpacking District, Copenhagen sounds familiar, that’s because it took its English-language sobriquet from New York City’s Meatpacking District. Not coincidentally, that’s also where it got much of its modern-era vibe.
In the brown brick parts of Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District you’ll find a hotbed of galleries, studios, architecture firms, funky shops and other creative enterprises, as well as all manner of eclectic restaurants and bars.
The newer, white brick part of the Meatpacking District in Copenhagen still retains some ties to its meaty past. There you’ll find a meat wholesaler that caters to restaurants as well as other meat-related businesses. This area of the Meatpacking District also plays host to the Copenhagen Hospitality College. The city’s master development plan seeks to continue promoting mixed-use here, and encourages cultural and design enterprises as well as gastronomy-related ones.
But these days there is a whole lot more to do in the Meatpacking District apart from meat-related activities! What, did you think there might be a slaughterhouse-themed amusement park ride or something?
Being outside of the populous and often crowded city centre and off the beaten track of the typical tourist attractions in Copenhagen, the Meatpacking District is a favourite haunt for locals, drawing people to its clubs, restaurants, galleries and event venues. Here are a few of the top attractions to look out for when you visit Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District.
Food, wonderful food
Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District these days is a great place to spend an entire afternoon and evening—even rolling over into the early morning hours for the traveler with the stamina for clubbing and other late-night activities—and you have a ton of options for starting off with lunch and/or dinner before moving on to the clubs and bars. Here are a few notable options:
No matter how much the Meatpacking District gets modernised it seems that it will never shake its food-related past, and that is a great thing. If you get anywhere near the district between the months of April and October, you’ll no doubt be enticed by the rich and varied smells emanating from the Meatpacking District’s Food and Market, aka Kødbyens Mad og Marked.
The streets are teeming with over 40 food stalls and on sunny days, people from all over the city converge on the Meatpacking District to sample dishes of all sorts, including creative takes on the humble hamburger, Middle Eastern food, Italian, Greek and of course traditional Danish food as well.
The street becomes a huge melting pot as people mix and match dishes from various stalls and chat as they sit at outdoor picnic tables and enjoy the sunshine.
If you visit Copenhagen during the months when the food market is off, a great option for lunch or dinner is BOB Bistro. The restaurant’s philosophy is in keeping with the green and sustainable attitude of Copenhagen and Denmark as a whole, offering dishes that are all 90 to 100 percent organic, locally and responsibly sourced, and even taking it to the level of using up-cycled water glasses crafted from old wine bottles.
What’s more, the space also serves as a meeting place for like-minded businesses and artists, and the energy in the room is often infectious. It’s located on the edge of Halmtorvet Square and offers wonderful people-watching views through massive plate-glass windows as well while you enjoy a traditional Danish smørrebrød.
Another great dining spot to get you into the local spirit of Copenhagen is Kødbyens Fiskebar. This local favourite offers unpretentious but excellent seafood prepared in a variety of healthy and traditional ways. Like BOB, Kødbyens Fiskebar also hews toward the natural, organic path, reflecting the desire of the younger set to not only eat and drink well, but to do so in a sustainable manner that doesn’t deplete fish stocks or threaten endangered species using unsustainable, destructive fishing methods.
For instance, they offer beach crabs that are considered by-catch or waste by local fishermen, turning them into a delicious, sustainable product that would otherwise be discarded. And it’s not all about hipster style or sustainability either; Kødbyens Fiskebar has been awarded a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide to Nordic countries, recognising restaurants that offer good quality and good value.
For the salad-lover in your life, you could do worse than by taking them to WEDOFOOD for a cost-conscious takeaway meal. This awesome little favourite spot in the Meatpacking District is a huge hit with locals, so if you go on a weekday when the nearby office workers have their lunch break, be prepared to wait in line.
But once you get to the ordering part, you’ll find that it was worth it, with incredibly tasty and creative ingredients like whole wheat croutons, avocado, chillies, peanuts, spinach and much, much more available for you to mix and match. They also offer fresh-squeezed juice of all sorts, making them an ideal lunch stop on the way to an outdoor picnic on the grass at Halmtorvet Square.
Well, in order to be fair and balanced in terms of veggies and meat, it’s only reasonable to talk about Warpigs next. It’s a Texas barbecue joint run by a real live American chef featuring authentic Texas style barbecue, homemade smoked meat of all sorts, and a head-spinning array of homemade sauces.
They even offer a Texas smørrebrød, perhaps the unlikeliest mash-up of cross-cultural cuisine imaginable. Don’t forget that they also have 20 beers on tap — after you try a couple, you’ll definitely want to stick around for the bourbon pecan pie.
Culture in the Copenhagen Meatpacking District: Art galleries and more
Gallery Poulsen is a favourite among visitors to Copenhagen and residents alike, with a rotating cast of exhibitions, up to ten in a given year. The gallery also participates in several international art fairs, including Pulse and Volta, in Miami, New York and Basel. They curate a variety of work, from both up-and-coming and established artists, often Americans, and often highlighting political and satirical works. Focused mostly on traditional media, canvas, paper and sculpture works.
An older, more established gallery in terms of the short, modern lifespan of the Meatpacking District, V1 Gallery has been around since 2002 and features international artists working in all manner of media.
But even with V1’s venerable status as an elder statesman among the galleries of the Meatpacking District, they nonetheless tend to curate exciting, bold and innovative work that challenges the viewer on a number of levels. V1 features dozens of exhibitions every year, so each time to come to the Meatpacking District and visit you’re likely to see something completely different.
Galleri Bo Bjerggaard
Galleri Bo Bjerggaard is another well-established but nonetheless cutting-edge gallery, with the space divided into two separate exhibition halls, each with its own set of adjoining rooms, allowing for the gallery to show two exhibitions at any given time. They feature mostly modern painting, but also exhibit works in sculpture, video and photography, as well as installations.
Clubs and bars in the Meatpacking District
NOHO is a cheerful place that transitions seamlessly from serving fresh juices in the morning to creative cocktails and wine in the evening, to hosting local and international DJs until the late-night hours. It’s got an industrial, boho feel inside, but the bartenders are friendly as are the locals who congregate after work and on into the night.
If you’re looking for a down-to-earth, fun, gritty joint where you can rock out, stop by Bakken. They have a great restaurant as well featuring reliable, basic bar food, but once the kitchen shuts down at 10pm, that’s when the real fun starts. Thursdays are a popular night there, with Brandy Thursdays featuring Copenhagen’s top DJs. Open late night on weekends as well.
This is not a country bar in the style of the old Dolly Parton song, but rather an awesomely upbeat, thumping club where you can dance the night away to the best beats Copenhagen DJs have to offer. Also hugely popular among the local bohemian crowd, Jolene’s is a great place to strike up a conversation with the cool kids of Copenhagen — if you can make yourself heard over the music.
Mesteren & Lærlingen
If you’ve had enough of the beats, loud music and the sweaty dance floor, stop by Mesteren & Lærlingen to chill out with a cold beer on the patio. This is a great place to enjoy a beverage in the spot where one of the area’s oldest slaughterhouses once operated, and have a conversation.
Other attractions in the Meatpacking District
If you go to visit the Meatpacking District in Copenhagen on a Saturday, do make sure you hit the flea market between bites of wonderful food and glimpses of edgy artwork. It’s the oldest flea market in the city, and it conveniently sets up right on the edge of the Meatpacking District.
As everyone notes the cost of living in Copenhagen being a tad on the high side, hitting the stalls of the flea market to pick up bargain clothing, vinyl records, and antiques is a great way to stretch you travel money further. The market also hosts a few food stalls where you can sample some simple traditional Danish snacks and meals like their version of the sausage/hot dog, the delicious pølser, and much more.
Take the time while you’re in the Meatpacking District to see a show or exhibition at Øksnehallen if you get a chance because it’s worth the trip. The 5,000 sq meter is located in the former cattle market hall and hosts a variety of exhibitions, shows and events of all sorts.
This unique venue features music performances, performance art pieces, art galleries, and social gathering space for the LGBTQ community and allies. Warehouse9 is located in the former stables of the Meatpacking District, and is artist-run and supported by the Danish Arts Foundation. Every year since 2008 Warehouse9 has played host to the International Performance Art Festival where you can see not only performances and exhibits, but also participate in talks given by the artists themselves.
How to get to the Meatpacking District in Copenhagen
The great thing about visiting is that the Meatpacking District is at one and the same time outside of the typical tourist zones of Vestamager and the city centre, yet easily accessible and still fairly central.
If you’re coming from Norreport in the city centre, the Meatpacking District is just three bus stops away via the H route (or any number of other routes as well). It’s maybe a bit much for walking from there, at 28 minutes according to Google Maps, but if you combine an afternoon visit to the Meatpacking District with a morning visit to Tivoli Gardens, you’ll just be 11 minutes away.
You’re even closer if you’re coming from the Central Station, at just 10 minutes.
However you get there, just make sure you take the time to visit the Meatpacking District Copenhagen for an eclectic and delicious fun time!
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