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Vaernedamsvej: Welcome to Copenhagen's Little Paris

One street in Copenhagen feels more like Paris than Denmark, says Alexandra Pereira

Alexandra Pereira
Tuesday 28 August 2018 11:40 BST
French charm on Vaernedamsvej – Copenhagen's Little Paris
French charm on Vaernedamsvej – Copenhagen's Little Paris (Ty Stange/Copenhagen Media Center)

Walking down Vaernedamsvej, between Copenhagen’s Vesterbro and Frederiksberg neighbourhoods, you could be in Paris’s first arrondissement.

Maybe it’s the galettes from Cafe Viggo, the Gauloises being chain-smoked over pavement coffees, or the scurry of schoolchildren speaking only French. It’s not very Scandinavian: it’s Copenhagen’s Little Paris.

Vaernedamsvej is one Copenhagen’s most likeable streets. It’s an alternative to Nyhavn with its candy-coloured houses, the busy harbour, and many of the city’s most overpriced restaurants. This miniature Paris remains a favourite among locals for its boutique shopping, gastronomy and cafe culture – and the Lycée Français Prins Henrik.

Lycée Français Prins Henrik
Lycée Français Prins Henrik (Alexandra Pereira)

It’s the Lycée, established in 1954, that is to blame for the street’s “Frenchness”, along with its long history as a butcher’s street. Since Vaernedamsvej’s naming in 1733, the street became known for specialised food and luxury goods – selling things like wine and cheese (or absinthe, available at Juul’s Vin og Spiritus).

So what’s here?

There’s florist Blomsterskuret, owned by Martin Reinicke, who grew up in Frederiksberg. He has always loved Vaernedamsvej: “It used to have a proper French bakery too, and the school has long been around. Now I get French parents coming into the shop, commenting on how Parisian it feels. That’s nice.”

There’s one thing that isn’t very French about him, though. He’s a committed vegan, although he admits to one annual indulgence: steak tartare at Granola. “It’s such high quality and sometimes the body just needs things. My body responds well,” he states in matter-of-fact Danish fashion. “People here really care about their produce and about the quality of living.” It’s this philosophy that also gives Copenhagen a breeziness that isn’t found in London or Berlin, I think.

There's also bistro Falernum, which serves (I think) the rarest tartare on the street. Plus, the waiters speak French.

Not far away is the Grand Teatret cinema that hosts French Mondays; great French-inspired coffee and shopping can also be found at places such as the “uncompromisingly French” Pastis and the low-key bistrotheque L’Education Nationale. It’s ideal for a long lunch or dinner – and on Sundays there are sometimes live performances.

It’s uncharacteristically grey on the Sunday evening that I step into candlelit restaurant Les Trois Cochons. Roumegous and Gillardeau oysters appear on ice, before a bowl of moules marinière turns up and a platter of côte de boeuf is delivered alongside a pinot noir. The restaurant, despite its elegant interior and service, turns up the French rap, which soon moves into disco. The clientele spans all ages and all groups.

Les Trois Cochons, in a renovated butcher’s shop, serves knockout French food
Les Trois Cochons, in a renovated butcher’s shop, serves knockout French food (Les Trois Cochons)

Where are the actual Parisians, though? Frenchman Alex Papatheodorou, an event and activation manager at Vice Scandinavia, has lived in the Danish capital for a few years. “French culture is still really popular in Denmark,” he says. “I remembered when I moved here and said I was from Paris, people seemed excited and thought it was nice and exotic. I didn’t really get it: I’d just moved from Berlin where people didn’t care about it or were pretty annoyed by French people.”

His Copenhagen picks include Ma Poule in food market Torvehallerne and cafe Voulez Vous. He adds: “I go to Rosfort and Rosfort, Pompette and Den Vandrette for good natural and French wines. And everyone adores Pastis. I know a lot of Danish chefs who moved to Paris to work for some time. It reflects somehow in the new restaurants opening around the city, mixing new Nordic and French cuisine.”

Don’t be fooled by the bikes – this street is pure Paris
Don’t be fooled by the bikes – this street is pure Paris (Alexandra Pereira)

It’s a balmy August evening and restaurateur Henrik Breum and I are sharing a wine and a cigarette outside his cheekily named brasserie, Je t’aime, which he opened four years ago close to Vaernedamsvej. “The name was a bit of fun, and we don’t remain fixed and traditional with our menu or wine selection. We’re inclusive and we play around,” he says. That extends to the dishes: a light beetroot, pear, goat cheese and walnut salad is followed with veal tartare.

Then more cigarettes are smoked on the terrace. It gets late. I hit the espresso. That’s fine – we’re in Copenhagen’s Little Paris.

Travel essentials

Getting there

EasyJet and Norwegian fly direct to Copenhagen from various UK airports.

Staying there

The one-bedroomed Central Hotel, just off Vaernedamsvej, is 2,500 DKK (£300) per night including breakfast.

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