There have been many chapters in my never-ending quest for tacos. Chapter 254: In college, dragging my friends to an Oakland, CA, taco truck in between studying for finals (in case you couldn’t guess, not much studying got done). Chapter 139: Convincing my parents to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant a third night in a row because their crispy fish tacos are just that good. But one of my all-time favorites is Chapter 283: Copenhagen.
A few summers ago, I was on a Baltic cruise with my mom and grandmother (girls’ trip!). I am decidedly not a fan of cruising; one day in a port of call is only enough time for a small taste of a city, to get a real feel. There were many exciting stops (St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Helsinki, etc.), but Copenhagen was the one I was most looking forward to because of, well, Noma. The only problem? I couldn’t get a reservation—not even for lunch (foolish of me to think I could, I know).
But, I had heard wonderful things about a taco stand—Hija de Sanchez—run by Noma’s former pastry chef, Rosio Sánchez. I had a new mission: Find the tacos. With less than a full day to explore, I had to carefully budget my time hour by hour in order to complete my mission. That’s why my itinerary for the day only features a few of Copenhagen’s greatest hits—when you’ve only got eight hours to work with, there’s time for nothing but the highlight reel. And when in Copenhagen, that highlight reel most definitely includes tacos.
9:00am The bus dropped us off somewhere in the city center and I immediately turned to Google Maps to lead us toward Tivoli Gardens, a sprawling amusement park smack dab in the middle of Copenhagen. I’d heard was an oasis of fun—and absolutely nothing like Disney World. We had already eaten breakfast on the boat (chewy croissants and not-quite-ripe fruit, one of many bland meals aboard ship), so we casually walked through the city—a mix of charming historic and modern buildings, many bike-riders, and lots of fresh flowers—to our first destination.
10:00am The rumors were true: Tivoli Gardens puts Disney World to shame. It offers not only theme park-style rides, but dozens of restaurants featuring Danish and international specialities, live entertainment, and perfectly manicured gardens everywhere you look. We easily killed more than two hours exploring the grounds and riding the ferris wheel (which offers exquisite views of the city).
1:30pm By the time we finished up at Tivoli, my mom and I took a short 20-minute walk to Torvehallerne market. (My grandmother met up with her new pal from the ship for lunch; she did not “get” why I was so interested in Danish tacos.) We arrived upon Hija de Sanchez, housed in a little wooden stall just outside the market’s main entrance, to a very long line that, thankfully, moved very quickly. As we waited, I watched as a four-person team pressed corn tortillas and patrons topped off tacos with different salsas and crunchy ants (yes, ants!).
Once I got to the front of line, I ordered up tacos al pastor (marinated pork with pineapple) and lengua (beef tongue with onion and cilantro). They were easily some of the best tacos I’ve ever had—bright with fresh herbs, and tender, perfectly marinated meat. My mom and I downed our orders in about three minutes, but remained seated at the wooden picnic tables for a while to soak up the clear, sunny weather.
2:00pm As if a plate full of tacos wasn’t enough, I wandered inside Torvehallerne and perused the nearly 80 food stalls that line the inside of the market. I landed on Hallernes Smørrebrød, which specializes in (you guessed it) smørrebrød, a type of Danish open-faced sandwich usually served on dense rye bread. I ordered up two: one with smoked salmon, sliced radishes, dill, and sour cream; the other with tiny shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, more dill, and a bit of mayo.
3:00pm With the end of the day creeping up on us, my mom and I met up with Grandma at Nyhavn, the colorful 17th-century waterfront district. Charming and picturesque, I’d count Nyhavn as a must-see no matter how limited your time (and despite the fact that it is very “touristy”). I snapped a quick photo by the “love locks” bridge and grabbed a cone at the Vaffelbageren ice cream shop (I got their “softice” topped with hazelnuts). We even managed to peep into Noma (it was still in its original location at the time); I took in as much of René Redzepi’s genius as possible in those blissful five minutes.
4:45pm With our eight hours in Copenhagen nearly up, we headed back to the bus that would transport us to the ship. In the port, they had a few small vendors selling various Denmark-branded knickknacks, like keychains, t-shirts, and the like. Being that the one souvenir I collect when I travel is coffee mugs, I stayed behind to find one as my mom and grandmother boarded. Overwhelmed by the variety, I eventually landed on one wrapped in the Danish flag. You can pick up a near-identical one right here—trip to Denmark not required (though highly recommended).
4:59pm Not realizing how much time I had spent shopping, I ran back to the ship just as they were getting ready to pull back the loading ramp. Although, I wouldn’t have been that mad if they’d left me behind to spend a few more days in Copenhagen.
There is no question in my mind that I need to go back to Copenhagen—there is still so much I need to see, eat, and drink there. Next time I go, I definitely plan on checking out Balderdash a cozy bar serving up boozy ice cream and creative cocktails, and Fiskebaren a trendy seafood restaurant in the city’s meatpacking district (both were featured on the latest season of Somebody Feed Phil). I’ve heard wonderful things about Grød, a wildly popular chain serving up different types of sweet and savory porridge bowls. And, if by some act of God, I am able to get a reservation at Noma 2.0, that would be worth making a trip in itself.
Where would you go if you had just one day in Copenhagen? Tell us in the comments!