Eat Christian Puglisi broke with the Nordic doctrine when, as one of the first of Noma’s chefs to venture out on his own, he opened Relæ six years ago. Last summer, he decided to explore his Sicilian roots with Bæst, a pizzeria where the charcuterie is from organic pigs, the mozzarella is made by hand from Danish milk, and the pies are baked in a wood-burning oven in the centre of the restaurant (pizzas from £12). Hija de Sánchez brings the same attention to detail to tacos (three tacos for £10). Founded by Noma’s former pastry chef, Rosio Sanchez, it’s a market taqueria that grinds its own corn and makes its own tortillas. And Tuesdays to Saturdays in summer, former Noma head chef Matt Orlando complements his seasonal menu at Amas with takeout fried chicken and coleslaw (£19). On a warm night, a box of crisp chicken and a glass of wine in its waterfront garden may be the city’s best picnic.
At a glance The revolution launched by the restaurant Noma over a decade ago forged a distinctly Nordic cuisine and, in the process, turned Copenhagen into a foodie destination. Now that revolution is entering a second phase. No longer confined to the kind of high-end places that do innovative things with sea urchins and foraged sorrel, these days and the list of the city’s most exciting restaurants and bars includes spots that aren’t expensive, or even all that Nordic. What they share are the big flavours and attention to quality that many of their owners learned at Noma.
Drink Copenhagen has one of the world’s highest concentrations of natural wine bars – another legacy, at least in part, of Noma. One worthy recent arrival is Gaarden og Gaden, a lively spot with a list heavy on French and Austrian bottles (£7 a glass), and a mean croque monsieur. For something a little stronger, Balderdash serves delicious, inventive cocktails (a recent concoction included an extract of beaver gland) in a cosily renovated building that dates from the 18th century (£10 a cocktail).
Stay Urban House (dorm beds from £20, doubles from £100) opened last year in the trendy neighbourhood of Vesterbro, and is clearly aimed at a young crowd. Part hotel, part hostel, it is stylishly, if simply, designed, with a wide variety of onsite extras, including a bar and a tattoo shop.
If you see one thing Do it from a bike. Copenhagen is routinely ranked as the most bike-friendly city in the world and has around 450km of dedicated routes. A cycle hire programme, City Bike, launched in 2014 (look for the stands of big white bikes that operate with the swipe of a credit card, £2.75), but there’s also a rental shop on nearly every corner (about £10 a day).
Lisa Abend is a journalist and author based in Copenhagen
At a glance Beyond its red-hot startup scene and thriving music industry, Sweden’s capital is making a culinary comeback with a focus on affordable cuisine. A rising number of bakficka (back pocket) restaurants, run by Michelin-starred chefs, means great value without special reservations. Find cool, offbeat cafes in Stockholm’s eclectic Södermalm neighbourhood, modern fusion restaurants in its Östermalm district, and vintage charm in historic Gamla stan (Old Town).
Eat New restaurant Mother (lunch buffet £7-£11, dinner £6-£15) focuses on healthy meals packed with flavour and cooked in sustainable ways which respect “Mother Earth” (hence its name), through thoughtful care of animals, plant life and people. Slow-cooked cuts of beef are served with roasted organic root vegetables, and there are broad options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, lactose-free, and other allergy sufferers.
Teatern at Ringen is a refreshing take on a mall food court, except its kiosks are run by Michelin-starred and celebrity chefs. Try gourmet hotdogs by Michelin-starred Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken, exquisite 100% ecological vegan dishes from Maximillian Lundin’s The Plant, truffle ravioli and slow-cooked 63C eggs at CAOS, run by Operakällaren’s chef Stefano Catenacci, and many more (prices from £3 to £13). To “fika” like a local – which means a coffee break with delicious pastries – head to Muggen on Södermalm, with its 1970s-style decor and large windows, perfect for people-watching. Grab Fairtrade coffee or eco-friendly teas with organic pastries, such as chokladbollar (chocolate oat balls) and kanelbullar (cinnamon buns), or sip healthy smoothies made with organic fruit, vegetables and seeds.
Drink Sway to local bands at Debaser Medis Club (cocktails £12), where you can chill out over raspberry mojitos on 1970s-style bar stools, before dancing the night away. Corner Club (cocktails £12-£15) is an unpretentious modern bar in Gamla stan serving eclectic cocktails with funky names like Cloud 9, which mixes cloudberries with bourbon and lemon, or Rattlesnake – a mix of rye whiskey, lime, sugar, egg white and absinthe.
Stay Docked at Riddarholmen in Stockholm’s harbour, with gorgeous views of Gamla stan, Mälardrottningen Yacht Hotel (doubles from £85 B&B) offers a taste of the city’s maritime flair. Built in 1924 and converted into a floating boat hotel (“botel”), it has 61 cabinscorrect on three decks – from modest-sized to sprawling.
If you see one thing Get lost on the lush island of Kungliga Djurgården, which is the royal park and home to the city’s best museums, such as the Vasamuseet (admission £11.50, under-18s free), which houses the Vasa warship, which sank in 1628 in Stockholm’s harbour on its maiden voyage and was salvaged almost intact.
Lola Akinmade Åkerström is a Stockholm-based writer, photographer and editor of Slow Travel Stockholm
At a glance Europe’s fastest-growing capital (there’s been a 22% population hike in the past 10 years) has recently seen its downtown and industrial sectors undergo a massive transformation, with warehouse conversions and rebuilding projects, such as the area around the new Opera House or the vibrant, village-like Vulkan complex. This has given rise to bars, bistros and coffee joints run or inspired by young innovators: 2015 Bocuse d’Or winner Ørjan Johannessen from the restaurant Bekkjarvik Gjestgiveri, 2004 barista world champion Tim Wendelboe of the eponymous coffee bar, and 2000 winner Robert Thoresen of Mocca and Java. There are starred chefs – Even Ramsvik at Sentralen and Esben Holmboe Bang of Maaemo – and all this comes with the fresh air, mountains and a fjord packed with islands. Despite Norway’s reputation as an expensive place, local chefs take pride in making excellent food and drinks at reasonable prices.
Eat Oslo’s new food hall, the Mathallen, is part of the new Vulkan development, in a former industrial area on the Akerselva river, which divides Oslo. Mathallen consists of numerous stalls with shared spaces, where you can sit and enjoy food from around the world: south-east Asian streetfood at Atelier Asian Tapas; confit duck, foie gras, cheese and wine at Ma Poule; Italian ice-cream at Paradis Gelateria, or seafood and fish and chips at Vulkanfisk for around £10. The centre of the downtown revival is recently pedestrianised Torggata, where among a run of new Nordic eateries (Arakataka, Café Sør, Lokk, Peloton, Taco Republica, and Wünderburger) is the feted Jor (meals about £10), which serves simple, local food such as baked beetroot with blackcurrants.
Nearby Fredensborgveien has also been transformed, with vibrant cafes, bars and quirky shops (Chez Colin, Fredens café and Den Gode Café, for example). The cheap and cheerful Bon Lió gastrobar (dishes £11-£16) is a hot spot in a small 1814 house, using Norwegian ingredients to make Spanish-style tapas. A sample dish is tartar of tuna, tomatoes, dates and sesame seeds. But the great thing about Oslo is its majestic surroundings, so take a picnic, jump aboard a ferry and go island-hopping around the Oslo fjord to enjoy the views. Buy cooked shrimps from the fishermen at the City Hall pier and wine at the Vinmonopolet (the off-licence with a state monopoly on selling alcoholic drinks above 4.5% in Norway), which is two minutes’ walk away in the Aker Brygge area. Some islands, such as Nakholmen and Lindøya, do have grocery shops that open in summer. Ferries go from the City Hall and tickets cost £2.80, the same as for the tram.
Drink Cosy up with a cairpirinha and enjoy live bands at Café Brasil on Youngstorget, a plaza with numerous bars and eateries. The best place for dance music is Blå, a graffiti-adorned warehouse-style club (it used to store gold and diamonds) with big-name DJs and bands supplying the beats and an terrace to cool down on. Prices are pretty good for Oslo, with beer at £8 and burgers about £10. Finish off at Bar Boca (no website), at 36 Thorvald Meyers gate, a tiny 1950s-style cocktail bar that serves excellent drinks for about £15 and “the biggest Cuban-style tuna sandwich in Oslo”, for under £10. Or grab a cheaper beer and watch the world go by on the busy main street in Grünerløkka.
Stay City Box at 6 Prinsens gate (doubles from £50) has a self-service reception and neat but small rooms. It’s a few minutes’ walk to Oslo’s main shopping street, Karl Johans gate, which stretches from the station to the castle. But for more offbeat shops and coffee bars, head to the side streets.
If you see one thing Take a walk on the roof of Oslo Opera House (free), which has become the capital’s main attraction, thanks to its unusual, sloping architecture, designed by Snøhetta. From here, take in views of Oslo, the mountains and the fjord islands. There are usually rooftop events, from pop-up art shows to concerts, and world-class ballet and opera inside.
Karl Eirik Haug is an Oslo-based contributor to Dagens Næringsliv
At a glance Reykjavik is known for colourful houses, offbeat charm – and high prices. With gastropubs and boutique hotels opening on every corner,, to cater for the ever growing number of visitors, it may seem like the city is beyond the means of many. But, as the Icelandic national football team has just proved, nothing is impossible.
Eat Brauð & Co is a new artisan and organic bakery in downtown Reykjavik, selling sourdough bread baked to co-owner Ágúst Einþórsson’s own recipe, croissants and cinnamon buns (£3) that are worth every calorie. If the delicious smell doesn’t lead you in the right direction, the whole building is covered with a mural by local street artist Youze, making it hard to miss. In Skerjafjörður, the Bike Cave is a combined bike shop and burger joint, where you’ll find burgers at fair prices with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options (luxury burger with bearnaise sauce or lamb steak sandwich £7, veggie burgers £5). And if you’re all sweaty, coming straight from a bicycle tour, the Bike Cave even offers shower facilities for a small fee.
In one of Reykjavík’s historic downtown buildings, designed by the former state architect of Iceland, Guðjón Samúlesson, is Apótek Restaurant . Although the only thing you’ll get for a tenner is the soup of the day, its £18 lunch offer (sea trout and rack of lamb, for example) is fine dining for the budget-conscious.
Drink Petersen Svítan is a new rooftop bar in one of Reykjavik’s historic buildings: Gamla Bíó. Once a cinema and later the home of the Icelandic Opera, Gamla Bíó is now a popular music venue, and Petersen Svítan is the perfect place for a few cold ones and snacks before a show.It offers one of the best views in the city from the outdoor area, and happy hour runs from 11.30am to 8pm (beer £3.60, wine £4.50). Public House on Reykjavik’s main drag offers a reasonable selection of craft beers and yummy snacks – duck chopsticks (£8), scallop ceviche (£8.95). Albeit short (3pm-6pm), its happy hour is especially budget-friendly, with a pint starting at under £3. If cocktails are your poison, you can’t go wrong with Slippbarinn at the Reykjavík Marina Hotel by the up-and-coming Old Harbour. It has an awesome drinks selection and impressive happy-hour offerings – its most popular cocktails are a lime-leaf gimlet and the classic margarita (both £7.20).
Stay Although the Reykjavik Downtown Hostel (dorm rooms from £35, doubles £150) is not flashy, the location is central – in a residential street a stone’s throw from the harbour – and the staff friendly. If dorms don’t appeal, there are private rooms with en suites. For a nearby watering hole, try the flight of Icelandic craft beers at Microbar (five beers for £17).
If you see one thing Pay attention to the charming little details as you walk around the city. Picturesque, toy-town, corrugated houses, beautiful murals, fascinating sculptures and friendly cats give Reykjavik a special quality that makes you fall in love with it.
Auður Ösp runs the I Heart Reykjavik blog