Formerly one of Copenhagen’s best-kept secrets, Vesterbro has become a fashionable neighbourhood, favoured by the city’s artists and food enthusiasts. In the past, the area had a reputation as being one of the less salubrious parts of town, but it is has now developed into a must-visit district.
Situated within easy walking distance of Copenhagen city centre, it is home to galleries, stylish eateries and independent boutiques. In contrast to the cobbled streets normally associated with the city, Vesterbro’s roads are wider and uncrowded, and visitors can enjoy a taste of life as a local.
The city’s art heart
The transformation of Vesterbro, also known as Copenhagen V, began when the old cattle market, Øksnehallen, was creatively converted into a light and stylish exhibition hall.
Artistic venues, such as the Hans Alf Gallery, now dominate the district. Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, with its spacious all-white rooms, was the first gallery to move to Vesterbro from central Copenhagen. It attracts artists from various countries and hosts 10 new international exhibitions each year.
Among the area’s other highlights is Carlsberg City District, where the famous beer was brewed until 2008. Dance theatres, a concert venue, art galleries and bars can now be found here as well as a museum outlining Carlsberg’s history. The complex is also famed for its Climbing Forest, where children can walk through a wooded area.
Kødbyen, the Meatpacking District, provides further evidence of the charm of the area’s newly gentrified charm. It is divided into three sections, named after the dominant colours of the buildings, which are known to locals as White Kødby, Grey Kødby and Brown Kødby. Kødbyen’s regeneration began eight years ago, when butchers’ shops and fishmongers started to be replaced with pop-up restaurants and bars. Today, it is busy by day and even livelier at night, with a suitably chic clientele. The area’s original character has been retained, with white-tiled walls and terracotta floors kept in some buildings.
Gourmands are sure to be impressed by Vesterbro’s ‘food street’, Værnedamsvej, where stores selling all manner of food and drink, including cheese, chocolates and wine, can be found. Mother restaurant is also located here, a relaxed venue with a selection of Italian dishes including pizzas, meatballs and baked Portobello mushrooms.
As visitors would expect, some of Denmark’s coolest contemporary fashion is available in Vesterbro. Istedgade, the main shopping street, is lined with designer stores and independent boutiques. According to local fashion blogger Emilie Delance, Danish style is ‘very minimalistic’. ‘Danes love to wear a lot of black and grey tones. I would call it simple chic, with an eye for cool details.’
Delance’s go-to shop is Kyoto whose product selection includes international men’s and womenswear but its focus is on Scandinavian designers. Expect to find labels such as Acne Studios, Wood Wood and Ganni here. Kristian Ulriksen, the store’s owner, always knew Vesterbro was the perfect place for his boutique. ‘I opened my first store on Istedgade in 2001, and it was the only place I wanted to have a store,’ he explains. ‘That was because of all the different things this area had to offer. Through the years, the area and the street have gone through a lot, but only for the better.’
Beyond fashion, Vesterbro also offers furniture, antique and toy shops as well as one-off stores. Playtype has made a name for itself with its products emblazoned with different fonts and the shop has become a favourite with local people. The store was originally intended to be a pop-up, providing ‘street-level entry to the indie world of typefaces and letters,’ explains the store’s design coordinator Simone Øster. The store is now permanent, providing a mix of interiors, graphic design and fashion products.
Vesterbro has certainly come a long way from its humble origins, and the district’s myriad attractions will now leave visitors with plenty of choice. It’s no surprise that leading international style publications, including Wallpaper and the Thrillist, have picked it out as being a one of the world’s hippest places.