Design thinking for food culture

Makeshift Style & Spontaneous Eats at Copenhagen Street Food


In our never-ending quest for the details that set the scene for strong food stories, we took to the Danish capital, Copenhagen, for some nordic inspiration.

While New Nordic is of course now a gastronomic mainstay, our spontaneous (read: last-minute) approach to travel means we tend to find ourselves in much more laid-back and simple settings. No reservations months in advance, but researching the neighbourhood from the departure lounge. It's a well-honed skill - takes years of practice - that we like to call 'winging it'.

 Copenhagen Street Food is located on Paper Island © Caroline Santos

Copenhagen Street Food is the Danish city's main street food market, and in contrast to Copenhagen's calm and ordered ambience, it has all the hallmarks of the industrial, makeshift environments we experience in the likes of Street Feast in London's Hawker House.

 Reworked design elements at Copenhagen Street Food © Caroline Santos

Located on PapirØen (Paper Island) opposite the Royal Danish Playhouse and around a little from the original Noma, it's housed in an old newspaper warehouse, and remains surrounded by the containers, pallets and sheet materials associated with the trade. All reworked into a collection of mismatched stands and signage that evoke streetfood's ever-impromptu and repurposed vibe.

 Sociable crowds gather at Copenhagen Street Food © Caroline Santos

Great 'hyggelig' lengths of communal tables, dotted with candles and teamed with benches, are the meeting point for the sociable crowds that huddle together comparing global eats. A great example of our favourite thing about such market destinations, and why we make a beeline for them in each city on the first night there - lots of choice, and no disagreements. Set off independently to scavenge for your personal food adventure, then settle down together to compare and devour.

 Characterful stalls at Copenhagen Street Food © Caroline Santos

We loved the character of each stand nestled comfortably next to each other but offering such different experiences, from traditional Scandinavian to Korean, Mexican, Italian, and random fusions of all sorts - why not? The counters were a hodge-podge of materials and messaging, but each looked well-loved and proud of its individual concept.


The Danish are a warm and humorous crowd, always quite down-to-earth and on the same level. It didn't surprise us one bit to see the cheeky sign on the bin - it's just their style. In terms of aesthetics, a world apart from the cleanliness and efficiency of everyday life in Copenhagen - not in any sort of uptight way, but more of a 'let's keep our things nice' sort of consideration.

It made us wonder what THAT version of a street food market might be, as more and more people are seeking the street food spontaneity, but in a more clean-cut design context.

Outside, the experience continued with an outstanding waterside view of the Royal Danish Playhouse and the harbour against the backdrop of an amber and golden glow.

 Based in a warehouse opposite Royal Danish Playhouse © Caroline Santos

The Copenhagen city nightscape was one of unlit inky blues, ochres and browns spotted with white and gold lights and accent colour pops, with yards of wooden benches encasing the entrance where hardy northerners hung out by the firepits and lanterns that eased the chill. Always a touch of the 'otherly' about Denmark's warm-hearted wintry nights - so beautiful to see.

 The outdoor scene at Copenhagen Street Food © Caroline Santos