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Det Lille Apotek: Copenhagen’s oldest restaurant

by Paola Bertoni
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When visiting Copenhagen, stop by Det Lille Apotek for lunch or dinner. This historic restaurant provides a cosy atmosphere perfect for experiencing classic Danish hygge. It’s Denmark’s oldest restaurant and was a favourite spot of Hans Christian Andersen and other Danish artists.

Det Lille Apotek: a gastronomic experience in the Danish capital

Det Lille Apotek, which means ‘The Little Pharmacy’ in Danish, was originally a dispensary offering remedies to people. The restaurant opened in 1720 and kept the name to continue the mission of dispensing good things, this time in the form of typical Danish food.

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Det Lille Apotek is considered the oldest restaurant in Copenhagen and Denmark. Its interior has remained unchanged for over 150 years. The food is excellent, and the atmosphere is unique, thanks to the cosy ambience and friendly staff.

Visitors need to descend a few steps to enter the restaurant as it is located slightly below street level. The three rooms have low ceilings and original period windows with leaded glass. Some windows have stained glass, and others are decorated with forest nymphs and other deities. On the walls, you can spot oil paintings and objects from the past, such as old oil lamps. Small wall sconces provide lighting.

One of the rooms of Det Lille Apotek, the oldest restaurant in Copenhagen and Denmark
One of the rooms of Det Lille Apotek, the oldest restaurant in Copenhagen and Denmark

Famous guests: Hans Christian Andersen and other artists

Det Lille Apotek in Copenhagen is a must-visit restaurant for those who want to immerse themselves in Danish art and history while enjoying a gastronomic experience. Many of Denmark’s most famous artists, including the legendary writer Hans Christian Andersen, have dined at the tables of this restaurant. You might even be occupying the same seat that some of Denmark’s writers or painters had once occupied.

Hans Christian Andersen frequently visited the restaurant in 1854 while writing The Ugly Duckling. The restaurant’s website says that his favourite dish was a combination of three types of herring, accompanied by onion, capers, bread, fat, and butter.

The restaurant also had regular customers such as Axel Sandemose, a prolific Norwegian writer of Danish origin, and Peter Faber, the musician and author of the famous Danish Christmas song Højt fra træets grønne top. Although both artists were very famous in Denmark, they were relatively unknown in the rest of Europe.

What to eat at Det Lille Apotek

Det Lille Apotek offers a menu featuring traditional Danish main dishes, as mentioned in my article on what to eat in Copenhagen. The restaurant serves large portions of excellent food you can share with friends to taste more than a dish.

When I visited the Det Lille Apotek to write this post, I ordered the fried herring, a typical dish throughout Northern Europe. In Denmark, it comes with small boiled potatoes with peel, fruit compote, and white sauce. My friends ordered roast duck and Danish fish & chips.

The fiskefilet, or fried fish, is usually plaice in Denmark and served with remoulade sauce and small boiled potatoes. Roast duck is a traditional Christmas dish that is only available in winter and served with fruit compote.

Typical Danish dishes at Det Lille Apotek: from left roast duck, Danish fish & chips, fried herring, accompanied by boiled potatoes and sauces
Typical Danish dishes at Det Lille Apotek: from left roast duck, Danish fish & chips, fried herring, accompanied by boiled potatoes and sauces

How much cost to eat at Det Lille Apotek

When planning a trip to Copenhagen, make sure to include a dinner at Det Lille Apotek in your itinerary. Not only is it a historic restaurant, but it’s also an excellent choice for experiencing traditional Danish cuisine. However, given the high costs associated with travelling to Denmark, you might be wondering if it’s worth the expense.

The good news is that the prices at this restaurant are comparable to the Danish average. While they may be expensive for those accustomed to euros or pounds, there are dishes on the menu that are reasonably priced for a Copenhagen restaurant.

For instance, the herring fillet dish I ordered cost around €25/£22, as did the plaice, while the meat dishes were slightly more expensive. For a full dinner, including a glass of beer, you can expect to spend around €40-50/£35-45 per person.

How to get to Det Lille Apotek

The restaurant is on a pedestrian street in the centre of Copenhagen, a few steps from Strøget, Europe’s longest and most touristy pedestrian street. Reaching this area on foot or by public transport is easy; we walked directly from our hotel. The nearest metro stops are Rådhuspladsen and Gammel Strand, both on the M3 and M4 lines.

Det Lille Apotek
Store Kannikestræde 15
1169 Copenaghen

Where to stay in Copenhagen

There are plenty of options for a Scandinavian-style stay in Copenhagen, including boutique hotels and designer flats. I stayed at Hotel Danmark by Brøchner Hotels, offering city views from its rooftop terrace. The 25hours Hotel Indre By is another recommended stylish hotel with a restaurant, bar, and sauna. If you’re on a budget, consider staying at Generator Copenhagen, a hostel with private rooms and dormitories, a late-night bar, and free Wi-Fi.

Comment if you have dined at Det Lille Apotek in Copenhagen or if this article has tempted you to make a reservation on your next trip.

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