Many airport experiences are not all that memorable. An airport is not a place one typically goes to experience the local cuisine of a city, or shop its locally-made artisan products. For many travelers, they’d be lucky enough to find a good bookstore and a place to eat that’s not overpriced. Needless to say, an airport, for the most part, is simply a place one uses to get from point A to point B.

However, one airport, in particular, is changing that dull, drab logic behind what it truly means to be an airport. With locality and culture at its core, Copenhagen Airport, known as CPH for short, has set out on a drastically different course than most. Whereas one might walk into an airport expecting the same chain restaurants in every other airport, travelers will walk into Copenhagen and immediately be struck by three things: local flair, intricate architecture, and a personality.

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We had a chance to speak with Michael Clausen, the creative head behind Copenhagen Airport’s unique design and local theme. This is what the team had to say about CPH being one of the world’s most unique community-oriented transportation hubs.

What Makes Copenhagen Airport One Of The Most Unique?

The question in many travelers’ minds is this: What makes Copenhagen Airport such a different experience compared to every other airport in the world? To answer this, one must observe the airport in its most basic form, which is modeled after the Danish culture and designed around its core attributes. “Whether you are traveling to Denmark, returning home, or just in transit, we want to stand out in our offerings and serve a slice of Danish culture for all passengers,” Michael explained, “It is essential for us to convey a Danish vibe in CPH Airport and let travelers sample Danish design, flavor, and fashion. Naturally, we also have the big international brands but what really sets us apart from many other airports is the very tangible local touch in terms of food, shopping, and gifting.”

This means that no matter what it is that one seeks before or after boarding a plane, it can be found in local spades. The desire to allow travelers the chance to become familiar with Danish culture, from its architectural flow to its flavors, was something that was made a priority. Whereas many airports only feature large international name brands, CPH offers these along with a true taste - literally and figuratively - of Danish culture and life in Copenhagen.

When asked if this unique genetic fingerprint was one that truly echoes the customs of Danish culture, Michael had this to say:

“There is certainly an opportunity to experience some of the hallmarks of Danish culture while strolling through our terminals. Food is often one of the strongest cultural products and something that Denmark has come to be known for. We have a long list of Copenhagen’s favorite local spots – Gasoline Grill, Ramen to Biiru, and OLIOLI that draws a crowd in the city and the airport alike.

In Denmark, we have a strong design culture and are famous for this, hence, Danish design and fashion are heavily represented with interior and home design from Illums Bolighus, Georg Jensen, B&O and Royal Copenhagen, fine jewelry like Ole Lynggaard and Ole Mathisen, and clothing design brands such as Wood Wood and Malene Birger who represents a unique Danish perspective. So, no matter what your interests are you can experience the uniquely Danish sense of food, design, and fashion.”

So, why does this unique design work so well for Copenhagen? According to Michael and the design team behind CPH, the city’s long history as a ‘trending’ destination is one that ‘piques the interest of many foreigners.’ Therefore, by giving travelers access to Copenhagen before they even step foot out of the airport and into the city, they’ll have a fully-immersive experience - one that’s almost entirely personal to Denmark.

“The airport has always represented the city in terms of architecture, trends, and food. We are the first to greet and the last to say goodbye. We want to make an impression and offer a gift to remember whether it’s just a good experience or a small gift or keepsake.”

So, What Exactly Should Travelers Through Copenhagen Airport Check Out?

We got a first-hand look at how newcomers at CPH should be spending their time, from the airport’s best local eateries to its most impressive shopping stops. With this short and easy two-part guide - split into stores and restaurants - travelers in Copenhagen will have no shortage of ways to experience the local culture.

Shops To Visit At Copenhagen Airport

A.C. Perch’s

A.C. Perch’s Tea Shop was established in Copenhagen in 1835 and is owned by the fifth generation. There is always a long line of waiting for shoppers outside their small Copenhagen tea shop – rain or shine. Let the aromas lure you in and check out their beautiful gift boxes and teas in colorful canisters.

Royal Copenhagen

With 240 years of experience, tradition-rich Royal Copenhagen creates Danish world-class porcelain and design. Visit the store and see the famous Flora Danica dinner service - originally designed as a present to Empress Catherine the Great - and other beautiful hand-painted classics from the Royal Porcelain Factory.

Wood Wood

In 2002, Wood Wood was founded in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, by Brian SS Jensen and Karl-Oskar Olsen and has since become one of the most celebrated and popular fashion stores. The Wood Wood shop offers a selection of clothing, fragrances, and more travel-sized objects, including accessories relevant for all thinkable destinations.

Bang & Olufsen

Bang & Olufsen is a luxury lifestyle brand founded in 1925 in Struer, Denmark, by Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen whose devotion and vision remain the foundation for the company. The brand is famous for the wood-clad Beovision TV from the 1980ies which even today remains a sought-after design object. The rich heritage is built around the relentless determination to create products that push the boundaries of design and audio technology.

Lakrids by Bülow

Danes love their licorice, and the world is slowly understanding why. That is largely thanks to Johan Bülow who has cooked up craft licorice for the last 20 years. Swing by and try their combination of licorice, chocolate, and local flavors such as raspberries, sea buckthorn, and strawberries.

Local Heroes – Made in Denmark

Local Heroes is one of the newest concepts in the TAX FREE shop at Copenhagen Airport and is an expertly curated selection of products from all over Denmark. Swing by and pick up some local gifts for friends and family. A few craft beers from Mikkeller, Danish gin from Hammer & Son, or Danish licorice from Lakrids by Bulow will always be appreciated.

Restaurants To Dine At In Copenhagen Airport

Gorm’s

Gorm Wisweh is a household name in Denmark and his claim to fame is creative and tasty pizzas. He makes every pizza his own by using local Danish produce, cheeses, meats, and herbs. The kids will love it too.

Ramen to Biiru

This is one of the newest additions and the perfect pre-flight spot for a bowl of noodles and a cold beer. Danish brewer Mikkel Bjergsø and his famous beer brand Mikkeller are behind the concept, so both ramen and brews are top-notch.

Gasoline Grill

As the name suggests Gasoline Grill was born as a hole-in-the-wall burger joint at a gas station in central Copenhagen. Local foodies quickly realized that owner Klaus Wittrup had done something very special with his cheeseburgers – organic meat, soft potato rolls, and tangy gasoline sauce. And when Bloomberg named Gasoline as one of the 27 best burgers in the world, it became a major gastronomic attraction in Copenhagen.

Lagkagehuset

A danish is called a danish for a reason. Lagkagehuset is one of the most visited bakeries in Denmark and is the perfect spot to experience Denmark’s rich pastry tradition. If rye bread is too healthy for you, then try a flaky and sweet cinnamon swirl.

Related: Floating Sauna? You Can Experience It Yourself In Copenhagen

How Does A Local Design Affect A Traveler’s Perception Of Their Airport Experience?

Many airports have garnered a reputation for feeling sterile, almost cold, and impersonal. When traveling from one destination to another, this is something that can’t always be avoided. However, in the case of Copenhagen Airport, the experience is the exact opposite - one that is warm, welcoming, and friendly. With a combination of its unique design and local artisans and chefs blazing the trail, Michael claims that the very beginning of this incredible experience begins with one thing: the building itself. “The local feel starts with the building itself – created by famous Danish architect Vilhelm Lauritzen and furnished with Arne Jacobsen furniture and Danish artworks. It is one of the rare ‘one roof terminals’ – so everything is within reach which speaks to our fondness for simplicity and functionality.”

This also means an easier layout for travelers, who don’t need to worry about running from terminal to terminal looking for stops that are spread out over multiple buildings. The functionality and architecture, alone, bring so much intimacy and personality into what’s already a unique airport.

In terms of the local flavors that can be found throughout the airport, well, Michael has an answer for how this ensures a ‘mini-Denmark’ experience, as well:

“Every restaurant and shop contributes to the atmosphere and ambiance in the shopping center. A vibrant and local feel benefits both owners and shoppers and creates a ‘mini-Denmark’ inside the terminal to create a greater passenger experience throughout the whole journey. We also try to renew ourselves all the time keeping up with the latest trends and tendencies to secure relevance and a high digital service level at the airport.”

This fluid trend of keeping up with Denmark’s trends along with the professional experience and vantage point of local shops and dining establishments is what sets CPH apart. “We aim to inspire and create the Danish experience as soon as you step out of the plane, not when you leave the terminal which is usually how airports are thought out. We do things differently.” While some might view it as a defiant act to operate so uniquely separate from the average airport, CPH has found a unique rhythm while fighting the tide. One of the goals they’ve accomplished by doing this is providing passengers with an authentic Danish experience, without ever leaving airside.

The Future Of Copenhagen Airport And Its Uniquely Local Charm

What passengers will find in CPH as soon as they exit their plane is nothing short of what one might experience within Copenhagen. When asked if this Danish microcosm of an airport experience is merely a simulation or something greater, representing almost identically the idyllic culture of Denmark, the answer was simple.

“Danes probably don’t think about as much, when they visit Lagkagehuset, Wood Wood, or Gasoline Grill. But they are all extremely popular spots. In that regard, the airport in many ways emulates everyday life in Copenhagen. Danes like to arrive at the airport a bit earlier, so they can enjoy a bit of food, shopping, and self-indulgence before takeoff.”

The nature of such a locally-based airport might beg the question of sustainability. Will travelers always be delighted and drawn in by local charm, or will big-name shops and restaurants eventually come to replace Copenhagen’s one-of-a-kind operation? Of course, Michael and his team had a solution to this, as well - and CPH isn’t just following a long-term plan, it’s following a long-term lifestyle.

“We are always developing our shopping experiences, merging physical and digital shopping, and testing new concepts. Copenhagen Airport is currently working on one of the biggest expansions to date that will add 80,000 square meters of terminal and shopping area.

Here we will continue to create a Danish microcosm and showcase Danish culture alongside some of the biggest and most beloved brands in the world.”

Those passing through Copenhagen Airport are sure to find an experience that combines Denmark’s incredible culture and history with its modern design. Here, feeling like a Danish local isn’t just an idea - it becomes a reality.