There’s nothing like a local cafe to give you a true taste of a city. It’s like a crash course in the casual lunches, informal business meetings and eating habits of the culture. Plus, while you watch those fashionable Europeans (you wish you were but will never actually be) drink their fancy coffee together, you can almost pretend like you belong.
Nobody likes being an outsider, but let’s be honest, we Americans are fish out of water in Europe. All we can really do is refrain from speaking, hide behind our lattes and hope nobody notices the North Face jacket hanging on the chair. I’m in no way trying to say we shouldn’t embrace being American abroad, but sometimes a girl just wants to blend in.
My coffee haven and classroom is Paludan Cafe, situated right next to the University of Copenhagen in the center of the city. This local favorite offers everything an abroad student could want: English menus, attractive baristas and affordable, amazing food. I knew I’d struck gold when, upon arrival, my friend (an English major) exclaimed, “I could live here.” Most importantly, young Danish natives actually come here.
In addition to providing coffee and a place to study, Paludan houses what I imagine to be thousands of books lining the walls, available for purchase upon request. If you’re the type that likes the smell of musky, old novels — you know who you are — this place is heaven on earth. And if art is what you fancy, the eccentric works displayed on the walls are also up for grabs. Just to clarify what I mean by eccentric: There is a painting of a crucified teletubby hanging up. As if the atmosphere wasn’t addictive enough, the chai latte might be the best thing that has ever happened to me. Sound extreme? You’ve obviously never experienced a really good cup of coffee.
Paludan is perfect for doing “work” and overall people watching — is that not how we spend about 80% of our time abroad? I think Paludan might be what I will miss most about Denmark when I trek back to the states. Though the cafe caters to the Danish, it is just as welcoming to international visitors. For me, it’s one of the few places I consider “hyggelige” – the Danish word for cozy, nice and all feelings homey.
To be perfectly honest, there aren’t as many fascinating, must-see sights in Copenhagen as there are in other European cities. Instead, the real Copenhagen experience is best reflected in the attitudes of the Danes and the way they spend their days. Paludan Cafe seems as much a monument to me as the royal family’s humble abode (yes, there is a monarchy here and it happens to be the oldest in the world, so take that London study-abroaders!) It’s where I’ve absorbed the culture, met international students and learned the Danish way. If you come to Copenhagen looking for good food, delicious coffee and a traditional Danish experience, Paludan Café is the place to go.
Liz Waldorf is a junior in the College of Human Ecology. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Notes from Abroad: REVIEW, a column exploring restaurants abroad, appears on Mondays.