It’s early June, and Oliver’s Garage and Isbar is busy. The sun is shining (for a change), so a sizable queue has formed for ice cream. Students are clustered around Oliver’s outdoor tables, a pair of wetsuit-clad women pass by toting a sea kayak, and a father and son arrive, discussing the merits of stracciatella versus jordbær as they park their bicycles. In the end, jordbær wins. It seems that summertime has finally arrived in Denmark. The livin’ is genuinely easy here in the little coastal village of Skovshoved.
Situated just north of Copenhagen, along the coast road between Hellerup and Klampenborg, Skovshoved (the name means ‘head of the forest’) is a small, eclectic community with a distinct history. For generations, Skovshoved was a base for fishermen working the waters of the Øresund, so the community has always had the harbour and the sea at its heart. Only shadows of Skovshoved’s historic fishing industry remain, but it’s still the sea that draws both residents and visitors to the area, whether winter bathing, summer sailing, or just the time-honoured sport of looking out over the water toward Sweden.
From its beloved swimming hole to its numerous ‘secret gardens’, from quirky restaurants to high-scale dining, and from modernist mansions to humble cottages, Skovshoved is an overlooked gem. Follow our guide to make the most of the north Copenhagen idyll.
1. Historic Fisherman’s Cottages
Start your journey at Café Jorden Rundt, going north on Strandvejen as it splits off and continues inland. You will pass several blocks of large, classic houses and modernist glass homes. The road narrows around Skovshovedvej, where a patchwork of traditional thatch roofs will come into view, and you can start to wander the side streets, paths, and alleyways on both sides of Strandvejen. Take some time to study the variety of garden spaces hidden from the road, since many are public access. And have your camera ready – this area is an Instagrammer’s paradise. If you happen upon one of the cottage residents, don’t be bashful. Many are more than happy to talk about the colourful history of the area and of their homes.
2. The Swimming Hole
Heading east from the fishermen’s village toward the water, you will pass over the main coastal road (Kystvejen) and arrive at the south end of Skovshoved Havn. Before exploring the harbour, turn south and walk along the sidewalk until you arrive at a freestanding changing hut and a wooden dock extending out over the water, ‘the swimming hole.’ It’s amazing how many people bike past this spot during the year and never know exactly what it is. A gathering place for daring winter bathers and carefree summer swimmers alike, the swimming hole is as informal as it gets – just trim down and jump in. After you take a dip and let the Baltic reignite your circulatory system, complete the euphoric experience by sunning yourself on the rocks of the seawall and watching others take the plunge.
3. Skodshoved Havn
A short walk north from the swimming hole brings you to Skovshoved Havn. Originally built in 1936, the harbour is currently undergoing massive modernisation to double the capacity for sailboats and improve the facilities. Though crews are still at work on the renovations, the harbour is open for business and pleasure – lounge in one of the cafes, venture out in a rented kayak, or insinuate yourself onto a sailboat.
4. Oliver’s Garage and Ice Cream Parlour
At this point in your journey, you’ve more than earned a sweet indulgence. Luckily, from the harbour, you’re just a few meters from one of Denmark’s most unique ice cream shops: Oliver’s Garage and Isbar. Originally built as a Texaco petrol station in 1938 by modernist architect Arne Jacobsen, Oliver’s still functions as a filling station for travellers. Instead of petrol, the crowds now come for ice cream, milkshakes, coffee, and sandwiches.
5. Costa Smeralda Pizzeria
No visit to Skovshoved would be complete without a stop at the neighbourhood’s most vibrant take-away eatery: Costa Smeralda Pizzeria. On any given summer evening, the queue at Costa Smeralda can be twenty customers deep – and for good reason. Voted Copenhagen’s best pizzeria several times over, Costa serves up fresh, creative pizzas as well as towering sandwiches and handmade tiramisu at student-friendly prices.
6. Skovshoved Hotel and Krostue Pub
If by now you’ve decided you need some more time in Skovshoved, but you’re not quite ready to relocate, spend a night or two at the venerable Skovshoved Hotel. The 22-room hotel is a neighbourhood institution, hosting guests since the 17th century. If you’d prefer not to shell out upwards of 1500 kroner a night for a room at the hotel, there’s always Krostuen, the neighbourhood pub and billiards room just next door. After a long day of kayaking, exploring Dyrehaven, or cycling the coast road, Krostuen’s oak-trimmed dining room and cosy outdoor terrace are both great places to spend a long summer evening.
If none of these diversions appeal to you, there’s another activity you can readily experience in Skovshoved this summer – just doing nothing. Relax. This is what people come here to experience after all – slowing down, enjoying the sea, and taking advantage of the long, lazy summer evenings. This is a town for chilling out.