Copenhagen in Focus: The Soulland Guided Tour

END. spends a day in Copenhagen with native streetwear brand Soulland, experiencing a day in the city through the eyes of Silas Adler and Jacob Berliner.

Frequently topping Monocle's Quality of Life survey and ranking comfortably within the top ten cities to live in for 2018 (The Mercer Study, 2018), Copenhagen exists in a tranquil bubble which transcends much of the stress of contemporary city living, without compromising on prosperity or productivity.

A well established Nordic outpost of global style and culture, the city has been immortalised on screen in Scandi-noir boxsets such as Broen (The Bridge) and Forbrydelsen (The Killing), as well as in the global psyche as lifestyle trends such as 'hygge' have been exported to the rest of the western world; everyone vying to achieve the same sense of balance and relaxation that seems to come as second nature to the Danes.

In fact, so prolific is the appeal of Copenhagen, that the notion of working on a guide for the city felt almost redundant; afraid that there was little left to say that hadn't been said a hundred times already. But when we had plans to visit native streetwear brand, Soulland, for a few days in early summer, we knew that the brand's founders Silas Adler and Jacob Kampp Berliner would be able to offer an insider's guide to the best way to spend a day in the Danish city.

9.30am | Breakfast | Granola, Værnedamsvej 5, 1819 Frederiksberg

In Martin Scorsese's gangster epic, Goodfellas, members of the mob sit on the street outside Paulie Cicero's diner, keeping watch on the ebb and flow of their turf. Surrounded by an air of relevance and noteworthiness, the film's protagonist becomes infatuated with the status of these figures and it's this infatuation with becoming known that eventually encourages Henry Hill to join the mafia. Sitting on the street outside Granola with Jacob and Silas, watching as sleepy Copenhagen comes to life around us, I felt like one of the Goodfellas sitting outside Uncle Paulie's diner. Every other person who passes nods or waves or stops for a brief conversation, except instead of knowing them as dangerous mob bosses, everyone knows them because that's just who they are; respected creatives at the heart of Copenhagen's thriving art and design scene.

As we sit down, Jacob asks us what we had for dinner the night before. We tell him that we'd been let down when the restaurant we went to lost our order and didn't notice until after the kitchen closed. We ended up settling for an (admittedly very good) takeaway kebab on the way back to our hotel. No sooner have we finished telling the story, when a guy joins us at the table speaking in quick Danish with Jacob. "This guy won't forget your order," Jacob laughs, and - as if by divination - we have reservations at his restaurant for 8pm.

The menu at Granola is ideal for a sturdy breakfast to set your stride for a day of enjoying the city. Kicking things off with a round of invigorating ginger shots, we enjoyed a breakfast of Croque Madames, freshly squeezed juice, and coffee for essential morning fuel. The vibe at Granola is relaxed and welcoming, with the waiters confidently making suggestions from the menu and sometimes joining guests at their table for brief, comfortable conversations.

Hunger sated, we made a move.

11.30am | Shopping | Soulland, Gammel Kongevej 41, 1610 København

In need of some swimming gear before we head towards the famed Copenhagen harbour, Jacob and Silas take us down to the Soulland store on Gammel Kongevej. Small but perfectly formed, the store stocks a distilled collection of the brand's key pieces from the season and also doubles as an event and installation space. When we visit the brand's recent 'End of Summer' editorial is on display throughout the space.

The store manager Alex is on hand to answer any questions we might have about the products or the neighbourhood and is fully stacked in the latest drop from Soulland.

Next door, the Central Hotel and Café offer dark nectarous coffees and a range of baked goods, juices, and pastries. The single room hotel above the café is one of the city's secret gems, offering a secluded moment of inner-city bliss for visitors to enjoy and is a popular proposal spot for young couples visiting Copenhagen.

12pm | Exploring | CAN Family Gallery | Tullinsgade 5, 1618 København

Just down the street, we hit up CAN Family Gallery; a multi-hyphenate record store - florist - bric-a-brac - art gallery - community hub.

Jacob introduces us to the gallery owner, Martin. Martin's main focus is the record store aspect of the space, while his wife is the artist in residence. Her work lines the walls and is being created in real-time in the adjoining studio rooms.

Open to all, Martin tells us the importance of sharing music - especially rare-vinyl finds - with his loyal customer base. As we talk, a couple of young guys come in and take a seat on the sofa, asking Martin intermittently about the music that's playing or making requests to hear tracks he's played for them previously.

"The internet and the proliferation of streaming services have robbed the younger generation of so much of what music used to be about," Martin says. "The physicality of the products, the graphics and the artwork. The album inserts with lyrics and credits. All of that is lost through streaming."

I admit I'm an avid streamer because it's so easy and Martin laughs. "Sure, but where is the fun in easy? There's no satisfaction anymore, instant gratification is robbing us of real passion. There's barely any feeling of discovery and achievement in music now. I'll go to flea markets and spend hours raking through stacks of old vinyl. Maybe I'll buy a bunch and maybe most of it will be shit, but then you find that one track that absolutely bangs that you'd never have found any other way and it's all worth it. I want people to be able to find that feeling when they come in here."

The day after I get back from our trip, I bring my record player and vinyl collection down from the attic.

12.30pm | Exploring | Bike Ride | Frederiksberg - Refshaleøen

It wouldn't be a day in Copenhagen without a bike ride through the city. Built with cyclists in mind, Copenhagen exists as a safe haven for urban bike riding with dedicated lanes and bike-only precincts throughout. The most popular mode of transportation by far, the city comes to life with the sound of a bicycle bell and the culture of Copenhagen shines through as we watch a group of nursery teachers cycle with groups of four or five small children in the trailers attached to the front of their bikes.

Keen to show us the harbour, which is another gem of people-focussed urban planning, we cycle through central Copenhagen and out towards Refshaleøen. The ride itself takes about 30 minutes, but we stop to take in specific landmarks and pieces of architecture along the way.

"It's amazing how quickly you leave the city behind and are out in nature," Silas says as we emerge suddenly on a quiet country road just minutes from the bustling city. "It's easy to get away with friends and family and find balance in Copenhagen, you don't find that in most cities. It takes - what - an hour or two to get far enough of out London it feels like this? People can come here on their lunch break if they want."

1.30pm | Lunch | La Banchina | Refshalevej 141A, 1432 København

La Banchina sits just far enough outside the city that it's mainly frequented by locals. Seeming to exist outwith the confines of time, spending an idyllic afternoon eating, drinking, and swimming in the harbour, was something that felt incomparable to anything I've experienced in any northern city and definitely beat a day at a traditional beach.

The result of a government programme to rid the harbour from pollution and return to the days when residents and visitors could cool off in its waters, the water is sparkling clean. Three designated baths are dotted along the harbour, free to use and always open, which encourage many residents to swim before or after work most days when the weather permits. One of the only cities in Europe with a harbour clean enough to swim in, Copenhagen was named by CNN the best city in the world for swimming, beating Sydney, Rio, and Lisbon to the title.

From the kitchen, housed within a sun-beaten waterside boat-house, La Banchina offers a range of traditional Danish fare, wines, beers, and fresh juices. Relaxed and informal, the menu changes frequently based on the availability of seasonal produce, and other on-site facilities include a traditional Finnish sauna and a range of picknick benches and deck chairs, although most prefer to spread out along the jetty for easy access to the water.

6pm | Skating | Jarmers Plads, København

Heading back into the ordered hum of the city, on recommendation from Soulland's newest recruit, Emil, we head to Jarmers Plads to take in the local skate scene before dinner.

Unlike most places, the municipality of Copenhagen is engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the city's skateboarders; an exemplum of the country's support for youth culture, urban sports, and outdoor leisure pursuits. A healthy blend of unofficial skate spots and dedicated parks are littered throughout the city, but none presents more of a challenge to the skateboarders than Jarmers Plads.

"It's funny because architects usually think it's a disaster if their plazas get co-opted by skateboarders, but it actually works out for the best," Emil tells us. "You end up with an unofficial security detail of skateboarders if your plaza is skate-friendly. It creates culture in the area, and skateboarders clean up after themselves because you can't roll through trash."

8pm | Dinner | Italo Disco | Oehlenschlægersgade 5, 1663 København

After a quick pit-stop back at our hotel to get changed and a couple of beers in the hotel bar, we head out to meet Jacob and his girlfriend for dinner at Italo Disco.

Spilling out onto the street outside, at first sight I'm convinced this is the place to eat in Copenhagen. The place is stacked, but the vibe remains fun and hospitable. As we arrive we're met by the same guy who had spoken to Jacob outside Granola that morning. He recognises us straight away. "Your table isn't ready just yet, but let me get you guys some wine," he says and within seconds we're drinking.

Levent has a vibrant energy that mirrors the blue, orange, and yellow mise en scène of his restaurant. He has a sharp wit that blends with his supreme hospitality to make you feel right at home. We ask if we can take a picture of him while we wait. "What for?" he asks, "a Berlin porno mag? Sure!"

The food at Italo Disco was so exceptional that it was hard to stay focused on the fact I was going to have to write about it later. The energy of the staff and the buzz of the environment was as intoxicating as the wine which flowed throughout. Each evening the menu is set based on available produce (a common theme among Copenhagen's culinary elite) and you simply put your faith in the chefs and eat what they deliver. "Is there anything you don't eat?" Jacob asks us as we sit down. We shake our heads and Levent says, "Good!"

The meal opens with five sharing plates that arrive as each is ready. The simple Caprese salad was otherworldly, with mozzarella so creamy it existed in a perpetual state of semi-melted, cut with the sweetest tomatoes I've tasted in a good while. Prawn bruschetta baccala with zucchini florets provided a salty base upon which the swordfish and sweet potato gnocchi could shine. The rise and fall of carefully orchestrated flavour and texture combinations was brought to an effortlessly simple crescendo; fresh Danish strawberries and cream.

In what feels like a flash, we've spent nearly three hours eating and drinking and talking in the comfortable confines of Italo Disco's window seat. So rapt by the quality of the food and conversation, it isn't until I break ranks to make a quick call after dessert that I realise it's dark outside.

As the kitchen staff start to clean down after service is complete, the diners migrate naturally outside. Smoking and enjoying the last of their drinks, their voices ringing with the kind of satisfaction that can only come from a damn good meal.

11pm | Entertainment | Café Larsens Plaz | Gammel Kongevej 43, 1610 København

In high spirits, Jacob tells us the rest of the Soulland team are waiting for us at a bar nearby.

Walking through the streets of Fredericksburg, we come upon Café Larsens Plaz and I'm struck by the anti-Scandiness of the place. A good old-fashioned boozer, with a great selection of beer on tap and a pool-hall through the back, this is the perfect end to a stellar day.

Drinks and games of pool unfold into the early hours, as the tightly knit Soulland team are joined by their boyfriends and girlfriends, wives and husbands. We laugh and swap teams about, playing game after game of pool in the comfort of the bar until eventually, around 2.30am, the heavy lids of too many beers tells us each in turn that it's time to go home.

Strolling back to our hotel, it feels like we've been in Copenhagen forever and it's only been 24 hours.

I suppose that's the benefit of the inside scoop, you see the city for what it truly is and overnight it feels like home.

This article was produced as part of an ongoing 'In Focus' series: END.'s essential guided tour of the most prominent style and culture hotspots from around the world as seen by those who live and work there

writerEuan Smart
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