A stroll down Istedgade (Part 3): Istedgade the Nightowl

By: Tim Anderson (timothyanderson2005@gmail.com)

Following on the heals of Part 1 and Part 2 of this Istedgade series, the focus of this one will be the trendier end of Istedgade, let's call that 'upper Istedgade'. What could be referred to as 'lower Istedgade' (or 'Istedgade the Hooker' and 'Istedgade the Junkie') are areas of the street offering their own distinct set of nightlife possibilities - and these will be the subject of part 5 of this series...

Istedgade by night is pretty good, indeed. Bars and cafés abound. It's not wall-to-wall cafes or anything like that - that would in all liklihood prove to be hugely problematic. Furthermore, the target clientel at the establishment of Istedgade trendier places are not those planning to end the night in a mess of sloppy drunkiness (even if a good few end up this way, nonetheless). There are other areas of Copenhagen where those less capable of handling a few drinks with dignity tend to frequent, which is a good thing for Istedgade. This is not at all to suggest that this makes Istedgade a quiet place by night. It's certainly not.

Along upper Istedgade, there are a fair number of generally unpretentious alternatives for having a quiet drink or less quiet drink.

Until recently, Cafe Riga, with it’s laid back atmosphere and underground music was the place to hang - but an ownership change some months ago, apparently provoked by complaining neighbours, has, as if a neutron bomb exploded, left the walls (and furniture) intact but sucked the life right out of the place. The fantastic underground music and excellent local DJ’s have disappeared (along with the atmosphere they largely were responsible for creating). Still, Riga’s comfortable chairs and couches remain a pleasant option for whiling away a few quiet hours in the early evening.

Cafe Riga today...a rather unpretentious welcome

A better bet, if hip and trendy is your thing (and Carlsberg is not), would be Boutique Lize. Only open evenings from Wednesday to Saturday, Boutique Lize serves a variety fine beers (mostly foreign) while the highly competent bartenders happily serve up a wide assortment of cocktails - some of the better ones in town. A glass of ‘Brugs’, a tasty Belgian offering available on tap, or a mojito (arguably one of the best in Copenagen) are both particularly recommendable.

Then there are a couple of Istedgade’s longstanding institutions of alcohol consumption and chatter – Bang and Jenson and McKluuds.

While Bang and Jensen has always managed to effortlessly maintain an image of laidback, hipster-like cool (and rarely lets you down on any night of the week, even late in the evening on Sunday), McKluuds fits quite a different description. It is all 'Copenhagen bodega' - though one of the more accessible ones. By all means drop by McKluuds for a very cheap beer and a free game of pool, but not for the atmosphere.

Bang and Jensen by day - still pretty busy

Bang and Jensen by night - even busier and rarely a let-down...

McKluuds...always cheap and always...well, cheap...

The place that could take the prize for trendiness would be Strassen - and maybe it does in a parallel universe somewhere else. Unfortunately in this one, it doesn't quite make it. Consistently apathetic service (and a really nasty batch of raw burgers served up to us several months by a cook in the kitchen who apparently was a little overzealous about trying to close the grill down early for the night) has put Strassen way out of favour in my books. Still, when the bartenders are in the mood, they are capable of mixing up quite a tasty cocktail. And Strassen does get the prize for the most amusing fishtank in Vesterbro - a large tank built into the wall with a huge mural picture of Istedgade laid out behind it.

Another unpretentious possibility would be Simpelt V (across from Riga). Doing it's best to take over from where Riga left off when it changed owners, they still haven't quite got the music issue down to a science at Simpelt V, but they're kind of trying. It does look pretty hipster, what with all the vinyl hanging on the walls and the pleasantly comfortable seating.

Simpelt V - hidden behind the bikes and graffitti...

An untested newcomer is Malbeck, an establishment billing itself as an Argentian Wine bar. We'll see if this one flies, in time.

And still more newcomers will surely arrive in the area over the next months.

But what if you're hungry (you may be asking by now)? Well, that's up next in Part 4...

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