“I don’t know any particular secrets about Torvehallerne,” its head of marketing, Mathilde Thykier, humbly confesses. Because doubtless the open secret –and greatest virtue of this charismatic location with some 80 stalls– is that it is the largest food market in Copenhagen. And that it attracts more than 80,000 visitors each week. Something similar to the Boquería market in Barcelona or Madrid’s San Miguel market, but set in the capital of Denmark. It celebrates some wonderful products: local vegetables, magnificent meats, coffees imported from all over the world, artisan and ecological delicacies, cheeses, fruit juices, beers, exotic spices, fresh fish and some great culinary variety that everyone celebrates.
Gourmet foods, rich gastronomical specialities and attractive sweets to daydream about. It’s also possible to find floral ornaments, cooking utensils and yes, another Danish classic: smørrebrød, those pieces of black bread with butter and cold ingredients that blend to perfection. Maybe all this buying and eating of food has something to do with, we daresay, hygge, that ethereal Scandinavian philosophy that promotes the wellbeing of its citizens and that has recently become so prominent in the world’s news media. Because in society today it is imperative to slow down and find daily happiness. Over a slow flame.
But let’s return to Torvehallerne. Designed by architect Hans Hagens and opened in 2011, it has become a very popular place. We’re in the heart of Copenhagen, in Israels Plads, near the City Hall and 100 metres from the Nørreport station, which provides a good connection with the airport. Torvehallerne is at the very heart of the city. Totally. It consists of two modern glass and steel pavilions, and from behind it counters, experts welcome customers and share their love of cuisine.
As the Torvehallerne webpage puts it, “this market is centred around diversity and the possibility of taking part in wine tastings and discovering rare things from here and there. The starting point is a fundamental respect for products, meals and culinary culture. The key words are quality, freshness and direct contact between tradesmen and producers.” As for the best time to come, that’s another key to its success: it’s open seven days a week. As marketing head Mathilde Thykier says, they are visited by “many tourists from all over the world, principally Europe.”
“Torvehallerne is a varied market with many food shops, easy access, and local products ready to consume here or take away,” she tells Ling. Just the right place, of course, for someone wanting a quick snack or a more sophisticated menu or genuine tapas. Some people may want to calmly prepare the meal in the comfort of home, as recommended by the famous hygge, that admirable Danish happiness. It’s something on view at Torvehallerne, where there are interesting offers like the Tante T tea shop, The Coffee Collective, Cofoco Supermarché, Sushi Lovers or Summerbird, for chocolate lovers. But as is often the case, the best thing is to improvise and awaken the five senses. And even the sixth.
Common sense. Let’s not forget the basic rules of friendliness and good manners. The people behind this popular Copenhagen shopping centre recognise that not everyone approves of what’s on offer and what it costs. “Be polite,” they say there and on the webpage. Because that’s the way these public places should be: relaxed, calm, open to rediscovering the colours and flavours of good food. Fair enough: there are many other ways to enjoy Copenhagen, and Torvehallerne may not be at the top of a traveller’s list, but a city’s life is also felt in its markets. And if they’re nearby, well even better. Bazaars, souks, the Rastro flea market in Madrid… Places full of spontaneity. Even in the most aseptic locations. The charm of Torvehallerne was accurately expressed in Copenhagen’s official website: “It’s not a supermarket. It’s a super market.” That hygge stuff may not be totally comprehensible, but in this case they’ve been quite inspired. Bon appétit.