Copenhagen Cheers brought to life.
The Norrebro neighborhood of Copenhagen is frequently referred to as “hip” and “multicultural” by the guidebooks that encourage a visit. And though there are certainly proof points to support the description, Norrebro on this reviewer’s visit felt more like a near-urban neighborhood with the expected set of coffee shops, bars, kebab stands and the like. But what I was not prepared for was one of the great neighborhood dive bars I’ve encountered, just a couple of blocks away from more heavily trafficked options.
There is always a sense of mystery when it comes to visiting a dive bar for the first time. There’s a chance of walking into an uninviting environment where the feeling is more encroachment than it is comfort. But there’s also a chance that what looks pretty standard outside turns out to be something much more, Café Aegir serving as one such example.
Nestled in a residential area of the ultra-pleasant Norrebro neighborhood, Café Aegir from the outside looks like nothing more than blue awnings on a corner spot, parked bikes ringing the front door with really no suggestion of what might exist inside. Through the weathered wood door, the space opens up like a European living room, wooden tables lining the space before terminating in a small square of a bar. Café Aegir is no doubt set up as a neighborhood spot to congregate, relax and casually smoke a pack or three, and the footprint reflects that.
Blue carpet underfoot, wood paneling runs the length of the space, from the front room where the bar is located to the room just right of the front door that serves as overflow seating on busy nights. Tucked away in this ancillary area is a mural that cries out for an explanation that I sadly did not receive, one man asking a lord or king for something while the sword he carries casually lifts up a woman’s dress. Someone planned, sketched, approved and ultimately painted this design and there is no doubt a colorful story behind the thought process.
Underscoring Café Aegir’s dive bar credibility is the surprising affordable beer selection, no small feat in a city not known for its inexpensive cost of living. The bar itself is small, a ring at the end of the front room with a handful of liquor bottles and ample cooler space for a relatively wide variety of domestic beer. Local soccer flags hang from the ceiling and it is hard to imagine Café Aegir not smelling like smoke as every table on this reviewer’s visit partook in a handful of cigarettes, unlikely the first such time in the dive bar’s existence.
But beyond the physical amenities inside, the reason a recent visit was planned for a half hour but extend over four hours was the neighborhood locals inside, welcoming and engaging to those venturing inside. Great stories were told and retold about a deep love for Frankie Valli, the jukebox lit up with all manner of late-70’s American rock and individual conversations soon spiraled into group debates across tables of drinkers clearly familiar with each other and with this neighborhood haunt.
There are dive bars that demand a visit and then there are dive bars that invite a longer stay. Café Aegir coaxed multiple rounds out of this reviewer’s group thanks to a sincere and welcoming batch of locals native to Café Aegir as neighborhood collection point. Amenities aside, that kind of environment is the real magic of a dive bar and Café Aegir serves as one of Copenhagen’s best examples.