Hygge for beginners in Copenhagen
I remember reading a lot about the Danish being the happiest nation in the world and being slightly cynical about the concept of 'Hygge', the Danish lifestyle concept which means 'a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life'. Having lived almost ten years in hectic London, it's hard to imagine to take time for these things. So we packed our bags and went to Copenhagen over a long weekend to see what makes Copenhagen ‘hyggelige’ (pronounced ‘hygge-like’) during the pre Christmas time.
No matter how happy the Danes seem to be – be prepared that winter weather is brutal in Copenhagen. However, the many indoor activities including cosy cafes and tasteful interior deco in private homes totally make up for the lack of warmth and light during the winter season. The Danes seem to fight the bad weather by enjoying being inside their homes – and decorate them accordingly.
Candle light and cosy lighting in general, G-plan vintage furniture, Danish stoneware pottery from the sixties and a love for flower arrangements and pot plants makes up a typical Copenhagen household. Our Air Bnb was no exception – it even came with an extensive Vinyl collection to make a cosy winter night in even more ‘hyggelige’.
We spent our first day in the neighbourhood of Nørrebro, the old working class and now hipster area of Copenhagen. With trendy bars and clothing shops next door to dodgy Kebab places, it’s truly multicultural and is the home to many indie design and clothing shops. To kick off the shopping tour we had a delicious brunch and coffee in Café Moeller which serves a variety of small sharing plates.
The street of Jægersborggade is the home to many vintage shops and up and coming designer stores. If you are a fan of good quality vintage garments don’t miss out on Perfectly Worn, a street wear heaven of hand selected high quality pieces from the 80es and 90es. To get into the Hygge spirit, I bought a super warm woollen pleated midi skirt and a pink fluffy sweater which instantly made me feel like I am stuck in a cloud.
For the designer fashion fans amongst you I would recommend paying the Acne Studios Archive a visit. It’s an outlet shop on the corner of the streets of Elmegade and Egegade where you will find clothes and accessories from previous Acne seasons, up to 75% off. I was never willing to spend up to £300 on a pair of jeans, so the £120 I payed for my beautiful light blue washed pair of skinnies in the Acne Archive felt more like it.
On the way back into the central area, pass by the Botanical Garden. With its beautiful 19th century greenhouse which is home to many tropical fauna, it's a great place to get warm whilst discovering the city in winter.
Exhausted from the shopping, we headed over to the Meatpacking District of Copenhagen. A home to many bars, restaurants, galleries and event spaces the district has been renovated with style but preserved a gritty coolness, think industrial warehouse spaces and white tiled walls. A friend recommended a pizza place there called Mother and it didn’t disappoint: we got served the finest wood fired sourdough pizza topped with the best seasonal Italian toppings, fuss free and artisanal. It’s relatively cheap too and a nice change to many places with overpriced wine, which as you will notice, is the only downside to Copenhagen.
On day two and three we decided to focus on the cultural side of the city and explore the castles and museums. The Rosenborg castle is beautiful and surrounded by gorgeous French style gardens – great for a walk during colourful autumn. The Kastellet castle is a so-called star fortress, it’s walls and grounds are shaped like a star. There is a windmill on the grounds as well as the famous mermaid statue on the bankside, dedicated to the fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen.
The Design Museum has become my favourite museum in Copenhagen and is well worth a visit.
It’s located in the middle of Copenhagen’s historic centre and has an amazing permanent exhibition of Danish modernist furniture design as well as Danish and international fashion. If you happen to be there around lunch time, visit the stylish museum café Klint and have a Smorebroed, the traditional Danish open faced sandwich topped with herring and other pickles – it’s delicious!
You haven't been in Copenhagen if you haven't tasted the New Nordic kitchen. You have probably come across Noma before, which is rated as one of the best restaurants in the world. Unfortunately Noma is closed and under construction until Spring 2018, but we discovered a fairly new restaurant called Bror, which has been opened by ex Noma chefs Samuel Nutter and Victor Wågman and has already got awarded a multiple Michelin's Bib Gourmand.
Bror describes its style of food as being 'balanced between comfort and innovation – in flavours and choice of ingredients'. All food is simple and made with the very best produce in season from the northern european region. We had the 5 course tasting menu which blew our minds with it's subtle, elegant and yet unexpected textures and flavours. It's slightly on the pricey side, but this is food truly made in heaven and you will dream of it days after.
And last but not last – the maritime area of Nyhavn and Christianhavn is a must, don’t miss out on taking a selfie in front of the candy coloured houses you will find in the harbour! The area oozes cosy bars and coffee shops, head to Bastard, a board game café, or check out the Street Food Hall situated on the Paper Island in Copenhagen Harbour, an industrial area made up of disused shipping containers and home to many creative institutions. The food hall offers a range of international street food (I had a delicious Korean dish), cocktails and craft beers and is roofed, which makes it perfect for the cold winter months.
On the Paper Island, you will also find the Copenhagen Contemporary, focusing on installation and video art by the likes of world known artists such as Yoko Ono and Bill Viola. If you like modern art, the SMK - National Gallery of Denmark has a whole wing of contemporary pieces but also a wonderful collection of Danish and European art from 1600 to today. The building is a work of art itself - it has been extended with the contemporary wing whilst leaving the old facade untouched, a great architectural blend of old and new.
To finish our trip we had a Glogg (Danish mulled wine) at the world famous Christmas Market and discussed that a country so rich in culture, great food and a love for social togetherness just can't be unhappy, even in long and cold winters. In case of doubt, just pop on your Bukster Hygge (cozy sweat pants, yes there is a special word for it!), enjoy a Glogg and some quality time with your loved ones. You are sorted.