In addition to design and food, the Danes have been making waves about the concept of hygge (pronounced hoog-gah) a lot lately. Achieving a state of hygge roughly translates in to doing anything that makes you feel cozy. If you’re now picturing hot chocolate, soft blankets and a book—you’re right on point.
I spent ten days in Copenhagen this summer and truly felt the effects of a hygge life. With the many beautiful parks, cozy cafés and warm smiles around, it would be difficult to not appreciate this Danish way of living. And it’s now all understandable how Denmark has been consistently rated the happiest country in the world.
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Here are some tips to switch-off and my favourite things to do in Denmark’s capital to make the most of a relaxing holiday.
Farmer’s Market haul
And don’t forget to take a trip to Torvehallerne, a farmer’s market, and stock up on some lush Danish produce to enjoy. Even if you’re not in to cooking, you will love the Danish strawberries and cherries and other fruits that might be in season.
And while you’re there, you want to tuck in to a classic Danish farmer’s lunch of smørrebrød—a slice of dark rye bread is slathered with butter and piled high with meat, fish and/or veggies—and a beer. I had a classic potato, onion and mayo smørrebrød at Hallerne’s; it kept me going for hours.
It’s, by far, the most popular mode of transport for the locals in Denmark. It’s quick, easy and great for the environment! Copenhagen is a small city and you’ll love to cycle around to the cafés and parks, breathing in clean air whilst you do. Renting a cycle is very easy and there are cycle shops in every neighbourhood.
Word of caution, you must follow traffic rules strictly; there are designated bike lanes. Even when walking around the city, do not get in the way of cyclists! It’s not appreciated.
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Hot Beverages and Porridge
Temperature in Copenhagen is always cool—even in the summer! And so a hot cup of coffee seems like a good idea. Just like food, Copenhagen takes its coffee very seriously. There are independent roasters that do some amazing coffee such as The Coffee Collective. They have a few branches dotting the city and you’re sure to pass one.
Image Courtesy: Kenneth Nguyen/ Visit Copenhagen
The Danes are known to love their porridge and there’s a chain of cafés that specialises in just that. Head to Grød where they switch up the menu to use fresh, seasonal produce and don’t limit it to just sweet porridge. The warm pea risotto-porridge I had was a beautiful celebration of Danish peas; as was the rhubarb + skyr (Icelandic yogurt) bowl topped with their perfectly crunchy granola.
Get in Touch with Nature
I’d recommend packing a picnic blanket to best enjoy the greenery of Copenhagen’s park. The city boasts of lush, green parks that pump oxygen in to the city. A quick run to the supermarket for a bottle of wine, some crackers and cheese and an anti-pasti tray will equip for a sumptuous picnic basket with zero fuss.
The vast expanses of the Frederiksberg Gardens and the King’s Garden were my favourite picnic spots. With the sun going down after 10:00 pm in the summer, it’s the best way to wind down after a long day exploring the city. Another great way to experience Copenhagen is by hopping on one of the many environmentally-friendly boats that take you for a canal tour. You get a completely different perspective of the city and catch several sights in an hour.
"Hygge translates in to doing anything that makes you feel cozy. If you’re now picturing hot chocolate, soft blankets and a book—you’re right on point."
Image courtesy: Ditte Isager/Visit Copenhagen
Nothing is more comforting than a hot cup of coffee and a breakfast pastry! Copenhagen has several bakeries all across the city who toil all night to line their shelves every morning with freshly baked pastries and bread. Your nose will lead you to them, but just in case here are share some of my favourites:
- Hart Bageri won my heart. I went four times in ten days, to stock up on the best sourdough and indulge in Danish pastries accented with local berries, spices and cream for good measure. The passion and dedication is visible through every perfect crumb.
- I also loved the organic bakes at Emmery’s. You must have their stellar kanelsnegl (cinnamon snail). And if you’re feeling healthy-ish, their rye + dark chocolate vegan bars are equally incredible whilst also being good for you.
- Juno’s has been recently voted the best bakery in Copenhagen and their cardamom rolls are everything! Great fuel for cycling through the day.
No guide to Copenhagen would be considered complete without a meal at Noma. Rated as the world’s best restaurant for several years in a row, Noma has pioneered a revolution in the food industry and celebrated seasonal produce like none other. It’s definitely a bucket-list experience if you enjoy fine dining. You will need to book a table months in advance.
If being laid-back is more your style, enjoy classic Danish food and home-made schnapps on the waterfront of Copenhagen’s old, maritime Christianshavn neighbourhood at Christianshavn's Ferry Café.
Take a detour to the neighbourhood of Nørrebro before you head back to your apartment. And if you’re feeling peckish, a trip to Reffen will lead you to a street food park set in a container yard along Copenhagen’s harbour. There are more than 50 street food stalls that serve everything from wood fired oven pizzas to Greek gyros and Danish smørrebrod.
Stay in an Airbnb
The truest way to experience hygge is at home and what better way than to book yourself an apartment and live like the Danes do. My apartment was the perfect example of the classic Scandi-style with an envious kitchen, floor to ceiling bookshelves and large monstera plants flanking the comfy couches that came complete with a pile of throws to snuggle under at the end of the day. It definitely help set the tone for my vacation—endless cups of tea in the morning, cooking breakfast and cozying up with a book when it got cold at night. You can’t do these things in a hotel room!
We all need to watch more sunsets than Netflix. Copenhagen sets the stage for this and so much more. Make the most of it, switch off and tune in to life.