Hygge (pronounced HOO-GAH) is the lifestyle trend that just won’t die. It’s a not-quite-translatable word that represents a feeling of cosiness and contentment, often found through enjoying nature, snuggling up in a warm nook, catching up with a few friends or enjoying some proper comfort food and maybe a mug of hot chocolate.
Though the word originated in Norway as a rough description of wellbeing, it really took hold in Denmark from the 18th century, and it’s now one of the most fundamental pillars of Danish life. The inclusions are broad, from a fun-loving bloke you meet (that’s a hyggelig fur) to a welcoming house bursting with food (just really hyggelig). In contrast, somewhere cold, dark and unfriendly would be uhyggeligt, but so too would someone addicted to technology. Told you it was hard to explain.
The hygge concept has really spread over the last few years and it’s everywhere on the British high street. There are candles and rugs being flogged at every turn, alongside knitwear and slippers, but all under the umbrella trend of hygge, as emphasised by lifestyle tomes.
Yes, that urge for cosiness all makes sense when winter is nearly here, but hygge is a year-long focus for the Danes, with picnics and twilight barbeques quickly replacing chats around the fireplace. The main aim is to feel comfortable, relaxed and at home, wherever you might be. If you happen to find yourself in Copenhagen, these places will definitely help you create a hyggeligt atmosphere.
The Log Lady Café – Studiestræde 27
Whether you’re a Twin Peaks fanatic or you’ve never even watched the show, this themed café will appeal regardless. It’s quiet enough during the day for a relaxed drink with friends, sat around chunky log tables in tribute to the Log Lady narrator of the famous TV series.
Twin Peaks-themed décor, including red details and black and white zigzags, not to mention a stuffed owl, make this an unusual setting, but it’s still welcoming, with enough cosy nooks and corners to get the hygge seal of approval. There are, of course, candles (a big part of a hyggelig setting), and the modest snack menu is entirely organic.
Rosenborg Slot – Øster Voldgade 4
I really fell in love with Rosenborg Castle and its surroundings. Though the interior is opulent, the neat structure of the castle means it somehow still feels cosy in many places, including (somewhat bizarrely) the King’s toilet, lined with blue and white tiles. Even the throne room manages to look friendly.
Several hyggelig monarchs spent time at Rosenborg, notably the culture-obsessed Christian IV (1596-1648), who commissioned the castle and its King’s Garden, had 20 children, and lived here until his death. His average evening meal at Rosenborg consisted of 16-20 courses, including unlimited beer; food, as I’ve mentioned is a big aspect of hygge. Meanwhile the King’s Garden, or Kongens Have, has been open to the public since the early 1700s and is a popular place for picnics. I even spotted a group of locals doing Tai Chi on the grass.
The Rundetaarn – Købmagergade 52A
The Round Tower, or Rundetaarn, is compact and cute, at just 36m high, but with a lovely spiral walkway for visitors. It was built on the orders of Christian IV (him again) in 1642. There’s a smooth slope leading to the observatory level (no steps, so it’s very pushchair or wheelchair-friendly), along with little nooks where you can rest and gaze out the window to the streets below. The observatory is fun to explore too, and there are temporary exhibitions in the former library hall; when I visited, people were getting tattooed to celebrate a display on the history of tattoos. A brilliant touring exhibition, The Museum of Broken Relationships, runs here from 19th November 2016 – 22nd January 2017, with several new contributions from Danes. Take some friends along and you can bond over horror stories about terrible ex-partners.
The final stretch beyond these rooms involves a steep and narrow stair climb, but you’re rewarded with a panoramic view of Copenhagen and beyond, including the Oresund bridge. On a clear day this is particularly striking, but it would be just as photogenic when there’s mist or fog hanging over the city. If you’ve been charmed by the place, you could maybe to Solvang in California, known as the Danish Capital of America, to see a Round Tower replica.
Is Copenhagen on your wish list? Are you planning a hyggeligt Danish adventure soon? Get in touch for more sightseeing tips, and don’t forget to read my ‘Copenhagen on a budget’ guide.