“Bah”, exclaims my dear danish friend, journalist, writer and hygge* expert Kirsten W.
“You just think you know what hygge is, but it’s just clichés”, she continues, and gives me a somewhat firm glance.
“And by the way, only a Dane really understands danish hygge”, she continues.
“Not too hygge”, I start to think, compared to our Swedish, somewhat less precise and definitely less exploited “mys”.
But then my hygge-yogi Kirsten spends her entire weekend showing me all her favourite hygge-spots in Kopenhagen, explaining the elements behind the so nurtured hygge culture; darling import to the anglosaxon vocabulary including it’s commercialisation in the shape of tons of scented candles, cinnamon rolls with pine cones and knitted pullovers.
Not to mention the amounts of glögg – mulled wine – now sold until midsummer.
[A crime, if you ask me, to serve glögg outside Christmas, but who am I, a humble Swede, to question the successful commercialisation of hygge; only beaten by the success of Bron: The bridge-series. We havn’t had that kind of international success since the word Ombudsman was adopted into english back in 1973’ish, and how sexy-cozy-hygge is an Ombudsman, on a scale?]
Now hygge, on the contrary, may neither be bought or really understood, apart from by the Danes themselves.
Nevertheless some warm hearted hygge may still be enjoyed also by foreign visitors, as me. So let me guide you to the best places in the capital of hygge culture: Copenhagen.
1. Now, the old harbour of Nyhavn may be somewhat touristic, even if Cap Horn and to some extent Nyhavns Færgekro are fine for a frokost (lunch) in the sun, enjoying smørrebrød, herring and a danish beer.
2. But just turn the corner to Store Strandstræde, and you will find plenty of great and less touristic places for a drink with seafood or smørrebrød. These places are all trendy but still with the real hygge atmosphere. At Zeleste, for instance, lobster, oysters and all kind of seafood is served, if weather permits in the lovely courtyard surrounded by ancient, timbered, ochre coloured buildings. Zeleste’s oysters are ordered and opened by a guy at the table, wearing a portable oyster holder including knifes etc. Never saw that before.
3. The Union kitchen further down the street is young, eco, lively, loud and serves brunches, lunches and drinks. Hamburgers and eggs benedictine are some of the best sellers. Very popular, so reserve your table in advance if possible.
4. Now danish smørrebrød is such a classic comfort and hygge food that it touches what my journalist friend Kirsten describes as clichés. Still, all danes as well as the Michelin starred chefs when off duty, queue for Kopenhagens best smørrebrøds at Restaurant Sankt Annæ at Sankt Annæ Plads and – if possible – even more cozy and traditional Shønneman, Houser Plads, founded already in 1887. Book in advance!
5. Sweet tooth? Fresh baked pastries, bread and cakes is very hygge and easy to find in Copenhagen. Denmark is actually quite famous for it’s pastries and bread, with cinnamon or raisin buns served with hot chocolate as the forerunners and icons of hygge. Traditional cakes and home made ice creams are best to be found at La Glace, Skoubogade, founded in 1870 and still going strong with the seventh owner generation. Sankt Peder’s, Holm, Andersen and several others also sell good bakeries.
6. Even if you can’t buy happiness, nor hygge, I would still give it a try at Illums Bolighus on Strøget. The place is packed with the best Danish design and all possible hygge elements such as pajamases, candles – not scented though, that’s not hygge I learned – sheepskins, plaids, cushions, wool slippers and deep sofas to melt into.
7. The only thing not sold at Illums is open fireplaces, and that, dear hygge hunters, is a must. So why not check in at the top luxury hygge hotel d’Angleterre at Kongens Nytorv with both a Michelinstarred restaurant, magnificent and very hygge Spa and – of course an open fire year round.
8. If you are on a more limited budget, try Guldsmeden hotels, especially Bertraams Guldsmeden at Vesterbrogade: an organic oasis with balines design influences, candles and green plants everywhere.
It’s like being invited to the private home of some warm hearted danish hygge expert, such as Kirsten W.
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