Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh)- “In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family, that’s hygge too. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting around a table discussing the big and small things in life”.
If Copenhagen were to be summed up in one word, it would be the Danish word hygge. The Danes are some of the happiest people on the planet (recently ranked as the second happiest country to be exact) and you can literally feel their happiness and warmth ooze out of them when visiting. Every single person we came in contact with was pleasant and kind and helpful, and it was so gosh darn refreshing! I have a theory as to why these people who live in a place with horrid weather are so nice and so happy…1) They are biking vikings! Most people living in Copenhagen don’t own a car, and biking is their main form of transport getting the endorphins flowing….even through the rain and wind that frequents this city. Nothing can stop them, making their goal to be “Carbon Neutral” by 2025 seem totally doable for these kind, biking souls. And 2) they have mouth watering food. Not only do they have all sorts of cuisines from all around the world, the cozy, welcoming, environment in which they eat is just as important as their food. Hence, hygge, hence, happiness.
It rained nearly our entire time in Copenhagen, but not even that could rain on our parade through this happy city. One of the first things we did was go on a free walking tour to learn more about the city and its history. I have come to love free walking tours, they are offered in tons of European cities, so wherever you are visiting, it would be worth looking up! You pay nothing up front, and simply tip the tour guide at the end based upon on how much you thought the tour was worth. Talk about having to work for your pay.
The tour was super informative and went all over the city. One of the stops was in front of the Amalienborg Palace where you can watch the changing of the guards everyday at noon. The Queen happened to be in town on the day we were visiting, so a band played while the guards were changing..so cool!
Another stop on our tour was Nyhaven, the picturesque part of the city that you have likely seen on a postcard. Nyhaven is great place to snap a few pics and then keep walking (or biking). There are restaurants and bars in this area, but they are super touristy and way overpriced, so I wouldn’t recommend stopping here for a drink or to eat. Fun fact about Nyhaven for all you Disney fans out there, this is where Hans Christian Andersen lived aka the mastermind behind “The Little Mermaid” and the story which “Frozen” was based off of, among many other well known fairytales.
On the tour we also learned about Denmark’s tax policy, immigration laws and the country’s role in WWII. Super interesting learning how other countries run their governments especially in a place where its citizens are seemingly so pleased with life. Another great reminder that different isn’t synonymous with wrong.
But the walking tour wasn’t the only tour we did! We were touring fiends in this city. Its kindness drew us in and we wanted to learn as much about it as we could. The other tour we did was a canal tour through the grand canal of the city. In all honesty the tour provided a lot of information about buildings that I didn’t find all that exciting and wouldn’t put this on the must-do list. BUT you do boat past the infamous Little Mermaid statue, for what that’s worth. If you only have time for one tour, definitely choose the free walking tour over a canal tour.
After walking all day in an attempt to see as much of the city as we could, we were ravenous come dinner time! We had planned on going to the street food market, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting much. But when we got inside, I was immediately like a kid in a candy shop. I couldn’t stop “oohing” and “aahhing” at the gorgeous selection of food in this place. They had every food imaginable from traditional to Italian to Mediterranean to Brazilian to American to Chinese to Thai and on and on.
Honestly I wanted to eat everything here. And probably could have. But after much debate and salivating we opted to share a falafel plate to start with. The man made the falafel right there in front of our own eyes and it was accompanied by hummus, salad and fries. I haven’t had Mediterranean food since living over here and ohhhmaaaahhgashhh it was good.
After finishing this plate, our bellies were happy but we were ready for more. Perusing through the market we were drawn into the Brazilian stand because #freesamples. I don’t think I have ever in my life ordered chorizo or any sausage of any sort, but you guys, I am not kidding you, I felt like I touched heaven when this free sample of chorizo touched my lips. I am slightly embarrassed by the sounds we were making when sampling it and can only imagine what the kind sir was thinking watching us take one sample after another. But his free samples did the trick because we ended up ordering a plate full of the Brazilian chorizo, corn, potatoes and salad. I wish I could send it to every single one of you because it was one of the most flavorful, delicious foods I have ever had.
In typical Danish fashion, everything about this place was magical and cozy and warm and inviting. The tables were long farm tables, inviting people to sit next to friends and strangers, dimly lit by few lights and an oasis of warm and dryness to escape the cold rain outside. I could have laid down and slept on the table right then and there, but Julia had to pull me out of there to make the trek back to our Air BnB, clocking another 2 miles for the day. We ended up walking around 15 miles on our first day, kind of making us wish we had rented bikes. There are bike rentals all over the city, but if you choose to bike, make certain you follow the biking rules, they are taken v seriously in these parts.
The next morning we we went to a little cafe recommended by our Air BnB host called Dyrehaven. Its avo toast game was on poiiiint. This dark rye bread appeared as part of every breakfast we had here and it was so dense but soft and dreamy…when I get back to the states I’m going on a mad hunt for this stuff.
One of the places we went the second day was Christiania, the craziest place I’ve ever seen. It’s a freetown, self proclaimed autonomous anarchist community of about 1,000 people. No cars are allowed, but weed is as abundant as water in here, home of the Green Light District. It was established in 1971 by hippies (hence the weed) who occupied abandoned military barracks. It is completely independent of the Danish government and you exit the EU when you enter Christiania.
My mind was BLOWN by this place! You can’t buy a house, you have to be apply for a house and be approved, it is given to you. It’s advised not to take pictures in Christiania, especially in the area where they sell weed, but I had to sneak one picture. Risked my life for ya’ll…. JK they’re Danes, happiest people on earth.
Another stop we made was at the Torvehallerne, an urban farmers market. Torvehallerne is full of vendors selling everything from produce to spices to specialty chocolates. But being the addicts we are, we bee-lined straight to the Coffee Collective for a killer pour over coffee to scratch our itch. The Coffee Collective was conveniently located next to a bakery with ginormous chocolate chip cookies, so obviously we had to get one to accompany our coffee.
Coffee and cookies with your best friend since grade school. That’s hygge.
I was told by a friend that the duck sandwich at Ma Poule in Torvehallerne is ta-die-foh, but we didn’t have a chance to test her judgement.
Our last stop was at Norrebro Bryghus, a microbrewery located in the eclectic neighborhood of Norrebro. I went with a Bombay pale ale and a burger and fries, ugh so American of me. But also don’t regret it because it truly hit the spot and was not expensive which is rare in this town. All you young, hip, trendy foodies out there- this neighborhood is where you definitely want to spend some time.
There is so much that I want to take with me from Copenhagen. First, I would like to put one of its residents in my pocket to take with me back East where kindness is not necessarily thrown around like confetti as it is in Copenhagen. I also want to bring hygge back-I hope that whenever people come into the Sullivan home they have a hyggelig time, feeling cozy and comfortable….all while eating damn good food.
Cheers to you, Copenhagen.