Adventure Spotlight | The Danish Concept of Hygge
Denmark has a way of making you feel immediately comfortable
Like warm socks, and hot cocoa by a fire on a chilly morning comfortable. The building facades make you feel like you've jumped into a world where only good things happen behind those closed doors: art, and music, and laughter around dinner tables. The kind of doors that are protecting muses for painters, and poets.
The people of Denmark are incredibly friendly. If they aren't overtly friendly, they at least aren't arrogant.
The Danes are the happiest people in the world according to the World Happiness Report commissioned by the UN.
The weather is crisp, but it seemed to me like bundling up in a chunky sweater and boots is all part of its charm. The way I was describing it to friends back home my first week was that the whole experience was like a big hug.
I would learn a week into my trip that the Danish actually have a word for this way of living and being. Hygge (prounounced hoo-gah). Hygge is about creating an atmosphere that supports comfort, and connectedness. It's about being with people you love, and making everyone feel at home, everywhere. It's similar to what Aloha, and the Aloha Spirit is to Hawaii.
When I learned about Hygge, I began to notice its stronghold on this community. Candles were lit in every store window, and all the lighting was dim and diffused everywhere I went. The Danes are obsessed with lighting.
Not only are they the largest consumers of candles worldwide, they have iconic lamps that cast just the right amount of light into a room. Softer light, softer soul.
Hygge is about family, and close friends sharing a good conversation by a fire place. The homes are simply designed with a lot of natural decor - woods, and lots of ceramics. It's about bringing nature inside. No matter if it's a home or a store, there are always cozy seating areas with wonderful textiles, soft and inviting. And books, lots and lots of books.
I decided my favorite souvenir from Denmark wasn't the blankets I bought, but the gift of Hygge that was bestowed upon my life.
I've never seen so many babies or bikes in my entire life. Strollers line the streets, and I'm inclined to think it's because everything is so cozy people spend a lot of time at home connecting with one another (wink wink). Bikes outnumber cars, and people here. I'd suggest you skip the rental car in favor of a bike, but learn the rules of the road before you hop on, and be sure to signal when you're slowing or stopping. I learned that one the hard way.
There are a few places in Copenhagen that made my heart skip a beat. These are my Good, Wise and most certainly Wonderful picks for Copenhagen. I've shared them with you below.
I am not particularly drawn to cities at all, opting instead for the quiet countrysides of the world, or remote stretches of beach. I can say now that Copenhagen is my favorite city in the world so far. I'll certainly find the space and time to go back again and again.
When I first walked under the arched gates and into Kings Garden, I was awe struck. I had gone on a rainy morning, and there was virtually nobody on the grounds.
Kings Garden is the oldest park in the city. Originally a private royal garden, it was opened to the public in 1770.
You can spend an hour just walking the grounds down the two tree lined paths, Knight's Path and Lady's Path. Take in the incredible sculptures and art, and stop and smell the flowers, literally, in the stunning Rose Garden. I found the view of the castle the most lovely from the vantage points of the roses.
I’ve often wondered what life would be like in major societies if we could just start over while keeping all infrastructure the same.
Christiania, Denmark, is about as close to the answer to that questions as I’ve seen. Known as Freetown, this anarchistic district is essentially sovereign from the rest of Copenhagen. It's a society within a society.
The structures themselves were abandoned military barracks back in the 70’s when a group of squatters began to live on the property and after a long enough time, they gained in numbers. Eventually Christiana became its own sovereign nation within the kingdom of Copenhagen. The buttoned up and fashion-forward residents of Copenhagen give way to artists, and hippies. Children and families living a lifestyle free from traditional societal constraints of ego and materialism.
There are now about 1,000 residents, and beautiful art galleries, unique welding shops, cafes and restaurants.
As you near the entrance, the outer walls begin to differentiate drastically from the quaint facades of the rest of Copenhagen. The quaint facade on building faces gives way to graffiti, and chain link fence.
You’re told before going in that pictures are absolutely not allowed, and that residents strictly enforce that. The reason being that they sell copious amounts of weed and hash on one of the main streets in the community, called pusher street. Once inside, I learned from a resident that it's ok to take some photos when you're not on pusher street, but they encourage that you ask permission from residents first, and some shops advertise that it is ok to snap photos.
Weed was once legal in Christiania until 2004 when it led the overall community into conflicts and police raids. Now they protect their community from over exposing the grow and sale of it here.
Regardless, it grows in planters that sit outside of art galleries and cafes. Copenhagen will occasionally do raids on Christiana, but at the time that I was there, I can’t imagine they’ve been raided in a substantially long time given how big and tall some of these plants were just living along the sidewalk edging.
Christiana reminds us all of the importance of departing from the societal demands we place on ourselves without realizing it. It's a pause in all of the expectation of structure: That title you have at work, the clothes you wear to present yourself a certain way. You will walk in with curiosity and walk out with a smile and a new outlook.
In the center of Copenhagen is the visual and culinary delight of Torvehallerne. It's an indoor market with over 60 stands selling everything from olive oil to fresh meat & fish to pastries and pottery. It's modern, and rather high end, but it still has the softness of Danish design and atmosphere.
Spend some time sitting and enjoying a great cup off coffee and a Danish pastry, which are the best in the world in my opinion.
Come hungry, and plan to leave with a few items to take home.