Copenhagen: “The Happiest City In The World”. It struck me as a bold statement. How exactly does a society breed happiness? If Copenhagen has found it so easy, where have we all got it so wrong?
When I happened upon a small hardback book called “The Little Book Of Hygge” on a midnight trip to tesco in November, I was compelled to pick it up. Hygge, pronounced hoo-gah, has fallen into the fashionable terminology clique on Instagram lately. Whilst there is no textbook definition, there is a common theme amongst all interpretations: that being the feeling of contentedness, cosiness and the sense of belonging. You get the gist. To explore the danish way of living seems fitting right now as I tap on my keyboard, nestled into a dimly lit corner of my local Cafe Nero, roasted hazelnut latte in hand and rain lashing on the pavements outside. If you were with me right now, you’d think I had it sussed.
When my Boyfriend surprised me with a 3 day winter-break to Copenhagen for Christmas, I was obviously ecstatic. Copenhagen had been the top of my bucket-list for quite some time. Having read so much about the danish way of life, their ability to simplify what often seems like the unobtainable goal of “happiness”, expectations were sky-rocketing. So I tried to lower them a little, let the city itself and not the “Little Book of Hygge” paint the picture for me. Yet and with all, within hours of being in Copenhagen, the concept of the “happiest country” didn’t seem like a brash statement, it seemed rational. Of course it’s the happiest country: just look at it.
I’m going to explore just what Meik Wiking, chief executive of the Research of Happiness Institute, was talking about in “The Little Book Of Hygge”; how I discovered what it truly means to be amongst a “happy society”, how I savoured the “hygge” all around me and took it home with me, too.
Wiking describes the various ways that Danish culture encourages “togetherness”, how social relationships flourish under their hospitality. This is perhaps one of his talking points that came to light the quickest when we touched down in Copenhagen. As we carted our suitcases around cobbled streets at night trying to find our hostel, we could hear it before we could see it- not the roar of drunken stupidity but the pleasant hum of tipsy conversation amongst strangers outside. The reception of the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel was literally the indoor bar: a warm inviting hang-out spot playing chill house music whilst travellers all around us played cards and exchanged tales. After a long day of travelling, it sparked up an energy within us that we didn’t think we’d have that night. As soon as our student loans came in at midnight (spent wisely, obviously), we came straight down to the bar ready to engage in the captivating atmosphere that had greeted us. We brought down a paper city map and made plans for the weekend, plans enhanced with the creative flare of several spiced rums. This was a very reasonably priced hostel. The rooms were small but efficient with gorgeous views over the red-top roofs of the city. Happy hour runs from 8-9pm every night and there’s free wifi and iPad rental! You can check it out here.
FOOD & DRINK
Chapter 4 of the book denotes the Danish way of enjoying food, enjoying the detail and the process of cooking it and building a relationship with it. I was so excited to check out the danish coffee shops in Copenhagen, with a few on my list that i’d discovered from other blogger’s trips. I already have a rather committed relationship with food, so I was ready to see what Copenhagen could bring to the table. Atelier September was one of the first cafes we visited: a cosy little space sheepishly squeezed in between coloured buildings on Gothersgade. An experience of firsts, here I had my first taste of rye bread, topped with the greenest avocado I have ever set my eyes upon, and my first latte ever to be served in a cereal bowl! Needless to say, I was hyper afterwards.
The creme de la creme when it came to coffee shops however was Moller Kaffe and Kokken, situated in Norrebro and open until 4pm, serving only breakfast “small plates” all day. My greatest dream realised. Whilst we were blessed with sunshine and blue skies for the majority of our trip, we got a true taste of a nordic winter on our final day. Our day of “visiting parks” succumbed to the pelting rain, so we ventured (or ran, coats covering our hair) into this cafe and savoured a few hours of food and “hygge” vibes! You are given a brown menu and pencil to tick all the breakfast items that you would like. Be careful, it’s easy to get carried away. We opted for paprika avocado with hummus, mixed bread selection with homemade Nutella, smoked sausage, fried eggs with salty kale, waffles with raspberry and vanilla compote and, surprisingly the star of the show, almond broccoli. I would go as far as to say this cafe is an absolute must in Copenhagen.
One of our favourite bars we visited on the trip was Huset Bar, which specialises in unusual rums that you definitely won’t have tried before! As avid game players, we were delighted to see that the walls were lined with board games and every one was laughing, drinking and playing. Remember that sense of “togetherness” mentioned earlier? As most of the games were in Danish, we opted for scrabble. A fun night made even better by winning, sorry Ciaran!
SCANDI-DESIGN IN ITS BONES
When Mark described walking into a danish home as being similar to flicking through an interior design magazine, well, it wasn’t exactly a groundbreaking revelation. Danish design has been worming its way accross Europe, and the world, adding its touch everywhere from that deep bucket chair in your bedroom to that neutral toned coffee shop you love. Danish design is a 20th century born concept centred around simplicity and functionality, but glorified by its effortless beauty. As architect Gustav Friedrich Hetsch said: “Aesthetics must always follow function. Should the latter be neglected, neither the eye nor the soul can ever attain satisfaction”. Copenhagen, a city with scandi-design in it’s DNA, boasts cool interiors on every corner.
Shopping is something I never do when on a city break as it’s probably my main past-time here in Glasgow. Shopping in Copenhagen, on the other hand, is a tourist attraction in itself. Forget the lifeless interiors of your local department stores, every single shop in Copenhagen is a design museum.Copenhagen will have you digging deep into your purse whether you intended to or not! Some shops I recommend visiting are: Acne Studios, Arket, Storm, Weekday and Street Machine. There are also tonnes of concept stores for just about anything, even cacti- yes really. If you have time, head to Norrebro and check out the Acne Studio Archives and delve into the rails of vintage Acne to find sample pieces from seasons ago at reduced prices.
If you’ve ever researched Copenhagen, I’m sure you’re familiar with the pictures of the famous coloured houses upon the canal. You can find this postcard-like scene in Nyhavn. Originally a bustling commercial port, this street brings life to the most despondent of winter days. Houses, once occupied by some of Copenhagen’s most famed artists, have been renovated into restaurants- the perfect place to grab dinner by the quayside. Beautiful landscapes are not exclusive to Nyhavn, however- our eyes were spoilt with stunning architecture.
Our time in Copenhagen flew by. We enjoyed a short break of shopping, eating, drinking and soaking up that happiness that Denmark is overflowing with. Our last day in the city had a lot of outdoor sightseeing on the agenda. But, very typically, our final day decided to be the only day where the streets were flooded with rain! We decided to leave Christiana until next time, we need an excuse to come back asap, after all. Also, Tivoli Gardens happened to be shut until February- so if this is one of your main interests, don’t go in January! We did manage to catch a few outdoor sights during the calms between the storm. Superkilen park is an urban space in Norrebro exhibited as an area of diversity, with different art pieces from all corners of the world. You can see a fountain from Morocco and sculptures from Japan.
Another must-do in Copenhagen is Round Tower which offers the best views over the city. This was our final stop before heading to the airport. It was a sentimental moment to look over the city that I had just fallen in love with, and know that we are just about to leave it behind us.
There is so much more Copenhagen has to offer. Honestly, we only scraped the surface of things to do! I’m not sure if a society as a whole can truly be “happy”, but if there is an art to the pursuit of happiness, you’ll be sure to find it in Denmark.