We run up to the meeting spot for our tour, faces red and short of breath. Our tram that morning had oh-so-conveniently decided to be late, and our frustration was clearly evident. The rest of our group, too, likely isn’t feeling so hyggelig towards us latecomers.
Yet thanks to Copenhagen and Danish hygge, it was hard for any of us to be mad for long.
Our guide Soren introduces himself and asks our small group of five how we might define hygge. “Being with friends,” says one. “Coziness!” shouts another. Soren tells us we were all slightly right–that hygge is hard to define, but might best be explained as that cozy, happy feeling you get while spending time with friends and family or cuddled up with a good book on a rainy day. I’ve never heard of anything more ideal.
Our meeting spot is smack dab in the middle of a huge neighbourhood filled exclusively with yellow houses. Our first question after Soren’s introduction is, naturally, what all the yellow houses are about.
“This used to be a naval barracks,” Soren explains. Constructed by Christian IV, Copenhagen’s most prolific builder, the buildings used to be white with red roofs, but as time went on the red of the roofs washed down and dyed the walls their famous yellow hue.
We wander through Nyboder and chat amongst ourselves, the quaintness of the matching houses breaking down the previous barrier between us. Our next stop, a corner bakery for some traditional Danish pastries, breaks them down even more.
We’re all staring hungrily at the window display as Soren explains the different kinds of pastries and offers up his suggestions. We all go for the traditional snail pastry, with an even split along the lines of chocolate vs. cinnamon. I try the cinnamon, and it is heavenly.
As we huddle on the one small bench in the tiny bakery, we all answer questions about our lives. One woman is originally American but living in London and is in Copenhagen to celebrate her birthday. Another couple is here all the way from Wisconsin to celebrate the husband’s birthday. And my friend and I, Scottish and American and ever the odd pair, are also in Copenhagen to celebrate our December birthdays. A crazy coincidence that, without a doubt, drives the hygge up to the very top.
Stomachs happily full with delicious pastries, we bundle back up and move towards Rosenborg Palace and its gardens. In the summertime it would be a fantastic place for a picnic, but for now we simply take a quick wander and listen as Soren tells us all about Hans Christian Andersen.
Our next stop is once again food related. Copenhagen is by no means well-known for its chocolate so it’s a surprise as we step into the Peter Beier World of Chocolate shop, but we don’t stay surprised for long. As Soren tells us all about Peter Beier’s monumental project of single-origin chocolates, the reason we’ve stopped here is abundantly clear. We taste chocolate from several countries as well as a few exquisite truffles before moving on.
We continue our walk in the direction of Copenhagen’s most famous shopping street: Strøget. Though the street itself is not very hygge during the Christmas rush, the hidden alleyways surrounding it are a welcome respite, and Soren also points out the best spot in Copenhagen to watch the changing of the guard as they march from Rosenborg to Amalienborg Palace.
The last of the three palaces in Copenhagen is Christiansborg, and this is our next stop. This grand palace is also home to the modern day Danish parliament, which makes it the perfect spot for Soren to stop and tell us about the Danish political system and why Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. I think we all leave thoroughly convinced that if anyone has it right, it’s the Danes.
Our final stop is perhaps the best of all: another cozy food stop, this time a cafe with delicious lattes that’s decorated for Christmas. We push several tables together and talk until Soren’s next tour means he has to leave. In the span of only a few hours, we’ve become fast friends, and sitting in that small cafe in the centre of Copenhagen, hot drinks in hand and laughing together, we certainly were experiencing hygge.