After falling in love with Finland’s Helsinki last year, Copenhagen was next on my list. Denmark runs with a tricky-to-translate philosophy in mind. ‘Hygge’ is about comfort, care and cosiness. After over a week experiencing the Danish way of life I extrapolated hygge to include appreciating beautifully designed surroundings and living with quality rather than quantity, eating fresh, nutritious and delightful food, blissing out in nature, curling up in front of the fire with friends or a book, treating yourself to whatever feels good. And most importantly, savouring it mindfully. Denmark is the happiest country in the world according to the UN World Happiness Report, and Copenhagen is full of things that feel, and are, good. So here’s my very humble hygge road map of the Danish capital.
Actually, far from humble, the hotel d’Angleterre is the city’s grande dame, luxurious and designer haven all in one. Recently renovated, every detail from the bijou but bright, airy lobby with its tiered tower of complimentary green apples, and the plush carpet on stairs and along corridors that keeps the ambiance beautifully hushed, to the rich-and-famous filled restaurants and bars, and the dreamy spa, combine to create a perfect whole. Stay in the HC Anderson suite’s calming colours, space and balcony decorated with clippings of famous writer Hans Christian, who was a regular between 1860 and 1871.
A little way across town, Nimb Hotel is arguably the city’s most beloved boutique hotel. And not simply for its 17 beautiful suites (soon to be 37, plus a new rooftop pool, terrace and spa) with open fireplaces, humongous bathrooms, eye-catching art and personal butlers. Nor just for the stylish restaurants like Fru Nimb and her open sandwiches, French-inspired Nimb Terrasse and unmissable Nimb Bar. Your room’s windows open up to terraces with views into Tivoli Gardens, the city’s 1843-built, utterly charming theme park and Nimb guests enter for free. www.nimb.dk
There’s also the Anderson Boutique Hotel in hip district Vesterbro. Searing colours, surprising patterns, creative shapes and cool lines build a picture-perfect designer haven. While for historic design in modern day use, the Radisson Blu Copenhagen welcomes guests into their huge lobby full of Egg and Swan chairs by the country’s father of design, Arne Jacobsen.
When in Copenhagen, don’t miss a moment of the stunningly clear, colour-saturating light. Wake early and jog through the blissfully quiet city centre’s historic streets, or along the lakes or to Nyhavn for the peaceful water. Put on your trainers, plug in your local music downloads – indie-pop-punk Communions, pop-rock by Lukas Graham or, if you must, Aqua (Barbie Girl by the Danish band will be the ultimate contrast to your surroundings) – and stride out past imposing City Hall, willow trees and ducks, or tall ships and the royal palaces respectively.
Alternatively, yoga is a growing Danish obsession. Hamsa Yoga Studio is a hideaway off a quiet cobbled courtyard in the hip Nørrebro district. The ground floor of change room, reception and retail sets the charming tone. I joined the local students to troop upstairs and stake out mat space for Ditte’s hatha class, where she mixed Danish and English, asanas and awareness, inner power with inner peace. The perfect way to see in the day.
If your morning starts a little later, then join a bike tour at a more civilised hour. The local love of cycling, especially in the summer, fills the city’s network of bike lanes and eases the traffic. Flat and relatively compact, you can take in a lot in a few hours: the colourful skyline of Nyhavn, which featured beautifully in the movie The Danish Girl, the changing of the guard at Amalienborg, a scoot past the Little Mermaid (honestly not worth a special trip), luminously white Danes sunbathing in Rosenborg Castle Gardens, boutique shops and cafes in the city’s web of side streets, and Christiansborg Palace, scene of the political series Bergen.