Hygge (pronounced ‘hougga’) the suddenly everywhere, difficult-to-define Danish concept of comfort and conviviality, is something you may associate with winter: soft blankets, fur-lined slippers and candles. But you don’t have to wait till it gets cold for a spot of this uniquely Danish-style form of contentment. Copenhagen itself is hygge whatever the season, full of design that’s ergonomic rather than aggrandising. Hygge is about life’s little pleasures, quality time, visiting charming places, and fuss-free enjoyment of lovely things, and the Danish capital has a wealth of summer hygge to enjoy.
Messing about on Copenhagen’s waterways is a splendid way to have a hyggelig (cosy) time. Hire a solar-powered boats from GoBoat (www.goboat.dk), which are thoughtfully provided with picnic tables. You can get a ready-made picnic basket from GoBoat, or stock up on delicious local delicacies such as rye bread, herring and cheeses at the enticing food stalls of Torhallerne plus some artisanal beer from local microbrewers such as Mikkeller. All there is left to do is putter along the canal: friends, good company, chit chat and a great picnic.
One aspect of hygge is connecting with nature, and cycling is a wonderful way to glide around the city and explore its greener corners. Cycling in Copenhagen has an incredible 350km of separate cycle lanes and is pancake-flat, making cycling here easy and safe. You’ll rarely see a hint of lycra: locals climb aboard their bikes (understated rather than flashy) in heels, long overcoats, even balancing suitcases. Hop on a bike and set off with a loved one, a friend, or on your own to enjoy the leafy outskirts of the city. Find rated routes on the website Bike Map.
Tivoli Gardens are the city’s centrepiece, and you’ll never encounter a prettier themepark. It’s full of charm and whimsy: there’s a Chinese pagoda, wandering peacocks, a boating lake, sculptural lanterns, and fairylights twinkling in the trees. This year there’s a daily (except Fridays) 175th anniversary parade to celebrate the park’s anniversary. Tivoli’s many restaurants have terraces, and there’s even Cakenhagen, a café entirely devoted to cake, which serves up the cutest little concoctions, made by pastry chefs freshly every morning. Over the summer Tivoli hosts hundreds of concerts, including jazz, classical and rock, in various venues across the park, favoured by locals who flock here to soak up the Tivoli magic.
Copenhagen has some beautiful parks and gardens, perfect for meandering around in the sunny months. The Garden of the Royal Library (Slotsholmen) is a local favourite, a tranquil delight hidden away at the heart of the city. The 17th-century King’s Garden (Kongens Have), around Rosenberg Castle, has emerald-green lawns and tree-lined paths ideal for a refreshing retreat or picnic: this was the royal kitchen garden, and is today the setting for hyggelig entertainments such as puppet theatre. One of the largest parks is Valbyparken (Hammelstrupvej), in southern Copenhagen, with 17 different areas: smell the floral scents of the 12,000 roses in the Rose Garden, or play the quirky game of frisbee golf at the Disc Golf course. Vestre Cemetery is another much-loved park that covers 54 hectares, with some tunnel-like tree-lined walkways, where your walk will be accompanied by birdsong, greenery and dappled light aplenty.
Eat and drink
It’s the design and lighting: so pleasing to the eye. It’s the beautiful yet simply presented Nordic cuisine. It’s the niche beer served in an unfussy yet impeccably designed glass. Eating and drinking in Copenhagen often feels like an understated work of art. It’s unfussy and informal, and the delight is in the details. In Norrebrø, there’s Grød which serves only porridge (from chicken to almond) or risotto, surely the world’s most hyggelig foods. Restaurant Ravelinen has a waterside garden, lit by fairylights, ideal for a cosy dinner. Restaurant Höst serves Nordic food and its interiors have natural materials interwoven into their design and soft sheepskins over the chairs. Increasingly popular in Copenhagen are street food areas, where you can go and choose what cuisine you fancy along with a group of friends, such as the Bridge Street Kitchen, with a waterside setting to add to that feeling – Grød has an outlet here too. As for bars, there are some great places with sofas to sink into and cocktails or local beer on the menu – try somewhere like 1656 (Gasværksvej) in Vesterbrø – and cafes on almost every corner. Try the citywide Coffee Collective for top-notch coffee, roasted on the premises, which leads us onto another way to enjoy some year-round hygge, which is…
The delight in small pleasures lends itself particularly well to sweet things, such as incredible artisanal ice cream. Perfect on a hot day is Svaneke at Tivoli, producing the finest artisanal ice cream, with creamy flavours such as fig and mulberry. Sample the inventive delights of Bryggen11, next to Islands Brygge harbour bath: one favourite comes with poppy seeds. Istid in Norrebrø produces organic ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, created with a dramatic puff of smoke that gives it a sense of occasion as well as incredible consistency.
Known as Danish pastries everywhere else, here the crispy, light and meltingly flaky concoctions are called Vienna Bread (wienerbrød), as they were introduced to Denmark by Viennese chefs in 1840. For a sugar-and-spice-and-all-things-nice cinnamon whirl, a kannelsnurrer, try Meyers Bageri, owned by chef Claus Meyers, a Nordic gastronomic pioneer. Or head for verging-on-divine creations at Leckerbaer, a pastry shop run by Michelin-starred chefs Jacob and Gabi Mogensen.
Swimming in canals
A communal activity that’s also a wee bit sporty: the swimming pools that are a relatively recent feature of Copenhagen’s sparklingly clean canals are tremendously popular with Copenhagen dwellers. Most popular are the pools at Islands Brygge, exquisitely designed, of course, with blonde-wood decking surrounding pools of varying depths, and three Jenga-esque sculptural diving towers. The pools open from June to September and make for a charming way to bask in the sun, splash around, and eat ice cream, for a charming sunsplashed day in the heart of the city. A wholesome, perfectly executed pleasure in the city? With family or friends? You’ve nailed the art of summer hygge.