Lonely Planet Writer

Why the Scandinavian art of hygge is inspiring our wanderlust

Scandinavian countries may be cold and dark a lot of the time, but their inhabitants are regularly judged to be the happiest people in the world. It stands to reason therefore, that the world is currently embracing hygge (pronounced hue-gah), the latest lifestyle trend to come from these northern European countries.

Mornimg light at Vestvågøy, Harbour, Flakstad, Norway. Image: Spreephoto.de/Getty Images
Morning light at Vestvågøy, Harbour, Flakstad, Norway. Image: Spreephoto.de/Getty Images

Hygge is a way of life in Denmark in particular, but also Sweden and Norway. It’s about creating a cosy, convivial atmosphere, and making regular everyday things more meaningful, beautiful and special. It encourages taking pleasure in other people’s company, and banishing anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming from taking space in your life. Think wrapping yourself up in luxurious cashmere knits, lighting ambient scented candles, getting close to nature, being mindful and enjoying warming drinks or a glass of wine.

Two teenage girls sitting on a bridge in Copenhagen city centre. Image: Muriel de Seze/Getty Images
Two teenage girls sitting on a bridge in Copenhagen city centre. Image: Muriel de Seze/Getty Images

You may not get to visit Scandinavia as soon as you’d like, but here are some of the basic elements of hygge that can be adapted to suit your lifestyle wherever you live.

Coffee, cake and conviviality

Friends drinking coffee at a café in Denmark, Copenhagen. Image: Svetikd/Getty Images
Friends drinking coffee at a café in Denmark, Copenhagen. Image: Svetikd/Getty Images

Stopping for coffee, cake and a chat with friends in a cute Scandinavian café is very hygge. In Sweden, it’s a ritual that goes by the name of fika. It probably should be a compulsory ritual everywhere! Warning – steer clear of contentious topics like politics or economics and try to engage on an intimate and convivial level.

Mindful actions

Sitting on the edge of a Scandinavian geothermal blue lagoon is very hygge. Image: Muriel de Seze/Getty Images
Sitting on the edge of a Scandinavian geothermal blue lagoon is very hygge. Image: Muriel de Seze/Getty Images

Being present and giving your full attention to ordinary moments is intrinsic to hygge, so try to clear your mind of stress and focus on what’s in front of you. If that happens to be a view akin to a Scandinavian blue lagoon, well that’s even better.

Gentle cycles

These people are cycling in a recreational area in Copenhagen's Norrebro neighbourhood. Image: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images
These people are cycling in a recreational area in Copenhagen’s Norrebro neighbourhood. Image: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Bicycle rides can be hygge, as long as they are less Tour de France and more along the lines of a gentle meander through a pretty landscape, where you can admire the lovely scenery. You certainly won’t be breaking a sweat and get bonus hygge points if you have a cute pannier on your bike to place your prettily wrapped lunch.

Embracing natural beauty

An wonderful golden dawn bathes a mountain in golden light at Reine in Norway/. Image: David Clapp/Getty Images
A wonderful golden dawn bathes a mountain in golden light at Reine in Norway. Image: David Clapp/Getty Images

Hygge can be intimate chats with loved ones as the sun comes up, where you’re wrapped up cosily against the elements as the day breaks. It can also be strolling around, arm-in-arm, against a breathtaking natural backdrop just as the sun sets and paints the sky in vivid colours.

Cosy knits and hot chocolate

It's very hygge to relax in cosy clothes with a hot chocolate: Image: Johner Images/Getty Images
It’s very hygge to relax in cosy clothes with a hot chocolate: Image: Johner Images/Getty Images

To embrace the hygge way of life, think wrapping yourself in soft knits and luxe fabrics, and gazing over a still landscape in the company of a snoozing dog and a warming mug of hot chocolate. NB: The emphasis is more on how clothes feel than how they look, as the hygge wardrobe is an experience, not an aesthetic.

Pals and picnic baskets

Young women relaxing in the countryside. Image: Muriel de Seze/Getty Images
Young women relaxing in the countryside. Image: Muriel de Seze/Getty Images

Taking pleasure in other people’s company is very hygge-esque thing to do. No noisy pubs or rowdy sports games though. Invite your pals around for a cosy night of hospitality in front of a warming fire, or, if the sun is shining, go for a picnic in the park and gently shoot the breeze.

Candlelight and fireside chic

Sitting outside a tent at night in Skaftafell, Vatnajokull National park, Iceland, is very hygge. Image: Henn Photography/Getty Images
Sitting outside a tent at night in Skaftafell, Vatnajokull National park, Iceland, is very hygge. Image: Henn Photography/Getty Images

Winters are long in Scandinavian countries, so glowing candlelight and fireside chic make being inside during cold, dark days more appealing. Your home will be beautifully and soothingly decorated too. If the weather permits, walking in the snow or spending a night camping (or better still glamping) under the stars can bring a calming sense of peace and tranquillity.

Festive feeling

A girl riding a reindeer through a winter forest. Image: Per Breiehagen/Getty Images
A girl riding a reindeer through a winter forest. Image: Per Breiehagen/Getty Images

While hygge is a year-round phenomenon, it really comes into its own during the festive season. Think dark nights and snowy landscapes illuminated by glowing candles and soft lighting, then warm it up with mulled wine and wrap it in the Christmas feelgood factor.