Some of the many books available right not on the Hygge concept

Some of the many books available right not on the Hygge concept

The Danes have a word for it. Hygge. Pronounced Hoo-gah. And there are many books lately trying to define it and tell us how to embrace it. Whether it is comfort or mindfulness, embracing the moment or enjoying life’s simple pleasures, it is certainly one of the reasons that my birthday trip to Denmark was so special and so difficult to express in words. They simply can’t translate what happens in your soul when you go out there.

Denmark is said to be the happiest place in the world. In its time it has also been a leading light in history, in the world of design, architecture and more recently in the world of food. The Danes shun hierarchy or fakery, they don’t have high rise buildings that encourage another just a little bit higher, they don’t reward oneupmanship and they don’t really do the classes. The most common form of transport is a clapped out old bike. No need for flashy cars here. It’s all understated elegance.

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I realised going around Copenhagen that I grew up with mid century Danish design at home. The simplicity and clean lines are something that stood the test of time. Arne Jacobsen chairs, Pole Henningsen lights, Georg Jensen silverware. On a recent trip, the designs were all very apparent in so many places. Illums Bolighus is a fantastic department store showcasing Danish designers across their four fabulous floors and is a must go place to shop. Just opposite lies Hay – a lesson in retail homewares and display that everyone should learn from. Totally unique and inspiring.

And then of course there is the food.

The Danish food scene has long been on the list of those interested in food, encouraged by the Noma craze that has gripped Copenhagen since they beat El Bulli to the number one spot in Restaurant Magazines world’s best restaurant list in 2010. It defined this “new Nordic” cuisine and was instrumental in challenging chefs from across the country and indeed the world into going back to the roots, literally, of ingredients and food.

Whilst fascinating and surely a wonderful place to go, it didn’t appeal to me and as this was a big birthday celebration, I opted for anything but Noma itself. Many of the places recommended to me were headed up by chefs who came through the house of Noma but spread their wings further. We ate so well whilst we were there and only once had a disappointing meal, which was ironically the most upmarket place we went to. Even there, the roast celeriac with chestnut beurre noisette was awesome, but the rest – well let’s just leave it there.

So where should you go for food? Here are a few places we tried and there are just many many more we didn’t:

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Grod porridge for breakfast with Coffee Collective coffee and time to explore the whole market area of Torvehallerne

Atelier September: cute boiled egg and rye toast breakfast and probably just as fab for lunch

Palaegarde for a good example of local homely cuisine but just a step above the tourist traps

Radio for sheer elegance of cookery and as near to new Nordic as I wanted to get

The famous Manfred's steak tartar

The famous Manfred’s steak tartar

Beetroot and Goat's Cheese done the Manfreds way

Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese done the Manfreds way

Baest, Manfreds and Relae: Any of these for fab food. Manfreds was my personal favourite and if you like steak tartar it is their favourite but also their wines were incredible. And the area it is in has a lovely feel to it so stroll on from there after a long lunch. Relae is more for dinner and Baest a casual pizza offering

Explore Paper Island and all its food stands.

Queue up for hot chocolate at La Place but don’t be tempted to anything other than share one of their overpriced and somewhat disappointing traditional cakes. Too rich for us.

Eat the liquorice caramels or blond chocolate at Summerbird chocolate shop

Breakfast at Pastis and stroll along the street there even if just to take a picture of the one bed/one cafe Hotel Central

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Danish pastries and great coffee in 108 which is about as near as we got to Noma. Who ever heard of a sweet or a sour or an umami pastry? The restaurant is surely fabulous too and in the adjacent building to Noma

Chill over a beer at the old meatpacking district of Kodbyens. Many recommend Kodbyens Fiskebar although it wasn’t one of my favourites. I preferred our meal at Kul.

Visit:

Tivoli Gardens, whilst letting go of your cynicism for an inner city fairground and taking a couple of rides and a appreciating the history of this place. Go at sunset to appreciate the lighting and romance of it all

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art which is well worth the train journey out of town. Make sure you buy your ticket at the central station so that you get a combination of return train and entrance fee all in one.

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Captain your own ride on Go boat for a different angle and fun view of the city

Go and explore the art and statues at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and just take in the atmosphere in the cafe with its cute gift shop just adjacent

Just walk or bike the city and discover all the incredible buildings and places on the way. From Torvehallerne to Nyhavn it is only a 10 minute stroll so take it all in.

Stunning gardens in the cemeteries

Stunning gardens in the cemeteries

Walk through the amazing cemeteries. You can see where Hans Christian Andersen is buried in Assistens or walk through Solbjerg before getting up close and personal with the elephants in the Copenhagen zoo! just by strolling through the adjacent park.

There is so much we didn’t get round to seeing and that’s great because there is a good reason to go back. And then we left to go west – the best reason to go and one for another story another time.

 

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