July 26, 2016 2:04 pm
When I was told about Copenhagen’s cosy factor, my heart leapt. A country where it’s socially acceptable to wrap yourself in a blanket in public places and drink hot drinks amidst twinkling fairy lights and candles? Any girl’s dream. But ‘hygge’ isn’t just an excuse to be really lazy, it’s a way of life for Danes. It’s a mindset, a culture, and actually a much bolder way of embracing their freezing winters in comparison to our hibernate-and-it’ll-go-away mantra. And somehow, despite the freezing temperatures, it really works. I LOVED Copenhagen, and felt completely high on hygge for the entirety of our trip. Here’s some of my favourite activities from our first excursion to super-chilled Scandi.
We rented an Airbnb in this area as we’d been told that it was a cool part of town where a lot of students live; so home to a lot of bars, restaurants and cafes. It was a great area to wander around and to look in the vintage shops, and is also home to Assistens Kierkegård, the cemetery where Hans Christian Anderson and a host of other notable Danes are buried. The Kierkegård is set in a beautiful park with tree lined walkways, and is a great source of greenery in the relatively built up capital.
We also got tipped off by a local to one street in particular, that is a spot equally suited for a morning coffee or an evening beer. Blågårdsgade is a pedestrianised street with several cafés and bars with outside seating as well as some below street-level cushioned window-seats for ultimate hygge factor. The atmosphere in the bars and cafes there is great as they are almost interchangeable. A cafe that by morning is accommodated by freelancers working and students reading and drinking coffee experiences a transition between hot drinks and beer in the mid afternoon, and by evening will be full of friends socialising and enjoying the bar culture. Your eyes soon become trained to look below street level as you wander the city, as some of the cosiest and most interesting cafes are easily missed. Boardgames often line the walls for when sheltering from the afternoon chill becomes a necessity (we are rather partial to a game or ten of Connect 4 so this was welcomely received). We could have happily cafe-hopped on this street alone for our trips entirety.
This is one time that you will have to brave the chill (unless you go in summer obviously), as Christiana is completely unique to the rest of the city. The Freetown area, situated on the east side of Christianshavn, is unlike any other city suburb. Since its establishment by squatters in the early 70’s, Christiania has developed into a cultural hub thriving on free-thinking, communal living and creative spirits. The makeshift and utterly unique houses are worth a gander alone, whilst the music, inhabitants, makeshift craft stalls and simple outdoor beer area revel in an atmosphere like no other. Spend an afternoon wandering the higgledy streets of this unique and inspiring district, and forget that you are in Copenhagen, Denmark, and even Europe. No photos are allowed, so mental images must suffice.
This area confused us slightly, as locals had told us to head there for the nightlife and when we arrived we thought we’d missed it. I actually remember commenting “It’s meant to be here but it’s just an old industrial estate”. Yes, an old industrial estate is what immediately meets the eye, but gaze a little more intently through the dark windows of the old car showrooms and, of course, meatpacking factories, and the interior is rather unexpected. Drinks galore, great food, and lots of Danes enjoying the warmth and rustic trendiness of these done-up industrial buildings. In the evening punters spill into the spacious parking area of this previously derelict hub, with food and drink festivals also being held here in the summer. We went to Mother, an Italian restaurant which offers an immense eat-as-much-as-you-like lunch buffet for a very reasonable price (N.B. expect to have popped a few buttons by the time you leave). There are some great fish and beer bars too, so make the slight trek from the city to do as the locals do and go shabby-chic in Vesterbro.
So near, yet so far. If you want to stay comfortably central there are a few streets that in a matter of seconds transcend you from the crowded shopping streets of København to the joys and tranquility of more underground cafes and vintage shops teeming with ultra-trendy attire. Larsbjørnsstræde is a focal street in Copenhagen’s old Latin Quarter, which aside from its quirks also offers the original style buildings and narrow roads that personalise the city. Here we shopped as the locals do, rifling through vintage fares costing a fraction of their high-street counterparts. Likewise, the cafes to be found hiding below street-level here are quieter and more authentic than their central competitors, and we wasted away several hours cafe-hopping here before braving the cold walk home.
If you’re going to take one photo in Copenhagen to show that you’ve been and got the t-shirt, obviously it has to feature colourful houses. Most people’s image of Copenhagen is Nyhavn, one exact street lined with colourful 17th and 18th century townhouses and bars. However, whilst beautiful and the epitome of Scandi building design Nyhavn can seem somewhat disappointing in real life… what you have seen a million times in postcards loses a bit of its magic by the time you finally see it in reality. Or perhaps I’m just bitter that it started raining AS SOON AS we got there for said photo opportunity. Therefore, for me, the most rewarding colourful house scenes were the ones that we stumbled upon, sans the excessive number of tourists and the expensive vibe-lacking bars and restaurants. And were we rewarded for this – the sun shone, and I got my picture!
For anyone as addicted to colourful houses as me, head to Gråbrødretorv… a central square home to restaurants and cafes, and a great burger joint called Sporvejen too.