As a famous 1960s band once sang, “all the leaves are falling, and the sky is gray.” Instead of California dreaming though, replace the chorus with Denmark planning and hygge researching! Fall is upon us in Europe and with it all the splendor of cool weather, golden trees, and warm togetherness. On that last note, now is the ideal time to experience Danish hygge, a word that invokes relaxation, gratitude, and yes, a bit of indulgence. Yet we wanted to suggest hygge with a little twist, a slight variation on the original we like to call active hygge. What do we mean by this? It’s simple: you get all the comfort and conviviality of the original with a flourish of the Danish outdoors to add some zest.
Active hygge: what do you need?
Most flights arrive in Copenhagen, which is good since this vibrant city is an ideal starting point. Once you’ve settled in, make sure you’re well-equipped. Are your socks warm enough? How’s your sweater game? The Danes have been cozying up for hundreds of years, so if anyone can deliver comforting gear, it’s them. While the stupor of travel wears off, visit the Meatpacking District and its many unique shops to stock up on hygge gear (we suggest: Danish woolen socks, insulating fleeces, and maybe a pocketknife for the adventure ahead). This part of the city is where the youth congregate, so don’t hesitate to stop for a drink or a cup of specialty coffee. With everything set up, it’s time to hop on the train toward Klampenborg.
Hygge picnics in the crisp air
Klampenborg, a suburb of the capital, is home to Jægersborg Dyrehave, a former royal hunting ground. For hundreds of years, these lands were preserved, which makes them perfect for a cozy picnic on a cool fall day. At the Klampenborg station, stock up on your favorite foods. Fill your canteen with coffee or hot cocoa at a local café. Here are a few local delicacies that will make your picnic satisfying: sandwiches with earthy rye bread, fresh shrimp, roe, and dill. Add to that some cinnamon snails (kanelsnegl) or seed snappers (frøsnapper), crispy and light pastries that go beautifully with hot beverages. With all your supplies, saunter into the woods with your travel companions, woolen socks, and warm scarves until you find the right felled log to relax among the quiet forest for your meal.
Creative hygge in an island setting
Ærøskøbing on the island of Ærø sometimes doesn’t make the pages of blogs or guidebooks that visitors reference. This should be changed, as the place is one of Denmark’s most gorgeous towns—in other words, ideal for hygge! Getting to Ærø is best done by ferry, a fun way to travel Denmark’s archipelago. We suggest starting out early in the morning when the November mist still hangs beautifully in the air. As the boat slides over the cold water, you’ll see tiny islets pass by in the early morning light. Sometimes an islet will have a single dock with a lone boat, the only mode of transport for the cluster of red wooden homes standing peacefully. Once the ferry moors and you’ve debarked, head straight away to the local café. This is Scandinavia, after all—black coffee is ubiquitous. Then walk the cobblestone streets past the squat colorful homes, some of which date back many decades. Hygge practically radiates from these narrow streets. Ærøskøbing also has some great shops with local garments, foods, and goods. In fact, many young Danes, fed up with fast city life, have relocated to places like Ærø for a slower reality. With them, they brought their creative zeal and skill to some very hygge-related activities like knitting, weaving, whittling (cue the pocketknife you bought!), and baking—a good sourdough loaf slathered with butter and local jam is about the most comforting thing there exists! Many of these island artisans host training sessions where you can learn the ancient art of weaving thread into cloaks or rugs or transforming a length of wood into a gorgeous carving.
The coziness of an island cabin
The rhythmic sound of water lapping against stone shores might be the ultimate soundtrack to hygge. The best way to achieve peak comfort is to spend a night or two on Ærøskøbing. Around the town and on its outskirts are cabins for rent. Using any online booking service, you can find cabins equipped with sheepskin-covered chairs, weighted blankets, and soft couches. Yet as we said at the beginning, hygge can also be about the outdoors and the calm it can bring you. That’s why taking a cabin where you can take an active role in building your own hygge is a great idea. One way to do that is to chop wood to build a fire. This simple act of splitting logs with an ax is almost meditative. Once you have enough firewood, you can make your home and hearth warm. It’s at this moment when everything comes together: the fire begins to crackle, the sheepskin warms your back and legs, and you recline with your favorite book beside your travel companions. After a few days exploring the outdoors, it’s time to repose and feels the comfort building around you.
For ideas about outdoor and creative hygge, check out the Visit Europe Instagram page. There you’ll find more insider tips, ideas, and experiences that will make this autumn cozier than ever.