Can I get a hygge?: Winter in Copenhagen
It is absolutely the wrong time of year to even think about what I’m about to write about, buttttttt… my blog, my rules. Neener neener!
So, there’s this Danish concept called hygge which, like all the best foreign words, cannot really be translated into English. The closest we can come is “cozy,” but really it’s all about soft candlelight (or #literally ALL the fairy lights — see photo above), a roaring fire, a warm boozy beverage, and good companionship. It’s one of the ways the Danes get through the long, dark winters (though there is a summer version of hygge that mostly involves barbecues and picnics) and still have their sanity more or less intact.
And it’s hygge that I think of when it’s been 95 degrees every day for basically the last two months.
So what better time to put FOMO-busting to good use? Let’s hygge it up!!
My dear friend Mandy and I traveled to Copenhagen in November 2013: prime hygge season! We stayed in Nørrebro, a funky neighborhood just outside of center city, perfect to escape to after a day of sightseeing.
There are tons of cozy and comforting places to visit so you can get your hygge on.
Ravnsborggade: One block up from the waterfront, this small street is lined with adorable boutiques that, come mid-November and after, host miniature Christmas markets. Antique shops like Ingerslev Antik (#22) let you outfit your own home with all the vintage hygge you can, while Bungalow (#17) has stylish paper goods, Christmas ornaments, lights, and textiles for decorating with a more modern, but still homey, touch.
Smag: This sandwich shop’s cafe is not really all that much in line with hygge, but their food itself is some of the most comforting you will ever eat. (If you’re looking for a cozier setting, you can take your food to Kaffeplantagen just up the street; they won’t mind.) Take, for instance, their smoked salmon sandwich, which when we had it was complemented by dark rye bread, a green pea puree spread, whole peanuts, arugula, and pea pods. We had to fight temptation to not go back for it every day we were in Copenhagen.
Kaffeplantagen: Danes are famous for their love of java, so where else to look for hygge than in a coffee shop? Grab one of Kaffeplantagen’s creamy, foamy lattes — be sure to dust it with cinnamon, if the barista hasn’t already — and choose from their beautiful selection of pastries. They also serve savory food, but in limited quantities, so try to get there right at lunch if you’re looking for something heartier (and if for some bizarre reason you’ve decided to forgo eating at Smag).
Bevar’s: Bevar’s is one of the more hyggelig cafés in Nørrebro. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and also have free Wi-Fi, so it’s a popular all-day hangout spot. The crowd turns livelier in the evenings, though, when there’s often musicians performing. On these nights, people put their computers away and start chatting with unfamiliar faces; however, the music is still low enough where you don’t have to shout. If you’re there on your own, grab a glass of wine at the bar and make conversation with the bartender; they’re happy to give you some recommendations on how to find what’s hygge in town.
Barking Dog: What better way to warm up on a damp, chilly day than with a hot toddy? The Barking Dog offers several different kinds (though unfortunately you won’t find the standard Christmas gløgg — mulled wine), and its café has plenty of nooks where you can hole up and forget about the rest of the world for a while. Their cocktails are handcrafted — think specially chipped ice, freshly zested citrus, etc. — so they take about 3-5 minutes to prepare. Service takes a while on weekends, but it’s quite an enjoyable show to watch.
Verði þér að góðu! Or, this is how the Internet told me how to say “bon appétit” in Icelandic
At this point we’ve done a lot of groundwork: we’ve talked about why making fantasy itineraries can help you beat FOMO, what kinds of resources to check out when you’re planning these trips, how to figure out what kind of traveler you are….
And, well, I’m pretty talked out right now! What I’m envisioning for this site is to share itineraries, to crowdsource awesome trips, to have a collective space to brainstorm — and ultimately, to get y’all fired up enough to take these vacations yourself!
So let’s get to some of the good stuff today. Since I’m taking a vacation in Iceland this summer, I’ll share some restaurants I’ve scouted. Now, I only have a week in Reykjavik and there’s no absolutely no way I can eat at all these places, but remember, this is a wish list! I always like to find way too many places and have them on hand: that way, I can do dinner according to my location and mood. Just want to make that clear in case any of you break out in hives thinking I’m just eating eating eating my way across Reykjavik.
Not that I’m too good for that. I am packing these after all.
- Fish Market (aka Fiskmarkaðurinn) and Grill Market (Grillmarkaðurinn): These are owned by the same people and were a favorite with my vegan friend who visited. Everywhere I read, peole are raving about the Grill Market bathroom being really cool?? Per a Tumblr post that’s not letting me link to it (but this is the original author), “it made you feel like you were underwater with the lighting and the waterfall for the sink.”
Dill: Right now this is regarded as one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik; it puts a new spin on traditional Nordic dishes and the menu changes weekly. I have a reservation here and this is going to be my Treat Yo Self 2015 meal.
Bæjarins beztu pylsur: You know what I’m also not too good for? Street meat. (Ok, here’s where I out myself as the world’s worst vegetarian; don’t worry, my stomach punishes me plenty for my sins.) Scandinavia is famous for its hot dogs and these ones are apparently the best!
Cafe Loki: All I know about this place is that a Twitter friend had rye bread-flavored ice cream here. That’s all I need to know, frankly.
Chuck Norris Bar: Seriously?? This is apparently your standard burger/fries/milkshake fare, only…Chuck Norris-themed.
Forrettabarinn: This was recommended on Fathom, one of my new favorite travel blogs. They serve Icelandic tapas, basically: you can get a taste of a lot of the local flavors. The menu right now says they serve seahorse??? I’m hoping that’s just a clever name for a totally normal fish, like how people in Miami eat “dolphin sandwiches” and they’re really just mahi-mahi. Because otherwise D: D: D: BUT! They also serve other totally normal- and tasty-sounding dishes, so I mean, just make sure you’re reading the menu thoroughly I guess!
Kaloportið Flea Market: Ok, this place is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, this is supposed to be a really cool flea market where you can browse through vintage clothing and Nordic tchotchkes for hours. On the other hand, this is where you can find traditional Icelandic foods like pickled lamb testicles and hákarl, fermented shark. Now, there’s no way in H-E-double hockey sticks I’m going to try any pickled lamb testicles, but I am curious to try shark, if only as a feat of strength. It did Bourdain in, it almost conquered Andrew Zimmern; I’m horrified but I can’t look away. Wish me luck (or sanity), I guess.
Of course there are tons and tons more. I have a whole other list of restaurants that are also famous for having great bars, so I’ll work on getting that up sometime this week as well. Until then, verði þér að góðu!