Tell me your favorite thing about this country, and why:
Hygge! Pronounced like “Hyew-guh.” It’s a noun.
This is something only a Scandinavian culture could conceive of, and it informs a lot about the Danish people. What it basically means, and there’s not a direct translation into English, is a feeling of coziness, calm and good feelings among friends. Why hyyge? Winters are long, dark, and cold!
I see hygge in the architecture and interior design thinking in Denmark. I used to think Danish design was all about slick sterile surfaces, but it definitely is not!
I think it’s about that reassuring feeling of good stuff, stuff you want to share with people. Much of classic Danish furniture was designed with wood surfaces, teak in particular, and I think it’s an essential material for that furniture.
You see this in the food too, which for years was kind of bad-mouthed as clunky and old-fashioned (it’s not) but it’s really about this communal experience. It’s not all cheese, butter, fish and foraged food, it’s more like, here’s something we can share, and life is good when you can share things. Here’s to that!
Tell me a few things about Denmark that a lot of travelers miss, and that you think a visitor shouldn’t miss:
Copenhagen’s Illums Bolighus:
If you are an interior design nerd (with space on your credit card – airline miles!) this is a must visit! Four floors of thoughtful, iconic, inspiring, silly, outrageous and purchasable interior things (hygge anyone?) It feels like a museum in a sense, because of the care and thoughtfulness put into the display, the architecture of the building and the rarity of some of the items up for sale.
It’s right in the middle of central Copenhagen, easy to get to.
Ask any Dane what their comfort food is, this is the answer, Denmark’s famous open-faced sandwiches. In many many ways they are Danish Tacos, in the Mexico City sense of a taco: a pure perfect bite where the taste of the main ingredient is an exclamation point (or whisper) and everything else is in support of it. Salmon – cold cured, smoked, fried, raw – is usually the major protein, and most of the bread is delicious Scandinavian Dark Rye. Everyone you will meet will have a very definite idea of where the best place to have Smørrebrød is, just ask!
The views inside and around the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art:
It’s a short train ride away from downtown Copenhagen, and a short walk through a suburb. I remember very vividly seeing the best Gerhard Richter retrospective exhibit I’d ever (and will ever) see there. What really caught me off guard though was how incredible the building and its grounds are. I remember I found a small room there, with a view overlooking the Öresund strait into Sweden. The most incredible museum I’ve ever had the experience of being inside of and looking out of.