Living Danishly

If you have even the slightest interest in living life in the wellness lane, travelling with fitness in mind, eating and drinking healthily, sleeping optimally, living wholeheartedly, then Scandinavia should be in your sights.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
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If you have even the slightest interest in living life in the wellness lane, travelling with fitness in mind, eating and drinking healthily, sleeping optimally, living wholeheartedly, then Scandinavia should be in your sights.

My Reading Room

THIS PAGE: Treat your palate at the restaurant Schønnemann; iconic Nyhavn. OPPOSITE PAGE : The city’s most beloved boutique stay – Nimb Hotel.

After falling in love with Finland’s Helsinki last year, Copenhagen was next on my list. Denmark runs with a tricky-to-translate philosophy in mind. ‘Hygge’ is about comfort, care and cosiness.

After over a week experiencing the Danish way of life I extrapolated hygge to include appreciating beautifully designed surroundings and living with quality rather than quantity, eating fresh, nutritious and delightful food, blissing out in nature, curling up in front of the fire with friends or a book, treating yourself to whatever feels good.

And most importantly, savouring it mindfully. Denmark is the happiest country in the world according to the UN World Happiness Report, and Copenhagen is full of things that feel, and are, good. So here’s my very humble hygge road map of the Danish capital.


Actually, far from humble, the hotel d’Angleterre is the city’s grande dame, luxurious and designer haven all in one. Recently renovated, every detail from the bijou but bright, airy lobby with its tiered tower of complimentary green apples, and the plush carpet on stairs and along corridors that keeps the ambiance beautifully hushed, to the rich-and-famous filled restaurants and bars, and the dreamy spa, combine to create a perfect whole.

Stay in the HC Anderson suite’s calming colours, space and balcony decorated with clippings of famous writer Hans Christian, who was a regular between 1860 and 1871.

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A little way across town, Nimb Hotel is arguably the city’s most beloved boutique hotel. And not simply for its 17 beautiful suites (soon to be 37, plus a new rooftop pool, terrace and spa) with open fireplaces, humongous bathrooms, eye-catching art and personal butlers. Nor just for the stylish restaurants like Fru Nimb and her open sandwiches, French-inspired Nimb Terrasse and unmissable Nimb Bar. Your room’s windows open up to terraces with views into Tivoli Gardens, the city’s 1843-built, utterly charming theme park and Nimb guests enter for free.

There’s also the Anderson Boutique Hotel in hip district Vesterbro. Searing colours, surprising patterns, creative shapes and cool lines build a picture-perfect designer haven. While for historic design in modern day use, the Radisson Blu Copenhagen welcomes guests into their huge lobby full of Egg and Swan chairs by the country’s father of design, Arne Jacobsen.

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Wake Well

When in Copenhagen, don’t miss a moment of the stunningly clear, colour-saturating light. Wake early and jog through the blissfully quiet city centre’s historic streets, or along the lakes or to Nyhavn for the peaceful water. Put on your trainers, plug in your local music downloads – indiepop- punk Communions, pop-rock by Lukas Graham or, if you must, Aqua (Barbie Girl by the Danish band will be the ultimate contrast to your surroundings) – and stride out past imposing City Hall, willow trees and ducks, or tall ships and the royal palaces respectively.

Alternatively, yoga is a growing Danish obsession. Hamsa Yoga Studio is a hideaway off a quiet cobbled courtyard in the hip Nørrebro district. The ground floor of change room, reception and retail sets the charming tone. I joined the local students to troop upstairs and stake out mat space for Ditte’s hatha class, where she mixed Danish and English, asanas and awareness, inner power with inner peace. The perfect way to see in the day.

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THIS PAGE : The five-star hotel d’Angleterre is a luxurious, designer haven. OPPOSITE PAGE: Art is everywhere in the city; the Nimb Bar is unmissable.

If your morning starts a little later, then join a bike tour at a more civilised hour. The local love of cycling, especially in the summer, fills the city’s network of bike lanes and eases the traffic. Flat and relatively compact, you can take in a lot in a few hours: the colourful skyline of Nyhavn, which featured beautifully in the movie The Danish Girl, the changing of the guard at Amalienborg, a scoot past the Little Mermaid (honestly not worth a special trip), luminously white Danes sunbathing in Rosenborg Castle Gardens, boutique shops and cafes in the city’s web of side streets, and Christiansborg Palace, scene of the political series Bergen.

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Refuel Well

On your travels you’ll have noticed a million and one coffee shops and craft beer bars, ice cream parlours selling the insane gammeldags (cones with ice cream, cream, jam and a flødebolle marshmallow) and Døp hot dogs smothered in fried onions. But start your education in all things Danishly gastronomic at Torvehallerne food market, an inside-outside smorgasbord of stalls and eateries.

From breakfast porridge at Grød washed down with The Coffee Collective’s finest brews, to ham, sausage and cheese from artisan farmers at Omegn for lunch with a sneaky beer on the side, or fresh fish and meat plus bottles of wine to take back for a romantic night in, you could spend all day tasting. I experienced love at first bite with the city’s smørrebrøds (open sandwiches).

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The rye base is a rich palette for the art of combining local ingredients in delicious, healthy and beautiful ways. I feasted on The Standard’s Almanak restaurant’s sweet crab smørrebrød sprinkled with fresh green watercress and wafer-thin curls of whiter-than-white radish.

I revelled in the mountain of Skagen prawns dusted with salmon roe, watercress, lemon juice and sunshine at Illum Rooftop, above the famous design department store Illum Bolighus. I went fantasy at Royal Smushi Café with its layers of potato, bacon and beetroot, and I went historic at 1877-opened Schønnemann, where pickled herring got a topknot of capers, raw fennel and dill, plus an accompaniment of schnapps.

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Explore well

The laundry list of things to see and do in Copenhagen gives you plenty for a week or more in the city. Don’t discount Tivoli Gardens; it is far more than its awesome old-school rollercoaster and hair-raising, 80m high, bird’s-eye view swing ride. It is also a stunning park in the heart of the city, with swathes of bright flowers on green lawn, a central lake with a circumference of gulls and a huge variety of cafes, restaurants and bars with a romantically European feel.

Let the kids run wild while you sit, sip and snack surrounded by natural and manmade beauty. A little more down, dirty and grungy, is ‘Freetown’ Christiania. For people watching, music listening and chickpea eating, this is an urban music festival. You wander around, wide-eyed as if in an alternative adult sweetie shop. Relax, let your hair down, go with the flow, man. Or simply duck into a bar where the few minutes it takes you to order a local beer, peering through the smoke, will be enough to find the outside world a subtly but instantly more chuckleprovoking place than before.

Relax Well

While relaxing in a sunny park, sitting outside a streetside cafe or feet up on a deckchair on the lakes, there are plenty of spas for enhancing the hygge feeling.


A Nordic oasis, you only have to walk into the reception to feel the serenity of the room lent in part by the view of the calming pool. Treatments use organic products for resultsdriven facials including peels, oxygen infusion and bio-lightening, but most tempting are the multi-therapy treatments that use Scandinavian ingredients like sea salt, Icelandic lava stones, algae, rosehip and cedar oil.

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THIS PAGE : Fall in love with delicious smørrebrøds. OPPOSITE PAGE: To experience hygge, slow down, soak up the sun by the canal and perhaps read a book.


A stunning spa in an old building that makes the most of the large rooms, high ceilings and generous windows in its relaxation room, with more than a touch of Asia in the decor. You can go functional, or as innovative as magnetically charged mud mask facials, or as romantic as Princess or Shiva treatments.


Although Denmark isn’t the spiritual home of the sauna like Finland, Arndal Spa offers the popular saunagus treatment. Picture yourself lying in a dry sauna fragrant with essential oils, your therapist pushing hot air onto your body by flapping a towel over it, before further softening and nourishing your body with a scrub or mask. It’s a heat marathon that initiates a cleansing detox and leaves you walking on air. Book more traditional facials, massages or body treatments afterwards, to make the most of the beautifully designed interiors.

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Shop Well

With such a rich design history, it is natural that Danes appreciate beautiful things. Quality rather than quantity fits in perfectly with the modern day reaction against ‘stuff’ and the city is a natural showroom for local architecture, design and crafts. When you’ve had your fill of the big icons you can’t take home – The Black Diamond, Denmark’s national library; The Blue Planet, northern Europe’s largest aquarium; The Royal Danish Playhouse and the residential but equally impressive Tietgenkollegiet, 8 Tallet and VM Mountain – hit up the design shops.

Stilleben is a treasure trove of artisan furniture, glass and ceramic wares and jewellery, plus textiles and prints, while nearby is Illum Bolighus, an entire department store dedicated to Danish everything. Made in Denmark is full of affordable takeaways, close to Nimb Hotel, including postcards and posters by famed artist Ib Antoni.

Further out, head to hip Vesterbro’s Designer Zoo for a curation of modern artists’ ceramic and jewellery, to posh Frederiksborg for street after street of high-end shopping. Don’t miss charming Vaernedamsvej Street (little Paris) for florists, cheesemakers, toy shops, design boutiques, eye glass designers and numerous cafes, restaurants and bars.

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Wind Down Well

Everyone has heard of Noma, right? How can you not love a restaurant whose first menu item currently reads rhubarb and seaweed, includes crisp of wild roses and Danish peas, and finishes with moss cooked in chocolate? The excitingly experimental restaurant that requires you to mortgage your home to secure a table, months ahead of your actual dinner, was founded by René Redzepi and opened the world’s eyes to a new way of eating, but closes soon to reinvent itself and no doubt pioneer a new style of eating Danishly.

Noma has spawned a huge number of restaurants helmed by Noma alumni, which make for slightly easier to book, less expensive yet still phenomenal dining experiences. Discover Relae’s minimal menus and Manfreds & Vin’s down-toearth welcome, taste what Geranium’s skyhigh reputation is built upon and Radio’s intriguing way with vegetables.

There’s also Host’s sophisticated rustic interiors and Kokkeriet’s degustation dinners, student dishes and cooking courses. Clean, quirky Nordic ingredients, foraged and artisan farmed, transformed in the kitchen, often with herbs, spices and surprises from global cuisines, they arrive luminous, meticulous and delicious on the plate.

You may find you eat better in this city than in any other in the world. And then there is the nightlife. Do as the Danes and consider craft beer as a tonic. The ubiquitous liquid comes through taps in all strengths and flavours at tiny bar Mikkeller in Vesterbrø, aka ground zero for craft beers, or try Nørrebro Bryghus’s microbrewery in an old red brick factory.

The Meat Packing district is home to the infamous late night dance haven Jolene set up by two Icelandic DJ girls, and Fleisch for disturbingly meatoriented cocktails that may include duck fat and bacon. See in the wee hours in at Geist, the Michelin-starred restaurant that turns into an awesome bar as the night wears on. Order a strategic coffee in the small hours and it arrives with a serving of candyfloss, surely the ultimate way to add a final little piece of hygge into your day.

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OPPOSITE PAGE : The palace-like Nimb Hotel is majestic. THIS PAGE : The changing of the guard near Amalienborg; indulge in Kokkeriet’s degustation dinners.