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Tuesday, 06 December 2016

Copenhagen at Christmas. The capital of cosy (part 1)

You may have heard a lot about hygge this year. After cool design, foraged food and rather bleak TV drama, hygge has become the next big Scandi thing, although in truth it’s been around for a very long time indeed. Hygge (pronounced hooga) is a Danish word which roughly translates into cosiness and conviviality and evokes lots of other warm, simple pleasures as well: chilling out with friends in a small café, lighting candles on winter evenings, that sort of thing.

There are plenty of books on the subject - quite a number out this year - but if you want a serious handle on hygge, head for Denmark at Christmas time and savour the real joy of cosy. Its capital, Copenhagen, is a good place to start, a small, hyggelig kind of city with plenty of 18th and 19th century buildings (and bang up to date ones as well), narrow cobbled streets, stretches of waterway (canals, lakes and the sea), small squares and elegant copper spires. It’s friendly, relaxed, easily walkable, easily cycleable (cycle paths everywhere) and almost everyone speaks English.

We had a few days in Copenhagen a year ago - photographs from that time - and, as ever before Christmas, the combination of architecture, shop window dressing, street lighting, candles and beautiful (often natural) decorations made it a joy to walk around. Danes don’t have a monopoly on candles but they sure know how to burn them, with flickering lights in cafés, bars, shops and restaurants. Everywhere. As for the window dressing and decorations, you’ll quickly realise that Danish design doesn’t end with clothes, bridges, lamps and furniture.

We based ourselves at welcoming Hotel Alexandra (pics), known for its Danish mid-century designer furniture (Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Verner Panton). The hotel is close to Radhusplasen, the city hall square, and a short walk from Strøget, the main pedestrian shopping street that links Radhusplasen with Kongens Nytorv. Allow about half an hour to walk its entire length, considerably more if you’re ducking in and out of the shops.

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