The Hype of Hygge

Since visiting Copenhagen last July, I have found myself completely captivated by the Danes’ lust for chic design, cool composure and aspiration to live well.

Sent with love and well wishes, Meik Wiking graced Britain last year with the release of his best seller The Little Book of Hygge. The Little Book of ha-wha, you ask? The Little Book of “hue-gah”: The Danish Way To Live Well.

Hygge is a Norwegian turned Danish term used to describe and encourage “a feeling of home” and creation of “atmosphere and experience” in our everyday lives. Essentially, we should take more time to appreciate and indulge in the comfort of the simple things life has to offer, as opposed to limiting our enjoyment of pleasurable activities.

But why care what the Danes do? Well, the Danes’ reputation for happiness has become an established identity within itself as they are rated as the happiest country in the world. The Danes also boast a very high quality of life that is not just fixated on income or another fad diet, and this has lead many Britain’s to now jump on the train, destination: happy.

So, how does one hygge? Well, now the smug owner of Wiking’s well-being guide myself, I’ll share with you some of the simple secrets:

No matter what the occasion, have candles everywhere: Candles are the first lesson in hygge, so it’s important to note that “Scented candles are considered artificial, and Danes prefer natural and organic products”, and to put it bluntly “no candles, no hygge”. Furthermore dim lighting is key, and the Danes equally love their lamps.

Make quality time for loved ones: To know if you’ve got relationship status hygge, time spent with loved ones should feel “like a good hug – but without the physical contact”. Wiking’s research into happiness has concluded that “The more satisfied people are with their social relationships, the happier they are in general”. Moreover, at the centre of a Danish home you’re highly likely to find a dining table, designed to accommodate family and friends for frequent social meals.

Home is the “hygge headquarters”: The Danish are known for their design (oh that enviable Scandic-chic) and “tend to put a lot of effort and money into making their homes hyggelige” (aka homey and intimate). Danes therefore create a cosy yet fresh living environment, because “Home is central to social life in Denmark”. Unlike us Brits who love to go out, the Danes make their homes the place to be.

Less is more: Minimalism is also key, which you can instantly recognise from Danes’ wardrobe attire and everyday appearance, to their interior design. To get the hygge look pull your focus towards scarfs, layers, casual hair, and most importantly black, so “aim for a look that would be fitting for Karl Lagerfeld’s funeral: stylish but monochrome”.

Eat well to live well: The Danes are treat eaters and don’t fret about indulging (they’re crazy for cake) because “hygge is about being kind to yourself – and giving yourself, and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living”, while still remaining balanced. As opposed to Maccy Ds and KFCs Danes prefer to indulge in more homely comfort foods – they love their meat and potatoes, pastries, and crafted open sandwiches.

Get on your bike: It’s a very easy argument to suggest that Denmark was built for bikes, given what seems to be an on-going flat landscaped county. When visiting Copenhagen cycling was a huge highlight for me, and it’s not hard to understand why it’s so popular – it’s “an easy way to weave a bit of exercise into our daily routine and is environmentally (and wallet-) friendly”.

All sound quite straightforward? That’s because hygge really is. It’s an underestimated concept, the idea of being happy, and for me the Danes have nailed it by extracting their primary happiness from life’s simple occurrences that can be incorporated into everyday life – it is that easy.

Over the last few months we Brits have predominately been occupied with a Brexit backlash and NHS crisis, so frankly I think we could all benefit from a bit of positive well-being. Anyone curious about hygge, why not test the waters with a few home essentials: a hyggekrog (nook), a fireplace, candles (this cannot be stressed enough), wooden furniture, books (no, not kindles), ceramics, shop vintage, and fill your home with cushions and blankets.

If you’re still not sold on hygge, my only next logical step is to implore you to visit Denmark and see for yourself. Check out some of my top recommendations for Copenhagen HERE. It really is a beautiful and vibrant city that I cannot wait to visit again.

Lost in Swindon?

[Opinion]

// Best venues to visit in Swindon, according to me //

I moved back to Swindon in October 2015 and I won’t lie I’ve been a hermit for most of it, and/or retreated back to London for long weekends. Naturally a small town cannot realistically compete against the capital city, but I often find myself spending most of my time on the GWR.

Now despite my reservations, I eventually decided to try and not act like a petulant child and take a wonder to see what improvements my small town had or hadn’t made since my return.

// My Swindon go-tos //

I can’t lie, I was not exactly psyched about trying to adjust back into Swindon – the town’s market for eateries is not enticing compared to say Cirencester or Bristol, but I had heard of some new competitors up in Old Town which instilled some confidence and curiosity.

// Helen Browning’s Chop House //

Where: 19-21 Wood St

I had been excitedly anticipating my visit here – I’d heard great reviews and, for me, it’s reputation alone had already outdone the greasy Spoons and influx of restaurant chains at Regents Circus.

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The main thing that is swiftly brought to your attention is that the produce is sourced organically, and the meat itself is brought in from Helen’s farm Eastbrook which is only 6 miles away from Swindon. Unlike the Spoons and Greene Kings, the Chop House does not advertise cheap processed meals, it is instead not shy of high quality and fresh dishes, which have been put together thoughtfully. I’d seriously recommend going in for brunch!

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// Balula’s Delicatessen //

Where: 9 Wood St

Just a few doors down from the Chop House is Swindon’s very own Deli come cafe. I had always noticed Balula’s but hadn’t ventured in until now – I was full from brunch but fancied a peruse and some inspiration for dinner.

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I was pleasantly surprised as I hadn’t realised there was a large dining area, or “coffee lounge”, and so much on offer to purchase at the counter. Balula’s reminds me of the cafes in Cirencester; independent, charming, and homemade. Unlike many of the coffee chains in Swindon’s down town, the cakes don’t look processed or as though they have been sat out for too long.

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As well as sweet treats and a lunch menu, Bulula’s also offers fresh meats, cheeses, fruit, and veg. I myself purchased some chorizo for my favourite scrambled eggs and a risotto dish – they were both spectacular.

// BAILA Coffee & Vinyl //

Where: 85 Victoria Rd

My favourite coffee shop in town has always been Darkroom Espresso, but I’ve now found a fantastic surrogate. Edgy, trendy, and contemporary – this has been a much needed establishment for Swindon’s young and alternative culture.

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Although I like to be alone when I get my writing done, I also like to be in a venue with some atmosphere – whether I want a flat white in the morning, or an Aperol Spritz in the evening, this progressive cafe come bar offers me both. BAILA also hosts a modest sized record collection to browse and purchase from. Furthermore come day or night there is always great music to be heard here, and that’s not just on vinyl – it also accommodates live music and DJs.

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*Note: BAILA has been refurbished rendering my above image outdated – I prefer the white walls though*

// Los Gatos //

Where: 1-3 Devizes Rd

I would strongly advise booking in advance (excluding weekends) when planning a visit to Swindon’s Tapas hotspot – it is a gem that consistently supplies high quality Spanish cuisine. Los Gatos is also a great alternative to the popular pub dining scene, boasting an array of delicious dishes which are designed and intended to be shared. As expected from Tapas, there is an impressive range of dishes on offer which accommodate meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans – the menu has been crafted and influenced by the owners’ travels in Spain.

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So far I’ve only visited of an evening, but each time I have remained pleasantly greeted by a buzzing yet intimate atmosphere. Furthermore there’s a smooth aura generated amongst the guests and staff, and it’s probably because this popular venue delivers on excellent value for your money leaving satisfaction levels high. I’ll certainly be returning soon to also check out the Los Gatos Paella Sunday specials!

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// Old Town Thai //

Where: 23 Wood St

Swindon is full of greasy Asian “restaurants”, so shamefully I was quite reluctant to give Old Town Thai a go, but I am pleased to conclude that I’m so glad I did. The food here is delightfully fresh tasting and not shy of flavour or authenticity – we ventured in as a group of three and because we were tempted by so much of the menu we ordered a selection to share (a manoeuvre I’d recommend).

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I feel I must also comment that the staff here are so accommodating and ready to take fire from guests who don’t really know much about Thai food – this enabled us to choose accordingly, leaving us extremely pleased. If you yourself are not familiar with Thai food, I would highly recommend opting for the classic Pad Thai, because here they guarantee an exemplary first time try.

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What’s more is that the venue itself is cushy, decorated with delightful Thai treats like mini Buddhas and cultural wall art.

// Give them a go //

If you’re like me and have unfortunately encountered some shaky experiences in Swindon, I hope I have been able to comfort you with some faith and enthusiasm (as well as alternatives to barricading yourself in at home). I am confident in suggesting you try out some of my selected favourites should you find yourself in the local area.

Essentially the rule is to stay up town and avoid the restaurant chains like our infamous teenage pregnancy trend – apparently this is now under control, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for our apparent love of unimpressive cheap eats. Although I have no intention of settling in Swindon, I’m glad that for the time that I am here the town is showing signs of progression.

// If you take a chance on some of my recommendations, I’d love to hear your thoughts! //

A couple of days in Copenhagen

After not a lot of thought, I decided to treat myself to a trip away for my Birthday. I’d been to Berlin and 3 days isn’t long enough for Toronto, so flights and hostel booked, I was off to Copenhagen.

Travelling solo can be quite daunting, so I invested in a little pocket guide to Copenhagen which enabled me to create a brief itinerary of a few sights and venues I wanted to visit. Not being much of a planner I felt as though I had already achieved something. With this in mind, it’s also a good idea to bring light entertainment- for me this is Patti Smith’s M Train.

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Coffee, cigarettes, and Patti – my 3 must-haves when travelling alone.

Copenhagen has a great City vibe – it’s the perfect combination of  energetic and cool. Upon arrival, the station is located smack in the middle right amongst Tivoli and conveniently a 5 minute walk from Urban House Hostel (£90.00 x3 nights in an all female dorm).

The next three days are long and filled accordingly. I leave plenty of time to wonder and explore while also managing to check off various coffee shops and top sights.

Casual Coffee:

The main aspect of Copenhagen’s coffee houses that I completely ate up is that you will find no conglomerates here. Each unique, casual and modest in their own way – Copenhagen displays it’s creativity through it’s ever versatile caffeine scene.

My tops picks:

  1. Sort Kaffe & Vinyl

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Appropriately situated in Vesterbro, this limited-in-scale cafe has a big personality. Vinyl plasters the right hand wall all the way down to the three tables tucked away at the back. Peruse the generous selection of records, enjoy fruity/velvety coffee, and if you can grab a seat outside, take in the charismatic aroma that introduces the Meatpacking District.

2. Coffee CollectiveCopenhagen 10

Unlike the exterior, Nørrebro’s residents prefer a more simple yet effective approach to hospitality. I feel like I’ve just walked into someone’s kitchen, who also happens to have a coffee roaster. Almost basking it its own modesty, the coffee is not shy of precision or high quality roasting which oddly complements the nonchalant attitude of the baristas.

3. Le CoinCopenhagen 7

Slightly agitated by the city centre, I settle down in Vingårdsstræde. Much to my despair, I’ve just missed my window for salmon, avocado and eggs on toast, but I am equally curious about what the chef is freshly prepping for lunch. Perfectly located for any romantic, Le Coin lets me enjoy a coffee in the city quietly with Patti.

Worth your while:

  1. On your bike!

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At my hostel I got my baby blue at 90 DKK for 6 hours – no regrets. Also the rumours are true: everyone cycles in Copenhagen, and why not? The cycle lanes are nearly as wide as the roads. Cycling really is the best and most time efficient way to experience this City. What’s more is that the Danish have outdone the Borris bikes with built-in sat nav.

2. Christiania aka: Green Light District Copenhagen 19

Yep, have fun, don’t run, and no photos. Oh, and beware of Dragons… If not to buy hash, it’s worth exploring this Freetown on the outskirts of Copenhagen hosting pop up-stands, music, and masked men. I took a stroll around the lake and was mesmerised by the craftsman ship of the residents’ houses amongst the verges.

3. ChristianshavnCopenhagen 18

Right outside Christiania, I am welcomed back to reality by a peaceful and picturesque Christianshavn. Aside from the neighbouring Freetown, there are not many attractions in this area, and I’m glad. Bars on both land and water quietly entertain their guests down the canal as I stop for a coffee and admire the view.

4. Cafe WilderCopenhagen 3

After a long day of exploring, I set myself up outside at Cafe Wilder. Shortly after, the rain came and so did my decision to gorge on white wine and Moules Marinières. Clichéd, perhaps, but this French-Italian styled restaurant immersed itself perfectly amongst the cobbled streets which lead the way to the best wine bars in Christianshavn.

5. Hay HouseCopenhagen 14

Located in the shopping district of Strøget on the 2nd and 3rd floor, you will find interior inspiration galore. Top to bottom in Scandic-sheek it was hard to accept that a shop had managed to upstage my entire home. Hay House shows off a beautifully balanced showroom of modern and authentic Danish design.

6. The RundetårnCopenhagen 6

Originally built as an astronomical observatory, The Round Tower currently boasts one of the best views of Copenhagen from up high. It has also been refurbished  with a cafe, exhibition space, and gallery displaying original features and artefacts. All this can be seen for a reasonable sum of 25 DKK.

7. The Meatpacking DistrictCopenhagen 2

Quietly across the North Sea, Copenhagen-ers aren’t wearing clogs or spinning yarn, they’re taking over old warehouses and marts, filling them with exciting new eateries, bars, music venues and art galleries. Also known as Meat City, this district is the epitome of Copenhagen cool exerted by its vibrant and charismatic atmosphere.

8. WarpigsCopenhagen 22

When in Meat City, go to Warpigs. Part-American/part-Danish, this alternative and soulful venue caters for those who want Mikkeller beer excellence and no nonsense tender meat cuts. If schools had separate “cool canteens” here would be the founder – alternative and edgy, this is a beautifully executed collaboration from across seas.

9. Mikkeller Copenhagen 21

Mikkeller beer, like it’s reputation, exceeds itself through impeccable taste and a-game brewing. With at least 20 craft beers on tap there’s much enjoyment to be had, but alas, having just come from Warpigs I had to pass on the too-temping bar snack menu. Pricey, yes. Worth it? Of course.

10. Friends & BrgrsCopenhagen 17

Yes, Copenhagen does junk food (kind of). I was so impressed with this burger joint and what I could only assume is Denmark’s take on Five Guys. Feel free to observe the staff in their pristine kitchen, and watch as they grind the meat and make the bread buns. So fresh and incredibly tasty – hands down, the best “dirty burger” I’ve ever had.

11. Nørrebro Copenhagen 4

Another reason to get on your bike –  Nørrebro. Instantly vibrant, this district invites you to dine at it’s indie restaurants, chill outside of it’s cool cafes and enjoy it’s multicultural neighbourhood filled with thrift shops and flea markets. Amongst the hustle also lies the cemetery Assistens Kirkegård, the gardens of which restores serenity to this district

Would I go again?

Copenhagen is the kind of city I could see myself living in for a while – it’s animated and enigmatic, but also tranquil and harmonious. From three days of exploring, I couldn’t help but notice how this understated city bargained with both the locals and the tourists. Still growing as a capital, Copenhagen only proceeds in introducing more and more economy and culture to Denmark – I can honestly say that I got more than I was expecting from the experience.

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My trick? Researching certainly helped, but maybe that’s just me. Regardless, it was this prior knowledge that allowed me to travel with ease as I had a vague idea of where I was going and what to do when I got there. I was pleasantly surprised at what the city had to offer as I contemplated my next move throughout the days, whether this was a cafe or bar, or museum or landmark.

Whether travelling alone, with a companion or in a group, there is plenty of options for accommodation both modest and luxurious. With the latter in mind, the city is also very versatile as it provides fine and indie dining, cocktails and craft beer, as well as pop up stands and hot spot tourist attractions.

You don’t need to embrace Copenhagen for too long, so it’s perfect for a mini break (and completely worth it). However, if you’re looking for a longer get away, there are also some wonderful sites located on the outskirts such as Louisiana – you could even venture to Sweden via train for a few days.

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// My trip to Copenhagen was the perfect gift for me, from me //