Hygge, comfort and smørrebrød in Copenhagen

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Hygge, comfort and smørrebrød in Copenhagen

From history and culture to food and shopping, this beautiful city has something to offer everyone

Alex Galbinski is a Jewish News journalist

Nyhavn townhouses

The Danish word hygge loosely translates to the ideal of cosiness and with the spring sunshine seemingly reluctant to make much of an appearance, there was no better place than Copenhagen to seek out that sense of comfort.

The city has something to offer everyone, with history, art and design, culture, architecture, food and shopping galore – as well as herrings.

Our accommodation, the sustainable boutique Hotel Kong Arthur, is a truly luxurious setting in a cobblestone cul-de-sac in the Nansensgade Quarter that surrounds the city lakes.

Hotel Kong Arthur lobby

The hotel describes its décor as “inspired by classic modernism with a hint of medieval”. The emphasis is on a cosy and informal vibe, but this belies the attention to detail and friendliness of the staff. Warm and inviting, it completely fulfils the hygge brief.

There are tables and comfy chairs by the bar – which hosts a daily 5pm ‘cosy hour’ when guests are offered a complimentary glass of wine – and another communal area that incorporates a real fire and seating area by the piano.

The breakfast area has large industrial-style black-framed windows that overlook the courtyard. The Nordic-style buffet breakfast offers mostly organic (and seasonal) produce such as eggs, cheeses, oats and various breads and dairy and plant-based milks alongside tasty jams and teas.

Breakfast area at Hotel Kong Arthur

The hotel is home to three restaurants – Sticks’n’Sushi (Japanese), Pintxos (Spanish) and La Rocca (Italian) – and Copenhagen itself, the home of world-renowned restaurant Noma, is a foodie paradise, with many fabulous Michelin-rated eateries.

Hotel Kong Arthur is close to the Torvehallerne covered food market, where a cornucopia of local and fresh produce is sold and you can dine at a variety of restaurants. Inside, there are plenty of sellers of smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) with a variety of toppings. My husband was particularly enamoured with the offering at the rustic waterfront Færgecafé in the picturesque maritime neighbourhood of Christianshavn, which included herrings on rye bread and serves more than 30 varieties of home-made schnapps.

Herrings on rye

The hotel’s location is the perfect base from which to explore the many neighbourhoods around the city, including the ‘bros’ – Vesterbro, formerly the red-light and meatpacking districts and now home to many uber-fashionable restaurants; trendy Nørrebro, described as a cultural melting pot; and elegant and green Østerbro.

Not to be missed is a walk along Nyhavn (New Harbour), built in the second half of the 17th century, with its stunning townhouses in different-coloured hues (pictured up top) and previously the home of celebrated fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen. He was inspired by the Tivoli Gardens, founded in 1843 and now the second-largest amusement park in the world that also has gardens, a concert hall, restaurants and shops.

There are several important museums and galleries, including Statens Museum for Kunst, the national gallery of Denmark and the largest art museum in the country, with Danish and European works from the 14th century to the present day. At the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, you can view, among other things, Danish and French art and sculpture, Greek and Roman sculpture and the Egypt collection. If you have more time, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art comes highly recommended but, being vast and on the coast north of the city, it’s almost a day trip in itself.

Royal Library Gardens

The Danish Jewish Museum is in a prestigious position in the heart of Copenhagen, in the Royal Library Garden. Currently closed for refurbishment, it is expected to reopen in July, featuring a new and more visible entrance designed by Daniel Libeskind in the shape of a boat’s stern. The world-renowned Polish-American architect also designed the museum’s interior, where the 400-year history of Danish Jewry (this landmark is reached in 2022) will be explored.

Despite Denmark being occupied by Germany in April 1940, Nazi action against its Jews did not begin until autumn 1943. Around 7,000 of them (95 percent of the Jewish population) were able to make their way safely across to neutral Sweden, with the majority later returning to Denmark. This will be a special interest area in the museum. Some 470 Danish Jews who did not escape were deported to Theresienstadt in present-day Czech Republic. Their experiences are detailed in The Jews of Denmark in the Holocaust: Life and Death in Theresienstadt Ghetto by Silvia Goldbaum Tarabini Fracapane (disclaimer, she’s also my friend).

Being Lukas Graham fans, we wanted to visit the autonomous neighbourhood where lead singer Lukas Forchhammer grew up. Christiania, formerly an abandoned military barracks that was taken over by hippies in the 1971, has a 1980s Camden grungy vibe to it, with a relaxed attitude to cannabis (the main thoroughfare is known as Pusher Street) and home-made houses. It is home to only around 1,000 people but is hugely popular with tourists, who are warned not to take photographs!

Botanical Garden

For some more conventional shopping, Strøget Street is the main and pedestrianised shopping area, where there are independent boutiques along with the more ubiquitous chains. Should green open spaces be more your vibe, the Botanical Garden is a must. It is home to the country’s largest collection of living plants – there are more than 13,000 species there – and is free to visit. The Frederiksberg Gardens, designed in the English romantic style, and the adjacent Søndermarken are also well worth visiting for their sense of tranquillity.

Copenhagen is small enough to walk around, but you can also hire bikes or boats and benefit from the Copenhagen Card for unlimited use of transport and free admission to 83 museums and discounts on tours, restaurants and cafes for different time periods.

City centre

Assuming a day of sightseeing has tired you out, you can relax in Ni’mat Massage & Spa, Copenhagen’s largest and oldest spa – handily part of the Kong Arthur Hotel. Treat yourself to the whirlpool tub, steam bath and sauna, visit the fitness room or book in for an Asian-inspired treatment.

And if all that were not enough, Copenhagen frequently scores highly in the UN World Happiness City Index. As we returned home soothed and recharged, we can definitely see why.

Rooms at Hotel Kong Arthur start from DKK 1377 (approx £155) for a double economy to DKK 2206 (£250) for a junior suite excluding breakfast.

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