Hygge in Denmark

Jason R. Matheson
8 min readMay 8, 2023


The last few days of this trip brought me back to where it began, the Kingdom of Denmark. I crossed the border from Germany and stopped after a long day of exploring (and Autobahn driving) at a small village in the south of the country called Gram.

I’d reserved an Airbnb for a couple of nights and received this warm welcome at the door. Danish, a Germanic language like English, had plenty of words that you could understand.

The handsome brick house had been built in 1913. Inside, the rooms were updated with warm wood floors and ceilings. The Danish concept of “hygge”, of cozy comfort, was certainly here. I parked in the courtyard behind the house where the lush yard stretched back to a canal.

That warm feeling of hygge started to wane as I tried to decipher the washing machine controls. Thankfully, I took a pic on my phone and Google Translate took care of the rest. Technology saved me again over here.

The days had been getting longer in Denmark (we’re so far north) and the sun was still out so I hiked around Gram a bit to get my bearings. The hike didn’t take long, this place was small and quiet, surrounded by country.

I stopped to watch several groups of older Danes playing a form of croquet at the local park. I’d read that Denmark was rated as one of the happiest countries on earth.

After a good night’s rest (and with clean clothes), I took a short drive west to visit Denmark’s oldest town. Ribe (pronounced Reba) reminded me of some of the northern German towns I’d recently visited with its solid brick architecture and cobblestone streets.

It was Sunday so the whole country seemed quieter. I did see families strolling in the afternoon and I followed one group into an ice cream shop. I watched what they ordered, then ordered the same: a crisp Belgium-style waffle topped with soft vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. It counted as my lunch since not much else was open.

After the peaceful interlude in Gram and Ribe, the following day I drove three hours east to make my return to Copenhagen. I needed to drop off my rental car at the airport. I still had a few days to enjoy the city before my flight back home.

I found a small coffee shop I remembered from my first visit to Copenhagen in January of 2022. This place had tons of hygge. I selected a pecan torte accompanied by a bowl of hot chocolate and found a seat.

I noticed the cups never seem to have handles here. Perhaps you used the bowls to warm your hands during those long Danish winters.

I hiked to the old military fortification that once guarded Denmark’s capital city. Built in the 1600s, Copenhagen’s Kastellet featured mounds of earth for protection in a star shape, neatly illustrated on the manhole covers.

I ducked into a building and looked over an exhibit detailing Denmark’s military. Breaking from the long-held Nordic value of neutrality following its occupation by Nazi Germany in World War II, the Danes had been a founding member of NATO and participated in many theaters of modern conflict, many times alongside the United States.

Still an active military base, I walked past several young Danish soldiers. Their modern weapons and uniforms contrasted with the historic guardhouse at the checkpoint. I bet it still served well during times of rain.

I also took the opportunity to visit the Danish Design Museum. Many of the German Bauhaus principles, like form following function, took inspiration from the pragmatic Danes.

Back on the street, a sign for a local watchmaker caught my eye. I learned later that Axel O. Mathiesen had taken over a distinguished Copenhagen-based watch company in 1919 and it had remained in the family ever since.

Europeans started wearing watches on their wrists around the time of the first World War. The telephone and signal service, which played important parts in modern warfare, had made the wearing of watches by soldiers obligatory.

I checked their website and they offered some very fine (and very expensive) watches. These days, I tend to just use my phone.

Sweden beckoned just over the huge Øresund Bridge. At nearly eight miles of bridge and tunnel, it was the longest such structure in Europe. I boarded a train and was soon whisked over the Øresund strait.

The first big Swedish city we arrived at was Malmö but I continued on to the university town of Lund. Established in 1666, Lund University was one of Scandinavia’s oldest and largest institutions for education and research.

It certainly felt more like an American college town with a defined campus surrounded by shops, a massive cathedral and even a university bookstore.

The sun was out on this fine weekend day and I wandered all over the beautiful grounds. Rather than collegiate courtyards and tidy grass lawns like back in the States, the landscaping was natural. It had a timeless feel.

I have one more full day in Denmark before packing up for the flight home. I’ve enjoyed this trip, visiting regions of Germany I’d never seen and the Danish countryside. We’ll see what I get into tomorrow.


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Jason R. Matheson

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.