Difficult enough to pronounce, let alone define, 'hygge' is best experienced on a mid-winter trip to Copenhagen, and ideally in the run up to Christmas. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but hygge will be all around, in romantic candle-lit restaurants; in snug subterranean bars while enjoying a glass of Gløgg, the Danish version of mulled wine fortified with aquavit, cinnamon, cloves, raisins, and slivers of almonds; and most especially of all at the charming Tivoli Gardens Christmas funfair.
Cosiness. Sort of.
The nearest English approximation to hygge is 'cosiness', and the notion evolved out of a Danish desire to make their homes welcoming and friendly sanctuaries during the long winter months. As a result, the very best place to experience hygge is in the home, but should you fail to receive an invitation, the phenomenon translates wonderfully into the public sphere as well.
Copenhagen at Christmas
While the thought of Christmas celebrations might send Scrooge-like shivers down your spine, this is the antithesis of the gaudy, commercial festivities often seen in the UK. The Danes are a fairly secular bunch, but they value the holiday time as an opportunity to see family and friends, and Copenhagen, with its array of sensational restaurants and cosy cafes and bars, is quite simply a very special place to be at this time of year. The highlight, however, is Tivoli, which has a tasteful Christmas market, ice rink, food stalls and a funfair that children (of all ages) will adore.
Hygge hits the heights come Christmas Eve, when Danes use real candles on their Christmas trees. This, says the Tourist Board drily, explains why home insurance is so expensive in Denmark. One more thing - the best phonetic explanation of how to pronounce hygge is 'hooga', but as if you were trying to say 'ee' in the middle instead of 'oo'. Got that?
Part of our new series 'Around the World in 80 Senses', celebrating our favourite things from our extensive travels. As with any self-respecting list, there's absolutely no scientific basis to the choices we've made. It's all shamelessly subjective, and we'll be listing this year's 80 Senses (in no particular order) between now and Christmas, so keep an eye out for new entries here on the blog and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.