What is hygge

What is hygge?

Photo: Niclas Jessen

Hard to explain and even harder to pronounce, the Danish word "hygge" (pronounced "hoo-gah") has exploded in popularity around the world. It translates roughly to "cosiness," but it means so much more than that. So what is hygge, really? Read on to find out!

What does hygge mean?

Hygge is as Danish as æbleskiver and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Cosying up with a loved one for a movie – that’s hygge, too. And there's nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.

Photo: Maria Sattrup - Copenhagen Media Center

The origins of Danish hygge

Hygge didn't originate in the Danish language but in old Norwegian, where it meant something like "well-being." It first appeared in Danish writing around the end of the 18th Century and the Danes have embraced it ever since. One good thing about hygge is that you can apply it anywhere, and Danes allocate it generously to everything commonplace, as you will surely find out on your visit to Denmark.

Copenhagen hygge at bar meet the danes

Photo:Büro Jantzen - Copenhagen Media Center

Photo:Storms Pakhus

How to hygge in summer

If you plan on visiting Denmark during the summer months don’t despair. Hygge is something that happens all year round. Picnics in the park, barbeques with friends, outdoor concerts, street festivals and bike rides can all be very hygge, especially when done the Danish way. If you're unsure where and how to begin your hygge adventure, the ultimate hygge and happiness tour can get you started. It will undoubtedly show you how to find your own happy hygge place. You can also hygge on a GoBoat (below), one of Denmark's solar-powered self-drive boats. We're not going to tell you where to hygge. Only that you should do it!

copenhagen harbour goboat
Photo: Daniel Rasmussen - Copenhagen Media Center

The high season of hygge

The high season of hygge is Christmas. Danes lead a secular lifestyle but when it comes to religious holidays, they pull out the stops. Danish winters are known to be long and dark, and so the Danes fight the darkness with their best weapon: hygge, and the millions of candles that go with it. If you have ever been to Tivoli Gardens or walked the streets of Copenhagen during the festive season, you have an idea of what Danes can do with lighting, mulled wine (known as gløgg for the locals), blankets and oversize scarves. If you haven’t maybe it’s time you try.

Christmas market in Odense
Photo: VisitOdense

What do you want to read next?

Let's add a little more hygge into your life...

North Jutland Holiday House Hygge
How to hygge in a Danish holiday home or holiday cottage
Danish happiness hygge
12 ways you can get happy in Denmark
Ontdek het Paaseiland van Denemarken op Lolland-Falster
20 unique things to do in Denmark
Amalienborg Palace, the Queen's residence in Copenhagen
Get to know the Danish Royal Family