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Discovering Hygge

 Top Things to Do in Copenhagen this November

Text and Photo by Lily C. Fen

One of our top recommendations during the winter months is to see Denmark— in November, you’re promised budget-friendly, off-peak rates and less crowds with which to wrestle. Here, we’ll take you through food and fairytales, castles and cafes. Read on for more.

The Danes certainly know how to counter the chilly winds by channelling hygge – a word that expresses the joy of having a hearty meal with good friends, or being enveloped in coziness. Walking into a coffee bar illuminated in candlelight was stepping into a world of this Danish feeling of warmth. I was to find that many a café was steeped in the gleam of wavering flames, table tops covered in the dried up wax of candles long gone over conversations from another night.

While in Copenhagen, I discovered homey bistros that brought the Danish spirit of hygge to life, admired royal jewels at a Danish castle, and tipped off my hat to thousands of cyclists pedalling their way across the city despite frigid temperatures.

Our travel tale begins where many stories have—in the hands of the great Hans Christian Andersen, who, I was to find, was the very essence of Copenhagen and its history.


Famous fairytales were born in Denmark, so part of my tour down romantic channels of this Danish town was to find everything related to this author, who was born in Odensee in 1805. He then decided to search for fortune in Copenhagen as a young man. He tried one profession after another and eventually stumbled upon writing. He moved about in the city and lived at apartments on Nyhavn, and also spent time at the Hotel d’Angleterre—the attic of what is now a department store called Magasin du Nord. They’ve preserved the rooms in which he lived.

Stroll down Nyhavn and imagine, the famous author lived on this street for many years, at times living in Numbers 18, 20, or 67 over this canal.

Just seeing the water shimmering and reflecting off of colorful buildings and taking in the masts of ships sliding through the channel helped me picture what it was like for this famous writer—maybe he peeked out of his windows while he penned beloved tales like The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Ugly Duckling.



Besides wandering through fairytale history, sampling various versions of the smørrebrød (the Danish open-faced sandwich) was a special visitor’s treat. Sometimes with slices of salmon and remoulade sauce, other times made of Danish delights such as pickled herring, the smørrebrød was a surprise of flavour and texture, an offering you could find at every other corner of the city.

The most unforgettable experience I had of this was when the Japanese sushi met the Danish smørrebrød, becoming a smushi at Michelin-starred restaurant Royal Smushi Café. You’re welcomed by fashionable interiors and the food that lands on your table—assembled with creativity and attention.

Walking accidentally into the food market known as Torvehallerne also yielded great finds of the gastronomic kind: from modernized sushi set aflame for crispy texture, Spanish tapas, and countless rows of smørrebrød, I was in foodie heaven.


Castles, Cafes and Christiania

Besides food and fairtyales, the Danish castles likewise capture the imagination. Gaze at opulent ornaments that belonged to Danish royalty at the basement of the Rosenborg Slot and witness the elaborate changing of the guards at Amalienborg Slot. The word “slot” means either “castle” or “palace”. The impressive sight of uniformed men marching in perfect unison takes place at noon on a daily basis, the shifting of the castle sentries is something you can factor in during your time in Copenhagen.


Christiania is the alternative community that co-exists with the modern-day crispness of Danish society. Photographs were not allowed within and men in dark hoodies sold rows of ‘special’ brownies or hash bars. You can go in out of curiosity but stay alert and respectful.


Scandinavia’s True Beauty

After all these adventures into the land of Scandinavian gastronomy, Danish counterculture, literary legacy, and royalty, it was time to slip into Scandinavia’s true beauty—the water. Our canal tour boat brought us through many of Copenhagen’s elegant channels. Even in the northerly winds, I could not help but admire the elegance of the Royal Danish Playhouse, or the sleek modernity of the Copenhagen Opera House. The winds sliced through us, but it was worth getting to see Edvard Eriksen’s statue of The Little Mermaid from another angle.

Once done braving the crisp November weather, head back in to a bar to soak in the Scandinavian sense of deep contentment that is everywhere. You’ll love it while out for the evening: with a glass of dark beer in hand while peals of laughter greet your ears. Wooden tables welcome wanderers, all of it drenched in the glow of candlelight and the Danish sense of home.

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About the Author: 

Lily C. Fen writes Filipino fantasy fiction and features on travel, migration, and motherhood. She edited two award-winning Fil-Swiss books and is working on her first novel. She resides in Switzerland.

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