Copenhagen is healthy, happy, hygge
Copenhagen is healthy, happy, hygge
12 JUNE 2017 7:18 AM

Copenhagen is a wonderful city of European flair, clean commuting, excellent beer and hygge, a supposedly untranslatable word meaning intense joy. Added to all of that is an increased, pronounced interest from development divisions of international hotel brands.

I have just returned from my first conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In my role for Hotel News Now, I had the honor of moderating two panels at the Nordic Hotel Consulting Conference, both of which touched on new industry sectors slowly finding niches for themselves in the region, which generally is known for being domestic in demand and in operation.

The subjects of the two panels—the extended-stay and affordable-luxury segments—are beginning to find toeholds.

If the eight panelists are any indication, there is obvious appetite to place product.

The panelists came from brands and capital—and all are Europeans living and working outside of Scandinavia. (Two were from Finland, and in my corner of blissful pedantry, I will remind everyone that technically Finland is not part of Scandinavia.)

The conference drew approximately 200 attendees, including executives from brands that currently have no assets in the region—such as Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Motel One and Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts—or very few assets, such as AccorHotels.

Hoteliers! Your competitors are descending on the region.

Here, as always, are some travel joys and asides from the time I was there.

I think I must be the only person on Earth who had not heard of this term, hygge, which can be translated as “living in concert with good vibes and lots of warmth,” or something like that. Our friends at VisitDenmark will no doubt say it is an untranslatable word, which of course it is not.

But on my last afternoon there, the sun came out, and then suddenly all of Copenhagen, seemingly en masse finishing work for the day, sat around chatting to one another over a glass of beer. If that is hygge, sign me up.

Apparently, there is an annual hygge festival at London’s Edition hotel, although I am not so sure it’s as easy as paying a fee for a ticket, trundling over there and immediately feeling deliriously happy. Or is that not the way it works?

When taking your hotel friends out for the evening in Copenhagen, forget the beer that claims to be best in the world—it isn’t, in my opinion, although to their credit, they do say “probably.” Instead, head to one of the numerous craft beer joints from Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the founder of the Mikkeller brewery and bar. (For more flavor, here is a fantastic article about Bjergsø and his identical twin Jeppe Jarnit Bjergsø, who also brews beer, although in his case in Brooklyn.)

Mikkeller has 12 sites in the city, either under its own auspices or within its “friends” category. I found three—Haven Bar, right on the water overlooking the much-delayed Inderhavnsbroen bridge that finally opened last July and a short walk from the street-food mecca of Papirøen; the simply named Mikkeller Bar on Viktoriagade, not far from the central rail station; and Warpigs, which I would warrant is the place to be when hygge really kicks in on any summer afternoon.

At Papirøen, I went the “when in Rome route,” and got an open-topped Danish sandwich, which was delicious.

At the street-food island of Papirøen (Paper Island), I ordered a pork-based monster, an open-topped Danish sandwich. (Photo: Terence Baker)

Hotel cycles
It is not Amsterdam. It is Copenhagen. This is the home of the urban bicycle. I have seen plenty of spaces in the Dutch cultural capital that are bike-less, but not so in Copenhagen.

According to State of Green, in 2013, car use in Copenhagen in relation to population was 29%, with 7% using their feet, 28% using public transport and a whopping 36% pushing quadriceps down on pedals.

Copenhagen appears even greener than London, but my advice is to look all ways before crossing the road. The danger level is not quite on par with avoiding fast-food delivery guys in New York City but it’s close.

For a look at how green it is, organize a hotel-development subcommittee meeting on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu Scandinavia, which was our host for the conference.

With a little more time
I simply did not have time this time around, but on my other three visits to the city I have always travelled a little further than the international airport, including to the island of Amager and to the coastal village of Dragør.

It is so close to the airport but might as well be on the other side of the moon. Few come here, and I am giving you all one of my travel secrets by even divulging its existence.

The village has a castle of sorts, a marina, a seaside walk along a tidal wall and a republic of geese—birds forced out several decades ago from wandering the streets of the village and given an area of open land where they had a newfound freedom to roam and honk.

It even has Dutch history—a former king hereabouts, who was probably Swedish, granting Dutch herring fishermen and salters a monopoly to practice in the area.

Copenhagen really doesn’t do stress, as far as I can see, but hygge in the definitely unpronounceable Dragør before your flight home, I would vouch, is one of the joys of world perambulation.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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