City breaks

Hygge- capturing the essence at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

Denmark has topped the Happiness index for 40 years now. The Danes are happy despite, or may be in spite of, the long, dreary winters and short cool summers; They put their sense of well-being and contentedness down to the Danish cultural phenomenon HYGGE (pronounced: who- ggeh).

Ever since first hearing about a happiness index, I’ve been curious about what it actually means.  So I’ve been talking to Danes, Swedes and Norwegians (theses later 2 command high spots on the lists) about Hygge, trying to get an understanding of it.

I’m reliably told that if there is a season for hygge, it is Christmas, and if there is a place for hygge it is Tivoli Gardens in central Copenhagen. I wanted to find out more….

Hygge, the art of happiness at Tivoli Gardens Copenhagen

The swing carrousel will bring back childhood memories for most

What exactly is Hygge? I asked some Danes:
“A sense of hygge is typically something you make together, and it can appear anywhere. A country walk, a family lunch or even painting next door’s garden shed, – any of those can create a feeling of hygge.” says Ellen, the communications manager from Tivoli Gardens


Children enjoying peppermint candies

Lots of people think hygge is about lighting candles? Is it that simple?

“Candles are big part of hygge, but it is so much more.
Christmas at Tivoli Gardens offers a traditional atmosphere with plenty of decorated Christmas trees and gorgeous, quirky decorations; These are all an excellent backdrop for hygge. The lighting, consisting of a million or so fairy lights hanging in atmospheric strings; it is acclaimed worldwide.
This year we are going further at Tivoli: there will be three huge trees wrapped in fairy lights. If you visit between Christmas and New Year the sky above Tivoli will light up each evening with a spectacular fireworks festival. There is an extra special fireworks display on New Year’s Eve.”


A willow tree draped with fairy lights


The warmth of an open fire to huddle around with friends and family and even strangers is very much hygge


Beautiful fireworks above Tivoli Gardens

What other sides are there to hygge?

“Shopping and eating are well-known hygge activities”- Ellen told me-
“The shops and stalls scattered around the gardens are packed with Christmas decorations and treats, arts and crafts, stocking fillers and other gift ideas – and of course, food and drink.
Be really adventurous and eat julefrokost (Christmas breakfast) in one of Tivoli’s restaurants. Despite the name, julefrokost is often an evening meal. It consists of several cold and warm toppings for rye bread. First the fish: pickled herring, breaded plaice and gravlax, for example. Then the meat: meat balls (frikadeller), liver paté, glaced ham, roast pork and roast duck with pickled red cabbage anf kale stew on the side. End the meal with cheese and risalamande, a rice pudding with almonds, served with cherry sauce.

If you are less hungry and more inclined to be active together, visit the Gingerbread Castle. In Tivoli’s cake workshop you can buy a gingerbread heart and decorate it yourself. (The literal translation of the danish word for gingerbread, Honninghjerte, is honey hearts) Tivoli has also created its own mulled wine (gløgg), which will taste exotic and full of adventure…just like the park itself. Drink it served hot on-site or take a bottle home for a treat later on.

Mention mulled wine and the Danes inevitably think of Danish doughnuts (æbleskiver) – the spherical ‘pancakes’ that Danes love to eat at Christmas. The handmade treats are baked on-site in an “æbleskive” pan and turned using a skewer and the special grip that you need for a beautifully round finished product. ”


Glogg and mini Danish doughnuts are bound to warm you up


 Decorate your own gingerbread heart


Chocolate covered honninghertje


It all It sounds rather scrumptious. Is there anything else that make Tivoli Gardens the ultimate place to glimpse into the essence of hygge?

“Danes love their traditions and many Danes count a visit to Tivoli Gardens before Christmas among the family traditions of the festive season. For some, the visit includes the ultimate Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. Tivoli’s production at our Concert Hall gives this classic a very Danish twist. It’s set in Copenhagen in the 1870s. We meet fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen on the stage along with August Bournonville, Tivoli’s Director – and obviously, the magical land in the second act is Tivoli, the garden in which anything can happen.
And Christmas isn’t Christmas without Father Christmas, so of course Father Christmas comes to Tivoli from Greenland (no, not the North Pole, according to us Danes); In the Pantomime Theatre he spreads hygge to people from all over the world.”


There are rides for all ages




Celebrating Lucia day in mid December


Santa Clause arrives from Greenland to the young Tivoli garden-goers’ great delight

Well, thanks Ellen you have totally sold me on wanting to squeeze in a mini break with the kids at Tivoli Gardens. I’ve stalked the Norwegian airlines website (usually the cheapest direct route to Scandinavia) … we could get return flights for around £100 pp for weekend away.

This conversation has also made me wonder how I can capture some of that hygge magic at home- I’ve come up with a 5 point plan to add Hygge in our life at home.

Do you have a special place which you feel has extra magical at this time of year?



Christmas in Tivoli, Copenhagen

19 November – 31 December every day from 11:00.

More information at

For the skeptics out there: This is NOT a sponsored post. I had a lovely chat with Ellen at the World Travel Market trade show and was totally captured by the obvious love for place she works at, Tivoli Gardens.

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Categories: City breaks, Europe

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