Tis the season! And Scandinavia does it well. From festivals of light to delicious dishes to belting out tunes as you dance around the Christmas tree. Jul is cool up here in the north. My holiday tradition is to seek out some new songs to brighten the season. I do love the Christmas classisks by crooners and old school carolers, but will admit I need a little change in music to spice up our seasonal soundtracks. Last year I shared a playlist to warm your cold Scandinavian winter, you can find it here.
This year, let’s throw a Christmas party for the ones we love. And whether that fête features just your family or a full bevy of festively flocked friends, this playlist is built for an evening of fun. The Scandinavian independent music scene is incredibly diverse and inviting. So tune in, turn it up and try some of these new songs for your Christmas season. Light the candles and tap your toes. It’s gonna get hyggeligt up in here. Did I miss a favorite? Check last year’s list, then let me know!
Oh tell me why is Christmas only once a year? We should spread it out a little here and there. We should do a sleigh ride, do a hayride, do it during Gay Pride in July. Oh tell me why!”
– Crying Christmas Day Choir
How to Find a House to Hygge in when you visit Denmark
Want to know how the Danes do summer? Simple. Seek out a summer house. And find your own hygge. That communal sense of slowing down and focusing on being together in a comfortable place with your family or friends. You’ll be grateful once you find it. But know that there are rules about how to hygge in a Danish sommerhus. But what if you don’t know the rules? Don’t worry. I’m here to help. And give you some tips on how to find one.
The Danish summer house is simple. And cozy. Not lavish or large. A cottage. A home. Near the sea. Clean and concise. Like the Danes. And dare I say it – darn hyggeligt. You may have heard this Danish word hygge. Lots and lots of posts and books and articles have been written about it, how the Danes have it, how it makes them happy. How you need it in your life. How to get it in your life. Danes also love that hygge is untranslatable. Somehow that makes it theirs alone. And while I appreciate that much of the Danish language feels untranslatable, I don’t believe this is true. You too can feel hygge. You don’t have to be Danish. And a sommerhus is a wonderful place to try.”
Come to Copenhagen she said. In fact, I say it all the time. But don’t stay here for your entire visit to Denmark. There is so much more to this country than the capital. And much of it is along the coast. Did you know that there is no place in Denmark that is more than 52 kilometers from the water? And there are so many charming villages and towns to see along the seaside. Heading for a break near the water is a very Danish respite. And most likely it happens in a summer house. A Danish sommerhus.
DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #1:
Find a place to unplug near nature.
WHERE TO SUMMER HOUSE IN DENMARK
The “Danish Riviera” stretches across the northern part of Sjælland from Helsingør to charming towns and beautiful sandy beaches starting in Hornbæk, Gilleleje, Tisvildeleje, and Liseleje. Or roll through Roskilde and head out towards Odsherred and Rørvig.
On the north-west coast of Jutland, summer house communities began developing around stunning Skagen at the top of Denmark as well towns like Løkken and Blokhus along the North Sea coastline. Or further south try the island of Fanø.
Don’t forget Funen in the middle. We loved Fanø which is a great jumping off point for the archipelago of islands that litter Fyn’s southern shore. Look to Æro and Helnæs.
But the best place, I now believe, is Bornholm. An island off the coast of southern Sweden, Bornholm is a beautiful Danish microcosm of cozy. There are so many opportunities to discover summer house hygge here.
Every local tourist board has links to summer houses for rent in their region. But the following booking sites have the largest selections across the country and can help you find that special place to bring your people together and create those hygge memories.
Dansommer has one of the largest online collections of summer houses in Denmark. Here you can search for houses based on your specific needs, wants and desires. I love that you can filter for homes that are energy efficient and by their distance to the water.
Sol og Strand, or “sun and beach” in English, is a Denmark specific summer house agency and prides themselves in knowing and helping with not only the vacation rental, but activities and sight near your rental. They have 5800 rental properties and strive for quality over quantity.
With 10,000 houses, Dancenter has the largest collection of homes to let online.
DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #3:
Make it comfy.
BRING YOUR OWN SHEETS:
The easiest way to get comfy is carrying along your own linens. It is standard for Danish summer houses to provide the duvets and pillows, but you will need to bring your own covers, sheets and towels.
Visiting Denmark from somewhere else? Don’t have space in your hand luggage for all that? Don’t worry, you can rent a linen package from the different rental agencies.
Linen Package usually includes:
Duvet/pillowcase, sheet for 1 person, 1 towel, 1 big bathing towel, 1 kitchen towel and 1 cloth. Costs around 100 DKK per person.
Doesn’t seem as cozy to borrow sheets? You can get comfy by bringing casual clothes to curl up in with your closest friends.
DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #4:
Share good food.
FOOD AND DRINK
Find the local fish shop or smokehouse for local delicacies. Support the nearby farm stand and buy some new potatoes or fresh rhubarb and strawberries. Pick ripe red currants, known as ribs in these parts. Cooking together and eating definitely together ups your hygge factor.
And don’t fret, all Danish summer houses will have dishes, utensils, cookware, and glasses for your use. Basic appliances like coffee maker, toaster and sometimes microwave may be available. If it is important for your holiday stay, make sure to clarify before booking. Any and all food and drink will be yours to bring or buy along the way.
DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #5
Turn down the lights.
ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION IS EXTRA
It is normal and expected that you will be responsible for paying for how much electricity you use during your stay. (And sometimes water.) When you pick up your keys, you will receive a sheet to denote the starting meter measure when you arrive at the house. You can ask ahead what average consumption prices are for each specific house before renting.
Since you are paying for it, use less of it. Unplug and turn down. It’s greener AND more hyggeligt. Light some candles. Make a fire if there is a wood stove or a fire pit. Roasting marshmallows together or as the Danes do, cooking bread on a stick is a great way to create hygge.
DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #6
Everyone pitches in.
CLEANING AT THE END
In Denmark, you take your shoes off when inside. Doing so will help when it’s time to clean at the end. Summer houses need to be left in tip-top shape and the cleaning is your responsibility unless you book a final clean service with the rental agency. This can be booked beforehand or at the time of arrival. Final cleaning fees vary depending on house size, but can add up to 1200 DKK on the total price. ($180 USD, €160)
Care to clean it yourself and save some kroner? Bring your own vinegar and baking soda or purchase at the local market. And make sure everyone pitches in. Hygge is about equality. There are no tall poppies here in Denmark and tasks should be shared. An egalitarian “many hands make light work,” ensures everyone contributes for the good of the group.
DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #7
Hygge makes you happy
Slow down. Get comfortable. Be casual. No drama. Play games. Eat food. Be together. Turn off the phone. Set aside some time each day to come together and consciously be together. Find when it best suits your peeps. This is your place to feel peace. With each other. With yourself. This is hygge.
MORE SUMMER HOUSE TIPS:
IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
Normal Danish summer house rentals run one week from Saturday to Saturday.
Check-in time is between 14:00-19:00. After hours arrivals need to be arranged ahead.
Keys are normally picked up at a central location, not the house itself.
Consumption of electricity is paid at the end.
Check out time is 10:00.
Peak rental time is during Danish school holidays between weeks 26-31 (late June to early August).
Renting a summer house off-peak is cheaper and can be even cozier.
FACTS ABOUT DANISH SUMMER HOUSES
55% of all foreign tourist stays in Denmark are in a summer house.
There are over 200,000 summer homes in Denmark. About 40,000 of them are available for rent.
90% of all Danish summer home rentals are members of the Danish Association of Holiday House Letters.
Since 1973, when Denmark joined the European Union, foreigners have not been allowed to buy a Danish summer house.
If you have special connections to Denmark or a specific house, you can apply for a limited number of exceptions to the above rule each year.
Denmark saw a huge summer house building boom in the late 1960’s and 1970’s when the Danish economy was growing.
All of the building prompted a law in 1977 that forbids building on the seafront and requires a 3 kilometer set back from the beach, making it difficult to find a waterfront property to rent.
You are not allowed to live year-round in a summer house unless you are a pensioner (retiree).
Live like a local. Seek out a sommerhus.
For more about hygge – check out Meik Wiking’s A Little Book of Hygge | Danish Secrets to Happy Living.
If you’ve been to Denmark, you know. If you haven’t – what are you waiting for? Despite the popular meme that “summer is the best day of the year” here, it really truly might be the best time of the year here in Denmark. So come. Stay. And explore sustainably. It’s easy to do here. Really. They’ve practically terraformed it for you. A European Green Capital in 2014, Danes take the title very seriously. That. Is super. Seriously. And Danes love to say “super.” Lucky for you. It’s easy to pronounce. “Soo-pah!”
Ways to have sustainable FUN when Visiting the Danish Capital
1. Do the Danish Dip
Start sommer season off right and get happy in the head. Glad i låget as the Danes say. The water temps may feel brisk at the beginning of June, averaging 15-17ºC, but come to the peak of summer and the water will average 20-21ºC. That’s 70ºF. Basically balmy. It’s beautiful I tell you!
At the beginning of summer, take a tip from me. To really do the dip, it is best to find a spot where you can just jump right in, no wading required. Check out the beautiful new piers just put in along Nordhavn. A lovely place to relax and go for a swim, safe from boats. Just don’t test the water. Trust me. Just breathe. And jump. Come up for air. Emit a gasp of shock. Flail a bit. Get out. Repeat. The second time is the charm. I promise. As all the blood rushes to your extremities, the water feels amazing and you will feel full of life. I’m a believer. Try it. You’ll see.
TIP: You can check the Danish Meteorologic Institute’s Website for current water temperatures. It’s in Danish, but still easy to read temperatures. Just remember we work in Celsius over here.
Since 2000, Copenhagen has made valiant efforts to clean up their harbor restricting industrial, sewage and wastewater runoffs. The building of rainwater reservoirs and runoff conduits has dramatically increased the water quality and makes it safe to swim and enjoy.
2. Roam the Canals in an Electric Boat
Love the water, but afraid to get in? Take a toodle on an electric picnic boat. Have you ever rented a sustainable solar powered boat? You can! And you should.
Really – you must do this. Copenhagen is a harbor town. It’s in the name. København means merchant’s harbor. There is water everywhere. Seize your inner Viking sailor. You must get out on it. Especially in the sommer. Don’t have a boat? No problem. There are so many options for all budgets to explore the canals and harbor in Copenhagen.” – Summer in Copenhagen | 10 Must Do’s
We adore Go Boat and their super charming little electric picnic boats powered by solar cells. Book online, rent by the hour. It can be popular when the weather is nice, so plan ahead. Pick up your boat from their cool outpost near Islands Brygge right on the canal. We love the slow, cozy Go Boats for their charm, ease, stability, and maneuverability. There is a picnic table in the middle! No time to pack a lunch? Order ahead online and they will fashion a perfect picnic with organic wines, soft drinks and food.
Go Boat takes their sustainability next level and encourages your littlest sailors to help keep the harbor clean. Children who are interested can borrow a long-handled net to scoop garbage from the waters. They will be rewarded for their efforts when they return!
Friendships also offer electric boat rentals out of Christianshavn.
After your cruise is complete, Ofelia Plads opened on this clean Copenhagen canal in the summer of 2016 and is the perfect place to perch in the sun and even try your Danish dip. Calmer than the colorful neighbor and tourist center Nyhavn, Ofelia Plads offers a casual chill and great views of the water. Snag a lounger and groove to the music. Share some cold rosé by the glass or bottle from the nearby Luftkastellet.
Follow Ofelia Plads on Facebook to stay up to date on special events and performances on the water. We adored seeing the Danish Royal Ballet this past weekend.
4. Ride a Bicycle Across Bridges and Around ‘bros
There are roads for bicycles in Copenhagen. Signals too. Little lights just for the cyclists to tell them to stop or to start. There are more bikes than people here in the capital. The easiest way to experience the city like a local is on two wheels. Don’t know where to go? Try this self-guided tour from Katy at Untold Morsels.
Renting a bike allows you to get a little further off the tourist path. Head to the Copenhagen neighborhoods – explore Vesterbro, Nørrebro and Østerbro. Or pedal your wheels across one of the two car-free harbor bridges. The Bryggesbroen will take you from Vesterbro to Islands Brygge and back. The Inderhavnsbro connects classic Nyhavn with Paper Island, Christiania and Christianshavn.
5. Eat Fresh Local Food Outside
Fresh food, food trucks and fab markets make their appearance once again when the weather is warmer and the light stays long. Make a positive impact by supporting the local economy ‘s bitty small businesses. All the while tasting lots of local and international flavors at one of the following fun options.
Kødbyen is the trendy meatpacking district in the Vesterbro neighborhood of Copenhagen. Every Saturday and Sunday starting late spring through early fall, there is a foodie dream market with rotating vendors and tables to enjoy your tasty wares outside.
Set outside the entrance to the lovely Frederiksberg Garden and hosted by local Food Truck collaborative Rebel Food CPH, here you will find Latin American, vegan, burgers, tacos and more.
Street Food Festival CPH Søerne (Along the Lakes), 2200 København N
Friday | August 11 | 15 – 21 (Bar open later)
Saturday | August 12 | 11 – 21 (Bar open later)
Sunday | August 13 | 11 – 19
Don’t miss the summer street food extravaganza that stretches up and down the lakes in the middle of the city. Start at Dronning Louises Bro in Nørrebro and pick a direction to dive in. This is a giant collection of all the yummy street food purveyors in Copenhagen. Most will offer a small signature dish for only 40DKK, so you can try lots and not break the bank. Eat local!
Yuca Taco Copenhagen
Taco Pop Copenhagen
Yummy tacos from Taco Pop
6. Try Urban Foraging
You don’t have to live on a farm to pick your own produce. Lucky for you there are plenty of places to forage for summer sweets right here in the city. Check out Byhøst, a Danish website that will help you find and identify wild raw food. Click on KORT and find a map to what’s growing where. Click on RÅVARER to see what’s edible. Even if you don’t speak Danish, clearly labeled icons and images will allow you find what you’ve foraged. Can I eat that? I want to know. Download their app and dial in on the go.
We’ve recently been foraging for hyldeblomst or elderflowers. You can find them all over town, but we like to look along the paths in Fælledparken. Be careful to not cut too many from one bush or plant. Elderflowers turn into elderberries in the fall, which you’ll want to find later. Take the recent blooms when the weather isn’t wet. What to do with the fragrant blooms? Make hyldeblomst saft of course! Elderflower cordial, ummmm. Stay tuned, recipe and tips on the blog soon.
7. Find One Man’s Treasures at a Loppemarked
Danes love a loppemarked. You may know the concept as a Flea Market. A yard sale. A garage sale. But these are collective experiences – more than one purveyor of gently used goods. Look for one of kind vintage pieces or jewelry or antiques or chairs. You can find just about anything at a Danish loppemarked.
Danish artist Thomas Dambo has hidden the 6 Forgotten Giants in the woods south of Copenhagen. Each constructed of reclaimed and recycled wood, they wait for you to find them. Make a sustainable day out with the family by carpooling to the destinations. Pack your picnic in and leave no waste. Bring a reuseable water bottle! Really want up your green quotient – take the S-tog with your bike and ride to each of the parks!
I love when you can see cinema outside. Every summer the Copenhagen theater Cinemateket offers two nights of viewing on a big screen set up in the Kings Garden. Spread out your blanket, invite some friends and sit back and relax. DJ music starts from 16:00. Last year we loved the David Bowie old school classic Spiders From Mars.
This year’s line up includes: David Lynch’s Blue Velvet on Tuesday and Saturday Night Fever on Wednesday. Ses vi? See you there?
Paddle for your pleasure along Peblingesø, one of the lakes in the middle of Copenhagen. Restaurant Kaffesalonen rents the boats from their dockside café by the hour. The gentle churn of the pedal powered craft is a lovely slow summer treat.
Kaffesalonen Paddle Boat Rental
Peblinge Dossering 6 2200 Copenhagen N
Swan Bicycle for 2 persons costs DKK 75 per ½ hour, DKK 100 per hour.
Larger (non-swan) paddle boats can accommodate 5 and 7 passengers for a little more.
So there you have it. Summer fun that can be sustainable too. Looking for last year’s summertime list? Click the link below for a few more fun in the sun (and maybe not sun – it IS Denmark) options.
I love a Cinderella story. I like to cheer for the underdog. And while I live in the big, modern Danish capital and really do love it, I often seek out the simple. The slow. The little and quaint. For a bit. For the balance. And Denmark can do that. Charm you and court you with lots of little tiny town choices. What does it take to be the most darling Danish town? It depends.
A Danish village comes complete with cobblestone promenades and half-timbered houses. Colorful facades and maybe a fancy castle. Some sit near farms that are plum full of fresh produce. For me, it’s perfection if they are situated near water. But you if you’ve been reading along, you know that. So let’s take a look. These are the best. Don’t ask my teen, for he may disagree. But these are the towns that do it for me.
Let’s start on the west side of the country and work our way east towards the capital. I’m jumping to Jutland.
JYLLAND | JUTLAND
Gem of Djursland, Ebeltoft sits on the east side of Jutland. Chock full of cobblestoned charm, little Ebeltoft is the perfect gateway to explore nearby Mols Bjerg National Park which lays claim to the highest hill in Denmark. That’s saying a lot around here. Half-timbered houses and purveyors of ice cream will surely make you happy after you’ve been swimming in summer.
Check out the ancient castle ruins in nearby Rønde; Kalo Slotsruin.
Lovely little Løkken sits on the northwest coast of Denmark. It is rugged and windswept with wide sand beaches. But don’t worry, this adorable wee village sits snug and calm behind the dunes with coffee shops and cafés and candy to create.
Sitting at the very tippy top of Denmark is Skagen. But don’t say SKA-gen. It’s more like Skā-en, minus the g. However you say it, you’re sure to be swayed by the beautiful light and little yellow houses. This fishing village is famous for its painters and you can see why. It’s beautiful here. See where the North Sea and the Baltic combine.
Den Tilsandede Kirke | The Sand-Covered Church
Aavanges Fiskehuset | Fish Market
Take the Sandormen, the “Sandworm” tractor ride out to where the Baltic and the North Sea meet.
See the Danish masters and meet their fisherman muses at the Skagen Museum.
Play in the surf at Gamle Skagen.
FUNEN | FYN
Find your way to Funen, the oft-overlooked island that sits in the middle of Denmark. While Fyn may be tired of her big sister Marsha, er I mean Copenhagen, she has plenty to offer. With fields full of rye and poppies and fewer people, you’ll find wide open spaces here to explore. We love quaint Kerteminde right on the water. It is a perfect base to explore the area and try the produce.
Wildflowers make it more fun on the island of Funen
Find your way to Fyns Hoved and smell the sea air with views over the Odense Fjord.
Meet the sea creatures and seals at the Fjord & Bælt Museum.
Fish for Seatrout in the early summer as the pass close to shore.
Buy fresh produce from a farm stand. Pick apples in fall.
Dragør was my first and definitely still my favorite darling little Danish village. Don’t you know about Dragør? You might want to drop everything and drive right on over. It’s adorable and so close to Copenhagen.
Bicycles and flowers in charming old town Dragør
Wander through the old town and out to the harbor.
Take the regional train from Copenhagen or the ferry from Sweden and head up to Helsingør. Here you will find Hamlet. Or his castle that is. So say the Danes. Kronborg Castle sits on the water majestic and magical. Time your visit in summer and see Shakespeare come alive with actors and action. Plenty of places to pause for a bite along the old town squares.
Here in Hillerød, you will find the fabulous Fredericksborg Castle. This is different than the Frederiksberg Slot in the Frederiksberg neighborhood of Copenhagen. Believe me, you aren’t the first to be confused. Take the Line B on the S-togs to the terminus in Hillerød. Trek towards the cute town and out to the castle.
I don’t need to toot too loud my love for Hornbæk, pearl of the Danish Riviera. With wide swaths of beach and forested trails, it pleases many. Add in fresh fish markets, antiques to peruse, boutiques to shop, cozy coffee shops for hygge and Hornbæk ticks all the boxes for most darling Danish town.
Wade in the water and wiggle your toes in the wide golden sand at Hornbæk Strand.
Linger along the lush green paths that lead through the trees in the Hornbæk Plantage.
Roskilde rocks even when the world-famous music festival isn’t on. This city has ancient roots with both Vikings and Royals. And it really is darn right cute to boot. Run, don’t walk, but I’ll allow you to rock right on over to Roskilde.
View Viking vessels dredged up from the nearby Roskilde Fjord at the well done Viking Ship Museum.
Visit the stunning Roskilde Church and feel the spirit of the Danish royals buried therein.
Rock out at Ragnarok, not the Viking apocalypse, but the museum dedicated to the music and culture that dominates the Roskilde Festival.
Most people drive right through here on their way to the ferry, but they would be amiss. Stop. Slow down and please try the fish. Odde’s not odd, but super quite delightful. Fishing boats and fish shacks add color and charm.
Toodle around Odde Havn, the harbor.
Wait with the locals for delicious smoked fish at Odden Fisk.