Summer House Hygge

How the Danes Connect and Get Happy Outside the City

Last week here in Denmark, summer began. With temps reaching the low 20’s and the sun shining bright and long against the blue skies, it truly did feel like summer. Seriously – that is about as hot as it got here last summer, excepting a few extraordinarily warm days where clothes and canal swims were optional. When the sun is out, Danes soak it up. We all do here. Why would you not? Winter is dark and damp. And summer is fleeting and fickle. Case in point – we’re back to 13°C and overcast skies today.

GOOD TO KNOW: Average summer temperatures in Copenhagen and Denmark range in the low to mid 20’s °C. That’s Celsius. We work in C’s over here in Europe. We’ve become conditioned and don’t normally convert. But for you, who work in F’s,  I’ll make an exception – that’s between 68° about 75° Fahrenheit. Not tropical. But nice.


Come May, the light stays on late and there are many ways to take advantage of the longer summer hours here in Denmark. Most involve water. Much of Denmark is an island. Nowhere in Denmark – even on Jutland, where the country connects to the mainland of Europe – is there a point that is further than 52 kilometers (32 miles) from the water. Where we live, Copenhagen sits on the island of Zealand or Sjælland in Danis (pronounced ZHAY-lan.) To leave this island requires a flight, a ferry, or a very long toll bridge.

But don’t leave. Stay here. Many Danes do. Well, ok. Let me clarify. They don’t leave Denmark, but they do leave the city. They leave Copenhagen. Evacuate the city to be honest. Shops close up and the streets empty, save for the tourists. There are full weeks in the summer when the neighborhood feels vacant. And where do they all go?

They travel. Danes do love to travel. Being a small country full of an educated, prosperous and multi-lingual populace – they love to explore and do so far and frequently. Thanks to their socialized work environment and Danish law that affords five weeks of paid vacation (not to mention the average of 9 public holidays), they have the time and space to do so.


But sometimes, all that travel requires is too much. You just want to get away. Take a break. Not have to go so far. Just have somewhere to relax. Refill the buckets. You’re not looking for the hassle of packing and preparing and parking and proffering documents and putting up with security checks. Not flying. Gah. Or maybe the idea of a long road trip in a tiny European car with three growing teens and a tween in the backseat makes you cringe. (Oh sorry, that’s my family.) Not us. We still love a good road trip. We’re American. It’s in our blood. But even we like the idea of a shorter getaway now and again. Somewhere under a two-hour’s drive, even less. Danes have the answer. Enter. The sommerhus. The summer house.

Sommerhus Hygge | Enjoying the Slow Life in a Danish Summer House | Oregon Girl Around the World

A sommerhus is a second home.  Now you may be thinking that having a second home isn’t so uniquely Danish an idea. Somewhere to regularly take a vacation or go on holiday, just get away. We do this in the States too (but we vacation, not take holidays.) Many people the world over have second homes at the beach, at the coast (as we call it in Oregon), in the mountains, at the lake, or wherever you do in your from. But a Danish sommerhus is different. Here in Denmark, summer houses are zoned against primary residency with the intention of promoting tourism. State-sanctioned tourism directed within and without Denmark. And Danes do second homes well. I’m here to tell you there is something special about the Danish sommerhus. And if you own one, you know. If you’ve experienced one, you do too. And if you haven’t yet – you can. And you should.

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 summer house is a rigtigt hyggeligt place to try. A really cozy place to try.

Hygge = fun
Hyggeligt = cozy
– Google Translate

Hygge is a feeling of cozy in its simplest derivation. Candles help. Danish design does too. But digging deeper, contributing to its complexity,  hygge is a feeling of community. It’s spending time with your friends and family. Focusing on them. It’s a special moment shared. It’s good food lovingly prepared (or bought and shared). A feeling of laughter. And good times. And happy. Sorry if Pharrell Williams just popped into your head on loop. Just me? Turn that off. Or not. If it contributes to your growing hygge.

This feeling can sometimes be fleeting. Or a memory. Or just a sense. But that is hygge. You know it too. You do. You just haven’t put the word to it before now. There is no special recipe for Danish happiness above your own. They just have different words for that undefined feeling of congruent contentment that you probably already knew. And they recognize it. And aspire to it. And achieve it. Regularly.


And maybe our latest summer house weekend didn’t hold that gorgeous Danish summer weather from last week. But we slowed down. As a family. We took walks through the woods. Looked for four-leaf clovers and tiny pinecones and sent seed pods aloft. We strolled the rocky beach and found treasures and crystals and the tiniest snails. Watched waves and seaweed be tossed about. We sampled fresh fish and warm coffee and trolled through antiques. We played football (both kinds) and pitched tents in a yard. We watched movies and made fires and shared dinner and chocolate. Together. It wasn’t perfect. Not every second. They all can’t be ever. But there were moments of hygge. That I will remember. I hope they do too. That Danish sommerhus hygge.

Want to try one? Find your own hygge? We found ours on Airbnb – look for places on the Danish coast, many with easy public access from central Copenhagen. On Sjælland, try towns like Dragør, Hornbæk, Gilleleje, Tisvilde, Liseleje or Humlebæk. On Fyn, we love Faaborg and Kerteminde. On Jutland try Løkken, Ebeltoft or Skagen. Or explore the wide wild west coast. Or there are whole websites devoted to the Danish summer house experience – try Have a favorite Danish summer town that I don’t know? Please share. Or have a uniquely Danish sommerhus experience? I’d love to hear! Comment below.


You can also find me on Facebook or get Insta hygge here. Tweet much? Me too! Vi ses! See you later.

Cheers from Denmark. xo, Erin

Sommerhus Hygge | Enjoying the Slow Life in a Danish Summer House | Oregon Girl Around the World
The Danish summer house is simple. And cozy. Not lavish or large. A cottage. A home. Near the sea. A place to share hygge with family and friends.

60 thoughts on “Summer House Hygge

  1. I looooove going up to my Danish in-laws’ sommerhus! It’s in Rørvig, which is just the cutest little seaside town complete with a long beach and a cute little harbor (best fiskefilet in all of Denmark, I swear!). I love that it’s just an hour’s drive away from Copenhagen, so it’s perfect even just for a weekend. It’s such a unique feeling being up there, and you captured it very well. 🙂

      1. I actually don’t know the name… it’s just the little fish restaurant by the harbor! They also sell fresh and smoked fish right there. So delicious!

  2. I love the idea of this! For me, a break should be exactly that, somewhere you can relax, recharge your batteries and slow down, taking pleasure in the little things…walking, reading, eating together as a family. Great post and pix! #WanderfulWednesdays

  3. We have the same concept in Norway, it’s just called koselig instead of hyggelig 😉 And of course, Norwegians couldn’t live without their cabins either 😀
    Your photos are so gorgeous and totally make me want to visit Denmark again. Honestly, I could imagine living there, haha! Thanks for linking up with us!

    1. Takk Van! I haven’t been to Tromso yet, but have enjoyed Bergen and Oslo and the fjords near Flåm… I think the Norwegians do outdoors better than most and would LOVE to spend some time in a Norwegian cabin – thanks for reading. Love the new #WanderfulWednesday link up – Skål from Copenhagen. – Erin

  4. I absolutely loved this post. Your sommerhus sounds perfect and I’m sad it’s not yours permanently! Can’t believe we are off to Copenhagen tomorrow. I’ll be looking out for the hygge

    1. Safe travels Katy – don’t miss Torvehallerne for good eats and drinks, or Copenhagen Street Food on Papirøen for a funkier vibe. The meat packing district Kødbyen in Vesterbro is very trendy and has many delicious restaurants as well as a food market on Saturday. For those Danish herrings – I would recommend them curried on smørrebrød- I love it at Aamann’s where they pair with traditional snaps! Need more ideas? Message me at OregonGirlWorld on Facebook, happy to help! Have so much fun – look forward to your observations! Skål!

  5. Such a beautiful post, these photos are beyond beautiful!! I first learnt about the concept of hygge when I read a book about Denmark by Helen Russell, and I immediately loved the sound of it, it sounds so wholesome and important for the soul 🙂 Thanks so much for teaching me a bit more!
    Thanks so much for linking up with #Wanderfulwednesday, hope to see you again next week!

    1. Thank you kindly Marcella. Yes Helen’s book is great, although her small rural town experience is different from our capital life experience- it doesn’t all equate. But hygge definitely does! Cheers and thanks for the kind words and fun linkup! Cheers from Copenhagen – Erin

  6. I love learning new “untranslatable” words/ideas/feelings in other languages! It opens you up to such a different part of culture and understanding! Hygge sounds like such a cool concept and something I’d definitely like to experience! Looks like you and your family have it down… Your pictures are seriously stunning! Great post and thanks for linking up for #WanderfulWednesday!!

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  8. Thanks, Erin, you sold me on the hygge. Will certain try to experience it, when I do get to visit Denmark. Enjoyed reading about your weekend and the lovely family moments you experienced there. Thanks for sharing it at #MondayEscapes

  9. What a very lovely post 🙂 I’ve only been to Denmark once and that was many years ago when our son was small. You might guess that it was to Legoland at Billund. Sadly we never did see Copenhagen and I’ve wanted to ever since.

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  11. pattertravelers

    You’re rights, there is something special about summer houses in Denmark. Some of my fondest childhood memories are going to my uncle’s cabin in Norway. We used to ski in in the winter and were able to drive up in the summer. No electricity, but a fire and candles certainly added to the Hyggeligt.

  12. Our summer is with temperatures over 37C, so I’d gladly trade. The weather in Copenhagen last year was so lovely, I’d love to return to Denmark 😀

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  14. I love the idea of having a home that’s just a short drive away where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and recharge your batteries before heading back to do it all over again.

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    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Tak for det! Thanks for that! Loveliest comment I’ve received. You should definitely come to Denmark – it’s a beautiful little country! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

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  24. tkcc10

    I googled this because I live in Arizona. It’s easily the F’s, for 4 months. And with the hygge mania – I thought, how is one “cozy” in 110? Under air conditioning of 82? And I landed here.
    As an Arizonan, I take your blog entry as what we do for 2 weeks every summer, we drive to the beach where it’s 75, in the F’s, and we can enjoy a different way of life. And, we may drive 2 hours occasionally to the forest where again, it’s 75.
    But it sounds so much nicer in Danish. Hygge & sommerhus…vs. Homemade popcicles & beach house. 😉

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Yes! Hej in Arizona! That’s Danish for hi. You’ve got it exactly. Hygge isn’t even necessarily about the WHERE or the WHEN or what time of year or the weather. It’s about moments shared with intention and joy. Doesn’t have to be a celebration. Can be simple or small. Just time together. You can do it too. Even in Arizona in air conditioning! Cheers from Scandinavia- thanks for reading, Erin

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