The winner of the Golden Laurel, Denmark’s most prestigious literary prize, Sara Blaedel writes crime fiction that will keep you guessing – and keep you up at night. Her bestselling books about homicide detective Louise Rick (The Forgotten Girls, The Killing Forest, The Lost Woman) are dark, psychologically gripping and often terrifying.
So she’s not exactly the likely choice to suggest the best places in Denmark to experience hygge, the Danish philosophy of coziness.
Yet, somehow, I found myself accompanying her to some of the most luxurious spots in Denmark on a tour of her own private hygge.
“As crazy as it sounds, beautiful surroundings do something to my mind,” laughs Blaedel. “The more peaceful and comfortable the spot, the more my brain starts plotting my next crime novel.”
According to Blaedel, “Hygge is very much about spending time together. The food, candles, blankets and nature are just the icing on the cake.”
Here are Blaedel’s choices for the most hygge spots in Denmark. Spend time at any of them and you’ll see why the Danes are considered the happiest people in the world.
Sara Blaedel and Grand Chef Per Hallundbaek at Falsled Kro — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Blaedel’s all-time favorite hygge retreat is this gorgeous spot located on Fyn, the small island between Jylland and Sjælland. “My parents were close friends of the former owners so this was our very special place to go together,” she says. It’s still where she goes to get away from it all.
Located right on the water with beautiful grounds for walking or just sitting and enjoying a glass of wine, it’s got an understated elegance that’s warm and welcoming. Per Hallundbæk, one of Denmark’s top chefs, lovingly prepares meals that are as much works of art as they are simply delicious.
You may not know the owners but you’ll always be treated like you’re a friend of the family here.
A.C. Perch's — Photo courtesy of A.C. Perch's
Tea is so hygge, and Blaedel is a big fan of Perch's. “I always have a tin of their Boston Blend on my shelf,” she says.
This family business has been around since 1835 and the cozy store, which still sits in the center of Copenhagen and features some of its original fixtures, is a delight for the senses. Blaedel recommends afternoon tea in their Tea Room next door, where you can choose from more than 150 flavors along with cakes, scones, finger sandwiches and French bubbles.
Sara Blaedel's summer house — Photo courtesy of Sara Blaedel
This small fisherman’s village north of Copenhagen is what hygge would look like if it were an actual place. Located on the Danish Riviera, it’s been called “the St. Tropez of Denmark.” And it’s where Blaedel has her summer house.
“Danes love to drive out of the city to spend time in nature with friends and family,” she says. “Summer houses are about being together without having to rush anywhere.”
The historic seaside town is so idyllic, Blaedel spends time here all year round, often just writing her books and taking in the view. I would be very content to spend time there, just reading her books and taking in the view.
Restaurant Hansens Cafe — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
With its charming thatched roof, this homey restaurant in Hornbæk’s oldest house serves Danish comfort food – the kind of dishes that bring back fond childhood memories and fill your soul along with your belly.
“When I first moved to New York, one of the things I missed most was sitting in Hansens’ backyard with a draught beer and a piece of smørrebrød (a traditional Danish open sandwich),” remembers Blaedel. “That is pretty much all I need to feel hygge.”
Kurhotel Skodsborg — Photo courtesy of Kurhotel Skodsborg
Just pulling up to the soothing white Kurhotel Skodsborg lowers your blood pressure, so it’s easy to see why it’s Blaedel’s “wellness place.”
Founded by Dr. Carl Ottosen in 1898, Kurhotel Skodsborg is the leading Nordic spa hotel, and it’s so hygge and healing, it’s a wonder anyone ever leaves.
“I’m so hooked on SaunaGus (aromatherapy in the sauna followed by a dip in the ocean) that I do it even in the winter,” says Blaedel. “I love Kurhotel Skodsborg not just because of the beautiful views, treatments and amazing food, but for the simple experience of sitting in front of the fireplace after a workout and feeling like I’m wrapped in a warm blanket. It gives me so much energy and fills me with happiness.”
Hotel 71 Nyhavn, Copenhagen — Photo courtesy of Hotel 71 Hyhavn
Brightly-colored townhouses from the 17th century line this vibrant waterfront area of Copenhagen where Hans Christian Andersen once lived.
Today, Nyhavn is a vibrant mix of everything from sophisticated restaurants to old bars and tattoo shops.
“It is so hygge to stroll down the canal and soak in the atmosphere,” says Blaedel. “You can feel the energy from all the people sitting on the dock – young, old, local, tourists, drunk ones side by side with mothers pushing baby carriages – and, of course, all the bicycles.”
Conditori La Glace
Conditori La Glace — Photo courtesy of Conditori La Glace
Cake plays a starring role in hygge, and no place in Denmark does cake better than La Glace in Copenhagen. This traditional Conditori – or confectionary – is the oldest in the country and, according to Blaedel, it’s still the best.
”Everything about this place is cozy,” she says. ”It’s been around since 1870 and, as soon as you walk through the door, it gives you a feeling of going back in time.”
Blaedel’s son, Adam, always celebrates his birthday with the Othello, a delicious concoction of custard cream, with a macaroon bottom and chocolate icing. I, myself, bonded deeply with the hot chocolate and Sportskage, the crushed-nougat-whipped-cream-macaroon-bottom-caramelized-choux-pastry specialty of the house.
Midnight Crime Stories
Midnight Crime Stories — Photo courtesy of Andreas Matjulski Boeskov
Every Tuesday night during the summer, somewhere in the Copenhagen area, an outdoor pop-up venue appears in a location texted only to ticketholders. When they arrive, they gather around a bonfire to hear true crime stories.
”The storyteller talks about crimes that actually happened locally,” explains Blaedel. ”As the darkness surrounds us, we cuddle together under blankets. I simply love these scary yet hygge evenings.”
Slagter Munch Skagen — Photo courtesy of Slagter Munch Skagen
A five-hour drive from Copenhagen, Skagen is the northernmost town in Denmark and the place where the sun shines for more hours than anywhere in the country. Because of the unique light and stunning beaches, it’s an artist’s paradise.
Inspired by the scenery, Blaedel checks in to Klitgården, a writer’s retreat that was once the summer residence of the royal family. One of her favorite reasons to visit Skagen, though, is Munch, a world-renowned butcher who’s been visited by the Queen of Denmark.
“They serve the highest quality meats and homemade foods,” says Blaedel. “Their famous Skagen Ham is a heavenly experience worth the drive.”
Sara Blaedel in Bistrup Skov — Photo courtesy of Flemming Gernyx
Blaedel grew up with the forest as her neighbor so it’s no surprise that many of her Louise Rick stories take place there.
“In The Forgotten Girls, I write about Avnsø, a lake in the middle of the forest, which is so quiet and beautiful,” she explains. “Yes, I turned it into a crime scene but if you bring a picnic basket and light a fire in the early evening, it’s so hyggeligt.”