Sunday 21 October 2018

The quest for cosiness: 8 alternative destinations for Hygge this winter

Cosy short breaks...

Close comfort: The Scandinavians have hygge — maybe the Irish version of cosy could be teolaí?
Close comfort: The Scandinavians have hygge — maybe the Irish version of cosy could be teolaí?
Kakslauttanen, Finland
Scotland in the snow. Photo: Deposit

Annabel Fenwick Elliott

First came Hygge, the Danish term for "cosy", embodying a lifestyle of socks, candles and not leaving the house, the popularity of which spread across the globe last year.

And so followed a slew of other countries touting their own versions of sock wearing, candle burning and winter hermitting - most recently Scotland, whose tourist board is currently promoting "Còsagach".

Yes, it might be twee, at best, and cringe-worthy at worst, but it's hard to argue with the appeal of all things warm and comforting, especially at Christmas. With this in mind, we've found eight ways to enjoy it, starting with...

1. Denmark's Hygge

Nyhavn Canal, Copenhagen. Photo: Deposit

The Oxford English Dictionary, which shortlisted Hygge as the UK’s third most influential word of 2017, defines the Danish term as: "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being - regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture."

Pronounced "hue-gah", its influence was so profound when it reached fever pitch in 2016 that the volume of online searches for the phrase “moving to Denmark” increased by 237 per cent. Indeed, despite its dreary weather, Denmark took the top spot on the United Nation’s World Happiness Report in 2012, 2013 and 2016, slipping only to second behind Norway (which has its own version of Hygge) in 2017.

More: Copenhagen on the cheap: 10 top tips for thrifty eats and drinks

2. Scotland's Còsagach

Scotland in the snow. Photo: Deposit

This month, VisitScotland declared that Còsagach - based on an old Gaelic word for feeling snug, sheltered and warm - is, in fact, the new Hygge.

And if Scottish tourism bosses have anything to do with it, it will be one of the biggest lifestyle trends of 2018.

“With tranquil seascapes, vast open spaces and many warm and welcoming pubs, Scotland is a perfect place for your well-being, so perfect in fact that a word of Scottish origin has been dedicated to that feeling of being snug, sheltered, or cosy; Còsagach,” the board stated.

“Scotland is a country where Còsagach can be achieved in all seasons, but it’s winter when it comes into its own.

“When the storms rage and the waves crash against the rocks, there is nothing more satisfying than being curled up in front of the fire, book and hot toddy in hand, listening to the weather outside.”

Sidenote: Several Gaelic natives have since taken issue with VisitScotland's definition of Còsagach, one mentioned by the Guardian as saying the word actually came across as "pertaining to a damp, mossy place". Indeed, a book published earlier this year, explored the meaning behind the Scottish word, "dreich", essentially a dull, damp day devoid of warmth and colour.

More: Check into a Himalayan-inspired Highland hideaway

3. Wales' cwtch

Hygge is about taking time out and relaxing

Defined by the OED as "a cupboard or cubbyhole", or "a cuddle or hug", and by the Urban Dictionary as "snuggling and cuddling and loving and protecting and safeguarding and claiming, all rolled into one", this is the Welsh answer to Hygge.

In Wales, there's even a quaint and cosy tea room called the Cwtch Cafe in Abergavenny, hailed as one of Telegraph Travel's best 30 spots for brunch in Britain.

4. Sweden's lagom

Food is an important part of the Christmas market experience

This year, the Swedish ethos of lagom - meaning not too much, no too little, just right - entered the popular consciousness.

"Crucially, the foundation of lagom is contentment, a sense that things are sufficient just as they are," writes Telegraph Travel's Anna Hart.

"Lagom underpins all that we’ve come to admire in Scandinavians: a lack of fussiness and pretentiousness, plenty of contentment and quiet confidence, functional architecture and pared-back design, modesty and wholesomeness."

IKEA has just seized the trend with its new lagom project, an ongoing initiative which teaches customers "how to make sustainable living easier, more affordable and attractive”.

Sweden: 10 Best Christmas Markets in Europe

5. Holland's gezellig


The Dutch term "gezellig", pronounced "hull-sell-ick", roughly translates to, you've guessed it, "cosy" or "convivial".

For most Holland natives, it's epitomised by the mood found in a warm neighbourhood cafe on a winter's afternoon, and according to our destination experts, Amsterdam has this in dollops.

More: On your bike in Amsterdam: A city break with a difference

6. Norway's koselig

Northern Lights in Norway. Photo: Deposit

Most Norwegians would agree that "cosy" is the closest English translation of "koselig" (pronounced koosh-lee), but whereas cosy describes a jumper or pair of slippers, koselig encompasses the broader feelings of intimacy, warmth, happiness and contentedness - (a strong theme is emerging).

 “A typical koselig day,” says Anne Line, of Visit Norway and Innovation Norway, “would include skiing during the day then dinner in front of the fireplace in the evening, followed by a family quiz or board games.”

“The mountains are the ultimate koselig place to be,” agrees teacher Linn Larsen from Vinstra.

“It is really something else with all the snow. And if you want to create a koselig atmosphere, it’s all about the senses.

"You don’t want anything too loud or too bright and you can’t have too many people. Dim the lights, get some relaxing music going, have something that smells good (food cooking or a fire burning) and pour a glass of wine, beer, whatever. It’s about a feeling of safety and pleasure, engaging the senses and, most of all, enjoying great company and good conversation.”

Norway, incidentally, was declared the happiest nation on earth, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report.

More: How to see the Northern Lights

7. Finland's kalsarikännit

Kakslauttanen, Finland

A bit of a tricky one to pronounce, "Kalsarikännit" (kawl-saw-ree-kahn-eet) doesn't have a direct English translation, but perhaps it should.

According to This is Finland, it's "the feeling when you are going to get drunk home alone in your underwear – with no intention of going out".

And we'll raise a glass to that.

Speaking of glass, travellers seeking a date with the Northern Lights this Christmas will find heaven in Finnish Lapland, the go-to destination for comfy igloos above the Arctic Circle.

The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort (above) is perhaps its best-known, but this season has also welcomed the Apukka Resort, a brand new offering in Rovaniemi where guests can stay overnight in a deeply cosy glass-roofed Aurora Wagon, wheeled out alone into the Finnish wilderness and stocked up with blankets, snacks and its own sauna on skis.

More: Fancy a night beneath the Northern Lights? Try a glass igloo

8. Iceland's gluggaveður

ION Adventure hotel, Iceland. PA Photo/Handout.

Another word with no direct English translation, the Icelandic term "Gluggaveður" literally means "window weather", and boils down to the feeling you get curled up indoors as you gaze out over wintry weather that looks beautiful through the window but is unmanageably cold and dreary to actually be out in. Bring on the socks and candles.

Again, Iceland is in no short supply of venues from which to gaze at snow from. Try Hotel Rangá, two hours from Reykjavik. "Built in log-cabin style, the traditional design of this countryside hotel offers cosy and intimate interiors", says our reviewer. "Beds are snug and many rooms have whirlpool baths and views of the active Hekla volcano."

More: Iceland Travel Tips: The ultimate guide for your bucket list trip

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