city-hygge: boy sitting on a bench in front of the louvre museum watching bubble blower in the sun

Hygge & The City

To be honest, I’m not much of a city-person. Where others feel alive, vibrant and stimulated by the sounds, the people, the traffic and the activities, I usually feel overwhelmed, out of place and intuitively seeking for the fastest ways to get myself to quieter surroundings. That being said, I can really appreciate the beauty and grandeur of our world’s most famous cities. I’ve been to quite a few and as a parent I want my children to get a taste of them once in a while, too.

Paris in Spring
So this spring, I took my 12 year-old son to Paris. It was the first time I visited a big city like this since I learned about the concept of hygge. I was curious: would there be any hyggelig moments during our visit? For me, quietness, simplicity, cozy atmosphere and just a few people around are some of the major ingredients when it comes to experiencing hygge. Where to find that in a busy, crowded city like Paris? Would my introverted nature get in the way of my ability to enjoy this experience? Could I let go of all advance planning and preparation? Let myself enjoy moments just the way they presented themselves?

Now that we’re back home, I’m happy to report that the answer is: yes! There is such a thing as city-hygge! That may not come as a surprise to all you lovely extraverted and who-needs-a-planning kind of people out there. But for me – an introverted, want-to-be-prepared-for-anything type of person – it was an eye-opener. Let me share the most hyggelig moment of our trip.

Goal: to see the Mona Lisa
On our last day in Paris, we visited the Louvre museum. Our goal: to see the Mona Lisa. In comparison with any other major attraction in Paris, the entrance queue was minimal so we considered ourselves lucky. But when we entered the building, we were immediately sucked into this stream of thousands of people swarming the place. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to this museum, but there’s a big glass signature pyramid above the entrance hall and on a sunny day like this, temperatures rise to greenhouse standards.

We climbed up some giant marble stairs and when I looked down over my shoulder, the sight reminded me of a giant ant colony. Nothing left to do but to follow the crowd to Da Vinci’s masterpiece. Along the way we tried to enjoy the magnificence of the tessellated marble flooring, the craftsmanship and richness of the sculpted ceilings and just the sheer size of the place, but predominantly I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

Taking a picture of the Mona Lisa was a matter of persistence and willpower, being squeezed and bumped around by everyone with the same objective, and we finally succeeded. ‘Can we please go outside now?’, my son asked. ‘Hell yeah’, I replied. On our way out we took a quick glance at the famous statue of the Venus de Milo (seemed a shame not to because we were there anyway and it’s featured in practically every history or art class) and then we followed the signs: ‘Sortie’.

Where’s the hygge?
Now where’s the hygge in all of this, you might wonder. Well, to fully appreciate the hygge-ness of the moment that followed, it helps to place it into the context.

When we left the museum, we were welcomed by a delightful whim of fresh air. We walked onto the square opposite the museum. It wasn’t too crowded and there was an inviting empty stone bench with our name on it. We sat down and I pulled out a large, delicious cookie and some water from my bag. As we sat there silently in the sun, enjoying the cookie and recovering from our museum endeavor, we observed all the hustle and bustle at the square. There was a young man gracing the atmosphere with his guitar play and singing.

Right in front of us, another artistically looking fellow appeared to be preparing an act of some kind. We watched as he formed a rope circle and placed a bucket in the middle. We tried to guess what he was up to and my son knew it first: ‘He’s going to create bubbles!’. And indeed, the guy started creating bubbles: giant ones and smaller ones. People stopped, mesmerized by the beautiful oily colored bubbles, children chased them as the wind blew them in all directions and cheered as they popped, grown ups tried to avoid getting hit by them and laughed at their own crazy moves while doing so. It’s funny how something so simple as blowing bubbles can cause so much instant joy.

It was at this moment that I felt a sense of bliss. I told my son how I felt and he said: ‘Yes, this is very hygge’ (I talk a lot about hygge these days, and he really gets what it’s about!). We sat there for maybe half an hour taking it all in and it was the best moment of the whole trip.

When we returned home, I asked my son about the things he liked most about our trip. This is his list:

  1. Ascending the Eiffel Tower at night, watching the city lights from above and getting waffles on the street afterwards.
  2. Our bench-moment outside the Louvre.
  3. Our walk and picnic in the gardens of Versailles.

It moved me that he chose precisely those moments of our trip that I considered most hyggelig. I am so happy that he’s able to appreciate them at his age and grateful that we shared these moments of hygge and the city.










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Characteristics of a Hygge Spot

We realize that the definition of a hygge place may vary slightly from person to person. However, as a guideline we use the following characteristics that are generally considered hygge.

Basic lighting
Basic lighting is the light you turn on when you enter the space. The light spreads evenly and doesn’t create too much effect or contrast. Think ceiling lamps, hanging lamps and build-in spots.

Atmospheric lighting
Atmospheric lighting is for creating…atmosphere. It’s a soft, indirect light that spreads throughout the space. This is called diffused light. Use different heights of atmospheric lighting for optimal results, for example table lamps, floor lamps and wall lamps.

Functional lighting
Functional lighting is focused light that enables you to see what you’re doing. It’s the light above your dinner table, the reading lamp next to your lazy chair and the spots above your kitchen sink.

Accent lighting
Accent lighting is used to single out a specific object or place and focus attention on it. This could be a painting or an architectonic detail.

Decorative lighting
Decorative lighting is about the esthetics of the armature itself. Lighting the space is not its purpose; it’s just there for the effect. Most of these light sources have little light output and stand out because of their appearance. Fireplaces and candles are also decorative lighting.

Hygge is the art of creating warmth, coziness and contentment in any given moment.

Hygge Hytte  means 'cozy cottage', a place where you can unwind and recharge.