There are two options when chilly winter rolls around – hibernation or a whole-hearted seasonal embrace. As Seattleites, we generally fall into the latter category and fully lean into piling on our coziest sweaters and sipping on steamy beverages. Fellow experts in long, cold winters, the Danes originated a word to encapsulate this mentality, “hygge,” a term used to describe “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” And in case you’re wondering how this word that doesn’t quite translate into English is pronounced, it’s “hue-gah.”

Though our winters aren’t nearly as harsh as those in Denmark, Seattle was recently named “The Number One “Hygge City in the U.S.” by Sperling. With the city’s numerous quaint tea and coffeehouses, warm restaurant vibes, intimate tasting rooms, and yes, even flannel to cozy up in, it’s easy to see the connection. Test out the concept yourself this winter and savor hygge at its best with our insider guide to Seattle’s coziest spots.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Feast on an ooey-gooey s’mores-inspired treat from Hot Cakes bake shop. Photo: Victor Tom

Seeking contentment in food is far from a novel concept, but an entirely dessert-centric restaurant is an appealing twist. Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery serves up decadent treats that range from the classic vanilla bean crème brûlée, to an innovative grilled dark chocolate sandwich.

Cap off your visit by indulging in one of their boozy brews, such as the Drunken Sailor – a frothy peanut butter, caramel and whiskey combo. Or sample their take on Butter Beer – which can be ordered with or without the sparkling wine component for a visit with any Potter-loving kiddos.

Savor Soups from Around the Globe

Slurp up a rich bowl of Spicy Pork Ramen with all the fixin’s. Photo: Jasmine Santos

If the weather outside is frightful, curl up inside and warm your soul with something delightful. Grab a spoon and sample Seattle’s array of slurp-worthy concoctions from around the globe. Whether you try a fragrant bowl of Tom Kha from Jhanjay, classic clam chowder from Etta’s or brothy minestrone from Mondello Ristorante, the Emerald City offers a nearly endless supply of bone-warming stews that will please your palate.

Elizabeth Blanton of Road Trips + Skymiles adds, “Nothing is as warm and comforting as a steaming bowl of pho or ramen. Kizuki Ramen is my go-to on a cold rainy night.”

Add Some Hygge to Your Happy Hour

Warm wood and soft lighting lend forest-y cabin vibes to the inside of The Cozy Nut Tavern. Photo: Andy Hitchins

In need of a warm spot to spend a crisp winter evening? The aptly named The Cozy Nut Tavern is a no-brainer. Step through the deceptively unembellished storefront to enter the woodsy, vaguely Tolkien-esque watering hole and snuggle up with a drink in one of the intimate booths. Exposed wooden beams, lodge-inspired decor, quirky taxidermied woodland creatures and an overall rustic feel complete the unique ambiance of this Greenwood neighborhood hideout.

Explore a New Neighborhood

Ballard shot caption: Catch live music at the year-round Sunday Farmers Market along Ballard Avenue. Photo: Ervin Vice
Catch live music at the year-round Sunday Farmers Market along Ballard Avenue. Photo: Ervin Vice

While there’s no shortage of quaint little neighborhoods scattered around Seattle, Ballard is indisputably one of the most charming. From homey restaurants and snug coffee shops to adorable boutiques and galleries, there are more than enough spots to keep you feeling serene and at ease in this unpretentious neighborhood.

Travel blogger Liselle Pires of The Flying Spork recommends making a day of exploring the area. “Wander down and around Ballard Avenue and pop into every little shop. There are artist studios sitting above shops selling their PNW products featuring the best stuff – honey, wood, berries, gems and more.”

Be sure not to miss Williamson Studio, Venue Ballard, Prism and Tides & Pines for a superbly curated collection threads, artwork and trinkets that perfectly embody the Pacific Northwest style.

Nourish Naturally

Enjoy a quiet morning in Vif’s sunlit neighborhood space. Photo: Mohini Patel Glanz

Meaning “full of life” in French, Fremont’s chic Vif Wine | Coffee offers a selection of wine, coffee drinks and small plates that are prepared with wholesome, natural ingredients. Featuring a sun-drenched space surrounded by lush greenery, the cafe is an equally ideal spot for a meditative morning or a relaxing evening with a group of friends.

As local blogger and photographer, Victoria Wright, mentions: “It’s the perfect spot to get warmed up with a cup of amazing coffee. Bonus: their wine selection is fantastic.”
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Redefine Retail Therapy

Comfort and quality reign supreme at Filson, an outfitter established in 1897. Photo: Paul + Williams

Headquartered in the heart of Seattle and renowned for their comfortable, USA-made products, the Filson store utterly oozes a relaxed, hygge vibe. Stop in for a slew of quality, house-made garments ranging from plush wool socks to shearling-lined caps that are sure to keep you toasty all season long.

Blanton advises, “In addition to shopping, take a factory tour or sign up for a workshop or special event to learn more about the manufacturing progress or get a peek at what the product team has in store for the future.”

Just be sure to save time to sink into one of their fireside couches and soak in their antique Americana-inspired decor. With floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights set high in their lofty ceiling, it’s a particularly cozy place to be on a rainy day.

Get Your Game Night On

Settlers of Catan (pictured) is just one on the long list of games available to borrow at Mox Boarding House. Photo: Michael Guio

Delight in all the cozy fun of a game night without the cabin fever with a trip to Mox Boarding House, a game cafe with locations in Ballard and Bellevue. Pick out a board game from their extensive library, then huddle into a booth with a few good friends and a frosty pint of local craft beer. If you’re feeling particularly sociable, grab a seat at one of their communal tables and recruit some new playmates to join for some friendly competition.

Experience the Local Art Scene

Art lovers gather in a local gallery during one of Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Art Walks. Photo: Paul David Gibson

Banish rainy day blues and explore Seattle’s eclectic creative scene with a visit to one of the city’s myriad of museums (bonus points for checking a few more during Museum Month in February). Whether you want a quick pop culture fix or some historical enlightenment, you’ll relish the feeling of completeness and mental well-being that comes with spending time in the presence of art.

Looking for a new way to spend an evening with your S.O.? Go out for an artsy date night and curate your own art walk as Pires suggests.


“First Thursdays in Pioneer Square include fascinating, unique art gallery openings at night, that I love strolling through.”
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Embrace Your Inner Chocoholic

Simply looking at Fran’s famed Smoked Salt Caramels, enrobed in milk or dark chocolate, is sure to cause your mouth to water. Photo: Flickr user Patrick

It’s scientifically proven that chocolate has a positive effect on your state of mind and well-being, so why not practice some self-care with our Savor Seattle Chocolate Indulgence Tour. Explore the city’s other crave-worthy bean on a curated tour of Seattle’s best and most indulgent chocolate purveyors. Duck into quaint bakeries and charming chocolatiers to nibble on confections at Tom Douglas’s Dahlia Bakery or sample Obama’s favorite treat at Fran’s Chocolate.

Take a note from our friends in Denmark this season; embrace the winter chill and the coziness that comes along with it! Whether that means seeking out comforting cuisine, spending some meditative time in a museum or gathering with friends over a deck of cards and a frosty pint, Seattle offers all the elements required to accomplish this state of being.

Feature photo: Flickr user Matt

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