A cushy spot to settle into at Henry’s Public House in Portland. Photo by Artisan Agenda

Of all the inventions that humanity’s drummed up to help us withstand the ravages of nature, the “cozy nook” occupies a category all its own. It is, without a doubt, one of our true weapons against the winter doldrums. Duck into one on a gray, frigid day, and cheeks warm. Spirits rise. Smiles emerge. In fact, a cozy enough enclave can even compel us to actually relish chilly weather, by letting us feel comfortable and warm enough inside to embrace the contrast.

All that said, definitions of what makes for a great cozy nook do vary. One person’s cozy may be another’s kitschy. Or worse, someone else’s claustrophobic. The following spots all share certain key characteristics: They encourage lingering in one way or another, prioritize comfort, offer multiples spaces to settle into and, in each one, a sense of warm hospitality pervades.

Sit by the wood stove for extra hygge at Trudy Bird in North Yarmouth. Photo courtesy of Trudy Bird

Trudy Bird’s Ølbar: Even if its walls weren’t dotted with tastefully adorable birds, and its room weren’t filled with an expanse of blonde wood tables filled with Scandinavian vittles and Aquavit, this smørrebrød-slinging spot would still be hygge to the max, what with its reading areas set up by the wood stove, outdoor fire pits and perpetually friendly staff. 424 Walnut Hill Road, North Yarmouth, 207-489-9004, trudybird.com.

Henry’s Public House: When Josh Miranda transformed the former Bull Feeney’s space into a tavern paying homage to local poet Henry David Longfellow, he leaned into the literary with pretty much every element here, from drinks (a Dead Poet’s Society, anyone?) to the genteel decor – all betasseled curtains, chandeliers and clubby velvet chairs. And he’s given us all sorts of cushy corners in which to plot out the verses of our own “Excelsior” – or however close a version to it we can muster. 375 Fore St., Portland, 207-550-0625, henrysoldport.com.

Find comfort during a storm by holing up inside Kennebunk cafe Mornings in Paris. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Mornings In Paris: Forget Paris; the inviting wooden tables by the windows in this Kennebunk locale look out to Western Avenue, the town’s main drag. Settle into one for endless people watching and an Old World vibe so welcoming you may just want to rename the place Mornings in Kennebunk. 21 Western Ave., Kennebunk, 207-204-0032, morningsinparis.com.

Katie Pinard, one of the owners of Elements in Biddeford, strings up lights in December 2020. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/ Staff Photographer

Elements: Books, Coffee, Beer: When does a hangout become more than the sum of its parts? When it’s the beating heart of a community. Such is the clearly the case at this coffee shop-meets-used bookstore-meets bar, where everyone in town weaves in and out all day long for live music, author readings, book clubs, house-brewed joe and pastries, cribbage games and local gossip. 265 Main St., Biddeford, 207-710-2011, elementsbookscoffeebeer.com.


The Wallingford Dram: Moody lighting, a richly hued wooden bar, an ever-changing and creative craft cocktail menu and wide windows all make this teensy, fun-loving bar a place you’ll long to linger for hours. Factor in the affable barkeeps and chatty regulars, and you may never leave. 7 Wallingford Square #101, Kittery, 207-703-4298, thewallingford.com.

Novel Book Bar & Cafe: Sip a cup of coffee and munch a pastry surrounded by book shelves at this spot on Congress Street in downtown Portland. Look up and there’s warm, dark honey-colored wood on the ceiling. The place is filled with the smell of coffee beans roasting. There’s lots of comfy seating, too, including couches, arm chairs and rocking chairs. 643 Congress St., Portland, 207-370-9593, novelmaine.com.

An upstairs gathering spot at Ri Ra in Portland. Photo courtesy of Ri Ra.

RiRa: Irish pubs are cozy by definition, and this one, on Portland’s waterfront, has a couple of cozy spots upstairs, complete with fireplaces. One includes a trio of small couches around a coffee table, in front of a fireplace. The other area overlooks the water and features a long table and banquette seating, in front of a fire. 72 Commercial St., Portland, 207-761-4446, rira.com/portland.

Inkwell in the Press Hotel: Play Scrabble in front of the fire, with a warm whiskey in hand, perhaps watching snowfall in downtown Portland. Those are some of the reasons to have a drink at this hotel lobby bar, across from City Hall. There’s a nook in the bar that includes a game table and seating for four in front of the fireplace. There’s more bar and seating tables in other areas as well. 119 Exchange St., Portland, 207-808-8880, thepresshotel.com.

Games by the fire at Inkwell in The Press Hotel. Photo courtesy of Jamie Mercurio/ The Press Hotel

Independent Ice Company: Sometimes coziness comes from inside a person. You might be able to summon a warm, cozy feeling with the help of one of the 500 types of bourbon at Independent Ice Company, on Wharf Street in Portland. The place is dimly lit, with comfortable, upholstered seating, too. 52 Wharf Street, Portland, 207-956-7150, independentice.com.

Alexandra Hall is a longtime New England lifestyle writer who lives in Maine. Staff writer Ray Routhier contributed to this story. 

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