My boyfriend’s family cherishes a tradition every summer: they retreat to a picturesque summer house in various corners of Denmark. In previous years, we’ve soaked in the serenity of Hvide Sande, explored the charm of Ebeltoft, and wandered the beaches of Gedser. This year, we’ve settled our sights on Skagen. Nestled at Denmark’s northernmost tip, this enchanting town stands where the Baltic and North Seas intertwine. A muse for countless Scandinavian artists, Skagen promises a blend of history, art, and breathtaking nature.
If you’re someone who enjoys a calm and peaceful atmosphere, it’s best to steer clear of visiting Skagen during week 29. (In Denmark, we use week numbers instead of specific dates, but you can easily find out when week 29 falls by checking out this website.). During Week 29, otherwise called Hellerup week, wealthy youngsters all flock to Skagen in their million kroner cars and expensive boats for a week of fun, loud music, and heavy drinking – there is not much tranquility during this time. On the other hand, if you like looking at super fancy cars, this is a perfect time to visit. Why is it called Hellerup Week? Hellerup is an upscale area in Copenhagen, home to embassies and luxurious houses. Young people living there picked a week to go to summer houses together to have fun. Not coincidentally, the zip code to this area is 2900. Hence, week 29 became Hellerup week.
Although we spent the entire week there, we were never bored. We explored the local area, visited famous landmarks, marveled at breathtaking sunsets, and played board games to escape rainy days. So what can you do and see in the area?
Explore Skagen itself – a charming little town famous for its vibrant yellow houses. The distinct yellow houses of Skagen were initially painted with a coat of white, but the harsh coastal environment posed a significant challenge for upkeep. As a result, ochre pigments emerged as the ideal and easily obtainable solution in the 1800s, offering a durable and long-lasting alternative.
Once you have finished exploring the bustling town center, take a leisurely stroll down the charming streets lined with quaint homes. Admire the meticulously tended gardens bursting with vibrant colors and fragrant blooms that adorn each property. It is a peaceful and delightful way to experience the beauty of this lovely town.
Legacy of Skagen Painters at Skagens Museum
Skagen became immensely popular among artists during the late 19th century. Drawn by the unique quality of light, the Skagen Painters – a group of Scandinavian artists – found inspiration in the untouched landscapes, the golden beaches, and the peculiar quality of the light. They were inspired by French Impressionists and the Barbizon school’s techniques, focusing on open-air painting to capture the moment’s essence.
The Skagen Painters’ works were not just picturesque scenes but also insightful commentaries on the socio-cultural life of Skagen during their time. Their depictions ranged from fishermen at work to intimate indoor settings, often illuminated by the region’s mesmerizing light.
The group’s influence extended beyond painting. They played a role in establishing Skagen as a hub for artists, writers, and thinkers, thus helping shape its cultural identity. Today, the legacy of the Skagen Painters is preserved and celebrated in the Skagens Museum, which houses a significant collection of their masterpieces.
I’m not a big fan of art, but visiting this place was enjoyable because I got to see many of the paintings that I had previously only seen in pictures in books. If you have time, tag along for a guided tour – it is not super long but gives insight into the Skagen Painters and who they were (you would be surprised how much drama there was 😀 ).
During the throes of World War II, Skagen, like much of the European coastline, bore witness to the strategic militarization of its shores. The Nazis, recognizing the importance of Skagen’s location as a gateway to the Baltic and North Seas, fortified its coasts as part of the larger Atlantic Wall – an extensive system of coastal defenses and fortifications that stretched from Norway to Spain.
Many of these fortifications’ remnants can still be seen in and around Skagen. Over the years, nature has integrated many of these structures into the landscape. Some bunkers, half-buried in sand, form part of the unique seascape, while others peek through the grassy dunes.
You can easily spot many of them when strolling along the beach. One of the bunkers houses a small historical museum with artifacts found on site. Follow the link for more info.
Following the shoreline, you will reach Grenen – the country’s most northern point, where the waters of Skagerrak, part of the North Sea, and Kattegat, part of the Baltic Sea, converge. The meeting of these two bodies of water resulted in forming a 4-kilometer curved sandbar. Interestingly, this sandbar continues to grow at a rate of 10 meters each year, and it is known for its turbulent waters. Because of Grenen’s unique location, you can observe how ferocious waves of both seas are crashing against each other, mixing different colors of the water.
For more information about Grenen, see the dedicated post.
Blessed with coastlines on either side, Skagen’s array of beaches stretches far and wide. During one of our trips in the area, we discovered Skiveren Strand – a very interesting beach.
One unique feature that sets Skiveren Strand apart is the ability to drive right onto the sandy beach itself. This allows visitors the freedom to choose their preferred spot by the water without having to worry about long walks or carrying heavy equipment. While this adds a touch of adventure to the experience, beachgoers should be mindful of vehicles cruising along – a rather unexpected sight amidst the tranquil waves!
For history enthusiasts and explorers, remnants of wartime bunkers dot the shoreline. Partially submerged in the sea and sand, these concrete relics provide a glimpse into the past and serve as intriguing playgrounds for adventurous youngsters or a perfect backdrop for pictures.
While the North Sea’s embrace might be on the cooler side, it offers a refreshing respite from the sun’s warmth. I saw many venturing into the waters, with some swimming and paddleboarding across the shimmering surface. I didn’t bring my swimsuit, but it did not stop me from getting into the water with my camera to take pictures of everything around me 🙂
Sunrises and Sunsets
Skagen is truly a sight to behold, with its magnificent sunset that casts long, golden rays of sunshine over the unspoiled beaches, rolling dunes adorned with marram grass, and beautifully-placed houses that sit right on the edge of the water. It’s a truly breathtaking scene that captures the heart and soul of this wonderful place.
It became routine for us to venture out for a leisurely walk along the seaside whenever the weather allowed us. Or rather, my boyfriend and his family took a leisurely stroll; I was, as they described me, “a kid in a candy store that overdosed sugar,” running around sandy dunes and taking pictures of the sunset from every possible angle.
I never managed to see a sunrise, and I can’t blame the weather this time. I am horrible at waking up early, and I just couldn’t get myself to move my butt out of the warm bed 🙂
Personally, I love the peacefulness of watching the sunset and being surrounded by nature without any other individuals nearby. And I managed to get it in many different areas of Skagen. However, if you happen to be someone who prefers a more vibrant and celebratory ambiance, then I would suggest you make your way to Solnedgangspladsen, located in the charming locale of Gammel Skagen. This is the perfect place to experience the joyous sunset celebrations alongside the friendly locals and tourits.
Råbjerg Mile, just a short ride away from Skagen, is not just any sand dune – it’s one of the largest moving dunes in Northern Europe. This stunning natural phenomenon, with its ever-shifting sands, offers visitors a surreal desert-like experience right in the heart of Scandinavia.
Spanning over one square kilometer, Råbjerg Mile moves approximately 15 meters annually, driven primarily by the prevailing winds. With time, the dune has been inching its way from west to east, gradually burying everything in its path. Estimates suggest that it might reach Denmark’s east coast in a few centuries.
Råbjerg Mile stands as a testament to nature’s raw power and beauty. Its ever-shifting sands narrate a tale of time, change, and adaptation.
If you would like to see more pictures and know more, check out a detailed post.
Den Tilsandede Kirke
Often referred to in English as “The Buried Church” or “The Sand-Covered Church,” Den Tilsandede Kirke is a haunting yet mesmerizing testament to nature’s overwhelming power. Originally known as Saint Lawrence’s Church, Den Tilsandede Kirke dates back to the 14th century. For generations, it was a central place of worship for the local community. However, nature had other plans. In the late 18th century, local sand drifts, spurred on by intensive deforestation and harsh coastal winds, began to engulf the church.
At the start of the 19th century, attending church was difficult due to the need to cross high sand dunes. Ultimately, in 1795, the fight was deemed too burdensome, and the church was abandoned. All that remains visible today is its resilient tower, protruding defiantly from the sands.
Check out the detailed post for more.
After last year’s Djurs Sommerland adventure, I had to try Fårup Sommerland. Despite the gloomy forecast, we embraced the Viking spirit: “No bad weather, just bad clothes!” Umbrella-armed, we enjoyed short wait times and thrilling rides. While I may have met my match with spinning rides (too old? 🤢), the rollercoasters were a hit! Would I go back? In a heartbeat!
Read more here.
The North Sea Oceanarium
On a particularly dreary and drizzly day, we sought refuge in the cozy indoors and set our sights on The North Sea Oceanarium in Hirtshals. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones struck by this brilliant idea, as the oceanarium was buzzing with fellow rain escapees, making it a rather bustling spot for the day.
Established in 1984, The North Sea Oceanarium held the title of Northern Europe’s largest aquarium until Copenhagen’s Blue Planet stepped into the spotlight. With its expansive layout, the Oceanarium spans several levels, each offering a front-row seat to the mesmerizing world beneath the waves. The crown jewel? The immense Ocean Tank, a watery wonderland teeming with an array of fish species, each more captivating than the last.
A highlight of any visit to the North Sea Oceanarium is undoubtedly the feeding spectacle in the expansive oceanarium tank. In this captivating display, a skilled diver from the museum’s team gracefully enters the water, offering an up-close look as they feed the eager sea creatures. It’s a moment where the vibrant underwater world truly comes to life, drawing gasps and smiles from spectators of all ages.