With its gorgeous coastline, charming harbor-side restaurants, and enthralling galleries, the underrated city of Skagen, in Nordjylland, Denmark is well worth a visit. Skagen has a bewitching holiday atmosphere year-round, and a rugged natural landscape. It also sits at the northernmost point of Denmark where the Baltic and the North Seas meet.
Surprisingly, Skagen doesn’t enjoy quite the same tourist reputation as bigger cities like Aarhus and Copenhagen. Even so, Skagen’s exceptional culinary scene, adventurous activities, world-class music festivals, fascinating museums, and convenient location make it well-deserving of a place on your travel bucket list.
Skagen is somewhat of a hidden gem with a magical ambiance, and it has more than enough thrills to satisfy every taste. If you aren’t convinced, our seven reasons to visit are guaranteed to turn the tables in Skagen’s favor. Let’s get into it.
Kicking off our list is one of the first things you’ll notice about the city, namely, its spectacular beaches. The Kattegat coast is the ideal place to lounge out or admire the sunset, thanks to its mesmerizing shallow waters, and we can safely say that you won’t struggle to find amazing shores wherever you go in the city.
Skagerrak to the West is a great option as well, and its rolling winds make it a popular surf spot with locals. Another well-loved beach along the coast is Grenen, where you can actually see the point where the Baltic and the North Seas meet.
Swimming is forbidden at Grennan, with the protected marine life that lives below the surface. However, those who are looking to make use of the water could also explore Sønderstrand beach, which was famously depicted by P.S. Krøyer, in his painting Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen Beach. Best of all, most of them are surrounded by first-rate seafood restaurants serving traditional dishes made with fresh local produce.
With its small size, it might come as a surprise to know that Skagen has a brilliant culinary scene. The harbor precinct is a particularly popular foodie destination, but you’ll also find delectable fresh seafood all over the city since Skagen is known for its herring industry. Don’t miss out on the chance to take full advantage if you decide to visit.
The infamous Skagen Fiskerestaurant, which has been in operation for over 50 years, is an undeniable highlight and is widely considered to be one of the best seafood restaurants in Skagen, if not Denmark on the whole. It’s located right by the harbor and boasts a charming terrace with breathtaking views, while its ground floor is covered with sand, giving it a laid-back atmosphere.
Naturally, their freshly-caught seafood is exceptional, and they have an extensive wine list as well. Their friendly staff are also more than happy to help you pair wines with your meal, which makes it worthy of repeat visits.
As mentioned above, Skagen is a culturally rich destination with a boisterous annual events roster. Be sure to check out the massive celebratory bonfire at the southern beach on St. John’s Eve, if you’re visiting during the month of June.
It’s a unique spectacle, complete with bright fires, music concerts, cold drinks, and delicious dishes, which makes it a great option if you’re looking to mingle with the locals. Yet, of course, we couldn’t write about the culture of this city without mentioning the annual Skagen Festival.
It’s spread out over four days on the first weekend of July and has a long history dating back to 1971 when it originally served as a folk festival for Scandinavian musicians. These days, this unforgettable event hosts world-renowned local and international musicians in a variety of genres on outdoor and indoor stages, complete with a vibrant atmosphere.
And if you’re headed north for winter, the annual Vinterbader Festival cannot go a miss. This spectacular is Denmark’s first and only winter swimming festival and sees more than 250 gutsy take to Sønderstrand beach wearing next to nothing in the middle of January. The sea temperature hovers at a freezing 37 degrees Fahrenheit, but this doesn’t stop energetic Danes from getting their cold water fix.
It might sound unbearable, but Danes are touted as the happiest people in the world, so they must be doing something right. It’s thought freezing water can lower blood pressure and help with stress. Nevertheless, it’s a wondrous site to see hoards of people descend on the Baltic Sea for a thrilling icy dip, and you could even join in yourself.
Denmark really doesn’t hold back when it comes to majestic landscapes, but Skagen’s endless grasslands, and vast forests are truly otherworldly. Still, it has a whole lot more going for it than just that.
Flagbakken, a hilltop viewing point, to the south of the city, is a great place to start. From the panoramas of the peninsula to the vast sea views and bird-watching opportunities, it’s undoubtedly one of the most picturesque attractions in the whole of Skagen.
The Råbjerg Mile is another extraordinary natural highlight. After all, where else will you have the chance to see a traveling dune? It covers approximately two square kilometers with sand, reaching up to 115 feet in height, and visiting could make for an excellent break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Skagen has a rich history, with a host of interesting museums, and paying them a visit can be an educational, culturally enriching experience. Exploring the Skagen Nature Center, with exhibitions detailing the formation of Skagens Odde and the history of the Raabjerg Mile, should be at the top of your agenda. They offer tours of the countryside and the forest too.
Another option is the Skagen Bunker Museum, which is housed inside an old German bunker dating back to the second world war. You will have to climb a ladder to get inside, and once you’re there you’ll get the chance to view historic crew, film, weapon, and operating rooms.
On top of this, you could also explore the Kystmuseet Skagen open-air museum, which showcases architecture spanning three different periods of the city’s history. You’ll have the opportunity to see everything from fisherman houses dating back to the 1800s, to Viking settlements.
Like Copenhagen, Skagen is an artsy city, but if you ask us, it has a gallery scene to rival the Danish capital’s. One of the most interesting places to visit is Skagens Museum, which houses historic sculptures, drawings, and paintings dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries.
It’ll give you an idea of Skagen’s history, thanks to the exhibits featuring artworks created by various members of the historic Skagen Painters colony. It’s gained quite a reputation worldwide for housing sublime art as well and is currently one of the most visited galleries in North Jutland.
You could also pay a visit to Anchers Hus, which was the home of famous Scandinavian painters Anna Ancher and Michael Ancher. Its interior has remained untouched since Anna Ancher’s passing in 1935 and visiting offers a fascinating insight into the life of this couple, their art, and 19th-century Skagen living.
The Grenen Art Museum is another great option. It was founded by Axel Lind, one of Denmark’s most famous artists, and once you’re there, you’ll be greeted with a slew of incredible contemporary sculptures and paintings of the Skagen landscape. As the icing on the cake, the entrance is free, and it’s only a 40-minute walk from the coast.
The Things to Do
It’s not just museums, galleries, and beaches that make Skagen’s entertainment scene worthwhile. For starters, we recommend paying a visit to Skagen Marina, the main harbor of the city, and giving fishing a go. It’s one of the most important fishing ports in Denmark, and you’re likely to see various fishing, cruise, and private boats set sail here.
This entrancing city also offers horseback tours near the North Sea, and you can choose between forest, and beach tours, or even do both. Beginners are welcome and younger travelers will have the opportunity to enjoy a pony ride. It’s an incredible way to explore the area’s scenic surroundings while letting loose and feeling the sea breeze in your hair.
Additionally, you could take a tour of the historic Skagen Lighthouse, which has been in operation since 1858 and offers a gorgeous, sweeping view of the peninsula if you climb to the top. You might even spot some migrating birds up there if you’re lucky.
Then there’s the iconic Skagen’s Vippefyr. Originally built in 1627, this tipping lantern was used to light up paths in the past. What you’ll see today is a replica, but it’s definitely still worth exploring since it offers a fascinating window into 16th-century engineering.
How many days do you need in Skagen?
Skagen is a small city, but there are plenty of things to keep you busy and you could easily fill three days enjoying the beaches, scenery, galleries, and history. The Skagen culinary scene is also surprisingly thriving for the town’s small size, thanks to its coastal location and being a major fishing port. Seafood is the biggest export and savoring as much of the local cuisine as possible should be at the top of the agenda.
When is the best time to visit Skagen?
Skagen has a brisk maritime climate with comfortable but windy summers, and long, harsh winters. It’s partly cloudy almost all year round but the best months to visit are June, July, and August where temperatures are mild and you can expect some blue skies. It’s much cheaper than Copenhagen, so you could still visit Skagen in the high season and not break the bank. That said, Denmark can be expensive wherever you go.
Is Skagen safe?
Denmark is an exceedingly safe travel destination. Natural threats are always going to be your biggest worry, with high winds and heavy snowfall being likely in certain areas, but disasters are still unlikely and Skagen is a very safe city. Violent crime rates are extremely low, and while petty crime can occur in touristy areas, it’s still unlikely in Skagen. You should be able to walk around at night without worry, but avoid wandering around alone because of dangerous terrain and unpredictable weather.