If you take a look at a map of Denmark, you will see that the country consists of hundreds of islands of varying sizes and shapes, plus a large peninsula that points upward as it projects out into the sea. With some flight of the imagination, the slender tip of the Jutland peninsula looks almost like a needle. Or a pen, perchance.
Just at the point from where one would imagine that the ink of this Danish pen would flow is where Skagen is located. And it would be fair to say that Skagen has indeed managed to write its name into the history books. Or, perhaps more correctly, some of its inhabitants throughout the years have done just that.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Skagen was home to a group of artists known as the Skagen Painters. As the name suggests, the painters in this rather heterogeneous group were the ones to become the most famous. However, there were also writers who were attracted by Skagen’s scenery and the quality of light that this destination is known for. The Danish writers Georg Brandes and Henrik Pontoppidan put pen to paper here, as did the Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén.
Earlier during the 19th century, the well-known Danish author H.C. Andersen found bliss in Skagen.
Of the painters active in Skagen, P.S. Krøyer was one of the most well-known. Two of his most famous works, Summer Evening on the Skagen Southern Beach and Summer Evening on Skagen’s Beach, have been reproduced innumerable times on postcards and posters that you will be able to find all over Denmark.
The Skagen Painters continue to have an influence: Many of those visiting Skagen come to see the works of the painters. There are quite a few on display at Skagens museum (see below under Do Not Miss).
There are also other reasons that Skagen is on the map, however. There is no other town in Denmark that can boast as many sunny hours in a year. Combine that fact with long, sandy beaches and a picturesque landscape, and Skagen’s position as a popular summer destination is easy to understand.
With close to 9,000 inhabitants, the town of Skagen can look back at a history spanning at least 600 years. Fishing has always been an important industry, and the town continues to be Denmark’s largest fishing port.
Smaller cruise ships berth within walking distance to the city center, with tourist information and taxis available quayside. Larger ships drop anchor, passengers tendering ashore.
- Many associate Skagen with the painters that were active here from the 1870s to the turn of the 19th century. At Skagens Museum, visitors can experience 1,800 paintings, drawings, sculptures and handicrafts by the artists that were active here. The museum is located in the former home of P.S. Krøyer, who was one of the most prominent members of the Skagen Painters.
- Two other important members of the Skagen Painters were Michael and Anna Ancher. Their home, Saxilds Gaard, can be experienced just the way it looked in their lifetime, with furniture from different periods of time and several paintings and drawings.
- At Skagen by- og egnsmuseum (the Skagen Museum of Local History), experience buildings from different periods in the town’s history. Also on display are exhibitions about fishing and seafaring, as well as items from a settlement during the Viking age. The museum also features a café.
- The Kattegatt and the Skagerrak, two different seas, meet at Grenen. This is the northernmost tip of the Skagen Odde, a spit of land that is formed (and transformed) by sediments of sand and gravel from the west coast of Denmark. It is estimated that the tip grows by approximately 26 feet/8 meters each year. It is possible to walk from Skagen to Grenen, but the distance requires good shoes and, on sunny days, bottled water. From the Grenen parking lot, the so-called Sandormen (the Lugworm) transports passengers to Grenen. If you’re in luck when visiting the area, you will be able to spot an eagle or two.
- Grenen Kunstmuseum (the Grenen Art Museum) is worth a visit.
- If you’re interested in learning more about the special nature here, with drifting sand dunes and a wide variety of birds, consider paying a visit to the Skagen Odde Nature Center (the building of which was designed by Jorn Utzon, who also designed the Sydney Opera House).
- The Sanded Church was once the largest church in the region. Only the tower now remains, after the sand drift that started in the 16th century literally covered the rest of the church. Situated some 2.5 miles/4 kilometers south of Skagen, the church has not been in use since 1795.
- It’s easy to imagine being in the middle of a desert when visiting the Råbjerg Mile. This migrating sand dune is the largest of its kind in Northern Europe, featuring a unique flora and fauna. Råbjerg Mile is situated some 8 miles/13 kilometers south of Skagen.
A number of shore excursions in and around Skagen can be on offer. Examples include:
- Tours of Skagen will mostly be on foot. Bike tours can also be available. This is a convenient town in the sense that most places of interest are accessible even if not going by coach. These include many of the must-sees mentioned above, under Do Not Miss, as well as the Skagen lighthouse, the pedestrian-only street and the Skagen church. Culinary tours of Skagen can also be on offer.
- Eagleworld is a sanctuary for eagles, falcons and other birds of prey, located some 19 miles/30 kilometers from Skagen.
- Råbjerg Mile, the largest migrating sand dune in Northern Europe, can be in focus on some excursions.
- The North Sea Oceanarium in Hirtshals is one of Europe’s largest aquariums. 31 miles/50 kilometers from Skagen, it is accessible on some excursions.
If you are to stay within the borders of Denmark, it’s not possible to get further from the nation’s capital, Copenhagen. It’s some 250 miles/400 kilometers between Skagen and Copenhagen.
Avid Cruiser Posts, Photographs and Videos Featuring Skagen.