For more than a century, Skagen (pronounced skane), a picturesque area where the North Sea meets the Baltic Sea, has been a favorite destination of well-off travelers, artists, and architects. This 600-year-old market town on Jutland's windswept northern tip has long pebbly beaches and huge open skies. Sunsets are tremendous events, so much so that idlers on the beach stop and applaud. Its main industry has traditionally been fishing, but tourism now seems to be eclipsing that.
At first this place seems very unassuming, but it actually faces one of the two marinas that dock private yachts—in summer the restaurant's terrace is the place to see and be seen by the denizens of these vessels. On the ground floor a sand floor (over wood) greets you in the restaurant's pub; upstairs, the blue-and-white restaurant might remind you of a warehouse attic, but this is Danish chic, and that's Russian abstract art on the walls. Upstairs or down, the Pandestegte fiskefrikadelier (fish cakes) are a must-try. Made from three Nordic fish and gently creamed with herbs and potatoes, they are one of the restaurant's most popular items. Wash them down with a frosty Danish beer or lemon soda. Reservations are a good idea.
In this quaint harbor setting, you'll be able to savor fresh fish done right. The restaurant displays numerous replicas of figureheads that had washed ashore—the flotsam from the many shipwrecks that have happened around Skagen over the years. The originals are in a museum in Gothenburg, but even the copies are worth admiring. You won't go wrong with the au gratin fish of the day, accompanied by Skagen ham and a red onions compote.
Skagen's artistic heritage and light-drenched landscapes continue to draw painters and craftspeople, meaning you'll find better-than-average souvenirs in town. The pedestrian street has a fascinating and intimate shopping atmosphere with stores as fine as those you'd see in Copenhagen.
Ravsliberen I Skagen
An amber store and workshop, Ravsliberen I Skagen sells top-quality jewelry, including pieces with insects trapped inside.
For colorful, innovative handblown glass, head to this large glassblowing workshop, housed in what was once Skagen's post office.
Denmark's most northern point is so thrashed by storms and roiling waters that the 18th-century Tilsandede Kirke, 2 km (1 mi) south of town, is covered by dunes, except for its tower.
The 19th-century Danish artist and poet Holger Drachmann (1846–1908) and his friends, including the well-known P. S. Krøyer and Michael and Anna Ancher, founded the Skagen School of painting, which sought to capture the special quality of light and idyllic seascapes here. They and their contemporaries depicted everyday life in Skagen primarily from the turn of the 20th century until the 1920s, and you can see their efforts on display in the Skagen Museum. It's a wonderful homage to this talented group of Danes, and you'll become mesmerized by some of the portraits, which seem more like a photographic collection of days gone by. Some of the more famous canvases may be on loan at museums throughout the world, but do try to visit, even if you're only in Skagen for part of the day. The museum store sells posters, postcards, and other souvenirs depicting the Skagen paintings.
Michael og Anna Ancher's Hus
Michael and Anna Ancher are Skagen's—if not Denmark's—most famous artist couple, and their meticulously restored 1820 home and studio, Michael og Anna Ancher's Hus, is now a museum. Old oil lamps and lace curtains decorate the parlor; the doors throughout the house were painted by Michael. Anna's studio, complete with easel, is awash in the famed Skagen light. More than 240 paintings by Michael, Anna, and their daughter, Helga, grace the walls.
Even more famed than the area's Sand-Buried Church is the west coast's dramatic Råbjerg Mile, a protected migrating dune that moves about 50 feet a year. You can reach it on foot from the Kandestederne.
At Denmark's nothern tip, you can literally stand with each foot in a different sea. The North Sea meets the Baltic Sea here—the water can be calm on one side and quite choppy on the other. Many a ship found its end here where the two seas clash, so don't go swimming in these dangerous waters. To get to the tip, take a tractor trailer called "the Sandworm" from the nearby parking lot, or walk for about a mile along the beach.