Finding hygge at Denmark’s northernmost tip

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Grenen: The northern most tip of continental Europe and Denmark

‘I like to be on the edge of the possible’

Jørn Utzon

 

The end of the world they tell me is near.

Thick gusts of wind snarl in my ear. The icy North Sea water seeps into my shoes. My toes wriggle uncomfortably.

The two seas, North Sea and Baltic clash viciously in front of me. They divide and keep returning again. I stand there for a good 15 minutes before I lose sensation in my toes. This hypnotic perpetual motion is perplexingly addictive to watch. As I leave , I look upto the heavens that stare down at me, unforgivingly menacing.

It feels gloriously liberating. To be standing with this immense beautiful swell of water in front of me.

The end of the world? Not quite. I’m actually at the northern tip of continental Europe and Denmark.

A place called Grenen in Skagen. A world away from the pretty postcard Copenhagen, the Denmark I thought I knew.

Skagen

Skagen

It is this unworldy charm and inaccessability of Skagen that has made this region hugely popular with tourists and Danes alike, who have been carrying on a tradition started by some painters back in the late 1800’s. They came here for the light. A superb quality of light. Beautiful white sand beaches that stretch for miles. Skagen, with its half timbered cottages and  red tiled roofs, became a popular summer haunt for Scandinavian artists who came here to paint open air en plein air, emulating the style of the French impressionists.

skagen houses

Skagen’s traditional half-timbered houses

The day before, I had arrived in Skagen from Aalborg to clear blue skies.

After checking into the cosy Hotel Skibssmedien I amble down to their lovely harbour at sunset, traipsing through the cobbled streets admiring the town’s iconic bright yellow houses. It is Friday night and there is a carnival like atmosphere. Sun burnt ruddy faces and cackling stereos. Hundreds of boats are moored in the harbour. Many Norwegians take their boats or the ferry to Skagen to take advantage of the cheaper alcohol and more relaxed drinking culture. I perch myself on the sun drenched patio of the historic seafood restuarant, Pakhuset to enjoy the buzz. If you love seafood , then Skagen is definitely the place to go, albeit not as cheap as I would hope. One of the best value and nourishing tasty options you can choose here in Pakhuset is the Skagen Fish Soup. This is creamy, thick and rich in flavour chowder soup/stew packed with prawns, white fish, dill and saffron. Perfect meal for those cold wet long winter nights that you experience in these distant Nordic shorelines.

Fortified, little before 930pm I leave the diner and the raucous harbour behind to experience a phenomenon that thousands of artists, writers before me have come to experience: the magical Skagen blue hour.

Solnedgangskiosken. Picture credit: Ana Sofia Vasconcelos

Solnedgangskiosken. Picture credit: Ana Sofia Vasconcelos

One of the best places to see sunset and the blue hour in Skagen is just a few minutes drive from the town to the west on a beach called Solnedgangskiosken. Compared to the harbour, the atmosphere here is much more relaxed. The crowd of sunset worshippers swell as the sun starts to sink into the distant horizon.

 

The moment the sun sets , the crowd disbands, quickly leaving me and a few stragglers to enjoy the magical blue hour where the sky and sea started to merge into one.

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Beautiful shards of pinks, violets and shades of blue dance across the sky. I feel a deep sense of comfort and happiness descend upon me. Maybe this is what they call hygge? I’ve always struggle to define hygge. A feeling or vibe of comfort , coziness, friendliness and happiness? The biggest clue comes from the the old Danish root word “hugh” which means “remembering with a certain state of mind.”

In that magical, mystical blue light looking at this magnificent wide expanse of sea and sky , I feel one of those rare moments where am not of this earth.

A shiver runs down my spine. I stand there transfixed for God knows how long. It was as though time stood still. My reverie is finally broken by the cackling of the seagull flying home to roost.

I look around to see that the darkness had swallowed the sea. My heart too.

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What do in Skagen

Visit Skagen’s Museum ( Brøndumsvej 4, 9990 Skagen, +45 98 44 64 44 Adults : 100 DKK ( €13.50) Kids go free )

If you have time for any cultural activities, highly recommend a to visit to the Skagen Museum to see the 1800+ works of the famous Skagen Artists . The Museum exhibits works by the famous Skagen Artists such as P.S. Krøyer, Anna Ancher and Michael Ancher. The most enduring and famous of all the works on show here is Kroyer’s masterpiece Summer Evening on the Skagen Southern Beach which features his wife Marie and Anna Ancher going for a stroll down Skagen’s south beach.

Guided tour of Skagen

The local tourist office ( Vestre Strandvej 10 , 9990 Skagen ) organises guided tours of Skagen. Costs 90Kr (€12) There is no fixed schedule for the walks so please enquire in advance of your visit.

Do visit Grenen

Grenen , the geographical tip of Denmark is a must see.

Do visit the Råbjerg Mile

One of my regrets from this trip is that I didn’t get a chance to see this. The dune was formed on the west coast in the 16th century during the great sand drift which dominated the landscape until this century. The tracks left by the dune can be seen back to Raabjerg Stene (The stones of Raabjerg).


Where to stay in Skagen

I stayed at the Hotel Skibssmedien ( Vestre Strandvej 28, 9990 Skagen, +45 98 44 67 16 )

It is in a good location, short walk from the harbour, 2 km from Skagen Art Museum and 4 km from Grenen beach.

The rooms here are simple and have all the mod cons you need. There is also the option of renting one of their apartments which come with kitchen, living rooms as well as washer and dryer. Perfect option if you travelling with a young family.

Doubles start here from €120.

A more budget friendly, fantastic value option are the Toftegården Apartments and Rooms.Offering private, self-catering accommodation in the centre of Skagen this is just a 10-minute walk from the main pedestrian shopping street Sct. Laurentiivej.

Where to eat

I ate at the Restaurant Pakhuset (Rødspættevej 6, 9990 skagen +45 98 44 20 00 )

Not the cheapest place to eat but the fish soup here was delicious. Pakhusetfiskesuppe costs 145kr (€19.50) for a large portion or 95Kr (€13) for a starter portion.

 

My trip to Skagen was made possible thanks to the kind support of  Visit Denmark UK ( Thank you Kathrine, Ninna, Daniel and Dennis )  and Skagen Tourism Board. The views all represented here are my own. If you are visiting with your family, please checkout the excellent family guide to Skagen by Sofia Vasconcelos on her blog, FromMadeiratoMars.com

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