Relax, explore and sightsee on Denmark’s west coast
TEXT: JOSEFINE OLDER STEFFENSEN | PHOTOS © VISIT ESBJERG
Esbjerg is Denmark’s newest city, and 30 minutes away by train is Denmark’s oldest town, Ribe – an old Viking settlement. Looking out from Esbjerg, there are two islands: Mandø and Fanø, both of which were on the New York Times list of places to see in 2019. The whole area is surrounded by the Wadden Sea, a UNESCO Heritage Site, which brings with it an exceptional flora, fauna and feeling not found anywhere else in Denmark.
The region provides the perfect place to explore the many facets of Denmark and the Danes. Ribe was established in the Viking Age, and has since then grown to become one of Denmark’s most beautiful towns, with a rich history and a thriving community. Esbjerg, on the other hand, shows off the modern side of Denmark, being built around a big fishing harbour, and today becoming a hub for technology companies – all of this, while surrounded by some of the most unique nature Denmark has to offer.
Getting outside in the fresh air
The Wadden Sea is a large nature reserve where the daily tides create both roaring seas and a calm open space, making it possible to drive on the seabed. Within the Wadden Sea, the two islands Fanø and Mandø sit as peaceful communities. “One of my favourite things to do is to get my car and drive to Mandø when the tide is low. Sitting on the beach there with a packed lunch, you really feel like you’re on a holiday where no one can reach you. It is incredibly beautiful and peaceful,” explains Jane Madvig Søndergaard, head of tourism at Business Esbjerg.
Fanø is reached by ferry from Esbjerg, and upon arrival to the island there are usually seals waiting to welcome everyone. There are also seal safaris on offer, as well as pristine beaches and beautiful houses. To Mandø, it is possible to take your own car or the tractor bus. During the colder months, there are oyster safaris in the nature reserve, providing an opportunity to try the freshest oysters. The best place to start if wanting to find out more about the Wadden Sea is the Wadden Sea Centre in Vester Vedsted.
Twice a year, it is also possible to see the magic of starlings, when murmurations of the birds spread across the sky. They gather every spring and autumn, making for an outstanding spectacle. “There are different tours for seeing the starlings or for going on an oyster or seal safari. The best place to get more information is at the visitor’s centre or online,” says Søndergaard.
Something for everyone
Whether it is the story of the Vikings in Ribe showcased at the Viking museum or the Vikingcenter (a heritage centre presenting authentic reconstructions of Ribe from 710-980 AD); the Fisheries and Maritime Museum in Esbjerg; the Wadden Sea or the beautiful drawings in Ribe Cathedral, the region offers something for everyone to enjoy.
“Throughout the year, we have numerous events, including a knitting festival alongside the world’s biggest kite festival on Fanø and a wine festival in Ribe. There are also markets, Christmas markets, jazz festivals, ghost walks and classic car Tuesdays throughout the summer, so there should be something to satisfy most interests and for both big and small,” says Søndergaard.
There are also lots of fun playgrounds and even an indoor street mecca, where you can play basketball, football, skate or practise your parkour skills. For those wanting a more thorough introduction to Ribe, there are guided tours provided in all places and evening strolls through the city with the night watchman.
A stroll through the city of Esbjerg also provides the perfect opportunity to look at some of the wonderful architecture, such as the music house in Esbjerg, designed by Jan and Jørn Utzon. If art and design are high on the list of things you want to see, then the four nine-metre-tall sculptures called Man Meets the Sea are a must. In addition to this, there are numerous art museums and open events, where you can discover what the local artists are currently working on.
There is plenty to explore in Esbjerg and Ribe and on Fanø and Mandø. The best place to start when planning a trip is the respective website or the visitor’s centre. There is always lots of information on trips, days out, museums, events and also hotels and places to stay. The visitor’s centres also make an excellent stop for information on how to get to the islands, events that are currently on in town, and brochures from the many sights in and around the cities.