The Jutland West Coast - so Much to Explore!
There is much more to the west coast of Jutland than just windy weather, fish and a suburban atmosphere to look forward to. The stench of fish is all Esbjerg is known for, is what the rest of Denmark will insist. No, no, it smells of money, has usually been the response from the proud people of Esbjerg. Historically, the perception of Esbjerg may have made sense, but that's no longer the case as hardly any fish are landed at the port of Esbjerg nowadays. The West Jutland town is one of Denmark's largest, a flourishing town in constant development, even though it is only a few hundred years old.
How to Transform a Disaster into a Success
The year is 1868, the date is April 24th. Four years earlier, Denmark was defeated in a decisive battle at Dybbøl and lost the South of Jutland to the Prussians. The need for a large port on Jutland's west coast was therefore greater than ever before. The perfect choice was a small area near Ho Bay. For centuries, Esbjerg was only the name of a small farm in the Parish of Jerne, but with the establishment of the port, it became the beginning of a town. In the following years, more and more people moved to Esbjerg, while railway lines to the towns of Varde and Kolding were also established. A port and a fishing town was born.
Today, the fishing industry in Esbjerg has more or less disappeared, and most jobs are to be found within offshore and energy. Despite that fact the town still struggles with the prejudice about the not so pleasant odor of fish. However, the town where it is always windy holds much more than its smelly reputation. It is a town with great ambitions and ample opportunities. Not only Esbjerg, but the entire area around the capital of West Jutland has a lot to offer.
And what does it have to offer, you might ask?
The Port that Started it All
As mentioned, the fishing industry no longer dominates the port of Esbjerg. But giant wind turbines and drilling platforms definitely also have a certain effect. The port is used for two things in particular. The transportation of goods, where wind turbine parts are particularly popular, and as a supply port in connection with Danish oil drilling in the North Sea. In these two industries alone, 13,500 people are employed at and in connection with the port of Esbjerg. There has even been talk of building Denmark's tallest building at the port. However, this plan has since been scrapped. These things, combined with the maritime activities, also form the basis for Esbjerg's own desire to brand itself as an Energy Metropolis. In other words, there are many different things going on at the port in western Jutland, and the likelihood of seeing a large drilling platform is far greater than seeing a fishing boat. If you feel the urge to explore Esbjerg in depth, I suggest this guided tour. You can count on a great story to be told.
From the port, I would suggest the first detour of the day. Once upon a time, the trip could go to Newcastle or Harwich in England, but since 2014, the choices have been very few. Today the choice is between Menja or Fenja. The destination is one and the same. Fanø.
Guarantee of Baltic Gold on Fanø
10 minutes by boat and you've arrived. You're immediately overwhelmed by a relaxing sense of well-being and tranquillity. For the 3,488 people who live on the island, it's home, but for the vast majority of visitors to the West Jutland island, it's a vacation paradise where the sky is always high.
The ferry town, Nordby, is Fanø's largest town and offers plenty of opportunities to pass the time. The capital of Fanø is a small, cozy town, characterized by many beautiful houses from the 1800s. If you compare the current town with old photographs, you can see that many of the small streets and roads have not changed significantly in hundreds of years. In Nordby, for example, you can find museums, one of the town's 2½ churches and small shops where you can buy the souvenir of the day to take home. A good bet for this is amber.
The gold of the sea, as amber is commonly known, can be found in small speciality shops. You can also head out onto the long stretches of beach yourself and seek your fortune. The amber on Fanø and along the other Danish coasts is called Baltic amber and is between 30 and 50 million years old. A large part of Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea region was covered by Baltic amber forests. Today we know that amber is made from ancient resin, but in the past there were other theories. The more creative ones suggested that amber came from wood ant wax or dried urine from the lynx.
Wind and Water, Sand and Beach
Nature is a great reason to visit Fanø, and you'll find it all around you. At the harbor in Nordby you can often see seals basking on the small sandbank, Søjorden, 50 meters from the quay, but Fanø is especially known for its long beaches. The westside of Fanø has 15 kilometers of beach, with the remarkable thing being the width of the beach. In fact, it gets wider every year. For birdwatchers, Fanø's beaches are also an Eldorado, as migratory birds and shorebirds gather here every year. The best place to observe migratory birds is at Sønderho, although the high tide means that you would be wise to bring a good pair of binoculars. The Wadden Sea is in perpetual motion, and it is definitely worth a closer look.
As well as swimming or taking a nice walk, the beach can be used for many other things, like the occasional races with beach racers. But the most colorful is the annual kite festival. Here, kite enthusiasts from all over the world come together and make the sky bloom and sparkle with brightly colored kites in the most amazing shapes and colors.
UNESCO World Heritage
Denmark's largest national park is the Wadden Sea National Park, which stretches from the Danish-German border to Blåvandshuk. It covers 1,459 km2, of which about 20% is land. In reality, the Wadden Sea extends all the way to the Netherlands. The Wadden Sea is a unique marsh and tidal area where nature is in perpetual flux as the landscape changes every day. For both anglers and the fabulous birdlife, this means that there are good opportunities to find worms, snails, mussels and crustaceans in the large areas that are drained every day when the water recedes. It's a unique piece of nature that's worth experiencing first-hand.
In fact, it is such amazing nature that in 2014, UNESCO designated approximately 80% of the national park as a World Heritage Site, due to its universal value. UNESCO's designation of the Wadden Sea as a World Heritage Site is a global recognition of the work being done to protect world-class Danish nature. If you love spectacular wildlife and want to see the sea retreat, this is a place you should visit. The UNESCO designation and its status as a national park certainly makes it easier for you to experience an important and exciting piece of Denmark.
Back in Esbjerg, there's also plenty of reason to go on a trip, as the city hides many little gems. Not surprisingly, the starting point for these Esbjergian gems is also the sea. At Sædding beach in northern Esbjerg stands a masterpiece of Danish art. It is, of course, Svend Wiig Hansen's sculpture 'Mennesker ved havet', 'Man meets the Sea', which has adorned the beach since 1994. The work of art is colloquially known as 'De fire hvide mænd', 'The Four White Men'. It is four 9 meter tall figures looking out over the sea. The reason for the more colloquial interpretation of the name is, according to the artist himself, that they depict the connection of pure and uncorrupted man with nature. The sculpture is one of Esbjerg's landmarks. It was raised in connection with the 100th anniversary of Esbjerg becoming an independent municipality in 1894. The sculpture is definitely worth a visit. In addition, it is a great place to take a nice walk with a view over Esbjerg and the harbor and over to Langli and Skallingen in the distance.
Just a stone's throw from the Four White Men and the rest of the North Sea, you can really get an understanding of the Danish relationship with the sea around Denmark. Here you will find Fiskeri- og Søfartsmuseet, the Fisheries and Maritime Museum, where you can experience the sea in a historical and contemporary perspective, both the sea as a workplace and the rich life beneath the surface of the sea. Living exhibitions, aquariums, interesting activities and a large sealarium are some of the experiences that make you almost taste the salt water of West Jutland. The stories at the museum range from old, harsh fishermen's stories, to the importance of the North Sea during World War II, to today's offshore stories. In other words, there is something for everyone, and the Fisheries and Maritime Museum is a popular museum to visit.
Esbjerg City Center
While the west coast is generally a great place to experience raw, unspoiled Danish nature and wildlife, it's also possible in the city of Esbjerg itself. Albeit in a slightly more subdued setting. In Vognsbølparken you can experience Danish urban forest at its best. Esbjerg's large, recreational city park, which many Esbjerg inhabitants use for all kinds of exercise, is also a large zoo where it is possible to get up close to deer and goats. In addition, the park is used for major events such as the 80s festival and Vestkystløbet, a running race, which attracts 10,000 people to Esbjerg every year.
Esbjerg fB and Blue Water Arena
If we walk out of the park and hit Gl. Vardevej, we have a direct route to the heart of Esbjerg with several attractions on the way. First stop is the Esbjerg based football club EFB at the Blue Water Arena. The football club has 5 Danish championships on its resume. Together with Esbjerg Energy and Team Esbjerg, it is based in the area, with the first two also having several Danish championship titles in their trophy cabinet. Sport is an integral part of Esbjerg, and I don't think a good weekend trip to the city is complete without experiencing the roar from the stands.
The Swimming Stadium
Continuing past the Blue Water Arena, we come to the swimming stadium Svømmestadion Danmark, which hosted the 1999 Youth Olympic Games, among other events. The stadium was founded in 1996 and inaugurated by the former Princess Alexandra. At 10.000 m2 , Svømmestadion Danmark is Denmark's largest water park with a competition course, tropical water park with water slides, wave pool and much more. Svømmestadion Danmark has around 300,000 visitors a year. This is not surprising if you have tried to take a dip in one of the many pools.
The Longest Pedestrian Street?
After a swim, it's probably time for a bit of shopping and maybe a small meal. The best place for both is Kongensgade. Better known as 'gågaden', the pedestrian street, it is Esbjerg's commercial center where you will find most things. Strøget in Copenhagen was for many years known as the world's longest pedestrian street. But because Strøget is broken in two places by traffic lights, some argue that Esbjerg has Denmark's longest pedestrian street at 1,023 meters. It's hard to say what's true and what's false, but it's certainly a sign of great shopping opportunities. If you follow the same pedestrian street up to the square, there is an equestrian statue of Christian IX - a statue that students dance around every summer when they graduate high school. If you turn right, you will come to the music house, Musikhuset Esbjerg.
Musikhuset - the Work of Jørn Utzon
The Music House, Musikhuset, which has graced Esbjerg since 1997, is related to another very famous music hall, the Sydney Opera House. The main architect behind both is Jørn Utzon, one of Denmark's best-known architects. Blues legend B.B. King was the first big name to perform at Musikhuset. But names like Bryan Adams, Willie Nelson and Kenny Rodgers have also rocked the halls. If you like good Friday night entertainment or just enjoy beautiful architecture and history, it's definitely worth a visit. It's even possible to get inside without having to take your wallet out of your pocket.
Speaking of beautiful architecture, another of Esbjerg's landmarks is right next door, Esbjerg Water Tower. The water tower was built in 1896-97 on Bavnehøj and at 33 meters is the highest point in the city. With views of both Fanø and Ribe in good weather, it is a obvious place to climb - if you are not afraid of heights. The tower was listed in 1983 and is now part of Sydvestjyske Museer, which means that you can easily get inside the beautiful tower. It's an experience you wouldn't want to miss when visiting Esbjerg.
Blue Water in Blåvand
After a nice walk through Esbjerg's streets, alleys, parks and attractions, it's time for the second detour of the day, namely the small resort town of Blåvand. Blåvand is located at Blåvandshuk, which is Jutland's and thus Denmark's westernmost point. It was therefore also an important area for the Germans during World War II, because they could easily monitor and defend the coasts from here.
At Blåvand you can see the large bunkers that stand as sturdy wartime memorials, and the Tirpitz exhibition is well worth a visit for anyone with an interest in World War II. The underlying museum is absolutely the icing on the cake.
A trip up the 39-meter high Blåvandshuk Lighthouse is also a great experience. On good days, the light from the lighthouse can be seen more than 42 km away. It is still active today - despite being built back in 1900.
In addition to the coastal area, which is a pleasure to experience all the way up through West Jutland, a holiday in Blåvand will be characterized by nature. Blåvand is known as a seaside and holiday town, making it an obvious place to book a holiday home for the weekend. There are fantastic beaches, a cozy town with good shopping opportunities and many attractions within a short distance. Blåvand Zoo, for example, is a cozy little zoo, where they pride themselves on being the only place in Denmark where you can experience white lions and red giant kangaroos. In addition, you can hold snakes, ride ponies and feed some of the animals. In other words, there is something for all ages.
Sweets in the Wild West
The nature bus in Ho is another good option for excursions. It runs in the area around Blåvand, Ho and Blåvandshuk, where you can experience the bird sanctuary, Langli, in Ho bay and the distinctive peninsula, Skallingen. If you would rather stay in town, then I would recommend popping into Blåvand Bolcher, a candy shop. Here you will find candies of all shapes and colors, and you can even get behind the scenes and see the candy cookery, where they conjure up colorful hard candies and caramels by hand. If you're really lucky, you'll get to make your own sweets with the help of the candy masters.
Whether you're into nature, culture, shopping or industry, the area in and around Esbjerg is well worth a visit. If my words haven't convinced you, it might be a good idea to book one of our many guides in Jutland for your next trip to West Jutland. One thing is for sure. You won't regret it.
We are happy to say visit Esbjerg and nearby with Guide Service Denmark and our guide service Jutland.
Panorama Esbjerg Port. Photo: Pxhere. License: CC0
Port of Esbjerg. Photo: News Øresund - Johan Wessman. License: CC BY 3.0
Birds on Søren Jessens sand: Ragnar1904. License: CC BY-SA 4.0
Kite Festival on Fanø. Photo: Thomas Skjold. License: Destination Sydvestjylland
Fascines in the Wadden Sea near Mandø Ebbevej. Photo: Christian Reinboth. License: CC BY-SA 4.0
Man Meets the Sea / The Four White Men. Photo: Jazia. License: CC BY-SA 4.0
Skallingen. Photo: Guldhammer. License: Public Domain