Skagen, Denmark

Photo: Martin Olsson (mnemo on en/sv wikipedia and commons, martin@minimum.se). (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Martin Olsson (mnemo on en/sv wikipedia and commons, martin@minimum.se). (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Everyone is flocking to Copenhagen. The capital of Denmark has become the gourmet food capital of Scandinavia, if not the world. People plan trips around reservations at Noma, Geranium, and all the restaurants they’ve spawned. But don’t stop there. The rest of the country has amazing restaurants, as well.

Skagen is the northernmost town in Denmark. “The Scaw” sits on the Skagen Odde, the peninsula where the North Sea meets the Baltic Sea. It was established as a fishing village—with herring as the primary catch—in the Middle Ages and then became the country’s main fishing port. Impressionists, known as the Skagen Painters, arrived in the 19th century. The Danish royal family built a summer residence here in the early 20th century. Visitors are now lured by the windswept beaches and the promise of delicious seafood.

Spend the morning exploring the seaside town. It’s filled with yellow houses with red-tiled roofs. Drive by Klitgården, the former royal residence that’s been turned into studios and workshops for artists and researchers. Visit the two churches. Old Skagen Church, from the 14th century, is now covered in sand; only the white brick tower is still visible. Skagen Church, in the center of town, was built in 1841 after the sand-covered church became unusable. See plein-air paintings by the Skagen Painters and the artists they inspired at the Michael and Anna Ancher House and the Skagens Museum. Browse the galleries, the craft shops, and the jewelry stores to see designs still inspired by the sea. Then ride a bike past lighthouses to reach Grenen. Watch the North Sea and the Baltic Sea collide—with different densities, there’s a clear contrast between the two—at the sandbar on Denmark’s northernmost tip. The rough seas have caused many shipwrecks over the years.

Photo: Ruths Hotel
Photo: Ruths Hotel

For lunch, find rustic Skagen Fiskerestaurant along the harbor. The long, red-and-white building is a former fish warehouse. In 1907, it was turned into a seafood restaurant that’s now considered one of the best in Jutland. There’s a thin layer of sand on the floor, plenty of picnic tables outside, and a view of bobbing boats. Start by ordering mussels with garlic and chili or a dozen raw oysters on the half shell to share. Then choose between smoked salmon with dill, pan-fried fish cakes, or a traditional fish pie. With huge portions, it’s impossible to leave hungry.

Since you’re full and tired, it’s best to find your hotel now. Ruths Hotel was established as a seaside guesthouse more than 100 years ago. The beachfront hotel has spacious, light-filled rooms. Your junior suite has wicker furniture, a periwinkle sofa, and a view of the water. Dogs and cats are welcomed with bowls and treats. A heated therapy pool, a sauna, and a steam room are set up for relaxation at Ruths Wellness. While two restaurants, Ruths Brasserie and Ruths Gourmet, attract people not even staying at the hotel.

Your reservation is at Ruths Gourmet. The seasonal restaurant is considered one of the five best restaurants outside of the capital. The chef focuses on Nordic gastronomy, plays with different tastes and interesting textures, and collects herbs, mushrooms, and berries from the surrounding area. Three-course seasonal, four-course fish, five-course Skagen, and eight-course Ruths menus are served and paired with French wine. Plus lobster with a lobster-and-balsamic sauce is the highlight of not only this meal, but your entire trip to Denmark.

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