There are few things more relaxing than sitting outside in the sun with a drink and watching the world go by.
However, doing it in the peaceful setting of a Danish town that dates back more than 1,100 years, adds a whole new level to it.
As I write this I’m sat outside the rustic Hotel Dagmar, the original building was built back in the 16th Century, opposite what historians believe to be the oldest Christian church in Denmark, Ribe Cathedral.
The whole town exudes an air of peace. Walking the medieval streets, the buildings have hardly changed in hundreds of years. Soaking in the atmosphere of the country’s oldest town, you really do feel your stress evaporate.
Getting here is also a stress free affair. Jumping aboard one of DAT’s new flights direct from Aberdeen to Esbjerg, Ribe is just a 40 minute drive away.
Of course, visiting Esbjerg itself – a town not to dissimilar to Granite City with it’s fishing heritage and oil industry boom – is going to be a must. It really is the antithesis of Ribe.
While Esbjerg may maintain its traditional town square, and the old cobbled street, everything about the town feels modern.
Wanting to properly experience the place, we booked ourselves into the Hotel Britannia, a modern premises with a high-end Scandinavian look throughout.
For those looking for a fine dining experience, the Britannia has Mundheld. A restaurant with only 11 tables, which focuses on stunning Nordic cuisine, created by a fantastic team of chefs.
If you’re feeling something a little less formal, the hotel’s lounge bar has a great menu, and if you’re feeling super casual there’s a street food market hidden away in an old cinema just a five-minute walk away.
Exploring Esbjerg wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Kunstmuseum. Its focus on modern and contemporary art means you’re not going to need a degree in art history to really appreciate what’s on display.
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Der er spændende eksperimenter i den aktuelle udstilling: Wunderkammer 1 – flydende form, på @esbjergkunstmuseum – Prøv fx at eksperimentere med vandets overfladespænding. Foto: Torben E. Meyer #wunderkammeresbjerg #wunderkammer #esbjergkunstmuseum #esbjergartmuseum #eksperimenter #overfladespænding #vand #flydendeobjekter #permortenabrahamsen #pallenielsen
During our visit we were given a guided tour by one of the curators. Speaking to one of the team involved in putting together the exhibitions it was clear how much passion and work goes behind creating something that so many different people will be able to appreciate.
Before leaving Esbjerg, make sure to head north. Just outside the city you will find four giant white statues looking out across the North Sea. Their simple design and sheer scale is awe-inspiring.
On the way back to Ribe, we took a small detour to the Unesco heritage site that is the Waddensea. Just inland from the massive dyke that protects the flat countryside is a reed-clad architectural masterpiece that serves as an education hub, covering both the land, sea and air habitats of the area.
Here you can learn about the history of the region, the incredible range of sea and bird life in the area, and how it all ties together with sites across the world.
Given Ribe’s Viking heritage, it’s no surprise there is a living, breathing historic village just outside the city.
The Viking Centre is something to dedicate the best part of a day to. Exploring the community, we were enveloped in the sights and smells of a traditional Viking settlement, watching through doors as craftsmen produced intricate silver jewellery, razor sharp knives and cooks prepared traditional dishes over open fires.
Heading back into the historic centre, you’ll find, tucked away down one of the medieval streets, Ribe’s own craft brewery – Ribe Bryghus. Run by three friends, this little brewery is flourishing, creating an array of stunning beers from pale ales, to powerful porters. If you’re not as lucky as we were to enjoy beers with the founders, you can find their brews in bars across the town. And it’s well worth stocking up on few bottles.
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Even though its gelato season we're keeping our bonbon game strong. I always enjoy seeing them all together. ? #temperchokolade #chocolate #chokolade #ribe #danmark #valrhona #myvalrhona #valrhonachocolate #valrhona_scandinavia #vadehavet #sydvestjyskesmagsoplevelser #bonbons #visitribe
Temper Choklade is another must-visit for foodies. Run by Canadian Tim, this little chocolate shop has balanced incredible modern design and techniques with traditional flavours – all of which are natural, most created within just a few miles of the shop itself.
Inevitably, all the exploring is going to work up a massive appetite – assuming you haven’t gorged on the incredible chocolates. Luckily, and despite its small size, there’s no shortage of incredible restaurants to visit in Ribe.
On our first night in this historic town we dropped into KOLVIG by Brorsonsminde, right on the banks of the River Ribe. Here we were lucky enough to enjoy a tasting menu featuring a fresh creamy, seasonal asparagus soup, with crispy bacon and a delicate dill oil followed by a hearty veal dish, featuring both braised and roast cuts of meat served with root vegetables.
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Ét smukt billede fra @francescakookt som meget fint illustrerer hvad vi gerne vil med vores mad. Del den! Bestil til bordet, og ikke til personen, og del oplevelsen på tværs af selskabet. Det er til tider lidt rodet, men i vores verden er den slags rod næsten det samme som rå, dansk hygge! Og glem nu ikke den gode vin, eller den interessante øl. God fredag til alle! #porsborgs #gastrobar #food #sharefood #goodfoodgoodpeople #visitribe #visitdenmark #hygge
We also tried Porsborgs Gastro pub, a little less formal, but just as incredible on the food front. A sharing taster starter of some of their most popular dishes – including Danish mussels, crisp potato salad, and potentially the finest chicken lollipops I’ve ever eaten, covered in fantastically rich stock – was followed by rib eye steak, served with potato wedges and simple sour cream and chive dressing.
Our final night gave us the opportunity to dine in Hotel Dagmar itself. And it really was a case of saving the best for last. The chefs concocted an incredible five-course menu, complete with perfectly paired wines. With each dish subtly linked together through tastes and textures, we were taken on a gastronomic journey featuring multiple types of caviar, meaty turbot – with a fried bread “skin” – melt-in- the-mouth veal and sharp fresh rhubarb.
So if you’re looking for a peaceful getaway, I can’t recommend the west coast of Denmark enough. It has everything a city break needs, with an incredible history, stunning scenery, brilliant locals and – most importantly for me – incredible food.
- Callum Main was a guest of DAT.DK and Visit Esbjerg.
- Return flights from Aberdeen are available from £124pp
- Accommodation at Hotel Britannia, on a room only basis is £119.50 per night, and bed&breakfast at Hotel Dagmar is £129 per night. Based on two adults sharing one room.
- Find out more about Esbjerg and Ribe, and what’s on offer at visit-esbjerg.com