Few travelers to Scandinavia have discovered the fairytale island of Ærø on the southern edge of Denmark. Ærø (pronounced “air-rue”) is a charming island with gentle rolling farmland and sleepy little villages. It’s a place where you don’t worry about leaving your bike unlocked, and local farmers sell fresh strawberries and peas outside of their home on the honor system. There are not very many places like Ærø left in the world.
A getaway to Ærø in the summertime will leave you feeling relaxed and recharged. It’s Denmark’s best-kept secret for a summer island vacation. Read on for my top things to do in Ærø, and helpful tips to plan your trip!
1. Stroll through the town of Ærøskøbing
Walk through the town of Ærøskøbing, and you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. From the cobblestones streets, climbing roses on the brick walls, and church bells ringing, it’s easy to see why Ærøskøbing is one of Denmark’s most romantic places to visit. It should come as no surprise that Ærø has a reputation as a popular wedding destination for Danes and foreigners to say “I Do”.
Ærøskøbing is one of Denmark’s most well-preserved towns with strict guidelines for the construction of new houses and the renovation of old ones. I couldn’t pick a favorite house – I loved them all so much! It’s customary for locals to sell sweets or handicrafts outside their homes on the honor system. Bring cash along if you want to do a little shopping on your walk.
2. Eat Ærø’s best smoked fish
If you love seafood, you need to eat at Ærøskøbing Røgeri! This fish smokehouse serves inexpensive smoked fish plates and sandwiches, washed down with plastic cups full of locally brewed Ærø beer. You can choose from smoked herring or mackerel fillet, trout, salmon, halibut, butter mackerel or smoked shrimp. Ærøskøbing Røgeri prides themselves on serving fresh fish fillet and french fries oven-baked without deep frying.
3. Rent Bikes
Ærø is the perfect island for cycling with over 90 miles of bike paths and gorgeous panoramic views of the island. We biked from Ærøskøbing to the northernmost town Søby on bike. You’ll ride by beautiful farms, rolling hills, and quaint little towns. It’s without a doubt the best way to see the island. From Ærøskøbing to the largest town, Marstal, you can ride along the beautiful Baltic Sea Route.
You can easily rent bikes in Ærøskøbing. We rented our bikes from the Pilebaekken gas station, and bike maps can be found at the tourist office along the harbor. Bike rentals typically cost around 100 DKK, or $20 a day.
4. Bring home a scent of Ærø
Just outside the town of Søby is Sæberiet, a local shop that sells handmade natural soaps with ingredients from the island. The smell of elderflower soap was my favorite! These little bars of soap travel home well and make the perfect gift that won’t just collect dust on a shelf! Inside the shop, you can see the tools that are used to create soap bars.
Where: Søby Nørremarksvej 3, Søby
5. See the iconic beach huts
When you’re on the ferry from Svendborg, one of your first glimpses of Ærø are the bright colorful beach houses dotted along the edge of the water on Vesterstrand. These beach huts started popping up in the early 1920’s, and have since then they’ve become a landmark of Ærø.
You can find these stretches of beach huts on Ærøskøbing at Vesterstrand and Marstal at Ericks Hale. I prefer the beach huts on Ericks Hale in Marstal over Vesterstrand – but you still should visit both! The Ericks Hale beach was more comfortable to relax on, and this beach has mini grills if you want to spend a night grilling on the beach.
The rules for historical preservation are strict if you’re lucky enough to own one of the huts. Absolutely no additions or installations can be made! This means that none of these huts have electricity or running water! The conservancy board of Ærø requires that owners can only upkeep and maintain the huts, but not make any changes to preserve their tradition.
It’s popular for Danes who own the huts to bring disposable grills and grill with friends during the summer months. We saw several Danes cooking on the beach in front of their beach hut, and it was great to see the tradition still lives on!
6. Stay at a Charming B&B
We loved our stay at Bed & Coffee! The location was perfect right in the main square in Ærøskøbing with great restaurants nearby and only a 5-minute walk to the ferry. The rooms were budget-friendly with private rooms and a shared bathroom. While they didn’t serve breakfast, it was nice to have coffee and tea available in our room. If you’re looking for breakfast we loved the Ærøskøbing Bakery just around the corner from Bed & Coffee.
The owner was welcoming and was available for any questions we had. The B&B also had access to a private sauna that was wonderful to relax in after a long day of biking!
Where: Torvet 3 5970 Ærøskøbing
7. Try an Ærø Beer
It’s common for small towns and islands in Denmark to have a local brewery. Ærø is no different! You can find Ærø beer at restaurants on the island, or in the Den Gamle Købmandsgaard store located in the main square of Ærøskøbing. If you have extra time you can visit, Rise Bryggeri, the microbrewery on the island.
At Rise Bryggeri you can take a guided tour, have a beer tasting, and eat lunch in their garden. It’s one of the larger micro-breweries in Denmark!
Where: Vandværksvej 5 5970 Ærøskøbing
8. Eat Traditional Danish Food
I love Danish food! On Ærøskøbing Restaurant Mumm was my favorite restaurant for their charming decor and authentic Danish cooking.
I highly recommend the chicken and asparagus tartlets at Mumm’s! Tartlets (or Tarteletter in Danish) are shells of puff pastry filled with cooked chicken, fresh asparagus, and a Bechamel sauce topped with parsley. Danes have made this recipe for over a hundred years. It’s comfort food, and they like to refer to it as the type of traditional food your grandmother would make.
Where: Søndergade 12 5970 Ærøskøbing
Contact for Reservation: email@example.com +45 62 52 12 12
9. Visit a Museum
For such a small island, Ærø has several interesting museums including a Bottleship Museum! If you get stuck with a rainy day, a museum is also a perfect backup plan. We ran out of time to visit the museums because we had so many beautiful days we wanted to enjoy as much time as we could outside on our bikes.
This is Ærø’s most popular museum! You can learn about the history of the Marstal ships, the small sailing vessels. The museum has a collection of over 250 model ships, as well as navigation equipment and odds and ends, brought back to Denmark from all over the world. The two main attractions are the two ships: the schooner Bonavista and the coaster Samka which are both attached to the museum.
This museum has the oldest largest Bottle Ship collection in the world! Flaske-Peter built more than 1700 bottle ships and 50 model ships over the course of his life, and his collection is on display in this museum.
10. Climb up a lighthouse
There is something so charming about lighthouses in the summertime! This lighthouse was built in 1881, and is one of the most beautiful lighthouses in Denmark. They ask for a 20 kroner donation to go up to the top, but it’s worth it for the stunning views. It’s best reached by bike if you’re in the northern part of the island near the town of Søby.
How long to stay in Ærø
Staying 2-3 nights on Ærø is the perfect amount of time – depending on what your interests are in seeing. We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon by ferry and left Friday late morning. We weren’t able to have enough time to see the museums, but we still were able to visit all three major cities by biking.
How to get to Ærø
Ærø is a small island located in the south of Denmark and is one of the islands that make up the South Funen Archipelago.
The only way to get to Ærø is by a ferry across either the Baltic Sea or the South Funen Archipelago. You can find a timetable and prices on Ærøfærgerne’s website. You can also pay to bring a car on the ferry with you, but if you plan on renting bikes, or taking the free busses on the island, a car isn’t needed.
It is approximately 2 1/2 hours from the German border by car and (including the ferry) or approximately 4 hours from Copenhagen by car and (including the ferry).
Alternatively, if traveling by train is more your style, then you can get the train to Svendborg which takes approx. 2.5 hours from Copenhagen.
Helpful Tips for Visiting Ærø
- Make all reservations in advance! This includes your ferry tickets, restaurant reservations, and hotel.
- The busses are free on Ærø! The busses cover the whole island and runs multiple times a day. We took advantage of this and we ended up taking a bus from Søby to Marstal to give our legs a rest after biking. You can find a timetable here.
- Pack a lunch. On our bike ride, we had bad luck finding cafes or restaurants that were open. Save yourself the hassle of looking for food and pack along with snacks.
- Find local souvenirs. All the best local gifts (Ærø Beer/whiskey, Sæberiet soap, handmade licorice) can be purchased at Den Gamle Koebmandsgaard located in the main square of Ærøskøbing
If you’re looking for a place to embrace a Scandinavian summer the Danish way, you need to visit Ærø. Ærø embodies the essence of Danish culture where a bike ride along the water and grilling your dinner outside along a row of beach huts is all you need to have the perfect day.
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