Among the places to visit in Denmark North Jutland is a special one. Suberb beaches, high sand dunes, castles and half-timbered houses make the area worth a summer trip.
And what about a sand-buried church and a collapsing lighthouse?
I didn’t know much of this area in the north of Denmark but when my husband had a business meeting in the capital of North Jutland I was ready to join the trip. We made a driving trip in the countryside and this post shows you what we found.
The sand-buried church, Skagen
We mainly toured along the north coast of Jutland. The main destinations were Aalborg, Saeby, Skagen, Rubjerg Knude and Lokken. To make this trip you need a car and preferably at least 2-3 days. The best time to travel is summer when you get most out of the beaches and dune hiking.
Places to Visit in Denmark: North Jutland
Jutland (Jylland) is the large mainland part of Denmark that borders Germany to the south.
The peninsula has the North Sea to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east so there is hundreds of kilometers shoreline. And not just any shoreline, Jutland is blessed with sandy beaches all along the coastline, backed by sand dunes and cliffs.
One of many Jutland beaches: Lokken
Otherwise the terrain is flat like in the Netherlands and most of the area is open farmland. You can see grazing cows, sheep and horses and modern windmills across the country. And in between there are small towns, many of them with half-timbered houses.
Driving in Jutland, Denmark
Danish farmland and windmills
So we went to Jutland, in fact to the northern part of it that for me is the prettiest region on the peninsula. There was a business meeting in Aalborg but we stayed a bit outside the city, a little bit north, to make it easier to tour the area during the weekend.
The map shows you where we went and in this post I will show you the sights.
Places to Visit in Denmark: North Jutland Driving Itinerary
The map shows our North Jutland driving itinerary which we used less than two days for.
At night we returned to our castle (as we stayed in a Danish castle hotel!) and drove back the next morning. Maybe that was not the wisest thing to do, it meant a lot of extra driving. Afterwards I think the ideal spot to stay the night would have been Skagen half-way along the route.
But a self-evident stop on the route and maybe your starting point: the capital of North Jutland, Aalborg:
Aalborg is a university town with 200 000 inhabitants, a modern city that has an old core. Definitely one of the places to visit in Denmark.
The old town covers a big area around the main shopping street Stroget. Some photos of Aalborg Old Town:
Click on the small photos to open them all up in a slideshow.
Aalborg also has a modern waterfront with the Utzon Center (see below) and art museums, a riverfront walking-area and a modern harbor pool where you can to for a swim if the Nordic weather allows.
Aalborg, Utzon Center
The Utzon Center was designed by the famous Aalborg architect that also planned the Sydney Opera house. More photos on Aalborg seashore:
Aalborg originally was a Viking settlement, due to its great location at the narrowest point of the Limfjorden waterway that splits the peninsula in two. The Vikings appreciated the sheltered location with an easy access to the seas on both sides.
Viking burial ground at Lindholm Hoje, Aalborg
And just outside Aalborg you can find a Viking burial ground on a hilltop overlooking the city. The Vikings really have lived (and died) in this area, as well as many others before them. The hilltop is covered with prehistoric graves, the oldest of which are triangular or circular, and the newer Viking graves look like ships.
The area was discovered first in 1952 until when it was buried by sand that blew over the hills. Jutland is an area of sandstorms. When winds sweep the coastal sand is thrown all over and coastal sand dunes also gradually move inland.
A windmill, North Jutland
We first took the E 45 motorway and then turned to small country roads. You don’t really see anything from the motorway.
And where did we come? Beautiful hilly landscape (yes, there were hills) with a lot of farms, half-timbered houses and a windmill – this time an old-fashioned one. We googled and the windmill was Dorf Mill, built in 1887 and operated until the 1950’s.
Opposite to the windmill there was a farmhouse. That was Dorf Mollegaard and it had a café, a watermill and a hunting museum.
The Danish Marguerite Routes
This was a Marguerite route. In Denmark, maybe even more than elsewhere, you should always take the backroads. The landscape is so flat so it gets boring on big roads. But on side roads you will find the living countryside, the real Denmark.
That’s why they have established a Marguerite route network that they named after the Danish queen. The route covers the whole country and it’s marked with this kind of signs:
Marguerite and West Coast biking route signs
If you are a tourist, and whether you’re driving or biking, always take a Marguerite road – if you can find one. They are not always easy to find. But here is a map where all the routes are marked: Margueritruten (in Danish)
So we took the slower Marguerite route from here on, almost all the way to Skagen. For technical reasons my Google map above shows a more direct route, not the Marguerite route (which you can find on the Marguerite route map behind the link).
The next stop was the Voergaard Castle, a renaissance castle with a long history.
It’s a 15th century castle that has had many noble families living in it, one of them the Danish king. They say that the ghosts of former owners appear in the castle. Otherwise it is full of decorative furniture, art and paintings. Worth visiting but notice that you are only allowed to visit on a guided tour.
Voergaard Castle’s homepage: Voergaard
In addition there’s another castle nearby, Saebygaard Castle. Saebygaard too is open to the public.
Denmark has a huge number of castles but most of them are in private use. More on Saebygaard Slot: Information on Saebygaard (Visit Denmark)
Old watermill, Saeby, North Jutland
The next town is Saeby, a small coastal town that has an old center with half-timbered houses on the right hand side and a newer center with a pedestrian area on the left, coming from the south.
I’m telling this because we had trouble in finding the old center, there were no signs. So the half-timbered houses are on the harbor side. These:
The road where the old houses are leads to a pretty harbor where you can buy seafood, fish or walk along the dunes along marked paths.
A very quiet and pleasant spot for a stop, at least in late August after the tourist season. In general after-season travel is what I prefer: no rush, no crowds, and mostly still a good weather (this time only fairly good, it was half cloudy).
Bike or Car Route?
This is the West Coast cycling route which we took from Hulsig, to discover the countryside. There were many bikes but no cars which we didn’t think about until the road ended and only bikes were allowed. So we came back to Hulsig and took the main road instead.
We skipped Fredrikshavn and its Palm Beach and we also skipped Råbjerg Mile sand dunes to return later the same day.
Hulsig bike route scenery
The Sand-covered Church
The sand-covered church
This church 5 km south of Skagen is called den tillsandede kirke, the sand-covered church. But how did this whitewashed medieval church get buried?
In the 18th century the shifting sands of Skagen peninsulas caused a sandstorm that buried a whole village, the village that existed around the church. And most of the church was buried too, just the tower could be used, with 4-5 m of sand on its floor. Most of the church was torn down but parts of it still remain hidden under the sand.
Due to all the sandstorms people here had to leave their homes. They moved west, many of them to Gamle Skagen that we will visit later.
We will also visit Skagen. It was now getting late and we had to rush to Grenen, the northernmost point of Denmark.
Grenen car park and Skagen Grå Fyr lighthouse
This is as far as you can get by car. From here you have to walk on to reach to northern tip.
It’s a 30 min walk along soft the dunes, hope it will be warm enough at the time you will visit so you can take off your shoes and walk barefoot. But it’s a great walk, you can see the destination left below, at the far end.
Altogether there are four different hikes and I’d love to have time with all of them! You can see cargo boats making a sharp turn south at the end of the peninsula, they are coming from the North Sea and heading to the Baltic sea.
The Northern Tip of Denmark
Here we are, on the narrow tip where the waters of Kattegat and Skagerrak meet, having one foot in each sea!
Time to walk back. For those that think a 2 km return walk is too much there is the Sandormen public transport option which you can of course take both ways if needed.
So that was Grenen, the northern tip of Denmark and definitely one of the places to visit in Denmark. Grenen also has a wonderful art museum where the Skagen artists’ works are displayed and the grave of Holger Drachmann, the father of the art school. He wanted to be buried in the dune.
Råbjerg Mile 16 km south of Skagen is a nature wonder. It’s Denmark’s largest area of shifting sand dunes, an area of 1 km2 where the sand dunes get up to 40 m high. Soft sand again, and stormy! It’s long ago I was in sandstorm, not really pleasant.
These dunes move 10 m eastward each year. Moving sands used to be a major problem in earlier times but today it can be prevented by planting grasses on the sand. But these dunes they kept natural, Råbjerg Mile sands are not planted. The grass and heather that you can see above are in the place where the dunes begin.
The small town of Skagen is so pretty. It used to be a fishing port and became a fashionable resort. Artists flocked here because of the light. The area was called the Land of Light as the narrow peninsula is surrounded by waters that reflect the sunlight.
We were happy to catch the last sunrays of the day at Skagen, it was already getting dark when we arrived. But we were traveling on business and had a tight schedule.
The port was full of Swedish luxury yachts and there was a huge party going on, music, singing and a lot of drinking. But we couldn’t join the party, we still had to drive…
So we had huge Danish sandwiches for dinner and took a driving tour in the pretty town of Skagen that has only yellow houses.
Skagen church, yellow like everything else in Skagen
Yes, they all are yellow, Skagen is really beautiful. One of the places you must visit in Denmark…
The main street is pedestrianized and like the harbor it has a huge number of bars and restaurants. And there is the Skagen Museum and a windmilll.
4 km west of Skagen is the Gamle Skagen, Old Skagen, where fishermen escaped the sand storms. Today it’s more like a holiday resort and as pretty as the “new” Skagen. The Old Skagen is on the west coast so it’s a great sunset spot.
On the next day we spent some time exploring the Jutland west coast. We only had time with two sights, the Rubjerg Knude lighthouse and the resort of Lokken south of it.
Rubjerg Knude lighthouse
The Rudbjerg Knude Fyr lighthouse stands on the west coast’s highest point so its light can bee seen from far away on the sea. Or that was the meaning. But winds shaped the landscape and today there are 90 m high sand dunes on both sides of it which makes that the lighthouse from 1899 no longer can work as a lighthouse.
There is another problem too. The lighthouse was built in a safe location 200 m from the sea as they thought. But the dunes move and today Rubjerg Knude Fyr is almost at the edge of the cliff as the sands have moved inland. In about 10-15 years the lighthouse will collapse.
Of course we wanted to see the lighthouse before it collapses and climb the 90 m sand dunes at the same time.
It’s a short walk, maybe less than 2 km from the car park one way, first along a good path and then in a desert landscape. A great desert experience, and you don’t have to take yourself all the way to Sahara, you can get a Sahara experience in Denmark!
Places to visit in Denmark: Lokken beach
Lokken south of Rubjerg Knude has one of those great beaches North Jutland is famous for. Wish these beaches were combined with a warmer climate, or maybe not, that would mean an overcrowded tourist trap. Lokken is not overcrowded at all, these photos were taken on a late August weekend.
There are white beach huts (badehytte), a long row of them and fishing boats parked on the sand. The beach is hard enough to jog or walk on and you can even drive on it! You can see our rental car on the photo.
The village of Lokken right behind the dunes looks pleasant. It’s a living village and a small-scale resort, with loose sand on its streets, like snow on our streets back home in winter time.
A bit south of Lokken is one more beach resort, Blokhus, looking more touristic than Lokken. The beach looks very much the same as the Lokken beach but the house color here is white.
This ends our North Jylland driving tour. I hope to have time to write more on Jutland, Denmark which is a beautiful holiday destination for many kinds of needs, not just for families visiting Legoland and Fårup Sommerland and the like. Jylland suits people in all ages.
But I still have to show where we stayed, the Vraa Castle Hotel in Tylstrup, 20 km north of Aalborg…
Staying in a Castle
Vraa Castle Hotel in Tylstrup
We happened to find this hotel when Aalborg was almost fully booked and we also needed car parking. The hotel is in the middle of nothing, there’s really nothing to see at walking distance.
But the hotel grounds are beautiful and the interiors just amazing. And for us this location made a good base for touring North Jutland.
If you want to learn more on Danish castle hotels, there are others too, this is the website: Danish Castle Hotels (Danske Slotshoteller)
If you need more information on Denmark you will find it on the Visit Denmark website >>
More about North Europe Travel
- See Stockholm, the Swedish capital by bike: Stockholm Nature Tour by Bike: Djurgården
- Explore the old town of Tallinn on foot: Tallinn Old Town, Estonia’s Medieval Fairytale City
- Read about Finland’s nature destinations: find my Finland articles on the Finland category page.