Aeroe: A ferry-tale in Southern Denmark
There’s something unique about smaller islands. I mean, islands of a size where you can see the coastline from almost anywhere.
I’m actually from an island myself – Funen (Fyn in Danish) – but have never really thought of it much, as I have been living centrally without coastal views, and as the island is big enough to feel more like a landmass. Not at least due to the fact that Funen is connected both east and west by huge bridges over the Great Belt and Little Belt straits, but back in the days we had to take a ferry across to Zealand. Not the “New” one, but the good old one where our capital Copenhagen is found.
These days it’s really rare that I get to take a ferry, which makes it that much more special when it finally happens – like a couple of weeks ago when my family and I went on a small day-trip-adventure to the island of Aeroe (Ærø in Danish). An island of a little more than 6.000 inhabitants, located just south of Funen.
We went by car via the ferry from Svendborg, but Aeroe can also be reached from the harbour of Faaborg (South Funen) and Fynshav (Southern Jutland). The ferry ride from Svendborg takes about one hour and fifteen minutes, and it’s a scenic journey past Tåsinge and several smaller islands in the South Funen Archipelago. A trip that reminded me of plenty of childhood-adventures on the Danish ferries – and where you can sit comfortably and enjoy food or a cup of coffee, or just enjoy the views from outside on the top deck.
I realized that Aeroe offers free public transport on busses around the island, but it’s naturally easiest to go by car if you want to make the most of a short visit – or alternatively by bike in the summer months. If you arrive from Svendborg, the town of Ærøskøbing (Aeroeskoebing) will be your welcoming sight – and for me it is also the top attraction on the island. An incredibly charming and picturesque town, which is said to be the best preserved 1700s town in all of Denmark.
Personally I was blown away by the old cobblestoned streets flanked by colourful townhouses. So well kept that it could be an open-air museum or some kind of theme park. But this is a “normal” town with a little less than 1000 inhabitants, who seem to live a peaceful life here. It also seems like almost all of them take pride in being part of this idyllic setting too, as you’ll soon spot freshly painted facades, windowsills adorned with rows of figurines, beautifully decorated doors, flower pots and climbing roses – so please don’t forget your camera!
I just spent a couple of hours in town, but added a few favourite spots to my list on my way around:
Den Gamle Købmandsgård is an unmissable combination of shop and café, focused on local produce, arts and crafts and artisan treats from around the island. Among many interesting products they offer the whisky that is produced just next door at Aeroe’s very own whisky distillery – another exciting spot to check out.
Nearby across the cobblestoned square you can take a look inside the city’s lovely white church from 1756, which like the city itself is extremely well kept. It has a low ceiling and allows a lot of daylight to flow through its windows along the sides – making it easy to enjoy the beautifully painted pulpit in this simple church room.
Last but not least you shouldn’t miss out on some tasty smoked fish for lunch, at the island’s smokehouse Ærøskøbing Røgeri near the harbour. A great chance to practice your Danish pronounciation and the perfect place to try traditional dishes like smoked mackerel with cold potato salad – but the menu card offers many tempting options, which makes it very hard to choose. For a big fish-dish lover this will feel like being a kid in a candy store and of course you should wash it all down with a local Aero beer. A true Scandinavian food-experience!
There is more to discover in Ærøskøbing and I would have loved to spend a night in town, but on our day-trip we had to move on to see more of Aero, and made the short drive to the bigger town of Marstal on the island’s eastern tip. Here we stopped for a walk along the harbour and a stroll through the heart of the town, where you’ll find a Maritime Museum, that will be perfect for a day with inconsistent weather. But for us the sun was shining, so we continued to Marstal Beach where the colourful beach huts offer an excellent photo opportunity – while you can leave your car and continue your walk along the path to the very tip Eriks Hale (Erik’s Tale).
To round off our visit, we drove to the opposite end of the island where Søby receives visitors via the ferry from Fynshav – the most direct connection if travelling from Germany.
On our way we passed the moat-surrounded manor of Søbygård and old-style windmills. But the best-smelling experiences was a stop at Sæberiet where a woman sells artisan soaps and herb salts to being home as a unique local souvenir.
I truly enjoyed exploring Aeroe and I can’t believe I never went there before, as it’s really one of those spots on our map that makes me proud to be Danish. This blog post is just a short introduction, but I hope you’ll be inspired to go on a ferry-tale on your own. The island is perfectly combined with a holiday on Funen and really deserves a night or two.
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