15 things to do when you visit Ærø – a charming island in Denmark
It is said that there are about 70 inhabited islands in Denmark, not even counting Greenland and the Faroe Islands… yes, they actually belong to the Kingdom of Denmark, in case you didn’t know. If you Include the uninhabited islands, there are more than 400 in total, but very few of them are as attractive as Ærø – which turns into Aeroe if you don’t use our unique Danish letters.
Ærø is home to a little more than 6.000 people and it’s located in the South Funen Archipelago – just south of the bigger island of Funen in central Denmark. The island is small enough to make it easy to navigate and big enough to have A LOT to offer visitors, whether they come for culture and local specialities or simply for the idyllic landscapes and sandy beaches. Ærø is naturally also a popular wedding destination.
Here are 15 excellent reasons why you should add Ærø to your Danish itinerary:
Enjoy a lovely trip on the ferry
When visiting the Ærø even the trip across on the small car-ferry is enjoyable (if the weather is good) – not at least if you choose to travel from the city of Svendborg on South Funen, from where it’s a 75-minute journey to the harbour of Ærøskøbing.
It’s a route along the waters between Funen and the island of Tåsinge, before passing smaller islands on the way south to Ærø. Onboard the ferry it’s possible to enjoy a meal or a just a coffee while taking in the views, either from behind the windows or from the top deck in the fresh air.
Soon you will also be able to reach the island by electric ferry when the e-ferry named ‘Ellen’ will start sailing between Søby on Ærø and Fynshav on the island of Als (connected to Southern Jutland).
Soak up the charm of Ærøskøbing
Despite being the second largest town on Ærø (after Marstal), Ærøskøbing, with less than 1000 inhabitants, is the island’s proud capital. Its charming and bright coloured townhouses along the cobbled streets and squares are some of the best Denmark has to offer any visitor – and it’s definitely one of the best kept old towns in the country.
From you leave the ferry at the harbour, the Ærøskøbing is an almost overwhelming palette of impressions and wonderful details, and you’ll feel like walking in a town of doll houses. All around you’ll spot beautifully painted doors and window frames while fresh flowers cling to the neatly kept facades. Don’t miss the lovely square at the end of Brogade, where a brunch at På Torvet can be recommended, as well as a peek inside Ærøskøbing Kirke (church) from 1756.
Have lunch at The Old Merchant’s House
While at the central square, you have to visit Den Gamle Købmandsgård (The Old Merchant’s House, from the 19th Century), which is a combination of a speciality shop, a café and a restaurant – including an idyllic and cobbled backyard (that is hard to leave on a sunny day).
It’s the perfect place to shop for tempting delicatessen, artisan products and local design and craft – but also a great place to enjoy a delicious lunch of Danish smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches on rye bread) with so amazing toppings that you’ll find it almost sad to eat.
Where: Torvet 5, Ærøskøbing
Visit the island’s own whisky distillery
In connection with The Old Merchant’s House, you’ll find the island’s very own whisky distillery simply named Ærø Whisky. At times it might be difficult to get yourself a bottle, due to low quantity and high demand, but no matter what you will be able to visit the small visitor centre when Den Gamle Købmandsgård is open (Mon-Sat 10am-4pm). Here you can admire the polished micro-distillery equipment where all the magic happens.
Ærø Whisky was founded in 2013 and they use local ingredients from the island, such as grain and malting barley. It is one of the very few whisky distilleries in Denmark and a truly unique place to visit for dedicated whisky lovers.
Where: Torvet 5, Ærøskøbing (behind Den Gamle Købmandsgård)
Taste some smoked fish at the harbour
If you love fish (like in eating them) you can’t miss out on a lunch or a dinner at Ærø Røgeri (smokehouse) at the harbour of Ærøskøbing. This is like a candy store for lovers of smoked fish, and it won’t get much more Danish than a piece of rugbrød (rye bread) with smoked mackerel, potato salad and a cold beer outside in the sun.
The selection is varied (herring, trout, salmon…), the prices are reasonable and the beer is local. And if you can’t get enough, why not bring back a bunch of ‘fiskefrikadeller’ (fishcakes) for an easy midnight snack.
Where: Ærøskøbing Havn 15, Ærøskøbing
Discover the Danes’ love for liquorice
Danes love their liquorice and if you’re brave enough to try this black candy, you won’t find it much better than those in the neat little boxes of “lakridskonfekt” from Hattesens Konfektfabrik on Ærø – an artisan take on the classic (but artificial) version, where they have replaced a lot of the sugar with much more intense flavours from freeze-dried berries and fruit, as well as cocoa beans.
Mr Hattesen himself isn’t originally from the island but moved here after many previous adventures and he was eager to start new projects. His impressive portfolio of businesses on the island includes a fish restaurant, a café and a small hotel, besides the production of artisan ice cream and the award-winning liquorice. The production is found in Ærøskøbing, right across the street from the tourism office and neighbouring Hattesen’s atmospheric Café Aroma.
Where: Gilleballetofte 2A, Ærøskøbing.
Stock up on local beer and cigars
Ærø is a treasure chest of local produce and south of Ærøskøbing in the town of Store Rise, you will find the island’s own brewery Rise Bryggeri that was re-established in 2004. Here in connection with a farm, they brew a range of regular and seasonal beers (including a series of organic beers) that can be found in pubs and restaurants around the island, while only being exported to a few shops elsewhere in Denmark.
On-site, you will find an event venue and a lovely little brewery shop, where you can also by homemade cigars – made from tobacco plants growing on a small patch on a field behind the brewery itself. Since 2012, Ærø Cigar has been run by the woman in charge of the brewery, Janni Bidstrup, who is producing these artisan cigars and it’s a very unique souvenir or gift for any cigar-smoking gentleman or gentlewoman.
Where: Vandværksvej 5, Ærøskøbing.
Admire great art in unique surroundings
With a selection of art that wouldn’t seem out of place in a big city, Ærø Kunsthal (art hall) offers a cultural boost to the small town of Ærøskøbing. It was inaugurated in 2018 and is set in a beautiful old merchant’s house in the heart of the town. It includes a museum shop as well as a lovely outdoor exhibition area.
The exhibition combines a well-balanced mix of paintings, drawings, graphic art, sculptures and installations, all set in this unique venue that creates a very different gallery experience. In 2019 Ærø Kunsthal is open from April 13 to September 2, every day between 10-18 (10am-6pm).
Where: Vestergade 41 A-C, Ærøskøbing.
Immerse yourself in a botanical wonderland
In the northern end of the island, you will find the paradise-like permaculture gardens of Vitsøhus, which is an extraordinary nature experience open to groups after arrangement. Here you will find a range of beautiful, themed gardens as well as a bunch of lucky animals living here, like alpacas, ducks, goats, sheep and chickens, just to mention a few.
The place has been created and is run by the enthusiastic couple Petra and Morten, and they have planned their stunning gardens with a focus on sustainability and natural circles.
Besides the gardens themselves, they run a shop and a café, a range of wellness-sessions and interesting workshops, as well as segway tours in the surrounding nature. This is a truly unique spot on Ærø, so check out their website when planning your island-adventure.
Where: Søbygårdsmarksvej 3, Søby.
Bring home the scent of Ærø
On a quiet country road, a couple of minutes drive from the town of Søby, you’ll find a house with stunning views to rolling fields and the shimmering sea in the distance. And though you can’t bring home the views (other than on photos of course), the woman living here has made sure you can bring home the scent of Ærø.
Inge moved to the island more than 20 years ago, where she is producing and selling her artisan soaps from her workshop and sales room Sæberiet, next to her home. It’s all on site, as well as the garden where she grows many of the organic herbs and flowers used in her products. The place is open for visitors to drop in from Monday to Friday (11am-3.30pm) in the summer season – or in the winter season after arrangement.
Where: Søby Nørremarksvej 3, Søby.
Learn about the maritime past in Marstal
The island’s largest town Marstal is worth a stroll and visit to the harbour, but the town’s biggest attraction is without a doubt Marstal Maritime Museum (from 1929) that pays tribute to the island’s proud maritime past and present.
Behind the yellow facade that is guarded by a pirate, you will find more than 30 exhibition rooms throughout the 4 main buildings, all brimful of paintings, ship models, bottle ships, theatre-looking sets and maritime magic. It’s an extremely extensive collection with something for both children and their parents, and you can easily spend a couple of hours browsing through it all. A perfect indoor-activity if the weather lets you down.
Where: Prinsensgade 1, Marstal.
Chill out on the beach next to colourful beach huts
One of the most iconic images of Ærø is the charming little beach huts that can be found along the sandy beaches near Ærøskøbing and Marstal. Especially on the stretch of beach at Eriks Hale (Erik’s Tale) on the island’s eastern tip.
These tiny houses are privately owned and in high demand for wedding receptions and photo sessions – and naturally as motives for many tourists visiting the island. The most famous of them all seems to be the one with the thatched roof at Eriks Hale.
Where: Vester Strandvej, Ærøskøbing / Kalkovnsstien (Eriks Hale), Marstal.
Get an overview from a lighthouse on a golf course
There is something special about lighthouses and Ærø has a beauty of its own. Skjoldnæs Fyr is towering above the golf course at the island’s northern tip and from the top, you’ll get some wonderful views across the surrounding sea.
The lighthouse was built in 1881 and the 22-meter tall granite structure is topped with a beautiful cobber roof. You can walk to the top for the symbolic fee of 20 DKK, while the outside of the tower is approved for sports climbing. The former house of the lighthouse keeper is now used as a clubhouse for Ærø Golfklub that must be one of the most beautifully located golf clubs in Denmark.
Where: Skjoldnæsvej 8, Søby.
Take a stroll at Voderup Klint
For a nice walk along the beach, you should head to the southwest facing coast at Voderup Klint where the landscape looks like giant steps leading down to the sandy stretch below. This part of the coast has been a protected area since 1957, which is why it is kept as natural as possible, making it a great place for many insects, such as the golden ground beetle.
The area is just a 10-minute drive away from Ærøskøbing, and if you travel by bus you can get off about a kilometre from the coastline. It’s an excellent spot for a little picnic on a sunny day.
Where: Mølledamsvej 1, Ærøskøbing.
Catch a movie in Denmark’s smallest cinema
“Hiding” in a cinema might not be the first thing on your mind when finding yourself on beautiful Ærø, but the island’s cinema Andelen Bio isn’t your ordinary venue – it’s officially Denmark’s smallest cinema with just 45 seats thereby offering a very intimate atmosphere. It started as a culture house and it has since hosted a long and still growing list of concerts and jazz festivals (Ærø Jazzfestival) throughout the years – while the movie equipment was added in 1976.
The tiny cinema survived the critical change from old-style reels to digital, and today it’s a unique place to catch a movie while staying in Ærøskøbing. It’s located in the same building as Andelen Guesthouse where a booking includes a free ticket.
Where: Søndergade 28 A, Ærøskøbing.
There are several other places and activities that could be included on this list, so find much more info about Ærø at www.visitaeroe.com
AND DON’T FORGET to follow Travelooney Blog on Facebook for the latest updates and even more travel inspiration to Europe!