Say Denmark, think Copenhagen. But travel that little bit further north and you’ll be rewarded with pristine coastal views, beautiful beachside architecture and immaculately presented, cleverly cooked seafood.
We explored Jutland, the most northerly part of Denmark, in four days, beginning in the region’s biggest city, Aalborg, and then heading northbound towards Skagen, Lønstrup and the Grenen sandbar, where the North Sea and Kattegat Sea collide in a tumult of frothy waves. It was one of the most beautiful European road trips we’ve been on: white beaches lie undisturbed, the sea is as clear as it is cold and those buildings that do exist are either windmills or other fine examples of Scandinavian design – clean, white, unfussy. It’s a trip best done by car and Jutland’s proximity to the coast calls for layers… dress like the Danes, who never go anywhere without a big woolly scarf.
Our first taste of Jutland’s cuisine was in Aalborg, where a waterfront pocked with industry is in stark contrast to its cobbled, almost Bavarian backstreets. Tabu, one of the city’s newest restaurants, specialises in modern Nordic cuisine: green tomato with raw scallop and sorrel, homemade ham, buttermilk sorbet with sweet pickled cucumber – everything pure and minimalistic. Which leaves all the more room for one of Denmark’s favourite treats: caramelised, nutty brown butter on warm rye bread, gratefully replenished more often than was good for us.
A 50-minute drive west lies the quiet coastal town of Fjerritslev and its Svinkløv Badehotel, an immaculate, serene restaurant with rooms (whose shiny white wooden floors are repainted every year) split into several pastel-coloured spaces. The whole place is a breath of fresh Scandinavian air and the menu is just as clean; try a prettily presented plate of ox heart carpaccio, or scallops wrapped in smoked cheese with apple and lemon verbena. And of course, as we’re in Jutland, the sea is only a skip away – ideal for a pre-dinner amble.
One more must-visit restaurant is Villa Vest in Lønstrup, 50 minutes north of Aalborg by car. Impossibly romantic, it looks as if it’s floating on the sea and makes the most of its happy situation with panoramic windows everywhere. Watch the sun set alongside beautiful plates of grilled oyster brioche, turbot with hollandaise and pine powder, and white chocolate mousse with sharp rhubarb sorbet – food worthy of a Michelin star, although the chefs here are only interested in making ‘ordinary people’ happy.
When in Denmark, do as the Vikings did. That is, sit around a big bonfire and eat lots of meat. You can do just that at the Lindholm Høje, a Viking burial site overlooking Aalborg, with the mighty Jesper Lynge as your guide. He’s a real-life Viking (seriously) who has a softer culinary side – Jesper will cook you and your friends bowls of genuine Viking sustenance (beef, root veg and barley stew in a gutsy beer broth; mussels in cider and fried honey bread) while recounting the terrible tales of his ancestors.
Outside Aalborg (where we’d recommend Comwell Hvide Hus, a modern high-storey hotel that oozes Danish minimalism), the accommodation in Jutland tends to be understated, but also genuinely characterful and even inspiring at times. Brøndums Hotel in Skagen, for example, might have shared bathrooms and no TV to speak of, but the sumptuous 1840s building – adorned with oil canvases painted by those bohemian artists who flocked to Skagen in the 1920s – is breathtaking, and our room, though small, felt as if it was once lived in by a romantic poet. Plus we loved the Edwardian basins and radiators.
For something even more back-to-basics (but refreshingly so), try Badehotel Lønstrup, a five-minute walk from the aforementioned Villa Vest. White, clean rooms bathe in sunlight during the day, and there’s an honesty bar for late-night drinks. Expect a good breakfast, too: homemade jams and juices, local cheeses, charcuterie and, of course, all manner of rye breads.
Return flights from Gatwick to Aalborg cost from £79 (Norwegian.com). Skagen can be reached by car in just over an hour or by train in under two hours. Plan your journey at rejseplanen.dk, or for car hire book with Europcarat europcar.dk. More info: visitdenmark.co.uk
Written by Charlotte Morgan
First published November 2015
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