The perfect Danish summer – and Danish summer traditions – according to Line Sander Johansen, Amalie Adrian and Susanne Madsen.
By Susanne Madsen
As a country made up of the peninsula of Jutland and 1,419 islands, it’s hardly surprising that Danes gravitate towards water like ducks – the more mental specimens among us even take the plunge all year round as part of various ‘Viking swimmer’ clubs. Come summer, we all flock to the sea and eat as fresh, local and unfussy as possible.
Pan-friend chicken with pickled cucumber salad, new potatoes and rhubarb compote; and refreshing ‘koldskål with kammerjunkere’, which roughly translates to a vanilla-y, lemon-y, cold buttermilk with biscuits and optional strawberries, which we only eat during summer, and easily three times a day. A very good British friend of mine calls it “cultured milk sh*te”, but she’s just jealous we have such refined cuisine.
Less is definitely more when it comes to our summers. As designer Line Sander Johansen puts it: “Scandinavians spend a large part of the year in the cold and the dark, and we wait an entire year for July, the dreamiest of months, and you just want to bask in it. The best parts are the simplest – the Nordic light, the fresh produce and our idyllic landscapes. Everything peaks in July – it’s one big cornucopia of sensory delights.”
Line Sander Johansen -
Line Sander Johansen is a true romantic. From her studio and apartment in the coastal town of Hellerup just outside Copenhagen, the designer and textile collector dreams up gorgeous handmade quilted jackets, bags and patchwork workwear from vintage fabric remnants and scraps, and also collaborates with women in Madagascar on the prettiest smock dresses. Giving new life and value to the discarded, her work is a gorgeous tapestry of emotions, strongly informed by her upbringing in the dreamy meadow and woodland landscape of Denmark’s Lake Highlands near Himmelbjerget (English: The Sky Mountain). “I come from this fairy tale-like land but with a very down-to-earth way of life, and I can’t help but seek that kind of honest lifestyle in everything I do,” Line says. Here, she shares her recipe for the perfect Danish staycation.
“Among the Danes, the small town of Tisvilde and its summer residences represent sort of the pinnacle of the country’s summer landscape, but for me, coming here isn’t about the social scene or being seen. I come to Tisvilde when it’s too hot to be in my apartment and to spend the day on a more secluded part of the beach. First, I stop by The Little Café to pick up some bread and hummus before I make my way down the steep drop to the sea roughly by the aptly named road Siestavej, via the scenic stairs. The water is so blue you’d be forgiven for briefly thinking you’re on a Greek island. I’ll usually bring trays of Danish strawberries, cherries and fresh peas in pods in my beach basket and devour as is – the essence of Danish summer. Dronningmølle and Rågeleje are two other brilliant nearby beach spots. Don’t forget to stop by Gilleleje harbour on the way home and buy freshly caught fish from the shop – I love their fish cakes and classic Danish breaded plaice with remoulade sauce.”
The Rose Garden in Hellerup
Hellerup Rose Garden
“The Rose Garden is a bit of a rare gem and fairy tale-like in its location directly onto the beach. I stumble out of bed every morning, still in my pyjamas, to go for a dip in the sea, and this time of year you are met by an absolute orgy of roses. The garden with its strict lines is part of a larger public park and playground, which was designed by G.N. Brandt in 1918 and contains more than 200 different roses that are maintained according to new sustainable gardening methods. It’s the most intoxicating, heady experience when all the roses are in bloom and the petals are whirling around in the breeze. Morning swims and the rose garden are such a big part of Hellerup’s swim culture. Lots of people skinny dip all year round, but I prefer to wear a pair of bikini bottoms. There is such a sense of community here with our morning swims, and there’s room for everyone – the high-flying guy with the Porsche and oddball artist me.”
Liselund Castle on the island of Møn
“The neoclassicist and incredibly romantic Liselund Castle on the island of Møn is Denmark’s smallest castle – almost a dollhouse. When I was a little girl we did a summer road trip, and this was where I learned to tie my shoe laces in the back of our Golf that had checked woollen seats. The Møn scenery is breath-taking with its white limestone and chalk cliffs. There’s also a big art community here with ties all the way back to the Fluxus movement when artists moved here for the cheap rent, so make sure to check out the galleries.”
Rungstedlund – the Karen Blixen Museum“I adore Karen Blixen’s universe and I love the book Karen Blixen’s Flowers, which charts the extravagant flower arrangements that are still faithfully recreated in her honour all around the house. I’ve never actually seen her garden at Rungstedlund in summer, so this is a definite day trip for me this year. Whenever I come here, I buy a jar of Karen Blixen’s honey from her bees – she was so ahead of her time in terms of biodiversity in her garden.”
“If you’re in Jutland, go for supper at Moment in the village of Friland in the beautiful evening light, surrounded by tall grasses and wild flowers. Situated in the self-sufficient village of Friland, it is an important, inspiring and radical study in sustainability, and the restaurant grows its own vegetables and is beyond incredible. They recently earned a Michelin star. There’s a pure and almost angelic energy here.”
Wadden Sea Centre
“The visitor centre at the Wadden Sea near Rømø in Jutland is just an amazing piece of architecture sitting in the astonishing tidal flats and wetlands. Designed by Dorte Mandrup, it is both ancient and modern and a beautiful example of the sort of sustainable architecture for which Denmark is deservedly so famous.”
“Scandinavians spend a large part of the year in the cold and the dark, and we wait an entire year for July, the dreamiest of months, and you just want to bask in it. The best parts are the simplest – the Nordic light, the fresh produce and our idyllic landscapes. Everything peaks in July – it’s one big cornucopia of sensory delights.”
Line Sander Johansen
Susanne Madsen -
The majority of Danes have a favourite Danish holiday island, usually because of family roots. My grandfather on my mum’s side of the family comes from the maritime community on the small island of Ærø in the South Funen archipelago, and I’ve spent some of my very best summers there since I was a child. It’s the ultimate escape to Danish paradise.
From the moment you get on the ferry you just unwind – we sail from Rudkøbing to Marstal, where you get the old school experience of the heart of the island unfolding as you approach. There are two main towns on Ærø, with a longstanding rivalry: Marstal is the shipping town (at one point second only to Copenhagen in terms of size and importance) and Ærøskøbing is the merchant town. Tourists go crazy over the latter as it’s silly levels of pretty – as hardcore Marstal people, my family adore the low-key, very real vibe of Marstal with its working dockyard and labyrinthine lanes lined with hollyhocks. Make sure you buy fluffy, sticky brunsviger cake – a regional speciality – from the bakery.
You can rent an endless supply of pretty fishermen’s houses and farms all over the island or stay at one of the new boutique hotels in Ærøskøbing, but we always stay at the dreamy Kimberley’s Minde farm and B&B just outside Marstal, which is run by the loveliest couple. You wake up to a hearty homemade breakfast and a pretty table laid with antique Royal Copenhagen plates, and morning cuddles from their pug, Viggo. (He’s available for walkies, too.)
The museum in Marstal paints a great picture of the island’s rich maritime history. Exhibits change regularly – we always hope to spot an epic photograph of my great-grandfather, Captain Marius Olsen, and his crew sitting atop their capsized ship in the West Indies waiting to be rescued!
Ærø’s beaches are child heaven and there’s no need to tie a string around their waist like my granny had as a child when her family went to the blustery Danish West Coast. I adore Halen (English: The Tail) outside Marstal with its coloured beach huts, but you can beach hop all day. It’s also worth traipsing out over the rocks with the local kids along Drejet (The Turn – a panoramic stretch of coastal road) for a swimming pool-like experience.
Lots of people rent bikes on Ærø, but my ideal mode of transport is a horse. There’s a great yard in Tværbymark, where you can go for guided hacks on their homebred Danish Warmbloods or their string of Icelandic horses. My mum and I love the latter – you get to relive the glory of your pony rider days zooming across the rolling hills of Ærø’s National Park with the glittering sea as a backdrop.
Ærø is a very enterprising island with a long organic and sustainable history and they have their own brewery in Rise, which makes delicious ales and has a café in the garden. Definitely also make reservations at the half-timbered Hotel Ærøhus in Ærøskøbing – old-school Danish food done so well and the interior is the most perfectly nostalgic time warp.
You can spend hours walking around the island trails – make sure you visit the spectacular cliffside scenery and wildflower haven that is Voderup Klint, and the lighthouse at the tip of the island in Skjoldnæs. We also love to watch the sunset from Ommelshoved. Pro tip: if it rains, the churches all over the island have some great frescoes!
Amalie Adrian -
With a career spanning two decades at the Royal Danish Ballet dancing parts such as Desdemona in Othello and as demi soloist in Thomas Lund’s Bournonville Fantasies, ballet dancer Amalie Adrian has spent a lifetime surrounded by – and creating – magic. Now, she has taken on a new role at the beguiling fine jewellery house of Griegst, founded in 1963 by her husband Noam Griegst’s father, the late Danish goldsmith and artist Arje Griegst. Under Amalie and Noam’s custodianship the doors have been opened to the spectacular archives of hallucinatory, swirling gold pieces that almost shapeshift in front of your eyes, and rare tableware in collaboration with Georg Jensen and Royal Copenhagen. The family recently moved to a house in the Frederiksberg neighbourhood of Copenhagen – here, Amalie takes us through her ideal summer in and around the Danish capital.
Dragør fishing village
“Instead of taking the obligatory trip up north to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art I’d head south of Copenhagen and visit the historic fishing village of Dragør, where I was brought up. To get to the public beach swimming pool you have to walk through The Goose Republic, where the locals keep geese. Hundreds of years ago they would live in people’s houses and you can still see the ‘geese flaps’ installed in doors and gates to let the geese outside. Once you get to the swimming pool things are super old school: women enter on the left; men on the right; everything in between in the middle. I personally jump into the sea from the middle section. Afterwards, go for a stroll through the old town and head to the ice cream shop – they make their own waffles in the window and they’re warm when you get them, so the ice cream melts a little.”
Private Copenhagen boat tour
“After my Dragør swim I’ll head back into town and jump on a Classic Boat Tour, which is run by two of my good friends who are both former ballet dancers from the Royal Danish Theatre. Their private guided tours of Copenhagen’s canals on board a 1964 mahogany boat is by far the funniest and most beautiful way to see the city – with a drink in hand.”
“I’ll have one of Anton Bruusgaard’s cakes along the way – preferably a strawberry pavlova, which can be made to order or bought at Atelier September in Gothersgade. Don’t forget your swimsuit so you can take a dip in the canal if gets too hot, either from the boat or use one of the designated orange ladders by the harbourfront.”
“I’d ask the captain to drop me off at Refshale Island and have a late lunch down the road at Lille Bakery and then I’ll drop by Copenhagen Contemporary and check out the beautiful new exhibition Light & Space before rounding off the evening at La Banchina with supper and a glass of wine.”
Susanne Madsen is a writer, editor and creative consultant based in Surrey. Susanne contributes to a range of international titles such as Re-Edition, Dazed, Another Man, Circle Zero Eight, Elle, Important, GQ Style and Port and has contributed to books published by Bloomsbury, Phaidon and teNeues. Susanne has a BA in Comparative Literature and Modern Culture from the University of Copenhagen and a BA (Hons) in Fashion Journalism from the University of the Arts London.
To find out more or to get in touch she is at