“I think I have a few days off for Easter.”
“Really? Ok, let me find some place for us to go!”
I had an entire trip to Denmark planned in one day with ferries and hotels booked. Once I set my mind to something, it doesn’t take long for me to accomplish it!
We took the overnight ferry from Stavanger to Hirtshals, Denmark. Now, I booked this trip with only two weeks notice so all of the family cabins were booked. We ended up in an Ocean-view Captain’s berth, which turned out to be the one and only nicest cabin on the boat called “The Owner’s Cabin”. Whoops. Despite the cost, it was awesome. We had plenty of room, a private bathroom, double bed and pull-out sofa for the boys. I definitely didn’t feel like I was cramped on a ferry like I was back in 2006 backpacking around Europe with Amanda.
We drove our car on the ferry which was so nice. The thing about traveling with your car is you don’t have to fit everything in a suitcase and you have the freedom to buy things abroad and then pack that car to the brim. Which I totally did.
The ferry drops you in Hirtshals at 8am and most things don’t open until 10 so our first stop off the ferry was the Hirtshals Fyr and Bunkermuseet. It’s the quintessential white lighthouse overlooking a gorgeous beach. The beach is also scattered with old WWII bunkers that the boys (and Eric) enjoyed climbing in. I was so proud of the boys for climbing all the way up to the top of the lighthouse. I was huffing a bit on camera and had to add music to that part of my video. We hung out on the beach and most of the time was spent throwing rocks into the water which seems to be what all little boys’ dreams are made of.
After the beach we headed to the Nordsøen Oceanarium. Its a fun little aquarium that will probably take a couple hours of your time. We don’t linger too much so we spent about 1.5 hours walking around and then had lunch at the cafe in the museum. And, as far as Hirtshals, that’s about it to do. From my research I knew there wasn’t a lot to do there so I planned on us driving to Aarhus after the aquarium and staying the night there.
We got to Hotel Carmel that afternoon and got checked in, regrouped and then went walking around Aarhus. The hotel was really neat. It’s an old mission house built in 1921. The rooms had plenty of Wes Anderson personality and it was great location for walking. We booked the family room with two double beds and a private bath. They are undergoing some renovations so the restaurant wasn’t open but a lovely breakfast was provided.
Walking around Aarhus and my first impression was this is a really cool old city, kinda dirty (but I’ve been spoiled by Stavanger) and a lot more people than I expected. I was actually glad I had only booked one night there. If we didn’t have the boys I probably would’ve enjoyed walking and exploring the city more.
Our first stop was Den Gamle By, the Old Town. It’s like a living museum and amusement park. The museum originally opened in 1914 and the structures were gathered from all around Denmark and date all the way back to the 1550s. Inside you can see what homes and shops looked like and there are even period-dressed people to tell you all about their lives during that time. The boys’ highlights were eating ice cream and riding in a horse and buggy. Eric’s highlight was the Danish beer he tried and my highlight was seeing all the old timber-framed houses and probably buying another Danish whisk but this one didn’t come from Amazon.
That night we went to dinner at the Aarhus Street Food park and I highly highly highly recommend it! There are tons of different vendors in a super relaxed and fun atmosphere that’s perfect for kids. They got their cheeseburger, I had my Bahn Mi and Eric got some delicious authentic Guatemalan tacos. And everyone enjoyed the most amazing homemade popsicles for dessert.
The next morning we headed to the Aros Aarhus Art museum to see that famous rainbow panorama. That’s pretty much the only thing I really wanted to see because I figured with a 3 & 5 yr old, an art museum wasn’t going to last long. However, they loved it! There was a really neat exhibit called Move that had a track for bowling balls that they loved watching. I think their favorite thing though was definitely running laps around the rainbow. We only spent a couple hours at the museum but you could spend much longer. With little kids, we’ve realized when to stay and when to go. You have to know your limits so your time stays enjoyable. We may not get to see everything but at least everyone is happy, for the most part!
For lunch, we decided to go back to Aarhus Street Food, it was that good. Then we hit the road again to drive South to Svendborg and catch our ferry to the island of ÆRO. Now, originally we were only staying one night on Æro and then heading to Copenhagen for our last two nights. However, stepping off that ferry in Ærøskøbing and it was love at first sight. It’s like the European version of Martha’s Vineyard and I’m a big fan of Martha.
I had booked us a family room at Gæstgiveri Breginge (which I still can’t pronounce) kind of on a whim. I literally googled “Cutest towns in Denmark” while I was planning and Æro popped up. With a little more digging and google translate I found this little hotel that boasted great food and beautiful views. There wasn’t a lot of information online but I always trust my gut and I am so glad I did. We stepped around the gate and I gasped at the quaint beauty of the white chapel overlooking the beautiful garden. The sun was setting and everything was the most delicious shade of pink. The boys immediately took off running around the garden after a ball with a new friend. Isn’t it great how kids can just make friends anywhere they go? They have no inhibitions, just a desire to have fun and be themselves.
The owners of the hotel, Hanne and Steen were very helpful and even let me do a load of wash (potty training) since we had run out of pants for Nash.
The next day we spent all morning and afternoon at the beach in Ærøskøbing. Being a photographer, I couldn’t wait to see and photograph all the colorful beach huts that make Æro famous. Towards lunch time, we noticed all the people coming to the beach with their picnics and chairs and setting up fires. We asked what was going on and learned about an interesting tradition on Æro. On the Saturday before Easter, everyone comes to the beach and boils eggs over an open fire in sea water. They also cook sausages and drink beer and just hang out with friends and family. Many locals were so friendly and told us it doesn’t matter the weather, last year it even snowed, but they were still boiling their eggs! Another local saw us and handed us a couple beers saying, “you can’t be out here without a beer!”. I have to say, island people are my people!
That night we enjoyed the most delicious dinner we had on the trip at the hotel Gæstgiveri Breginge. A pumpkin & butternut squash soup with roast and potatoes followed by a warm strawberry pie with ice cream that we enjoyed in the garden. If you come to Æro you must come eat at their restaurant. You won’t be disappointed. Eric and I would also both recommend a local brew the Æro Dark Ale.
Easter Sunday was also spent on the beach. We headed to Marstal as recommended by Hanne and had the best time! The boys hunted for Easter eggs on the beach and Eric read through the resurrection story. It might not have been our typical Easter Sunday but it was perfect. We headed to Cafe Aroma for a lunch of fish & chips and the homemade ice cream did not disappoint!
And then, you guessed it, we headed to another beach! I’m not sure what it was called, we just stopped on the side the road. The water was crystal clear and the beach was covered in large smooth stones. So the boys spent the next hour throwing rocks into the water. But then they just couldn’t stay out of the water so we stripped them down and in they went. They have fun telling everyone they went skinny dipping in the Baltic Sea.
Since we extended our island time, the only ferry time available to come back was at 6 am so it was a very early Monday morning. We weren’t leaving from Hirtshals until 8 Pm so we had the whole day ahead of us. And who would’ve known that our ferry coming back from Æro dropped us off just 30 minutes from Germany, so of course, we had to go!
Flensburg, Germany is a cute coastal town filled with fun shops and cafes, that we didn’t really get to enjoy because EVERYTHING is closed on Easter Monday! We did enjoy walking around though, eating at the bakeries and visiting some old cathedrals.
One of the highlights from my entire trip was getting to hear the Choir in St. Marien Lutheran Church. They were having an Easter service and a woman who was working saw Liam and I outside just listening and invited us in to observe. I have never heard a sound so close to heaven this side of eternity. Liam was awestruck and when we left he told Eric “It was was better than sharks and tigers!”, two of his favorite things.
I do not take lightly what a privilege and blessing it is to travel to these amazing places with my family. We are so grateful for this experience. That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard or that it’s glamorous all the time. I definitely have my share of low moments, missing family and friends, missing my house and my puppy, but all in all, it’s worth it. We are growing stronger and more closer than we have ever been before.
If you’d like to watch a very long movie I made about our trip, CLICK HERE!
If you are thinking about a trip to Denmark with your family then feel free to ask me anything!