How to Summer on Denmark's Northern Coast
"I believe in continuity," Camilla Vest says. A model and design entrepreneur (her company, Objects by Camilla Vest, curates Nordic furniture for shops like The Line and Trnk), she moved from her native Denmark to New Yorkâs TriBeCa more than 20 years ago, but has spent every summer since childhood in Tisvilde, a relaxed seaside village an hour northwest of Copenhagen. Her Danish husband, Peder, and their kids, Anna, 14, and August, 8, now embrace the tradition, which also includes grandparents, siblings, and a bevy of cousins. âWe love bringing them back to soak up the cultural vibe,â Vest says. âAnd they love being able to bike everywhere and meeting the same kids on the beach each year.â
The Danish coastline is dotted with small beach towns whose century-old âbathing hotelsâ and pale summer nights have long lured Copenhagenâs affluent families to buy second homes. Tisvilde, on Ze alandâs north coast, stands out as a lodestar for the cityâs creative set, ever since two of those historic hotels, the Helenkilde Badehotel and Tisvilde Strandhotel, were tastefully renovated a decade ago by the former Royal Danish Ballet principal Alexander KÃ¸lpin. Vintage dealers from Copenhagen drive up on Saturdays to comb the flea market for Louis Poulsen lamps or Royal Copenhagen dishes. And the areaâs farm-to-table-since-forever traditions have been elevated by new-comers like chef Thomas Elletoft KÃ¸ster, whose Rabarbergaarden (rhubarb farm) occupies an old farmhouse that turns out handmade pork rillettes with pickled prawns and, of course, rhubarb pudding.
But the beach is summerâs main focus. Before the kids wake up, âPeder and I will put on our bathrobes and walk down our 90 steps to the beach for a swim. I donât wear a suit, and no one cares!â Vest says. Then someone will make a run to the bakery for Danish seeded rye rugbrÃ¸d and kanel snegle, or cinnamon rolls, which get packed for the beach with boiled eggs and a coffee pot. âBringing your coffee pot to the beach is Danish hygge,â she says.
Family and friends come and go all dayâ"swimming, fishing for crabs, playing cards. Afternoons are for biking to Hansens FlÃ¸deis in Tisvilde for an isvaffelâ"handmade ice cream topped with flÃ¸deboller (chocolate-covered marshmallow), whipped cream, and jam. Or visiting the grÃ¸ntsager farm, where Thomas Olloz has grown veggies âthat taste like candyâ for the likes of Noma.
Much of this bounty winds up on the grill, alongside freshly caught langoustines or local spiced lamb sausage. Sunlight can linger until nearly 11, at which point Vest might hang a sheet between two yard poles for a movie under the stars. But the day isnât quite over. âWe love to go for a nighttime swim,â Vest says. âWe Danes have to make up for our long, dark winters.â
How to Summer like a Dane
"Tisvilde is a very welcoming place," Vest says. "On the beach, it's hard not to fall into conversation with locals who want to give you all their tips."
Getting to Tisvilde
Zealand's northern beach towns are a perfect tack-on to a few days in Copenhagen. Rent a car and drive up the coast, stopping around mile 22 in HumlebÃ¦k to visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, which faces Sweden. Exhibits rotate, but Vest loves their sculpture garden, "and there's a play studio for kids," she says. Nearby is Karen Blixen's house museum, Rungstedlund, with furniture and paintings the author brought from Africa. Following the coast, you'll hit Tisvilde near mile 55.
Home for the Week
The most charming hotels are the two remodeled by the former ballet dancer Alexander KÃ¸lpin. The seaside Helenekilde Badehotel is full of bamboo and Danish designs in beachy hu es, with a terrace. The Tisvilde Strandhotel is a linen-swathed village town house. If you're thinking of staying a few days, Vest suggests renting a house in Tisvilde, or neighboring Vejby or RaÌgeleje. Search sommerferie.nu for options.
Your Meal Plan
Breakfast is all about fresh baked goods. BrÃ¸d & Vin, on Tisvildeâs main street, sells flavorful organic rye bread and tebirkes, Danish poppy-seed rolls. "If you get there early, you see locals on bikes in their bathrobes getting bread for breakfast," Vest says. Some days, she'll bike 15 minutes through rolling pasture to Rabarbergaarden, run by the farmer-chef Thomas Elletoft KÃ¸ster and his wife in a rustic farmhouse, for cinnamon rolls and Danish rye made with an old wheat varietal called Ãland. It's also great for lunch or dinner. "Everything's homegrown and organic," Vest says.
Back in town, there's the Little Cafe, a cozy vegetarian spot known for its fresh-flower salad, and the Tisvilde Bio Bistro, a brasserie that serves classic Danish dishes and draws a crowd with local musical acts. Helenkilde Badehotel is the town's fine-dining spot, where rÃ¸dspÃ¦tte, a traditional summer dish of fried flounder with potatoes and parsley, is a favorite.
If you're renting a house, pick up rainbow-colored veggies from Thomas Olloz at GrÃ¸nt fra Kolsbaek near Helsinge. "Just take what you want and leave your money in the box," Vest says. The fish market, Den Friske Fisk, on HollÃ¸selund Strandvej, is open on weekdays for langoustines and flounder that you can grill or fry and serve with their remoulade sauce. Buy your steak and spiced sausages at KÃ¸dsnedkeren, or âmeat carpenter,â 10 minutes outside of Tisvilde in Ãrby.
Stay Busy Off the Beach
Saturday's flea market, the Tisvilde Loppermarked, on the town's athletic field, is a huge draw. Go as earl y as 7 a.m. to nab finds like a vintage Arne Jacobsen lamp or cutting boards handmade in Italy by Andrea Brugi. While biking is the best way to get aroundâ"hotels have loaners, or rent across from the marketâ"Tisvilde is great for strolling and shopping: Aiayu has a smart selection of organic bed linens and casual Danish clothing; N017 Limited is a Nordic concept store. Refuel with an isvaffel (ice cream with toppings) at Hansens FlÃ¸deis, or a coffee at Riccos kaffebar. And on a rainy day, a visit to the Rudolph Tegner Museum in DronningmÃ¸lle is a must, where the figurative work of early-20th-century Symbolist sculptor Rudolph Tegner fills a modernist cement bunker.
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