This view of Ribe old town in Denmark was ours the last 31 years as managers at Danhostel Ribe– the hostel in Ribe. Now it is time for us to say goodbye, but before a new manager takes over next year, we’ll pay a tribute to our lovely town at wintertime in this last blog post.
If you like the atmosphere in a smaller town
you’ll certainly like Ribe. Ribe is a beautiful historic town by the North Sea and the UNESCO World Heritage Wadden Sea, not far away from Legoland or the German border.
Maybe You Should Rethink your Winter Break
If you want a break far away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and had enough of noise and crowds, we suggest that you go for a winter break in a smaller town. Why not choose Ribe?
VisitDenmark – The official tourism and travel information guide to Denmark – mentions Ribe first in “Denmark’s prettiest towns” and Ribe was also recently voted “The winner of Europe’s Best Big-Time Small Destinations”
The authentic Ribe at wintertime
Winter is a great time to travel if you want to see the authentic Denmark. In winter everything seems much slower. Also, travel is cheaper (Link: the hostel’s offers) and Ribe is less touristy, when the peak season is over, and the starlings have danced their last so-called Black Sun dance by the end of October.
Black Sun is Denmark’s biggest natural phenomena. MNS recently mentioned it as one of the “24 of the coolest and most surreal natural phenomena on earth” while linking to our hostel’s explanation of the phenomena: Black Sun
Recommended blog posts about Christmas and winter in Ribe
No doubt that the Danish “hygge” lifestyle has become a new trend worldwide.
The Danish word “Hygge” made it to the shortlist of Oxford Dictionaries international word of the year. It lost out to the word ‘Post-truth’ – but no doubt, the “hygge” lifestyle has become a popular gift to the world from Denmark.
Many Danes associate hygge (≈ cosiness) with Ribe old town – where winding cobblestone streets and alleys, half-timbered houses and crooked doors and windows make people feel comfortable and remind them of H. C. Andersen’s fairy tales.
The Viking town Ribe
Ribe is Denmark’s – as well as Scandinavia’s – oldest town. This historic port town has pretty much seen it all. Vikings lived, worked and traded in Ribe when it was founded early in the 8th century AD, and soon became the largest trading centre of the Nordic countries.
The results of the latest archaeological finds and research convinced some archaeologists that the Viking Era started in Ribe and not in the year 793 AD, after the Vikings landed in England on the first official Viking raid.
Scandinavia’s first pedestrian street
You will see no buildings left from the Viking Age in Ribe, but when you stroll along Sct. Nicolai street, you walk on top of what was also Scandinavia’s first pedestrian street. In this street Vikings could go shopping food and clothes, but also luxury goods such as jewellery and knives. You can see many of the artifacts found here on display in Ribe Viking Museum at the end of the street.
The Medieval and Renaissance heritage of Ribe
Ribe has more than 120 preserved buildings, only Copenhagen has more, but they are scattered throughout the city, while in Ribe they are within walking distance from our hostel, Danhostel Ribe. Many medieval buildings can be seen in Ribe, and according to the Danish Agency for Culture, Ribe is Denmark’s best preserved Medieval town.
Many of the old buildings are Renaissance buildings from around 1580, due to a big town fire at that time.
Enjoy the silence – it has become a luxury
Peace and quiet has become a luxury in a noisy modern world. In Ribe you don’t have to pay extra to have a little privacy, space and silence.
In Ribe you can have space and silence
A walk along the river, Skibbroen, is a pleasant and relaxing experience for both mind and body.
A Mindful Walk in the Park
Alternatively, you could enjoy a walk in one of our beautiful parks. By the river in Ribe Art Museum‘s park, where Vikings once were busy traders, you may be lucky to watch several wintering birds, like ducks, swans, geese, and seagulls.
The best place to watch wildlife
If you really want to go birding in winter, is one of the best places in Denmark the Wadden Sea National Park, which attract huge flocks of overwintering birds.
A National Park and a UNESCO Site
When you walk along the quay, Skibbroen, you can see our hostel on the other side of the river. The meadow outside the hostel is part of a national park.
The Danish Wadden Sea National Park is the biggest national park in Denmark, but in Ribe only the meadow outside the hostel is part of it. Several times every winter the meadow is flooded, when the water level in the river rises all the way to the front of the hostel.
Parts of the Wadden Sea National Park in Denmark was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2014. For further information and adventures in the national park: Wadden Sea National Park and Storm Surges
Look up to see all the details
Street lamps, guild signs, roofs without gutters, and crosses carved in the timber uprights holding up the roof meant as protection against witches and witchcraft are all good examples of details. But if you want to know some of Ribe’s history, you should study our “self-guided walking tour of old town Ribe in Denmark” or read the story of Maren Spliid and other “witches” in Ribe. (you can find both articles in German and Danish on the hostel’s homepage too)
Wrap up warm and have a snowball fight
Dress in a woolly jumper or a warm coat and have a snowball fight, You can warm up with a cup of hot chocolate in one of the many cafés after.
Build a snowman
– or build a snowman on the meadow by the river just outside the hostel.
Do your Christmas shopping under festive lights
Christmas shopping always feels a little bit more authentic in the dark and under lovely lights. The pedestrian high street offers good Christmas shopping in the town centre of our historic town.
If you had enough of crowded Christmas markets
If you had enough of glittering and famous, but crowded Christmas markets around Europe, we can recommend Christmas shopping in Ribe. The weekends are a little busier than usual due to the many Christmas events.
A few more winter photos to enjoy
Never mind the weather
….if you stay at the hostel, you can just look out of the window.
But on the other hand: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.
Contact us or book Online at Danhostel Ribe: Contact
When you are looking for the best Christmas markets in Europe you will usually see the big Christmas markets in European cities like Nuremberg, Dresden, Lübeck, Strasbourg, London, Vienna, etc. highlighted. In Denmark the Christmas market in the Tivoli Gardens amusement park in Copenhagen is famous – and sometimes you will also see the Christmas market in Den Gamle By in Aarhus (The Old Town Museum) and the Hans Christian Andersen Christmas Market in Odense mentioned .
Why the old town Ribe is special and worth a visit for a Christmas break
Ribe is Denmark’s oldest town – but also the oldest town in all of Scandinavia
Ribe has been an international market town since the Viking Ages. Ribe is Denmark’s oldest town – but also the oldest town in all of Scandinavia. While you soak up the ambience of the old town, you will probably notice that Ribe is not a museum like the Old Town in Aarhus (Den Gamle By i Aarhus). The houses are lived in and the love and care the citizens show their town is unmistakable, when you see the well-maintained houses and streets. Join us for a self-guided town walk in the old town: Town Walk
Peter’s Christmas in Ribe (Peters Jul i Ribe)
“I feel the joy at this time of the year, whenthe white Christmas snow is falling down, then I know it’s Christmas time. My father goes out every day, and when he comes home, I stand looking at his big pockets.”
Christmastime in Ribe is named “Peter’s Christmas in Ribe” (Peters Jul i Ribe). The name comes from one of the best known Christmas stories for children in Denmark through the last 150 years “Peters Jul” written by Johan Krohn in 1866. The author is supposed to have had family in Ribe and have had celebrated a Christmas here. Peter’s father will guide you through Christmas Ribe on the 4 Saturdays before Christmas.
A vibrant town centre all the year round
While shops and stores in many town centres close down facing serious challenges from out-of-town shopping centres and the growth of online shopping, Ribe has managed to keep its town centre vibrant by adapting to meet the changing demands of the customers’ shopping habits.
This, along with the ancient medieval architecture of the town draws many people from the surrounding area to shop here on a regular basis.
Sustainability and development go together
Ribe town square and most of the town centre has been pedestrianized and beautifully paved. Restrictions on shop signs and street displays help to make the beautiful old town centre more authentic. The shops go very well together with the historic environment and make it attractive for both residents and tourists to go shopping or just walk around.
Lovely places to meet and socialize
A successful mixture of specialty shops, clothes shops, galleries, jewellery stores, gift shops, barbers, restaurants and cafes treat you with the ultimate shopping experience in the heart of Ribe town centre. Most of the shops are independent shops – very few are shop chains.
Cafes and restaurants in the high street and at the town square are great places to meet and socialize while enjoying a cup of coffee or a pint of beer in pleasant surroundings – in summertime outside and in wintertime inside.
This old grocer’s shop smells like Christmas
Parmo Pedersen’s old grocer’s shop in Ribe town centre smells like Christmas. You will probably be tempted by the smell of all sorts of Christmas spices that meet you when you step inside, simply because in this old shop you can still purchase spices by the weight. You can also buy good old-fashioned sweets, Parmo’s home-made and famous fruits in port wine, and local produced Danish butter cookies in cake tins.
Norse Vikings and Christian Danes in Ribe
Ribe town centre is built around the town square where Ribe Cathedral towers above the town. At the same place the first Christian church in Denmark was built around 855 and the norse Vikings in Ribe were the first in Denmark to be Christianized. Ribe Cathedral is one of Denmark’s biggest attractions and like Ribe town it has been awarded 2 stars in the Michelin Guide for Attractions.
Ribe Cathedral seen from one of the parks
Ribe Cathedral can be seen from everywhere in the town. This photo is from one of the many parks in town and was used as Ribe’s Christmas card of the year a few years ago.
Ribe has a long tradition of citizens with a strong sense of community. Tourism, trade, cultural, and natural institutions have been working together in an exemplary manner for many years, and dedicated and active citizens full of ideas think up many different ways to give the town a year-round bustling energy to the great delight of residents as well as tourists.
Street theatre on Advent Sundays
On the four Sundays of Advent children and adults from the local amateur theatre group DRAKOMIR will romp about in town making fun and performing Peter’s Christmas street theatre.
Christmas music and Christmas carols
E.g. this year the second Saturday in December Denmark’s biggest choir sings Christmas carols at Ribe town square, Ribe Chamber Choir sings in Ribe Cathedral and Esbjerg Railway Orchestra plays Christmas music in the streets.
Moped gang in Santa disguise
Maybe you will also meet a moped gang in Santa disguise in town. Usually mopeds and teenage boys go hand-in-hand, but the gang in Ribe consists of adult moped enthusiasts, who all drive old mopeds from when electric starters and cheap plastic parts were unknown to true moped owners.
Christmas markets and Christmas shopping
Tune into the Christmas Spirit the four weekends before Christmas. The town is full of life and the Christmas shopping is done in shops, at Christmas markets in town, and at small Christmas booths around town where citizens will sell handicraft, home-made Christmas cakes, Christmas gnomes, etc.
Enjoy Christmastime with all your senses
But even though you are not a big spender there is so much to watch and enjoy if you have an interest for adventure, culture, and good food
Christmas market in the old grocery store
An event that has proved very popular at Christmastime is the Christmas market at the old grocery store Quedens Gaard the 1st weekend of December every year. This is a market that all ages enjoy, here you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
High spirits at the Christmas market
and you will often be met with smiles like these.
Share a honey heart (honninghjerte)
Honey hearts or gingerbread hearts (Danish: Honninghjerter) are very popular in Denmark at Christmastime. Why not share a heart with the one you love? The words “Glædelig Jul” mean “Merry Christmas” – this honey heart was bought at the Christmas Market at Quedens Gaard, but you can also buy honey hearts from the bakers and supermarkets in town. They are usually covered with chocolate and has a Santa sticker.
Christmas food and drink
Gode Råd (Good Advice) is a thin and crunchy Christmas biscuit – more like a waffle. It was typically served at Christmas in South Jutland, but now is not very common anymore. Even though it is biscuit it has the size of a dessert plate and is made in a special waffle iron.
An obvious choice when you are out and about on a cold day would be warm and sweet æbleskiver (Christmas Dumplings) and a warming glass of Gløgg (mulled wine) containing raisins and almonds. It is served in many of the cafes and restaurants in Ribe. Another warm drink is the German Glühwein.
The best Christmas beer
Christmas beer is brewed and you can taste it at the Christmas Market in Quedens Gaard the first weekend of December. The second weekend you can taste and vote for the best Christmas beer of the year “Årets Emil” at the Old Town Hall in Ribe (Det gamle Rådhus).
And beer lovers don’t forget that every Saturday year round you can visit the micro-brewery Ribe Brewery. It is open from 10am to 2pm.
In Ribe Santa Claus sleeps in a hotel
Santa Claus is everywhere in town and everybody knows him. Johannes was Santa Claus in Ribe the last 29 years. He has a chat with all of us, and hands out candy to all ages in Ribe in December – but off course mostly to the children.
Friday 4 weeks before Christmas children in Ribe wake up Santa Claus. In Ribe we don’t believe that Santa arrives from the North Pole, we know that he sleeps in Denmark’s oldest hotel, the Dagmar, next to the tourist office. The children shouts as loud as they can to wake him up – and when he comes out the door, he hands out candy generously and takes care that the lights of the huge Christmas tree on the town square are switched on (photo at the top). At the same time you can enjoy Christmas music, a cup of warm cocoa and a biscuit.
Christmas events within walking distance
Maybe a child gets a little tired and need to be carried on her father’s shoulders, but actually all the places, streets and Christmas events mentioned in this blog post can be reached within a (slow) 5 minutes walk from the hostel.
The importance of Ribe’s historical heritage
Ribe is Denmark’s oldest town, and the recognition of the value of Ribe’s historical heritage, and the way it has been implemented in a far-sighted urban planning and sustainable strategy, has probably also made it the most beautiful.
Christmas in Denmark’s and Scandinavia’s oldest town
Denmark’s and Scandinavia’s oldest town Ribe creates the perfect setting for Christmas as in the “good old days”
The Christmas decorated town is breathtakingly beautiful and the town square with the huge Christmas tree and the enlightened Cathedral put the icing on the cake.
“Hygge” is part of the Christmas in Denmark
Danes love the feeling of “Hygge”, especially at wintertime. Hygge is difficult to translate, but means something like ‘creating a cosy atmosphere’ and can be described as an embracing feeling of warmth and well-being. We light the Christmas candles, huddle together to keep warm, enjoy hot drinks as cocoa or the traditional mulled wine with raisins and almonds and eat Danish, sweet Christmas Dumplings.
Christmas lights and decorated streets
Festoons with Christmas lights decorate streets and in the top of Ribe Cathedral you can see a Christmas star with sparkling lights every evening.
Christmas shopping in Ribe
The overwhelming beauty of Ribe makes it one of Denmark’s most delightful destinations at Christmas time to make Christmas shopping. A wide range of specialty shops – all within walking distance of the hostel – makes it easy and convenient to go shopping and perfect for buying unique souvenirs as Christmas specialties from Ribe. We can recommend Ribe Christmas Ale from the local Ribe Brewery (the brewery is open for visitors every Saturday) or Christmas cookies – Danish butter cookies in a cake tin with a snowy Christmas picture from Ribe. You can buy these in Parmo’s old grocer’s shop in the pedestrian street. You will be overwhelmed of all the wonderful Christmas smells coming towards you, when you open the shop door, and you will probably also be tempted by his famous fruits in port.
Christmas Markets in Ribe
Several Christmas markets take place in Ribe during Christmas time. One of the most popular is the Christmas Market at the old grocery store from the 1500s, Quedens Gaard. It is Christmas as in the good old days. You’ll find tastings like roasted almonds, Christmas beer and freshly baked cookies, but also old trades and crafts like candle and rope making, pottery, quilting and handmade Christmas craft is introduced to you.
Christmas hearts decorate Christmas trees
Making Christmas hearts and Froebel stars of paper for Christmas tree decorations is an old Danish tradition.
The oldest known Christmas heart was made by the famous fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen about 1860.
At Ribe Art Museum (Ribe Kunstmuseum) the beautiful Christmas tree is decorated with Sonja Brandes’ handmade paper cuts.
On the photo you see the favourite heart from the hostel host’s Christmas tree, and if you follow this link you’ll find a tutorial for the most common Danish Christmas heart: Make your own Christmas heart
Christmas street theatre and guided tours
An old beloved Danish children’s book Peters Jul (Peter’s Christmas) lend name to the Christmas time in Ribe.
In the weekends you can see the Peter’s Christmas street theatre and follow free guided tours “In Peter’s footsteps”. You can also follow Ribe’s Night Watchman for a guided tour in old Ribe.
Christmas Parade and Santa Claus
At the Christmas Parade you might see a Santa Claus on a red vintage fire engine. In his bag is sweets for the children.
This is a small town and tongues wag: “We know who is hiding behind the beard!”
Moped gang celebrating Christmas
A moped gang disguised like Father Christmases at the Christmas Parade is one of the more humorous elements in Christmas parade.
The real Father Christmas
Don’t be surprised when you see more than one Father Christmas in town, but this is the one Ribe citizen call the “real” one – he is named Johannes. You will meet him in the streets several times during Christmas time handing out Christmas caramels to the children. He did that for more than 25 years. His legs are sometimes a little tired and sometimes – like here – he hands out caramels from a horse-drawn carriage. It is also possible for you to have a sightseeing tour in the horse-drawn carriage.
Explore the historic old town
– Denmark’s best preserved
Ribe is Denmark’s and Scandinavia’s oldest town. It is also Denmark’s best preserved town or city with more than 100 preserved buildings. Only Copenhagen has more preserved buildings than Ribe, but it is a much bigger city.
Don’t forget to relax and enjoy the beauty of the town, move away from town centre and the pedestrian zone, go into the side streets and stroll along the harbour and you will feel tranquillity descends upon you from the beauty of our town.
Christmas break at Danhostel Ribe
Why not enjoy a Christmas break at the hostel, Danhostel Ribe, in November or December? From the hostel you can have this beautiful view of the Christmas decorated Ribe – Especially if you choose one of the hostel’s best rooms – the ones on the top floor.
Getting around is easy, central Ribe, shops, museums, cafes and pubs, attractions and Christmas events are just a short walk from the hostel.
This is the view from half the rooms at night time:
Christmas view from the hostel
The view from the hostel is amazing during Christmas time both at daytime and nighttime – although snow is not guaranteed.
Read more about Christmas time in Ribe and see Danhostel Ribe‘s Christmas offers: Christmas Holiday in Denmark