Why Denmark’s cosy seaside inns are best visited in winter

A summertime staple, badehoteller (seaside hotels) have been providing holidaying Danes a place of rest and relaxation since the early 19th century. Both luxurious and quaint, the hotels served as a home-from-home for the Danish upper class, who became enchanted by the tranquillity and natural beauty of the country’s white sand beaches.

“The guests were primarily from Copenhagen, and they often stayed at the same badehotel for weeks as an escape from their busy lives,” says Tom Boye, chief executive of one of these storied guesthouses, Ruths Hotel in Skagen, which opened in 1904 as Badepensionatet Vesterus. “As the guests returned year after year, they got to know each other – as well as the hosts – just like family.”

Today, while most properties tap into the nostalgia of yesteryear – seen in the popular Danish comedy drama series, Seaside Hotel (streaming on Channel 4’s Walter Presents) – others speak to a new generation. Here you’ll find modern amenities, Michelin-star restaurants, and contemporary decor.

Despite the popularity of badehoteller as a summer getaway, many are open year-round – and winter is one of the best times to visit. Rooms cost less during the off-season, while a seaside holiday without the crowds and high prices of summer promises a cosy dose of hygge, room rates can be almost half as much as in July. Guests can indulge in fresh seafood, treat themselves to a day at the spa, and snuggle up by the fire with a book and cup of hot cocoa.

The spa is a welcome winter retreat at Ruths Hotel in Skagen (Photo: Supplied)
The spa is a welcome winter retreat at Ruths Hotel in Skagen (Photo: Supplied)

“During summer there is a lively atmosphere. Guests typically visit to enjoy gastronomy and drinks in good company,” says Tom Boye. “During winter it’s much more a matter of having time for reflection. The contrast between the rugged, magnificent landscapes and the high comfort indoors is appealing throughout the year.”

There’s plenty to do outside in winter, too. Like the rest of Scandinavia, Denmark has a culture of winter swimming, and the tradition is particularly strong in beach towns. In Skodsborg, around 20km north of Copenhagen, the Kurhotel offers Nordic winter swimming trips in the often-frozen Oresund, followed by a warm-up in the sauna.

The brave and the hardy go one step further by surfing at North Jutland’s Cold Hawaii, the aptly named stretch of coastline with big waves and high winds. There’s always the option of a serene winter beach walk, too.

These are six of Denmark’s top badehoteller for a restorative winter break that will be sure to blow away the festive cobwebs.

Best for fine dining: Ruths Hotel, Skagen

Ruths Hotel, Skagen Denmark Image via writer Alexandra Owens
Ruths Hotel, Skagen, Denmark (Photo: Supplied)

Located in Skagen, a quaint town with a rich artistic heritage, Ruths has a reputation of catering to the finer things in life (it’s a long-time favourite of the Danish royal family and the Kristiansen Lego empire).

Ruths’ gastronomic restaurant Okê serves a decadent tasting menu using local and seasonal produce, such as Thy lamb, herring roe, and smoked eel. After a soul-warming dinner, unwind by the fire with a cocktail with house-made gin.

Don’t miss the Skagen Winter Swimming Festival at the end of January, when intrepid bathers gather to take a dip at Grenen, a sand spit at Denmark’s northernmost point, where the Baltic and North Seas meet. January doubles from Dkr1,900 (£255).

“Cold Hawaii”, the coastline between Agger and Hanstholm in Thy, attracts surfers year-round. Vorupør Badehotel acts as a welcoming hub for water sports enthusiasts, thanks to its surf shop and surf school. Guests can chat with local surfers, rent equipment, take surfing lessons, and even embark on a SUP safari around Thy.

Warm up with a plate of coq au vin in Bistro 123 or indulge in a glass of French wine in the cellar. January doubles from Dkr1,250 (£168).

Many badehoteller promise their guests a simple sauna – but Marienlyst Strandhotel goes a step further. The property’s 1,600 sqm spa, which took two years to develop, is exactly where you want to be when the temperature drops: it has 10 custom treatments, salt therapy, hot tubs, yoga, a cafe, a sun terrace, and a beach sauna with direct access to Oresund.

For more pampering, book a table at Restaurant 1861, where Nordic and French cuisine merge, or relax in the heated infinity pool and watch the snow fall at Kronborg Castle (immortalised as Elsinore in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet) in the distance. January doubles from Dkr1,194 (£160).

A cosy room at Strandhotellet Blokhus (Photo: Supplied)
A cosy room at Strandhotellet Blokhus (Photo: Supplied)

Next to one of the best scenic swimming beaches in North Jutland, Strandhotellet Blokhus encourages guests to stroll down to the ocean in a bathrobe and slippers to experience the thrill – and chill – of winter swimming.

As a reward, book a sauna session directly on the beach with Saunahytten, a portable sauna cabin on wheels. The hotel can help coordinate, and on some Sundays, hosts a communal sauna party.

Back at the hotel, snuggle up for the night in cheerful rooms with large balconies and freestanding bathtubs. January doubles from Dkr1,195 (£160).

Just one hour away from Copenhagen, Rødvig Kro & Badehotel invites guests to slow down and enjoy a moment away from the city (which always seems particularly dreary come winter).

Overlooking the Baltic Sea and Unesco World Heritage Site Stevns Klint – a fossil-rich, white chalk cliff – the property provides unique access to Denmark’s natural and cultural heritage. Explore on brand new electric bicycle or kayak, and discover what this beautiful region has to offer.

In the evening, settle into one of the charming rooms with a view of the sea, and savour meals made from local organic produce and seafood. January doubles from Dkr900 (£121).

Best for outdoor adventure: The Falcon Hotel, Bornholm

default The Falcon Hotel, Bornholm Denmark Image via writer Alexandra Owens
The Falcon Hotel, Bornholm, Denmark (Photo: Supplied)

Surrounded by nature and described as “an encounter between Karen Blixen and Indiana Jones,” The Falcon Hotel embraces adventure. Found on Bornholm, an island in the Baltic Sea, there’s plenty to do outside, even during the winter.

Hike along the rocky area of Hammerknuden in search of the ruins of Hammershus, a mediaeval fortress. Go bouldering at the Mosseloken quarry. Don a drysuit and dive straight down to the shipwrecks scattered around the island.

The Falcon Hotel’s snug salon, full of curious artefacts and deep chairs, is the perfect place to sip a vintage brandy and share tales by the stove. January doubles from Dkr1,144 (£153).