Discover Ribe, The Oldest Town In Scandinavia

Photo of Isabelle Pitman
9 February 2017

Ribe, the oldest town in Denmark, is located near The Wadden Sea. The medieval town has preserved its unique history for thousands of years. Its rich culture, arts and historical sites such as Ribe VikingeCenter and The Cathedral make it one of the top 10 must-visit places in Denmark. We interviewed Jane Madvig Søndergaard of VisitRibe to discover a local insight into the captivating culture and stunning sights that Ribe has to offer.

Ribe | VisitRibe

Describe your town in three words:

Authentic, charming, romantic

What makes your town unique? Is it the people, the sights, the food scene, or something else entirely?

It is the oldest town, not only in Denmark, but in Scandinavia. The medieval town is extremely well preserved, and the town history is unique. The local people are very proud of their town and do a lot to preserve the unique atmosphere and architecture. Ribe is located near The Wadden Sea National Park, which is Denmark’s biggest national park and was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list 2014.

Why do you think your town has made the top ten list of places to visit in Denmark?

Ribe has a lot to offer, from the medieval town to the vikings, the art and culture and the national park.

What is Ribe’s proudest moment in history thus far?

The construction of the Cathedral, starting in year 1150 and going on until about 1250.

Ribe | VisitRibe

Where are the must-visit places in your town?

The Cathedral and a trip up the Commoner’s Tower, which is 52 meters high, Medieval town center, Viking Museum, VikingeCenter, Ribe Art Museum, Wadden Sea Center and the national park and the island Mandø.

Where should culture lovers go to in Ribe?

The Cathedral, [Ribe] Art Museum or a guided walk in the old cobblestoned streets of Ribe. Join the Night Watchman on his round through the town in the evening.

Tell us about the typical local cuisine in Ribe?

Our locally brewed beer from Ribe Bryghus, dried flatfish and marsh lamb.

Where’s the go-to place to find this authentic local cuisine?

Restaurant Kolvig, Hotel Dagmar, Restaurant Sælhunden.

What’s the best-kept secret of Ribe?

There’s a secret underground passage, running from Riberhus Castle ruin to the Cathedral. Through the years, children in Ribe have tried to find the secret passage, but without any luck.

Ribe Domkirke manip | Courtesy of VisitRibe

Whats brings tourists to your town?

Except from the above, it could be to look at Starling Magic. Go out in The National Park Wadden Sea to visit the island of Mandø, maybe continue on a Seal Safari or Oyster Safari. We have a wide range of things to do both in The National Park Wadden Sea and in the medieval town.

Do you have any exciting upcoming events?

For events around the year, look at

What should I spend my last $5 on in Ribe?

A ‘go’ gammeldaws’ ice cream from ‘Isvaflen,’ with a home-baked cone, and delicious ice cream.

What’s Ribe’s most bizarre tradition?

Meadow of the Heads (Hovedengen) leading down to Ribe River. Today the meadow is preserved and part of the Wadden Sea National Park. In the 1500s, there was much trouble with pirates in the North Sea. At that time, Hovedengen was known as Todes or Tuodes Eng (Tuodes Meadow). Since then, it has popularly been called Hovedengen (Meadow of the Heads). As far back as Valdemar the Great’s time (1131-1182), it was customary to put the pirates’ decapitated heads on stakes at the entrance to the harbor as a frightful warning to those who might want to try their luck to be pirates and to the delight of peaceful local merchants.

Local Favourite Award

Ribe is one of the winners of The Culture Trip’s Denmark Local Favorite 2015 Award. The Local Favorite badge is awarded to our favorite local towns, restaurants, artists, galleries, and everything in between. We are passionate about showcasing popular local talents on a global scale, so we have cultivated a carefully selected, but growing community.

Interview by Isabelle Pitman

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