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Danish summer house rules

Learn from the Danes. Get out of the city, slow down and connect with nature and family.

Photographs: Erin Gustafson

Text: Erin Gustafson

Come May, the light here stays on later, and there are many ways to take advantage of the longer days in Denmark. Most involve water and scenic swaths of sea. Nowhere in Denmark – even on Jutland, where the country connects to the mainland of Europe – is there a point that is further than 52 kilometres from the water.

With 2020’s summer travel plans put on pause for the bulk of us, many would still like to getaway. Take a break. Just have somewhere to relax. Refill the buckets. Somewhere under a two hour’s drive, or even less. Danes have the answer. Enter. The sommerhus. The summer house. Here in Denmark, there are roughly 200,000 summer houses, most zoned against primary residency with intentions of promoting tourism.

And Danes do second homes well. I’m here to tell you there is something special about the Danish sommerhus. And if you own one, you know. If you’ve experienced one, you do too. And if you haven’t yet – you can. And you should. Unfortunately for foreigners, there are rules regulating the purchase of one’s own. Only those internationals with permanent residency, or who have lived in Denmark at least five years are afforded the possibility to apply for permission of purchasing a specific summer house. But even if you can’t buy one, you can try one. For a weekend or better, a week, maybe two. This year, check with the latest government recommendations about how far afield you should go to keep everyone safe.

The Danish summer house is usually simple. And cosy. Not lavish or large. A cottage. A home. Near the sea. But not too close. Special coastal zone laws were set in place in the 70s to protect the pretty and pristine beaches and natural dunes. No homes were to be built less than 300 meters from the edge of the beach, which is why you’ll find many rental cottages a bit inland. But almost all offer a spot to unplug near nature.

"With one in five Danish owners renting their second homes, there are between 40,000-50,000 available to let."

With one in five Danish owners renting their second homes, there are between 40,000-50,000 available to let. Rules are set in place on how many weeks a year, each house can be rented. During the summer season, from March 1 to October 31, each owner is allowed to let for unlimited sessions. Winter season from November 1 to the end of February is restricted to a maximum of nine weeks. The exception being for pensioners over 60 who are allowed to reside in their cottages year-round.

On an average year, summer houses fill up fast, with mostly German, Swedish, Norwegian and Dutch tourists making plans well in advance. With border closures and travel bans, late planners may be pleasantly surprised with greater availability this season. 75% of Danish owners rent their sweet summer spots through agencies; the most popular being Feriepartner, Novasol, Sol og Strand and Dancenter. Once you’ve found the right spot, keep in mind many only rent by the week. Make sure to check if you need to bring your own linens including sheets, duvets and towels. Most agencies offer a linen package as an extra to add on, but if renting privately best to clarify upfront. And don’t be surprised when you are expected to pay for your electricity, water and gas consumption at the end of your stay. Bring some extra candles and turn the lights down low, it all helps with the hygge.

The summer house hygge. You can have it. Slow down. Get comfortable. Be casual. No drama. Play games. Go swimming. Eat good local food. Turn off the phone. Set aside some time each day to consciously be together. It’s easy to do. In a Danish summer house.

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