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Visiting Flensburg

Pressed right up against the Danish border, Flensburg is Germany’s most northerly city and one of its most charming.

Photographs: Heather Storgaard

Text: Heather Storgaard

German Flensburg is strongly influenced by Denmark, to which it belonged until 1864, making it a unique cultural mishmash. The small city sits on Flensburg Fjord, which has its south bank in Germany and north bank in Denmark, surrounding it by nature and water.

Where to stay and how to get there

Flensburg is straightforward to arrive to from Denmark. Driving is easy, and trains from Jutland to Germany will make a stop there. It’s also not far from Billund Airport if foreign friends want to join you for the trip.

For a luxury weekend, Das James Hotel just outside the city centre is my go-to. Sat on a marina with views of the fjord, the hotel has high quality staff with service available in German, Danish or English. The main draw, however, is the spa. It has everything you would expect, as well as an outdoor pool with views of Denmark and a very relaxed atmosphere. Combined with the breakfast bar, the hotel offers a very relaxing start to each day. If your weekend is more budget-focused, it is also possible to visit Das James for the spa and breakfast snacks, even if you’re staying elsewhere. For a more purse-conscious trip, the Seemannsheim in the centre, overlooking the historic harbour area, couldn’t be better situated and also offers friendly service.

"Historic rum shops can still be found, and heritage varieties such as the Flensburg Verschnitt can be tasted in bars in the city."

What to drink

Flensburg is Germany’s rum capital, thanks to its Danish history. Back in the 18th century, the Danish monarchy gave Flensburg ships a royal charter to import rum from plantations in the Danish West Indies, now the US Virgin Islands. Historic rum shops can still be found, and heritage varieties such as the Flensburg Verschnitt can be tasted in bars in the city. In recent years, the city has gone further exploring this history, creating a Rum and Sugar Mile with stops through the main streets of the city, considering the legacy of colonialism and slavery. Germany did not have any Caribbean colonies, giving Flensburg and Schleswig-Holstein a peculiar legacy in the country.

At the same time as all this history, Flensburg is also noticeably more modern than much of Germany. Card payment is not as challenging as in my old home, Munich, and there is a modernity to many of the cafes that you wouldn’t find in most German towns of the size. One of my favourite places to stop is Omana Coffee, just off the main shopping street, where they make beautiful third-wave coffee.


Beyond the main thoroughfare, Flensburg is also a typical port city in having a range of charming antique shops, book shops and interesting corners. Much of the architecture in the city dates back to Danish days or has been renovated to retain the style, offering a glimpse of old Jutland that’s hard to find in Denmark itself today. Every time I visit, regardless of the length of time I spend, I feel like I could do with longer to stroll the streets in the sun. I am yet to take a sailing trip on the fjord, which I can only imagine would be very beautiful.

Of course, you can also enjoy all the particulars that come with being in Germany. Currywurst stands rub shoulders with Danish ice cream stands, and flammkuchen is served in cosy bistros. I used to holiday in Schleswig-Holstein with family friends as a child and always adored the seafood platters, which are just as fabulously decedent at taverns such as Piet Henningsens in Flensburg as I remember them, with creamy sauces, fresh, locally caught fish and German bratkartoffeln, fried, crispy potatoes. Flensburg Pilsner is a popular beer to wash it all down with before you reluctantly travel north home again.

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