Ærø, Denmark: The Love Island You Haven’t Heard Of

Ærø, Denmark: The Love Island You Haven’t Heard Of

Each year, from Europe to Ghana and Japan, lovers flock to the tiny Danish island of Ærø to get married. What makes Ærøskøbing the most romantic town you’ve never heard of?

just shy of 1,000 residents, the seemingly sleepy
Ærøskøbing is one of three towns on the island of Ærø. It’s a place
that has become popular among a very niche kind of traveller: those
getting hitched. Indeed, this is the most romantic town you’ve
never heard of. You might call it the Vegas
of Europe.

Ærøskøbing plays host to loved-up tourists year-round –
particularly in summer when its dainty shores give way to blue
horizons. Sands dotted with colourful houses set the scene for
ceremonies and rituals. Out across the waves, smooth, moss-covered
rocks peep through the water’s surface, Skjoldnæs Lighthouse
twinkles from the northern tip of the island and the ferries chug
the calm, one-hour journey to mainland Svendborg.

Picture Ærøskøbing as a fairy-tale illustration with artisanal
grocery shops and boutiques alongside pubs with roaring hearths,
dark-wood dining rooms, whitewashed walls, tall taper candles and,
when I visited, Christmas trees and red-hatted nisse (elves)
secreted on every shelf and in every corner. Design-conscious
boutique hotels, untouched 70s gas stations, farm shops and
thrift-cum-vintage stores complete the postcard appeal – the
island’s two Red Cross shops are full of great finds. There are no
chain stores here; this mostly self-sufficient community relies
heavily on its small shops and markets.

As we mooched from the windswept coast into town, some friendly
locals invited us to a hyped-up party being held that night at the
local pub. A 20 kroner ticket would get us into an open bar. My
friend and I had planned on staying sober for the trip, but our
intention soon waned.

Bisque and whisky

A light rain began to fall as we wandered down cobbled streets
of gingerbread-like houses and dipped through a teal door and into
the Arnfeldt Hotel & Restaurant. Run by Copenhagen
transplants Katrine and Morten Arnfeldt, this place isn’t three
years old and yet has gained quite the following thanks to its
Scandi-chic-with-personality aesthetic. Inside, stark white walls
were softened by blush-pink, powder-blue and taupe fabrics, Arne
Jacobsen swan chairs, tapestries and lamps. I spied black-and-white
photos of old relatives on motorbikes on the walls. Up creaky
wooden stairs, nautical themed en-suite bedrooms with crisp white
duvets, towelling bathrobes and vases filled with pink roses laid
in wait. Bottles of Meraki soap and shampoo peppered the
brass-fixtured shower rooms. On the third floor, overlooking the
sea, a loft suite – and the hotel’s sixth room – was set to be

Camilla Jorvad
Camilla Jorvad

After a day spent wandering the town and dipping our toes in the
Little Belt (one of the three Danish Straits), we were freshening
up as a distinctly crustacean scent drifted up the stairs and
coaxed us down to dinner. In the garden-facing restaurant, Morten
flexes skills acquired in London‘s
Michelin-starred kitchens, while revelling in Ærø’s local produce.
He was laboriously creating a rich lobster bisque (the ghost of
which still remains on a scarf I left hanging outside the kitchen),
which would be followed by a velvety duck-liver parfait with apple
jelly and bubbles of Henri Giraud Esprit Nature Champagne – cases
of which we ordered as soon as arriving back in
. I tucked into baked and puréed root vegetables, Ærø
pork and locally distilled whisky, which arrived along
with vegan creations fashioned especially for my photographer
comrade – Morten and team are extremely accommodating to dietary

The Gentleman Captain

Louise Badino Moloney is a tall, elegant, smiling woman with a
silk scarf tied in her blonde hair. Having grown up on Ærø and
partially in Ghana before working as a stewardess for Japan
Airlines, she’s not your typical islander. She returned to her
birthplace a few years ago with her Brit husband John, and founded
wedding-planning agency Danish Island Weddings in 2008, convinced that
Denmark’s attractively easy marriage paperwork along with Ærø’s
charming idiosyncrasies make this coastal idyll the perfect wedding

Her new venture reflects on the history of her great grandfather
Captain Frederik S. Birkholm and his former home. Lovingly
nicknamed the Gentleman Captain, Birkholm was a born to a noble
sailing family. Aboard a five-mast schooner named George E.
Billings, he sailed the seven seas in the early 1900s, all the
while writing to his Ærø sweetheart Anna (who would later become
Louise’s great grandmother) in English – the language that had come
so naturally to him on the Pacific.

Thanks to Louise, Birkholm’s grand drawing room is now the where
lovers’ vows take place – though Danish Island Wedding clients can
also choose the beach, a lighthouse or a sunny farm on the south
side of the island.

The weekend we visited, there was a Sudanese-German union
underway and Louise was typically busy – though she made time to
show us around Birkholm’s historic townhouse before sitting down
with a cup of tea and a slice of wedding cake. Around us, hundreds
of newlywed smiles gleamed out from Polaroids that filled a huge
wall. Oil-painted seafaring scenes donated by the now-closed local
branch of Nordea Bank (now a flower shop) hang in the hallway above
a sapphire-velvet scalloped couch. Trinkets sparkled in the
golden-hour light.

Louise is far too modest to admit it, but it seems to me that
her agency was cataclysmic is regenerating Ærøskøbing’s economy.
“Before 2008, the town was in economic decline,” she begins. “After
we opened as an agency, weddings on Ærø snowballed, from 200 in
2008 to around 5,000 in 2018.” Lots of Europeans come here to
marry, as well as people from Japan and Ghana, largely thanks to
Louise’s eclectic cultural understanding.

As she regaled us with tales of romantic gestures and memorable
festivities, I pressed Louise for wedding horror stories. She
yielded. “Everything was set in place. The husband was ironing his
shirt when the maid of honour called saying that the bride wants to
catch the next ferry out of here.” I suddenly remembered that the
ferries only departed every 90 minutes or so. “In the end, it was
just jitters,” Louise continued. “The poor lady didn’t have her
mother or any female relatives around to reassure her, but
everything went beautifully in the end.” I had a feeling that
Louise’s magic touch had something to do with this outcome.
“Everybody needs a cup of tea in their time of need. I just gave
her a hug and a chat. The following year, I received a picture of
them beaming with their new baby,” she smiled. To our British-born
glee, she also reveals that the drummer of Slade got married

Underneath the registry rooms sits café-cum-grocery shop
Gamle Købmandsgaard
, where you can gather Ærø-made cheeses and
accoutrements including candles, essential oils and liqueurs – the
perfect souvenir. Here I stumble upon a newlywed couple who opted
for a low-key, no-party affair and they sit sipping pints, giggling
in their finery.


Windows poured glowing yellow light onto frosty cobbles as we
walked in minus degrees to På Torvet Hotel & Cafe, where
the owners were throwing a special candlelit dinner. The place was
full and gorgeous, and we ate duck and nut roast before making our
way to nearby Landbogaarden a restaurant-meets-club which was
opened by current owner Jacob’s great grandfather Michael in 1919.
Jacob and his girlfriend Gertrude moved to Ærø from Copenhagen in
2017 and throw perhaps the island’s best parties. That evening we
danced like it was a wedding, but instead of gravitating towards
bouquets, we rowdily danced circles, holding hands, around a
twinkling Christmas tree with other peoples’ wives and husbands.
Such is the romance of Ærø.

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