Denmark’s capital city of Copenhagen is charming. There’s no doubt about it. But if you want to get a close look at the Denmark of yesteryear, plan a side trip to the delightful little Danish island of AEro, situated about 18 miles off the country’s southwest coast and offering everything from charming villages to windswept beaches where you can spend the day in relative peace and quiet.
AEro, situated in the middle of the Baltic Sea, is less than 20 miles long and generally fewer than 5 miles wide at any given spot. Easy to navigate, it boasts some 104 miles of lovely coastline, making it especially popular with nature lovers and with those who enjoy sports like cycling and fishing. Accessible via car ferry from Svendborg (about a one-hour ride), it’s easy to reach from the mainland and certainly a worthwhile trip for those who’d like to explore this delightful spot.
Things to Do on AEro Island
- · A Day at the Beach – If you’re heading to AEro for a relaxing day, you won’t be disappointed. The island has a number of excellent beaches, all lovely and clean and – happily – most are rarely crowded. The best beaches are on the northern and eastern coasts but all are quite picturesque. Even in July and August, the optimal time to visit, you’ll find plenty of space to spread out.
- · Gone Fishin’ – Anglers will absolutely love AEro Island. The old seaport village of Marstal is home to a busy marina where you can catch a fishing charter and head out for a few hours. In addition, the hamlet known as Søby is home to a large fishing fleet and is where most yachters land when heading to AEro for the day. Ask locals about good spots to catch your dinner!
- · Cycling – By far, the best way to explore AEro Island is by bicycle. There are several places to rent a bike in the largest village, Aeroskobing, and once you set off from there you can pretty much plan your own route or follow the routes suggested on the map you’ll most likely receive from the bike rental agent. (The maps are great for walkers, too.) Be sure to try to visit all three main villages as well as the coastal regions. Because of the size of the island, you can do this within several hours, depending on how often you stop.
Things to See on AEro Island
TV travel guru Rick Steves calls AEro Island Denmark’s “ship-in-a-bottle” village. It’s truly charming and a wonderful place to explore on foot or, as we mentioned before, on your bike or by auto. There aren’t a lot of “attractions” per se but certainly some buildings and other landmarks you should see while you’re there, including the following.
· Bregninge Church (Kirke) – This beautiful white-washed church with red tile roof hails from the Romanesque period though its arches are Gothic, built a few centuries later. Located in the town of the same name, the interior incudes some marvelous early 16th century frescoes that were restored about a half-century ago.
· Store Rise Prehistoric Tomb and Church – Head to Store Rise to get a look at a 6,000-year-old Neolithic burial place, one of about a dozen that are still in existence on the island. (There used to be more than 200.) Scientists have studied the mound and have determined that the remnants of an old Viking ship may have been burned and buried there. Also nearby is the Store Rise church, with its lovely 12th century altarpiece, a Renaissance pulpit, and a wonderful ship motive that includes tiny boats hanging in the nave and a painting of Martin Luther with his hand on the rudder of a ship. It has a neat copper spire and there’s a beautiful circular graveyard surrounding the structure.
· Marstal Sofartsmuseum – A visit to this museum is a wonderful way to learn more about the maritime and shipping history of the island. Everything is well presented and the guided tour is very interesting and informative. It’s spread out over four buildings and it takes a while to take in all 30-something exhibits, but it’s well worth the time and you’ll be glad you made the visit. (Closed on Sundays.)
· Aero Museum – This small local museum in Aeroskobing won’t take you nearly as long to explore as the Sofartsmuseum, but it really is quite interesting and includes some unique artifacts, antiques, and artwork that tell the story of the island’s past. Stop in for an hour or so.