Skagen is Denmark's northernmost town, on the east coast of the Skagen Odde peninsula in the far north of Jutland, part of Frederikshavn Municipality in Nordjylland, 41 kilometres north of Frederikshavn and 108 kilometres north-east of Aalborg. The Port of Skagen is Denmark's main fishing port and it also has a thriving tourist industry, attracting 2 million people annually.
The name was applied originally to the peninsula but it now also refers to the town. The settlement began during the Middle Ages as a fishing village, renowned for its herring industry. Thanks to its seascapes, fishermen and evening light, towards the end of the 19th century it became popular with a group of impressionist artists now known as the Skagen Painters. In 1879, the Skagen Fishermen's Association was established with the purpose of facilitating the local fishing industry through the Skagensbanen railway, which opened as a narrow-gauged railway in 1890. The modern port of Skagen opened on 20 November 1907, and with the railway connections to Frederikshavn and the rest of Denmark, tourism began to develop. During the early 1910s, Christian X and Queen Alexandrine often visited Skagen and brought friends from other European monarchies. They built a summer residence, Klitgaarden, completed in 1914.
St Lawrence's Church was built just outside the village at the end of the 14th century, but after it was buried in drifting sand it was replaced by Skagen Church in 1841 designed by Christian Frederik Hansen. It was redeveloped in 1909–10 by Ulrik Plesner who also designed a number of other buildings in Skagen, including Klitgaarden and the railway station. Several landmarks in the town are closely associated with the Skagen Painters who used to frequent them, including Brøndums Hotel, Skagens Museum, Michael and Anna Ancher's House, and Drachmann's House.
By the end of the 19th century, three schools had been established in Skagen, and in 1921, Skagen's Skipper School was opened to train navigators for both fishing boats and merchant ships, and in 1955, the public school Ankermedets skole was opened on Skagavej. The main gymnasium of the town, Skagen Kultur- og Fritidscenter, opened in 1972, and was later expanded with an aquatic centre and a number of smaller training facilities. Skagen's Sportscenter was completed in 1974, primarily to accommodate badminton and tennis. The local football club, Skagen Idræts Klub, was founded in 1946 and reached the Jyllandsserien, one of the lower divisions in Danish football, as their best position. The Hvide Klit Golf Club is 17 km (11 mi) south of the town.
Skagen station is the most northerly railway station in Denmark and is the terminus of the Skagensbanen. Nordjyske Jernbaner operates the local train service between Skagen, Frederikshavn and Aalborg with onward national connections by DSB. From Frederikshavn, there are ferries to Gothenburg, Oslo and Læsø. Aalborg Airport is 100 km (62 mi) south-west of Skagen.
For generations, Skagen's economy has been based on its fishing industry that continues to prosper today, facilitated by its fishing harbour, the largest in Denmark. Skagen also has the country's main herring processing facility and the world's largest fish oil factory. A fish auction is held at dawn in the harbour, and between May and October the harbour also attracts yachting enthusiasts.
Tourism has now become the town's main industry. Initially attracted by its associations with the Skagen Painters, well-to-do visitors sought to benefit from its special light, colour and its fishermen. Their interest led to new hotels, summer houses and expensive villas. The old fishing village was transformed into a miniature city with fine streets lined with boutiques. From the 1960s, it became increasingly fashionable for the upper-classes to spend their summers in Skagen.
Galleries selling local art and reproductions of Skagen's most iconic paintings have spread across the town, making it one of the places in Denmark with most galleries. Thanks to the town's growing reputation, sailing enthusiasts from Norway, Sweden and Denmark are now also among its frequent visitors. The quality brand name of Skagen has spread far afield, resulting in the establishment of the successful American watch company Skagen Designs that "set out to create a design driven company centred around the welcoming spirit of the city". Currently a new tourist initiative "The Top of Denmark" targets Skagen as a year-round attraction, not just a summer resort. The harbour is also being adapted to accommodate large international cruise ships with a 450-meter berth. The harbour is expected to attract up to 40 large cruise ships per year.
Skagen now attracts some 2 million visitors a year to its hotels, restaurants, shops and galleries, making tourism a major source of income and employment. An annual attraction is the Skagen Festival, Denmark's oldest music festival, which is held the first weekend of July at various venues in Skagen and the harbour area.
Skagen is part of Frederikshavn Municipality. The Bank of Skagen was established in 1862, and in 1865 a telegraph station was established in the town. The pharmacy opened in 1904, a hospital in 1916, and telephone services were automated in 1956. Ankermedet School was established in 1955. Recently, Skagen has seen developments in the offshore sector with an initiative to assist the Norwegian market through the establishment of Skagen Offshorepark. On the shipbuilding front, Karstensens Skibsværft continues to prosper with orders for trawlers from Norway.
Karstens Skibsværft, Danish Yacht, and the herring processing firm, Skagerrak Pelgic, are reported to be the most successful companies in Skagen but the town is also home to FF Skagen, the world's top producer of fish meal and fish oil.
Thanks to Skagen's reputation as an artistic community, the local arts and crafts trade is also an important source of income and employment. Artwork and handicrafts are sold in galleries such as the Galerie Skagen on Trondsvej. Sankt Laurentii Vej, one of the main streets away from the harbour area in Skagen, is a known for its glass and pottery shops; of particular note are Skagen Glasvaerksted, which produces some of "Jutland's finest glass pieces", and Skagen Potteri. In addition to its arts and crafts stores, the town has a wide range of shops, including jewellery, clothes and shoes, handbags, souvenirs, flowers and gardening equipment. There are also a variety of food stores with butchers, bakers, a cheese shop, fishmongers, and several restaurants and cafés. Skagen has a branch of the EuroSpar supermarket. Skagen Cementstøberi A/S is a local cement firm that produces concrete, paving stones, tiles, granite and other items.
Given the abundance of fresh fish coming it at the port of Skagen, seafood forms a staple of cuisine in Skagen. Of particular note is the Skagen Fiske Restaurant, one of the most renowned seafood restaurants in Jutland that was established in 1907 at the side of the harbour. It serves shrimp, herring, grilled fillets of sole with lemon sauce and Norwegian lobster. Ruth's Gourmet in Ruth's Hotel on Hans Ruth Vej is also of note and has been cited to be one of the top five restaurants in Denmark outside of Copenhagen, serving French cuisine under head chef Michel Michaud. Ruths Hotel was originally built by Emma and Hans Christian Ruth in 1904 as a bath and guest house. It was purchased by J. Philip-Sørensen in 2003. The Restaurant Pakhuset, the restaurant of the Brøndums Hotel, and Jakobs Café are also popular; Jakobs Café is a music venue and bar at night. True foodies are also bound to visit the famous butcher, Slagter Munch, who is known for their sausages and for their ham: Skagen Skinken.
Skagen has a population of over 8,198 people.