A Self-Guided Bicycle/Walking Tour of Autumn Foliage and Danish Café Hygge
Fall is fantastisk in Copenhagen. Deciduous trees that dominate the landscape start changing colors to blend perfectly with the classic Scandinavian architecture. The Danish capital is suddenly coordinated in rusty reds, earthy ochres, and burnt oranges. This town is built for autumn. The long Nordic summer days slowly get shorter as they slip into my favorite season, even as the light lingers less and the air turns cool. Pull on a sweater. Or a jumper, if you’re British. Definitely bring layers and something to stave off the very real potential for rain. Fall can be crisp like a tart Danish apple, famous from the island of Fejø, ripe and ready to pluck.
But it’s not always rainy. Here, autumn can come sometimes sunny and bright. In Danish, there is a name for that hybrid season as summer turns to fall – known as sensommer. And it can be sublime. Come soak it up. And if the weather wanes, as it is wont to do in Denmark, you can enjoy the season change from inside one of Copenhagen’s many cozy cafés and delicious craft coffeehouses.
Originally posted September 2019, updated September 2022
Autumn is Awesome on this German Belle of the Baltic
SEE THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND OF RÜGEN OFF-SEASON
(Originally posted in October 2016, updated September 2018)
Come with me. Close your eyes. Ok – open them again. Kind of hard to read along with them closed. But picture this. Imagine Copenhagen. If you live here – not that hard. Take your finger and draw a virtual circle around the Baltic Sea beginning in Denmark. Move around to your right and you are bound to hit Rügen, Germany near the bottom. On the opposite side of this imaginary arc lies a beautiful Baltic island sitting off the eastern corner of northern Germany. That’s northeastern Germany peeps.
Here they call it Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Rügen is an island in this German province. In fact, it is the largest island in Germany. Don’t think of islands when you think of Germany? Me neither to be honest. And while Rügen is no tropical palm-treed island paradise, there are huge swaths of beautiful sugar fine white sandy beaches here. Place these beaches smack in front of charming little resort towns like popular Binz and then add boardwalks, ice cream shops, iconic wooden piers extending out into the blue Baltic beyond and you can see why this German island is worthy of a week’s respite come July and August.
POMERANIA: No, not the miniature dog – I’m talking about an area that spans the southern Baltic across borders between Germany and Poland: “The name derives from the Slavicpo more, meaning “by the sea”.
Rügen is beautiful in Autumn as well
But you went somewhere else for your summer holidays. And now it’s not July OR August. It’s October. I hear you. And while Rügen is super popular among Germans and other Europeans during the peak summer months, I’m here to show you that it is just as valid for a visit off-season. Come to Rügen in the Autumn.
We visited during our Fall break (or half-term if you’re British.) With a week off from school mid-October and no pre-booked plans, we wanted (read: we NEEDED) a wee escape from Copenhagen. We rented a car and drove south, heading ultimately for Berlin to see “Light Weeks.” But for us, a cultured city break needs a side of nature. Living smack dab in a city, we crave a little unstructured outdoor experiencing to keep it balanced and we found it and more on Rügen. Germany.
Why Go to Rügen In Autumn
Rügen wears autumn’s wardrobe well. Brilliant white chalk cliffs on the easternmost shore at Jasmund National Park near Sassnitz gleam against the russets and golds and coppers clinging to the trees on your descent down to the beach. The blue Baltic shimmers and swells against autumn’s display and offers swoon worthy imagery. Bring your camera! And stamina – 412 steps down to the beach from the bus drop off at Königsstuhl. The King’s Seat.
Take the 412 steps down to the beach to see the cliffs and Baltic Sea up close.
Take the 412 steps down to the beach to see the white chalk cliffs and fall colors up close.
Worth the hike down and back up to see the cliffs in person on the Baltic shore in Jasmund National Park
Jasmund National Park is modeled after the American National Park system, inspired by the likes of Yellowstone and Yosemite. From the National Park there are miles and miles (or rather kilometers and kilometers) of hiking trails that take you to vistas like this:
The old growth beech forest here is a world heritage site and even has its own app. We didn’t use it – but if you do try it, make sure you have marked all the sites you are interested beforehand as coverage is spotty at best out here on this corner of Germany.
The main parking lot is at Hagen. From here you can take shuttle buses out to Königsstuhl – the King’s Seat – to see the white chalk cliffs. OR – you can walk. Which we did. It was beautiful, scenic and peaceful – save for the moaning of teens. How much longer may have been the mantra. It’s up to you. But we walked it both ways – there and back – a little over 3km each way. For littler ones – maybe plan a hike one way and shuttle back or vice versa.
Which way to go – Hike through Jasmund National Park
Modeled after the American National Park system, Jasmund offers trails, wildlife and interactive learning in a beautiful old growth Beech tree forest.
Fall colors in the forest – hiking through Jasmund National Park outside Sassnitz, Rügen.
Admission: includes all indoor and outdoor activities
Families* = 2 adults + children up to 14
– free –
NOTE: You do not have to visit the visitor’s center to take steps to go down to the beach, which can be reached for free from the parking lot. But to get to the viewpoint and visit the interactive center, an entrance fee is required.
The nature of the National Park is to let wild space be wild. This allows for lots of wildlife. Bird watchers will be happy to spot eagles and peregrine falcons along the cliffs. Elsewhere you may encounter otter crossings and crane migrations. 25,000-60,000 cranes rest in this area every fall on their way south.
Not phased by the waves or chill, swans paddle down the Sassnitz waterfront.
Much of the island of Rügen is a nature preserve – so opportunities abound to spot wildlife.
Between 25,000-60,000 cranes rest around Rügen, Germany on their way south.
One of the things that we loved about visiting Rügen was its authenticity. Compared to Copenhagen, very few locals speak English. They are very friendly and appreciate any attempts at German and are happy to help. We loved the idea that no one understood us while we chatted as a family in English. Haha!
Getting to Rügen, Germany
From Copenhagen to Rügen, it requires taking the ferry between Gedser, Denmark and Rostock, Germany via Scandilines. There are other routes (via Rødby, DK and Puttgarden, DE or driving through Jutland via Hamburg and around) but the Gedser-Rostock route is the most convenient if targeting Rügen from most points north.
NOTE: Book ahead – more than 14 days in advance and you can save BIG with economy ferry tickets. You can buy tickets at the ferry landing, but expect to pay a premium and not be guaranteed a spot. Ferry crossing is only 1 hour and 45 minutes and there are newer vessel options with more amenities to keep your family having fun while afloat. Check Scandilines website for updated sailing times, routes prices and vessels.
Where to Stay in Rügen
We loved the cozy feel of having our own apartment in the less busy than Binz seaside village of Sassnitz. Further up the coast, but closer to Königsstuhl and Jasmund National Park. We had a wonderful time at the Seaside Apartments there with views of the water, comfortable beds, a wood fire stove and a well appointed kitchen for cooking.
A block from the water – cozy and family friendly Seaside Apartments in Sassnitz, Rügen, Germany
View from the window of the cozy and family friendly Seaside Apartments in Sassnitz, Rügen, Germany
Walking along the Baltic waterfront in little Sassnitz on the island of Rügen. A perfect base for autumn break exploring.
An excellent start to your day – right on the waterfront with tables outside if it is nice and lots of windows to watch the wave if it isn’t. Delicious baked goods and coffee. Try to pick just one! Take a bag of the thin buttery and crispy cookies to go. It’s ok – you’ve been hiking. Try the sea buckthorn with cranberry or lavender hearts – we loved those!
The harbor in Sassnitz has many boats all along the pier selling fischbrötchen. These yummy sandwiches are made in crusty white bread rolls filled with – you guessed it – fish. Fischbrötchen is as popular in this area as bratwurst in southern Germany and currywurst in Berlin. The sandwiches are small enough to try a few and share. Fillings might include locally caught eel, mackerel, crab and can be prepared smoked and fried normally. Watch the seagulls ever at the ready to pick up your scraps!
All along the harbor front are little boats serving fresh fischbrötchen, local fish sandwich specialty of the region.
Seagulls hope you’ll drop crumbs from the delicious fresh fish sandwiches in the harbor at Sassnitz.
If you are looking for something a little more substantial than take away – walk to the other side of the harbor for sit-down service at nearby Kutterfisch. According to Angie at German travel blog Reisefreunde – they also have one of the best fischbrötchen on Rügen. Kutterfisch also sells fresh fish and other local specialties like sanddorn (sea buckthorn or havtorn) liquors, jams or syrups in their market up front.
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Cozy Family Time for Fall – Run to Rügen, Germany – a lovely roadtrip from Copenhagen, Hamburg or Berlin and beyond. via @oregongirlworld
Cozy Family Time for Fall – Run to Rügen, Germany – a lovely roadtrip from Copenhagen, Hamburg or Berlin and beyond. via @oregongirlworld
Sweden is super cool. Yep, you heard me. I know, I know. I live in Denmark. But our Scandi neighbor really is. Cool. In a completely different way than Denmark. I mean Copenhagen is cool. VERY COOL. Sometimes, maybe possibly – a little too cool for school. Don’t get me wrong. I love it here. In all it’s tatted, skinny black panted, chunky white trainer wearing, oversized trench coated, giant scarf wrapped, top-knotted or bearded, coffee drinking, Tuborg swilling, design toting, bicycling glory. I said I loved it – remember?
But today – it’s all about Sweden. Denmark’s tall leggy blond and blue eyed cousin -Sweden. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. Not all Swedes are tall, blond or blue eyed. But… Sweden’s flag is blue and yellow. Coincidence? I don’t think so. And so is IKEA. All blue and yellow. (P.S. – you pronounce it ee-KAY-uh here. Not EYE-kea.) And every time you step inside one of those enormous Swedish box stores and think – jeesh, I just came in for cheap candles and a couple picture frames – do I really have to wind through all of these displays? Just think of how big Sweden is! Compared to Denmark anyway. It’a all relative. But Sweden is pretty big! Have you looked at a map? Much larger than Denmark. In fact, Sweden is the third largest country by area in the European Union. And it’s all kind of tall and long. Another coincidence? I don’t think so. (*wink, wink.)
AREA: 450,295 square kilometers (173, 860 square miles)
POPULATION: 9.9 million
DENSITY: 21 people/square kilometer (54 people/square mile)
And of all those 9.9 million people living in Sweden, 85% of them live in urban areas – mostly Stockholm, Gothenberg and Malmö. That means there is a lot of land with nobody on it. Lots of space for all the moose. And farms. And trees. And nature. Lots of nature. Want to know the coolest part about Sweden? All of that land and all of that nature is available to everyone.
Especially lovely to roam old growth forest – beech trees as old as 200 years at Osbecks Nature Preserve, Hallands, Sweden
Get outside – southern Sweden
You heard me. It’s open to EVERYONE. Sweden has a law called Allemansrätten that gives the right of public access to everyman. It literally translates to everyman’s right. Also known as outdoor access rights or freedom to roam, it means that you have the right to walk, hike, bike, ski or camp on any land in Sweden. The only exceptions to the rule being that you can’t tromp through someone’s private garden, across cultivated land or hang out near homes. Because that would be just rude and really kind of creepy. But everywhere else – open. Yep. It’s awesome.
As an Oregon girl – this resonates with me. In the state of Oregon we border the Pacific Ocean. It is a beautiful stretch of coastline. But when we visit, we don’t say we’re going to the beach or the shore – while both are there. We go to the coast. The Oregon Coast. It is also known as the “people’s coast.” And for good reason. Every inch of the Oregon Coast belongs to the people and because of that you have access to it. Where it is safe to do so – of course. My inner Oregon-ness appreciates Sweden. In fact – it feels a little like Oregon over there. Especially when you start throwing in evergreen trees across the landscape the further north you travel.
Come on over to Sweden. But bring your passport. You’ll be checked. Even if you’re Danish. Maybe especially if you’re Danish. Just kidding. Maybe. But once here – roam where you want to. Roam around the land. Explore Sweden. That is cool. Sup-ah cool. And Swedes take advantage of it. We’re lucky to have Swedish-American friends living in Sweden while we’ve been here who were willing to share one of their favorite places to hike and explore.
Only 2 km off E20 in southern Sweden near Hasslöv
Autumn is a beautiful time to visit southern Sweden.
Allemansrätt lets you explore the Swedish countryside
Today, we’re going to Skåne, the beautiful region at the tip of southern Sweden. Think rolling green hills, tall beech forests, farms full of brilliant yellow rapeseed, old castles, rocky coastlines, little inlets and islands all await you in Skåne. (Pronounced “skona.”) From Copenhagen – you can drive across the Øresund Bridge to Malmö and head north or take the short 20 minute ferry from Helsingør, Denmark to Helsingborg, Sweden. Then take the E20 north in the direction of Gothenberg. Need a place to stay? Try super charming little Torekov or nearby Båstad. It’s not a bad word. It’s pronounced BO-stah and is the home of the Swedish Open. And unless you’re a huge Björn Borg fan or are just really into tennis, steer clear of this place for two weeks in July every year. Otherwise it is a charming little outpost to base your outdoor exploits.
Swedish seaside town in southern Sweden in fall’s colors
Fall colors in Torekov, Sweden, Skåne
Now that you’re here. Let’s get outside! Only about 10 minutes outside Baståd heading east on route 115 is the gorgeous Naturreservat Osbecks. Officially you are now in Halland County, but just right on the border of Skåne County. If coming from the E20 motorway, take the exit towards Hasslöv. After 2 kilometers there is a sign saying “Hiking area”. There is should be a football field on your left. Turn right onto the gravel road and follow the road up to the car park. A forest of beech trees cover this open nature preserve. Parking here and pick a trail. Autumn is an amazing time to visit as the leaves are turning, coloring the landscape and there is a crispness to the air.
The trees here at Osbecks are mostly deciduous with many beeches, birches and old oaks, which is why it gleams in autumn. Some of the trees here loom overhead nearly 200 years old. History rocks at this nature reserve in the form of stone age and bronze age cairns. Literally piles of rocks that farmers of yore piled to the side of their plot – both marking their territory and allowing cultivation. See if you can find them! But remember, the general rule when accessing allmansrätt is:
Do not disturb – do not destroy.”
Look out for tree snails and song birds, ferns and funghi. Sweden is proud of the diversity that has taken root here. Plan ahead and pack a picnic. There are several spots where you can make a fire in the pits available. Firewood is available free for your use. We grilled hotdogs and roasted marshmallows while soaking in the views. It was a perfect end to a perfect afternoon.
Grilling hotdogs (pølsers) over open fire in Osbecks Naturreservat
Tasty and fun end to a hike in southern Sweden
Hiking in southern Sweden forest ends with grilling
Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in Osbecks Nature Reserve, Halland Sweden
Seriously more delicious after being outside in the beautiful fall Swedish forest.
Time to grill after beautiful fall hike in southern Sweden
Can you believe all this lovely is just over two hours from Copenhagen. Cross the big bridge or take the ferry. Go for a hike. Pick ligonberries. Hunt mushrooms. You can. It’s allowed. It’s allemansrätten. Tack Sverige! Thanks Sweden!
Southern Sweden spreads out in farm land and forests – fabulous view from the picnic grill
Hiking in the southern Swedish forest – it may have tasted like marshmallow!
Happy to link this post and introduce a new collaboration of travel bloggers today. Join myself, Katy of Untold Morsels and Clare of Suitcases and Sandcastles in a new supportive and inspiring linkup community we’re calling #FarawayFiles. Read more here about how we started it, what we want it to be and how you can engage. We’d love to see you there!