Sønderborg is a fairly important city in the southern part of Denmark it is the biggest city of the area but with just a bit over 25,000 inhabitants it is a manageable city which you can walk around and explore. It is easy to get here by car or by train which is connected with direct trains to Copenhagen every other hour. It is possible to fly from Copenhagen as well and in 2021 the Tour de France will actually use the airport to fly to France after riding through Denmark for three days.
The location of the city is pretty. It is mainly located on the island of Als where most of the cities inhabitants live but there is a district across the narrow water on the mainland. The station is actually located on the mainland so if you arrive by train you will have to walk across the bridge.
Kong Christian X bridge is actually a pretty bridge and it is fairly low so the many sailing boats in the harbor has to wait for the bridge to be raised to sail out to the open water on the other side of the bridge. Fortunately we didn’t get stuck when the bridge went up but it did happen several times during our stay in the city so we could see the sailing boats go under the bridge.
The prettiest part of the city is the harbor with the many boats staying down there – many of the boats were German so I guess the activity at the harbor is highly seasonal with significant fewer boats in the harbor during other times of the year.
The city does have a big attraction in the castle right at the corner of the harbor and the sea. It is a pretty castle to look at from the outside and we were so fortunate to have a direct view of the castle, harbor and the bridge from our hotel room which was a nice feature.
The city has a major annual festival called ringridder festival when a lot of horse riders compete in catching a small ring while riding in full gallop. The festival is a four day event with the main highlights during the weekend. This year it was the second weekend of July – I am not sure this is always the case or if it moves around. We didn’t go to the festival itself but even if you don’t go to the festival area there is a lot going on in the city with bands playing in front of the castle and they did have a big tattoo on the Saturday night (ticket required). We did have a free trip through the city on horse cart and there was a huge horse parade on Sunday.
The city was devastated during the war of 1864 where a big battle took place only a couple of kilometers from the city. You can go out and see the battle field memorial out of the city where they have made a living history museum giving information of the battle in Danish, German and English they tell live stories but not in English. Next to the battle field is an old mill called Dybbøl Mølle which have been shut to pieces not once but twice during the wars of Schleswig which both had major battles taking place just outside Sønderborg. There are buses going out to the old mill and battle field – but they are only going once a hour so you might be better off if you can get a bike or just walk out there.
A nice little trip you can do from here is to go to Gråsten which is a small village with a royal castle. The village also got an old inn which serves the famous cake tables of the area every second Sunday and every Monday in July. The cake table is a bit of a cake orgy which is interesting to try out – you need to buy a ticket in advance.
We stayed at the big new Alsik Hotel down at the harbor. They claim 90 percent of the rooms got a view of the water – and our room sure did with a view right down along the harbor to the castle. If you stay at this hotel you can take advantage of the Point of View which is a viewing platform at the top of the hotel. The view from up there is pretty great. If you don’t stay at the hotel you might have to book in advance since it seems to be a limit on the number of people they will let up at any given time.
The hotel also got three restaurants – the new gourmet restaurant on the 17th floor unfortunately wasn’t open when we stayed there. But the Freia Restaurant served a pretty good gourmet light five course menu of traditional Danish dishes with a very modern twist. They also had a more international restaurant called Alsik Restaurant which was in the same area as the breakfast in the morning.