History and traditions

Fanoe is an island with an exciting history. The maritime trade with sailing ships in the 18th and 19th century, Denmarks first seaside holiday resort, and the bunkers from the 2nd World War.

We have a lot of traditions on Fanoe, that are very much alive. Not because we want to be a living museum, but because the traditions and the history of the island still have value for us, they are part of our daily life.

The Maritime Era

The tiny sandy island on the weast coast was once a maritime "superpower". Even though we had the same number of inhabitants as today.

There have been sailors on Fanoe for many centuries. They went to other places to seek employment, but from the 1760' s the people of Fanoe started their own shipping companies and started building ships on Fanoe. It was a difficult task, they had to import all wood from the mainland.

The shipyards - in both Nordby and Sønderho - were situated directly on the beach.

The 1850's were the golden days of shipbuilding on Fanoe. There was nine shipyards and all together they were employing 100 workers. Plus a number of sub-contractors.

From 1768 to 1896, a total of 1100 ships were build on Fanoe. In the beginning a lot of small ships but gradually they became bigger. From the mid 1860's the local shipyards were no longer able to meet the demand. At the same time, the harbour in Sønderho began having problems with silting.

In the 1880's the shipping companies went from wooden ships to iron and steel ships and the last Fanoe ship was build in 1896. The size of the ships also made it impossible to use Fanoe as harbour. Sailing ships were also being replaced by steam ships and by 1919 all shipping companies had moved to other harbours.

The maritime era brought wealth and inspiration from other parts of the world to Fanoe. The beautiful mansions build by the captains can still be seen.

A lot of the traditions, the dances, the music, the costumes and the traditional food is related to the maritime era, but are still an important part of everyday life in Fanoe.


Music and Dance

The traditional folk music plays a great part on Fanoe. Through influence from the sailors that came all over the world, it has developed into a very special music, taking its starting point in the old dances.This music is still going strong and dances are hosted regularly with traditional music and dancing.

The Museums of Fanoe

Fanoe has four museums that tell various aspects of the history of the island.

In Nordby, you find Fanø Skibsfart og Dragtsamling (The Maritime and Costume Collection), that, as the name suggests, tells the story of the Golden Age when Fanoe was a maritime "Superpower". The Museum also displays a large collection af traditional costumes. Fanø Museum is a typical local history museum that tells the story of everyday life on Fanoe in the 18th and 19th Century.

In Sønderho, you find Fanø Art Museum and  Hanne's House, a house that remains unchanged for 100 years.

It is possible to buy a ticket for the Maritime and Costume Collection, Fanø Museum and Hannes House at Fanø Turistbureau. 

Fanø Vesterhavsbad

From the end of 1800's century until the start of the 1970's Fanø Bad WAS the big spas.

The name Fanø Bad - that is history and traditions, the memories of the big and elegant spas, outdoor concerts, separate beaches for women and men, the horse drawn bath carts. Today, it is a modern holiday area.

In 1890, Fanø Bad (at that time it was called Fanø Nordsøbad) was appointed to be the very first international seaside resort in Denmark. The fresh, salty water was supposed to be very healthy! The first resort was opened on Fanoe in 1891, and soon hotels (Kurhotellet, Hotel Kongen af Danmark, Strandhotellet) and guesthouses were build. By that time, the first Danish gold course was also built.

The old hotels are long gone and modern hotels and holiday centers have been built. The area now has a lot of summer cottages. Some of the very stately holiday villas, that were bulit in the first row of dunes, are stil there though.


For more than 125 years Fanoe has been a tourist island.

Enjoy the tourist film from the 1950's