History and traditions

Fanø 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 Fanø, 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 Fanø for many centuries. They went to other places to seek employment, but from the 1760' s the people of Fanø started their own shipping companies and started building ships on Fanø. 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 Fanø. 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 Fanø. 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 Fanø ship was build in 1896. The size of the ships also made it impossible to use Fanø 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 Fanø. 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 Fanø.



The Museums of Fanø

Fanø 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 Fanø 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 Fanø 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.



The Staffordshire porcelain dogs on Fanø

In many of the windows here on Fanø, you will see the two porcelain dogs. During the period 1860-1900, the dogs were the souvenir to bring back home from England. And it was expected that every sailor brought home at least one pair.

The dogs always come as a pair, looking towards each other. Traditionally, they symbolize loyalty and security. When they look out of the window, the man of the house is at sea; when they look into the house, he is at home.

At the harbor front in Nordby, you’ll find a sculpture with the pair of dogs – made by the artist Poul Isbak