Møn: where all the artists go when they want to get away from it all
There's more to the island than its famous cliffs and fantastic nature
Not much more than an hour’s drive to the south of Copenhagen, you can find one of Denmark’s most picturesque islands. Møn, pronounced a bit like ‘moon’, lies just off the southern coast of Zealand, yet it can seem like a million miles away ...
One of the larger islands of the southern Denmark archipelago, Møn is famed for its white chalk cliffs, called Møns Klint, which run for seven kilometres along the eastern edge of the island; it’s said they are eroding at a rate of up to 40 centimetres a year. The cliffs are crowned with beech forests, and numerous trails run through them and down to the beach. You can reach the beach via some wooden steps; once there, it’s fun to search among the rocks for fossils, which are surprisingly easy to find. Back at the top, after you’ve hauled yourself up the several hundred steps, treat yourself to a coffee and a bit of lunch at the visitors’ centre. Then take a look inside the GeoCenter, which tells the story of how Denmark was formed – geologically speaking – and features 3D films made by National Geographic. It’s well worth a visit, especially if you have kids in tow. There’s also an excellent natural playground outside that will keep the little ones amused while you finish your coffee.
The island’s largest town is Stege (pronounced ‘stee’), a busy little market town with plenty of good cafés and restaurants situated right next to the water. This is the location of one of my favourite cafés in all of Denmark – Bryghuset café and restaurant, which not only has a micro-brewery making some of the nicest ale you will ever taste, but also has walls lined with thousands of second-hand books in many languages. You can either buy or swap these treasures. The café is situated in the idyllic Luffes Gård cobbled courtyard, which also offers art galleries, an ice-cream parlour and a vintner. This is a great place to while away a couple of hours on a sunny day, although it is generally quite packed during the summer.
If you are Danish and have been longing for a more bohemian existence, you might have heard the siren call of Møn. How else can one explain the fact that almost everyone who lives there seems to be a painter, sculptor or writer? In recent years, the island has gained enough traction on the international scene to attract some big names to its annual literature festival, which the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami attended in 2010.
The landscape of Møn is quietly spectacular. It’s one that contains gently undulating fields, small forests, and long pebbly beaches that fringe wide, open spaces. Nowhere are you far from the sea, and at times it can feel as if you are in a watery world of your own – a sort of parallel universe of thatched cottages and ancient burial mounds, where the only sounds come from the gentle breeze and the ever-present song of the skylark. It’s a world inhabited by resplendent pheasants that strut regally around the fields and lolloping hares that stand silhouetted against the skyline at dusk.
If you spend any amount of time on Møn, you can begin to feel the history of the island beneath your feet. People have inhabited this island for thousands of years, and the evidence from ancient times is everywhere you look in the form of burial mounds – there are 173 on this small island. Some are just nondescript dots on the landscape, while others are larger and crowned by trees. One of the most famous of these is Kong Asgers Høj (King Asger’s Mound), which was constructed around 4,000 years ago and contains a 10-metre long tunnel that you can enter. If you plan on visiting, make sure to bring a torch because it is pitch-dark inside!
But if 4,000 years of history sounds like a bit too far back in time, Møn has plenty of more recent and no less interesting history to offer. A visit to Møn would not be complete without gazing up at some of the frescoes that cover the local church ceilings. These works of art are renowned throughout Denmark and date back some 700 years. One of the best churches in which to see these frescoes is Fanefjord Church at the western end of the island. The reason these frescoes look so fresh and vibrant is that they were covered over with whitewash for many centuries and only rediscovered in the 1930s, when they were restored. They mostly depict religious scenes, as well as interesting little vignettes from Møn village life in times past.
Another place well worth a visit on Møn is Liselund. This historic stately castle looks like something out of a fairy tale. It’s not far from Møns Klint and is open daily to visitors as well as people wishing to stay overnight. Within the beautiful grounds, you’ll find plenty of romantic buildings, including a Chinese tea room and a Norwegian log house – the whole place exudes the romance of a long-lost golden age. The main castle itself has been transformed into a hotel, which has a nice restaurant and café.
But apart from the main attractions, Møn is simply a lovely place to spend a few days – or even a single one if you’re pressed for time. It is small enough to drive from one end to the other in less than an hour, even if you stop at some of the many small art galleries, workshops and cafés along the way. It’s also a place to take long walks on the beach, discover cosy little villages (tip – Nyord, in the far north and accessed by way of a bridge, is probably one of the most charming ‘olde worlde’ villages anywhere in Denmark) and just relax. Møn’s residents are used to lots of visitors, so most things are written in English and German, as well as Danish. Go there and see for yourself!
Møn is easily accessible by car with two bridges linking the island to both Zealand and Falster. To get there by train, head to nearby Vordingborg and take local bus number 660R to Stege.
Because of the number of international visitors Møn gets, dining options are varied and impressive. Stege tends to have the best places – check out the Gourmet Gaarden, which serves high-end cuisine. Just as good is the nearby David’s, which serves modern Nordic cuisine in a convivial atmosphere.
Bryghuset, Stege. A micro-brewery, restaurant and bookshop rolled into one, this lovely hostelry is situated in a quiet cobbled square that is a suntrap in the summer.
Møns Klint lies at the east of the island, and you can drop in at the GeoCenter while you are there (moensklint.dk). You should also check out the ceiling frescoes of the various churches dotted around the island, and also climb a burial mound or two.
Pay a visit to the picturesque little village of Nyord in the far north of the island. Here, you can stroll around with an ice cream while admiring the thatched houses, or just stop for lunch.
Møn has several attractive seaside campsites, as well as one near the cliffs (campingmoensklint.dk). A highly recommended guesthouse is Tohøjgaard (‘Two Barrow Farm’), situated in a very peaceful location by the sea. Each room has its own individual style. Visit tohoejgaard.com for more information.
If sheer luxury and romance is your thing, it is impossible to beat staying at the fairy-tale castle of Liselund. Rooms start at 800kr per night (liselundslot.dk).
Møn is a medium-sized island lying off the southern coast of Zealand; it is accessible by car. Famed for its chalky white cliffs, called Møns Klint, the island is steeped in history going back some 4,000 years. Here, you can visit numerous passage graves and barrow mounds from the Neolithic era, and even delve into pre-history at the state-of-the-art GeoCenter. The island is dotted with quaint villages comprised of thatched cottages and, due to the influx of overseas visitors, there are a number of excellent restaurants and cafés catering to foreign tastes. The main town of Stege is a picturesque market town situated beside the deep blue sea, and it has a relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere. No trip to Møn would be complete without a visit to some of its churches, where you can see amazingly well-preserved ceiling frescoes dating from the Middle Ages.