Skagen was granted the privileges of a royal borough in 1413. Fishing was responsible for creating the town’s wealth,helped in no small measure by its dutyfree status, despite the fact that the town didn’t have a harbour and the boats had to be pulled up onto the beach.
As fishing began to decline at the end of the 16th century, however, Skagen’s fortunes waned. This downward trend was made worse by highly destructive sand migration which resulted in the old church having to be abandoned in 1795.
In the latter part of the 19th century the population began to recover once more. The railway from Frederikshavn to Skagen was established in 1890 and the town got its first harbour in 1907.
Not only did the colony of artists put Skagen on the map, the architects that accompanied the painters and poets to Skagen turned the small fishing village into an architectonic experience for posterity.
There’s a world of difference between Hans Christian Andersen’s description from 1859, “…here lies a house partly hidden by a sand dune, there another; dark, tarred wooden buildings with thatched roofs!”, and the Skagen that exists more than 100 years later.
Chiefly responsible for this architectonic revolution was Ulrik Plesner, although in a way he was indebted to hotel proprietor Degn Brøndum, who was willing to allow the young Plesner to design a major extension to the hotel in 1892.
A large part of Skagen’s income comes from the harbour and fishing. Skagen has Denmark’s biggest fishing port featuring the country’s biggest herring factory and the world’s biggest fishmeal and fish oil factory.
In addition to the shipyard and many other maritime jobs, the Port of Skagen is a busy commercial port, and yet is also the place where local citizens and visitors meet. Moreover, during the summer months the inner harbour basins are full of yachting enthusiasts.
Today, Skagen has almost 9,000 citizens, but is visited every year by some 2 million guests. On a summer day there may well be 50,000 visitors in the town and at Grenen at the very tip of the region.