A few weeks ago (before end-of-winter illnesses and school holidays) we were invited to Esbjerg’s rådhus – city hall – for a welcome event with the mayor. I went along with the kids, despite somehow thinking that after 6 months of living here I barely felt like a welcome was necessary. (Only a serial expat would consider themselves a veteran of a place after just a few months.) But everyone who arrived in Esbjerg – international or Danish – during 2018 was invited, and we were promised Danish food and a tour of the building, so off I went to investigate.
And, to my surprise, I learned a lot that I didn’t already know. There’s more to Esbjerg than you can find out in 6 months, despite its compact size. Who knew?
The first surprise was this impressive space, which can hardly be described as ‘hidden’ behind the borgerservice office – the administrative reception every citizen passes through more often than they would probably like, to receive their CPR number, exchange their driving licence, and generally fill in forms. But, since Danish admin is a streamlined and efficient affair on the whole, I have definitely been too preoccupied by the bureaucracy to notice what was behind the bank of glass doors.
Until a few years ago, this was an open courtyard, and is now roofed to provide a grand meeting and reception venue. Although from outside the rådhus building looks like a modern unassuming office block, this space, as well as some of the other elements of the interior we saw during our tour, give it all a fitting sense of occasion.
The event included a presentation in Danish and English from the Newcomer Service (Tilflytter Service), information which only the very freshest of arrivals wouldn’t already have known, so efficient and available is this service to every new arrival. Led up by Pia Enemark (a local Dane) and Nicole Hogan (an Australian-American), the Newcomer Service can’t be missed, with the huge range of activities, workshops and social events they arrange to create connection between newcomers to Esbjerg, and the existing community. They’ll meet with new arrivals individually, and are quick to answer any conceivable question by email. Follow their facebook page here for regular updates.
It was the mayor, Jesper Frost Rasmussen, whose bilingual speech told me so much I didn’t already know about our new home. So, what do you know about Esbjerg? Here’s a run-down of what’s new, and what I have newly learned:
- I knew that Ribe is the oldest town in Scandinavia, and that Esbjerg is very new. But the mayor claimed it as the youngest town in Denmark (it was formally established as a town in 1868), and pointed out the symmetry of the two towns being just 30km from each other, in the same kommune. Although the newness of Esbjerg makes it seem lacking in depth sometimes, there certainly is the buzz of growth around the town. And the fix of historical charm in Ribe just a 30 minute drive away more than makes up for it.
- The panoramic Landgangen promenade opened just last year, connecting the town and harbour, with dramatic views of both commemorating the harbour’s 150th anniversary.
- GAME Streetmekka is housed in a converted industrial building, and offers an expansive skate park, as well as a venue for street dancing and street sports.
- Svommestadium Danmark in Esbjerg is the largest water park in Denmark! (If you didn’t already read about my first tentative visit, check it out here.)
- It’s impossible to miss the sites that mark the investment of developers in Esbjerg’s burgeoning suburbs, but the kommune is making many plots of land available for sale for individuals who want to build their own home.
- Esbjerg’s former power station now houses The National Academy of Music – Syddansk Musikkonservatorium – with the concert hall taking up the former turbine hall. I’m adding a performance to my bucket list.
- Another music and cultural venue makes the most of Esbjerg’s architectural heritage: Tobakken is found in the former tobacco factory.
- I’ve walked past Huset many times on my way into the fabulous library, but what I didn’t know is that this student facility is also a cultural venue open to the public.
- You’ve probably driven past the Esbjerg Strand development just north of the central harbour: the regenerated harbour area will include new business space, a marina and a watersports hub, as well as new public spaces.
- Just north of Esbjerg, Marbæk is a nature reserve and part of the Wadden Sea National Park (Nationalpark Vadehavet), and there is a new trail centre project in development for the area. Somewhere to explore as the weather warms up.
- Further afield, there’s a popular and very exciting-looking theme park called Universe, near Sønderborg (about 90 minutes away). This science and technology-themed attraction has just been named as Denmark’s best theme park or museum. Another one for the bucket list!
All of that was news to me…and I thought there was already lots to share about Esbjerg and the surrounding area.
What else is there about Esbjerg that I should know about? Or is there anything you want to find out about? I’ve got plans to write more regularly about Esbjerg and the region, for the blog and beyond (tease…) so I’d love to hear what you’re interested in!
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