Jelling might be the most historically significant place in Denmark, but Ribe is the oldest town in Denmark! It dates back to the Viking Age (so of course I loved it) so there are archaeological digs and historic spots, but it’s also a pretty town with beautiful churches and walking streets! 🙂
History of Ribe, Denmark
Ribe is an important historic town in Denmark, and it’s believed that Ribe dates back to the beginning of the 8th century and was first documented as a town in 854. Because having a central town instead of farms spread out in the countryside was a fairly new concept to Scandinavia during the Viking Age, Ribe is the oldest town in Denmark still in existence. It was a big port and one of the most important trade cities in Scandinavia. Since my professor in Aarhus is an archaeologist, we actually got to see where they’re digging right now and see some of the artifacts they’ve uncovered from the Viking Age!
Doors of the Town Hall, dating back to 1496
Ribe, Denmark is also known for the famous Saint Ansgar (or Anskar). He was the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen and one of the first missionaries to Scandinavia. He came to Denmark in 826 and built the church in Ribe in 860. Since there aren’t many documents from that time, it was disputed whether or not people in Ribe actually converted to Christianity until they discovered thousands of Christian burials from that time period (which is right across the street from the church and you can see in the photo above).
The wooden church that Saint Ansgar built didn’t last through the centuries, and the Ribe Cathedral still stands today today dates back to 1110. There was a fire in the town in 1176, but most of the church was undamaged!
Statue of Saint Ansgar
Exploring the oldest town in Denmark
After getting the historic tour of Ribe, I got to walk around the town. There are lots of restaurants and shops, and it’s such a pretty town to explore! Many of the buildings are hundreds of years old, and 110 houses are protected by the Heritage Protection.
If you have time to see more attractions, there is a Viking museum and a Viking center and an art museum. There’s also an abbey that you can tour, which I did get to see briefly.
The Ribe River flows through the center of town
It was a hot summer day, so I stopped for ice cream, of course!
The abbey of Sct. Catharinæ
If you’re looking for a small town in Jutland to explore, I highly recommend Ribe, Denmark! It’s such a pretty, historic town in Denmark to see, packed with so much history 🙂