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Hanstholm is a small town and a former island, now elevated area in Thisted municipality of Region Nordjylland, located in the northern part of Denmark. Coordinates: . Population of the area is about 3,500 (2004), and the town has a population of 2,157 (1 January 2014).[1]

Map of Hanstholm. From the brochure "Vandreture nr. 118. Hanstholmen", updated January 2005, published by the Danish Forest and Nature Agency.


  • The name 1
  • Geography 2
  • Tourism 3
  • Urban planning 4
  • History 5
    • Prehistoric 5.1
    • Teutons 5.2
    • Age of the Vikings 5.3
    • First Christianity 5.4
    • Norwegian trade 5.5
    • Sand drift 5.6
    • Hanstholm Lighthouse 1843 5.7
    • World War II 5.8
  • The harbor 6
  • Future 7
  • Museums 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

The name

The former island Hanstholm (short form of the original name Hansted Holm) has many placenames, including Hansted, Nørby, Gårddal, Ræhr, Hamborg, Bjerre, Febbersted, Krog, Nytorp and Vigsø. In the beginning of the 2nd millennium, churches were built in Vigsø, Ræhr and Hansted, forming three parishes.

In the end of the 20th century, Denmark's largest harbor was built in Hansted, and a 10-fold bigger harbor town was needed. A new town was planned, covering the places Hansted, Gårddal and Nørby, and the new town was officially named Hanstholm. This has led to quite some confusion, because the people from the towns Ræhr and Vigsø live on Hanstholm, the former island, they live in Hanstholm postal district, they live in Hanstholm municipality, but they don't live in Hanstholm town.

However, since all the parts of this new harbor town belong to Hansted parish, and because Hansted has been the harbor town for so many centuries, many people refer to this town simply as Hansted instead of Hanstholm.

Besides Hanstholm and Hansted, one more name is related to this, Hanherred:

  • Hansted means "The place of Han". This suffix is often used with town names in Denmark.
  • Hanstholm means "The island of Hansted".
  • Hanherred means "The herred of Han", where herred is an old-age administrative division.


Hanstholm viewed from farther north

To the north is Vigsø Bay (‘’Vigsø Bugt’’) a part of Skagerrak. To the west is the North Sea.

The ferry MV Norröna of Smyril Line operated a weekly summer service to the Faroe Islands and Iceland from Hanstholm until 2010. This service now departs from Hirtshals.

The northern part of Denmark is rising because of plate tectonics, and has lifted the island of Hanstholm out of the water, so that it is no longer an island, but an elevated area. You can still see two old farms: Bådsgård, which means boat farm, is located on the previous island Hanstholm; Færgegård is located in Sårup towards Hansted. Today you can simply drive between Sårup and Hansted.


There are many reasons to visit Hanstholm, and many people do so:

  • Remains of the largest World War II fortress.
  • The largest industrial harbour in Denmark, with fish auctions at 6.30 in the morning etc.
  • West coast of Denmark. It's rough, it's windy.
  • Fishing. It is possible to fish in the ocean at the Yellow Reef, fish from the beaches or in put-and-take lakes.
  • Geology. The stone age coast line is visible, and it is even possible to find fossils at many places.
  • Nature. Hansted reservat and many places on Hanstholm have unique plants, animals and places that don't survive in other places.
  • The lighthouse.
  • Small plane flying. There is a small airport nearby.
  • Excellent Windsurfing, surfing and kitesurfing scene, also known as "Cold Hawaii"

Urban planning

As Hansted grew from a couple of hundred people to several thousand people during the 20th century, some urban planning was applied. It seems to have been modeled in the same way as other growing Danish towns in the 1960s, which basically means that you can drive through the city without noticing the size of it.

Most shopping is concentrated in a shopping mall (Hanstholm Centret), and there are separate pedestrian and bicycle path covering most of the city.



Several excavations have shown that the Hanstholm area was inhabited by farmers as early as 1000 B.C.


In the year 120 B.C., teutons inhabited the area, but left in a big exodus, together with the Cimbri, towards the south, where they encountered the Romans.

Age of the Vikings

In the years 800 to 1050, Hanstholm and the area around it were islands, and nearby was the gathering point for the Vikings for their invasions of England and France.

First Christianity

According to the legend, the first Christian church in the Thy area was built in 1040 in Vestervig, where Christian priests coming from England entered Denmark. A big monastery was later built here and this was the beginning of the end of the Viking era.

The churches in Ræhr, Hansted and Vigsø were built in the 12th century in Roman style, and on Hansted church, one of the stones shows the picture of a trading vessel. This trading vessel has been used as model for the arms of the former Hanstholm municipality.

Norwegian trade

From approximately 1600 to approximately 1850, people from the area of Hanstholm traded a lot with Norway, which was a part of Denmark at that time, with special boats across the Skagerrak. They exported food, mostly grain, and imported logs. There were no trees in the whole area, so wood was in high demand. The primary harbors for this trade were Vigsø and Klitmøller, the latter because they had water mills to produce flour.

For this trade, special ships were designed, named "sandskuder", meaning sand boats. They were able to sail directly onto the beach and were designed for transport of grain, flour and logs.

Sand drift

A lot of sand began to drift from the west coast towards east in the 14th century. In 1555, the sand drift had damaged a large area of Vigsø parish, and the local pastor suggested to abandon the parish and the church. However, people stayed in the area, and the parish remained active. The other parishes were hit hard, as well, and in 1690, there were dunes on the pastor's fields, more than 12 meters high.

Numerous attempts to stop the sand drift finally succeeded in the 19th century by planting trees and lyme grass. However, many low coastal areas between the former islands had already been covered with dunes. South of Hanstholm an area of ca 4000 hectars unique dune landscape has become a wildlife reservation, named Hansted Reservat.

In many places, where you have large areas with sand today, you find very good soil just beneath.

Hanstholm Lighthouse 1843

The lighthouse was initially built in 1842, but the construction was too weak, so it had to be torn down and rebuilt in 1843. It was the first lens-based lighthouse in Denmark. When it was electrified in 1889, it became the strongest lighthouse in Denmark, and still is today, even though the light intensity has been lowered. In a period of its life, it was also the strongest lighthouse in the world. The lighthouse was automated in 1970, and in 1979 the buildings associated with the lighthouse were converted to a museum about the nature and history of the surrounding area.

From the top of the lighthouse, 65 meters above the ocean, you can see the entire area.

World War II

During the Second World War, the citizens of Hansted were removed and Europe's biggest fortress was built by the Germans in this area. Cannons were installed, that could shoot almost half the distance to Norway, in order to block allied entry into the Kattegat and thus the Baltic sea. Similar cannons were installed in Kristiansand in Norway. Thousands of bunkers were constructed in the area. After the war it was too dangerous to blow them away and the bunkers themselves were too solid to remove in other ways. Therefore, most bunkers are still remaining in the ground, and some can even be seen on beaches or in the water, where the ocean has moved the coastline (the coastline moved, but the bunkers did not). Only a few bunkers lying in the way for road constructions have later been blown up using a special method by filling them with water before the explosion. A museum in Hanstholm gives access to the central parts of this World War II fortress.

After the war, a lot of conifers were planted in order to provide shelter against the wind and in order to hide the German concrete constructions (ref. SkovOgNatur brochure).

The harbor

Hanstholm is located on the northern edge of a salt dome, and this edge consists of very hard chalk, which is the reason that ice age erosion did not remove these formations. Because of the ways that the ocean streams go in this area preventing the ocean from freezing, and because of Hanstholms geographic location, Hanstholm is the perfect place to have an industrial harbor, open all year.

In 1917, the Danish Parliament decided by law to build a harbor in Hanstholm. However, this was delayed by numerous incidents, including the low grants in the 1930s, and even though the Germans had plans to use the harbor as part of their strategy, when they occupied Denmark in the second world war, they stopped all construction in June 1943, removed all machines and blew up the buildings on the beach.

After the Second World War, a political struggle started to get the harbor finished, but the other harbors in Denmark feared this. A new law saw the day of light on April 29, 1960. Finally, the harbor was completed and opened in 1967, and today it is one of the biggest harbors in Denmark.

Fjord Line ferries sailed from Hanstholm until autumn 2008 to Western Norway (Egersund, Haugesund and Bergen). Fjord Line's fast ferry Fjord Cat to Kristiansand sailed from the harbour(ex MasterCat and Mads Mols) until October 2009.

Previously there has also been a ferry service to the Faroe Islands and Iceland from Hanstholm with the ferry Norröna owned by the Faroese shipping company Smyril Line. But after about 20 years of regular ferry service the ferry to and from the Faroe Islands and Iceland, the shipping company Smyril Line a little unexpectedly, chose to stop all its operations from and to Hanstholm in the autumn of 2010 and instead move all its operations in Denmark to Hirtshals approximately 140 km north of Hanstholm.

With the loss of the ferry to the Faroe Islands and Iceland Hanstholm also lost its last ferry service from and to the city, but there are still people how is working hard to try to get new ferry routes to the city, and at the same time try to get some of the old ferry routes back to the port of Hanstholm.


In the framework of the Danish administrative reform Hanstholm municipality will merge with two other municipalities during the period 2006–2007. After that, Hanstholm municipality will cease to exist, and Hanstholm will be a part of the Thisted municipality. At the same time Viborg Amt will cease to exist and Hanstholm be a part of the new North Jutland Region.

The conifers, that were planted to hide German remains after World War II, are now slowly being replaced by broadleaf trees, which are more natural to area.


There are two museums in Hanstholm, but the most interesting one might be the one where you can go down into the bunkers from World War II, see how the soldiers lived, drive the ammunition train from ammunition depots to the cannons, and you can see the places of the huge cannons and get your own impression of how huge they were.


  1. ^ "BEF44: Population 1st January, by urban areas" database from Statistics Denmark
  • Hanstholm Municipality
  • Museumscenter Hanstholm
  • Picture of the remains of the ferry farm in Sårup (with explanation in Danish)
  • L. Mehr: Livet på Hanstholm. Abildgaard Jacobsens bogtrykkeri, Thisted, 1953. This is a book by the pastor of Ræhr, Hansted and Vigsø, about Hanstholm.

External links

  • Hanstholm portal
  • Port of Hanstholm
  • A temporary homepage for the new municipality under which Hanstholm will belong
  • The homepage of the municipality to which Hanstholm has belonged since 2007
  • Hansted church community
  • Ræhr church community
  • Vigsø church community
  • Map of the coastline about year 1000
  • Danish government tour guides
  • A description of the town Sårup
  • An old map showing the southern part of Hanstholm
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