Christiansfeld – Denmark’s only UNESCO town
On our way back from Sønderborg, we spent some time in Christiansfeld, which is a very unique town.
You see, Christiansfeld is the only UNESCO town in Denmark. It was built with homogenous architecture in perfect symmetry by the Moravian Church. And there’s one more thing – Christiansfeld is known to make the best honey cakes in Denmark, which is somewhat of a statement. So, of course I had to see if it was true.
In this post, I’ve gathered all the info and tips you’ll need to visit Christiansfeld and get the best out of your stay. Let’s begin with what makes this town special.
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Built by the Moravian Church (Brødremenigheden)
Christiansfeld is not like other towns. It was built to create a perfect city for the Moravian Brethren in Denmark.
It began in 1773 when King Christian VII visited the small town Herrnhut in Germany, built by the Moravian Church (a non-conformist Lutheran congregation). He was so impressed that he asked the Herrnhuts to build a similar town in Denmark.
The town was built shortly after and named Christiansfeld, after the King.
Christiansfeld was built around the church, placing God and the church at the centre of everything. The square in front of the Moravian Church itself is shaped like a cross with a well in the middle. The Moravian community is based on equality, which is clearly seen in the town’s architecture. All houses are similarly made of yellow bricks with red roofs in perfect symmetry on straight rectangular streets.
Life in the Moravian Church (Brødremenigheden)
If this is the first you’re hearing of the Moravians, let me give you a little background info:
The Moravians are an Evangelical-Lutheran independent congregation, which can be traced back to 1415.
The Moravian Church believes in unity and equality for all. That’s why all houses are alike. They also believe that the members should be split into groups based on age, civil status and gender. So, back in the day, the unmarried women lived in the Sister’s House and the unmarried men in the Brother’s House, where they also worked. When they got married, they moved into their own houses with their spouse. The Widow’s House was for the bereaved women, while men usually remarried.
The entire economy of the town was based on physical labor. The men did crafts activity around the house, laundry and the bakeries, while the women made gloves and cigars or sold knitting in their house shop.
Moravians were very skilled craftsmen.
Christiansfeld is world heritage
In 2015, Christiansfeld was designated a World Heritage town by UNESCO. We have seven UNESCO sites in Denmark, and Christiansfeld is the only UNESCO town. So, this is something to be proud of in Christiansfeld.
Besides being the only city in Denmark with such a unique history and homogenous architecture, Christiansfeld is also the best-preserved Moravian town in Europe. The buildings are still standing like they did when King Christian VII founded the city in 1773.
Christiansfeld and the famous gingerbread
Even if you’re not interested in culture or history, Christiansfeld is worth a visit.
You know why?
They make THE BEST gingerbread (honningkager) in Denmark. This gingerbread, hands down, is the best I’ve ever tasted. Especially the one with apricot. And it’s not just me claiming that.
Back in the late 1700s, the Moravian Brethen started baking gingerbread in ceramic stoves, which was a successful business. The gingerbread was only known in Christiansfeld, but quickly became popular throughout Denmark. So much in fact, that Queen Ingrid visited the bakery many times for the delicious gingerbread pastries. Today, you can get gingerbread and honey hearts at most bakeries in Denmark, particularly around Christmas, but the best ones are here in Christiansfeld.
Where to get them:
- Honningskagehuset (local bakery)
- Xocolatl (owned by the Moravian church)
Visit the unique cemetery (Gudsageren)
Another unique side of town is the Moravian cemetery, Gudsageren, from 1774. Here, the women are buried to the right towards east and the men to the left towards west. All the tombstones are alike, as we’re all the same in death.
At the end of the city, you’ll find Brødremenighedens Hotel. It was built in 1773 and is one of the oldest hotels in Denmark.
Originally, the Moravian Hotel was a guesthouse for church members only. In the mid 1880s, the guesthouse turned into a hotel and now also welcomed people who did not belong to the Moravian Church. At the front of the hotel, you’ll find a commemorative plate listing the royal guests from 1804-1920.
- Christiansfeld is a small town. You can explore everything within 1,5 hour and still have time for a honey cake or two.
- At the visitor centre across from the church, you can get an overview of what makes this town special. Make sure to get a walking map with the buildings and their functions.
- Download the Christiansfeld App where you can learn about the city and see photos of the town back in the day.
- There’s a cosy wine-festival during the first weekend of August where the whole city really comes to life.
Nearby UNESCO sites
Denmark has seven UNESCO World Heritage sites and the great thing is that they’re (more or less) all quite close. These two below are the closest ones, and here are the rest:
- Roskilde Cathedral (Resting place of the Danish royal family) – 2.5 hours drive
- Kronborg Castle (Home of Shakespeare’s Hamlet) – 3 hours drive
- Par force hunting landscape in North Zealand – 2 hours 40 minutes drive
- Stevns Klint (65 million years of natural history) – 2 hours 40 minutes drive
Read next: Experience the 7 UNESCO sites in Denmark
The Viking rune stone in Jelling
50 mins drive north from Christiansfeld
In 965, King Harald Bluetooth erected a large rune stone in Jelling in memory of his parents, Gorm and Thyra. The inscription on the stone gives an account of Harald’s achievements and testifies that he unified Denmark and made the Danes Christian.
The Wadden Sea National Park
50 mins drive west from Christiansfeld
In the Wadden Sea (in Danish, Nationalpark Vadehavet), the North Sea floods the mud flats with seawater twice a day. When the tide is low, you can drive or take tractor-bus rides to offshore islands and watch harbour seals on the sandbanks. Don’t miss it.
Read next: Why you should visit the Wadden Sea National Park
Planning to visit Christiansfeld? Ask me anything in the comments
More stuff you’ll love:
- Must-see: 25 best places to visit in Denmark
- Summer: Summer in Denmark: 25 amazing activities
- Winter: Winter in Denmark: 15 hygge cold-weather activities
- Beaches: 12 best beaches in Denmark
- Nature: 12 mind-blowing places for nature in Denmark
- Camping: Camping in Denmark for beginners
- Wild camping: The ultimate guide to wild camping in Denmark
- UNESCO sites: Experience the 7 UNESCO sites in Denmark
- Danish food: 20 amazing dishes you must try in Denmark
Thank you for sharing this beautiful place. I’m wondering if this place is COVID-19 free or they also have existing cases?
It’s perfectly safe to visit.