When you tire of the beaches, take a stroll through the old town, with its narrow streets and well-preserved old houses, no two alike. In the center of town stands the Sladrebænken, or "gossip bench," where you can rest and spread some rumors.
From the harbor, you can take the signposted Gilbjergstien path, offering panoramic views over the sea. This will take you to the Søren Kierkegaard Stone, a monument to Denmark's most renowned philosopher. As long ago as 1835, he was one of the first visitors to appreciate the beauty and tranquillity of this place. If you want to get existential while standing here, you can repeat his words: "I often stood here and reflected over my past life. The force of the sea and the struggle of the elements made me realize how unimportant I was."
But most summer visitors come here for the beaches. Gilleleje has an unbroken coastline on either side, stretching from Gilbjerg to Kullen, running from Kattegat in the north to Øresund in the southeast. The city has lifeguards posted in several places along the coast. Many of the bathing beaches have modern toilets, little kiosks, and, often, good restaurants. Several beaches also have ramps leading down to the water for the benefit of wheelchair users.
Within a green space adjacent to the sea, an area that forms part of the landscaping around the recommended Gilleleje Museum and the town's public library, stands a bronze statue called Teka Bashofar Gadol, a Hebrew phrase meaning "Let the mighty shofar proclaim." The statue was donated by a wealthy Israeli patron of the arts, Yul Ofer, and was unveiled in the spring of 1997 to commemorate the flight of Danish Jews from the Nazis in 1943. Gilleleje was the point of departure for some 2,000 Jews who fled to Sweden from the town and other places along the North Coast. Risking their own lives, people in the town and country harbored Jews until they could secure passage on a ship to Sweden.
From a 19th-century fishermen's house to artifacts of the Middle Ages, curators have thrown relics of their past into a somewhat disorganized cultural stew at the Gilleleje Museum, Vesterbrogade 56 (tel. 48-30-16-31). The museum traces the development of the area from the early Middle Ages, although some exhibits go back before recorded history. Panoramas present both shorebirds and migratory birds. The museum, along with Gilleleje's library, is housed in the Pyramiden, the Pyramid cultural center where traditional and modern buildings have been integrated into a harmonious whole. There is a fascinating exhibit related to the rescue of the Danish Jews in 1943. The museum is open year-round, Tuesday to Sunday, 1 to 4pm. Admission costs DKK30 ($5.10/£3) for adults; children ages 18 and under are free.
Less than a kilometer (1/2 mile) east of town stands the world's first coal-fired lighthouse, Nakkehoved Østre Fyr, Fyrvej 20 (tel. 48-30-16-31). Dating from 1772, it has been restored and turned into a nautical museum. You can drive there -- its location 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) east of town is marked from the town center (follow the signs marked NAKKEHOVED ØSTRE FYR). But the more invigorating method of reaching the lighthouse involves walking along a coastal footpath beginning in Gilleleje at Hovedgade on the east side of the fishing museum. It's open only June to September, Wednesday to Monday 1 to 4pm, charging an admission of DKK15 ($2.60/£1.50) for adults; children ages 11 and under are free.
Fiskerhuset (Old Fisherman's House) and Skibshallen (Ship Hall) are at Hovedgade 49 (tel. 48-30-16-31). "We've always looked to the sea," a local fisherman told us. "It's sustained our lives. Sometimes it took the lives of our brave men, but, even so, the sea and the food it gave us has always made it our faithful friend, although it gets turbulent at times." This is a restored fisherman's dwelling from the 1820s. The Hall presents the history of fishermen in the area from the Middle Ages to the present day, using the fishing hamlets between Hundested and Helsingør as the points of departure. The museum -- on the main street -- uses a variety of panoramic scenes, models of the boats, and exhibits on trades associated with fishing, to reveal how the industry has dominated local life. The hours and prices are the same as those previously mentioned for the lighthouse.
At Dronningmølle, the Rudolph Tegnersmuseum, Museumsvej 19, in Villingerød (tel. 49-71-91-77; bus: 340), is set 7km (4 1/3 miles) southwest of Gilleleje. You can reach it by driving southwest along the coastal route (no. 237) and then following the signs pointing south to the museum from Dronningmølle. Surrounded by heather-covered hills that might remind you of Scotland (although this region of Zealand is often referred to as "Russia"), this museum is devoted to the artist Rudolph Tegner (1873-1950). "So why should I come here to see the works of what's-his-name?" you might ask. Tegner is worth discovering, as his art is provocative with disturbing elements. "He makes you think," the curator told us. "Isn't that reason enough to come here?" At the end of your visit, you'll have to answer the big question for yourself: Was Tegner, born in 1873, the great artist he considered himself to be, an art megalomaniac, a crazy genius, or the world's worst sculptor? Fourteen of his bronzes are displayed in an adjacent sculpture park, 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) of protected countryside. The museum houses Tegner's collection of 250 sculptures in plaster, clay, bronze, and marble, some of monumental proportions. Selected pieces of furniture from the artist's home and a sarcophagus containing his body make the museum a monument to this individual and controversial avant-garde artist. It's open April 15 to May, Tuesday to Sunday noon to 5pm; June to August, Tuesday to Sunday 9:30am to 5pm; September to the third Sunday in October, Tuesday to Sunday noon to 5pm. It's closed the rest of the year. Admission costs DKK45 ($7.70/£4.50) for adults and is free for children under age 12.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.