A Week Visiting (Surprisingly) Lovely Sylt, Germany

A Week Visiting (Surprisingly) Lovely Sylt, Germany

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As part of our trip to Europe, we spent one week in Sylt with my mom and her partner. Odds are that most OMAAT readers have no clue what Sylt is. And frankly I didn’t either, except for the fact that my mom really loves it there, and for years had been borderline harassing us about visiting. 😉 I’m so happy she did, because we loved Sylt, and can’t wait to return!

For context, Sylt is a 22-mile long island in Northern Germany, right on the North Sea, a few miles from Denmark. It can only be accessed by train or plane, so there’s no way to drive there (without putting your car on a train).

My mom’s Sylt sales pitch

I’ve been beyond fortunate to take so many amazing trips with my mom in the past few years, since she was diagnosed with cancer. We’ve gone everywhere from Hawaii to Greece, and since she’s still able to travel (against all odds), we asked her where she wanted to go this summer.

Here’s roughly how that conversation went (or at least my takeaway from it):

Me: “Where should we go this summer? Maybe other islands in Greece, or Turkey, or what sounds best to you?”
Mom: “Baby, I want to show you and Ford Sylt. It’s my favorite place.”
Me: “But what is there to do?”
Mom: “Well, you can sit on the beach. Just make sure you bring ski underwear.”
Me: “Ski underwear? To sit on the beach in summer? How cold is it?”
Mom: “Well, it can get very windy.”
Me: “How windy?”
Mom: “You know, maybe 30 mile per hour winds, and the temperatures are sometimes in the 50s. But it’s so beautiful. The air is so fresh.”
Me: “You understand we could go to Greece or somewhere with nice weather, but you want to go sit on the beach on the North Sea in ski underwear?”
Mom: “Yes, it’s my dream that you visit because you will love it.”
Me: “Okay, if that’s what you want…”

Shortly after this conversation, Ford found a great Airbnb in Sylt, and next thing you know our trip was booked. While I don’t think my mom had the most convincing sales pitch for Sylt, I’m thrilled we listened to her, because we had an unforgettable time.

Our experience visiting Sylt

Sylt reminds me of a mix between the Hamptons and Fogo Island. The island has half a dozen small towns, each with their own charm and highlights. It’s easy to get around the island, as there’s one main road going north to south, and you can also rent electric bikes to easily get around. The island has amazing topography, with everything from beaches, to sand dunes, to a rugged and rocky coastline.

While Sylt only has around 20,000 residents, it’s an extremely popular destination in summer, and does get lots of (German) tourists. So this is by no means some undiscovered hidden gem, though it’s very much a domestic destination for travelers.

It’s hard to put into words what makes Sylt special, and in some ways my mom wasn’t too far off with how she described it. This isn’t your traditional summer destination — the air is really crisp, it does get windy, and you’ll want to bring a jacket.

Yes, there’s the beach, though we never actually sat on it, but rather just enjoyed walking on the promenade by it.

Sylt beach
Sylt beach
Sylt beach promenade

There are endless walking trails in Sylt, whether you want to walk past farms, or along the water.

Sylt farmland
Sylt farmland
Sylt coastline

Sylt has the most consistent housing style I’ve seen anywhere in the world, as virtually all houses are the style of Old Frisian Houses.

Sylt home
Sylt houses
Sylt houses

There are biking paths spanning the whole island, so you can bike anywhere.

Sylt biking path
Sylt’s beautiful landscape
Sylt’s beautiful landscape

I was shocked by how high-end Sylt was, for better or worse. I saw more G-Wagons per capita than just about anywhere, which I wasn’t expecting. And my jaw dropped when I saw real estate prices, as it makes New York real estate look like a bargain by comparison.

Beautiful home in Sylt
3.29 million Euro for an ~1,130 square foot home?!?!?!?!
Shopping in Sylt

I was a little concerned about dining in Sylt, since I figured it would be very North Sea-centric. I’m not a huge fan of herring, or pickled this-or-that. So I was pleasantly surprised by the food, as there were lots of international dining options. There were also lots of fun outdoor restaurants and bars where you could grab a drink and just chill.

Sansibar in Sylt

Our Airbnb experience in Sylt

While I’ve stayed in some Airbnbs booked by others, I’ve never booked an Airbnb with my family, so this was a first. Sylt seemed like the right place to do that. Hotels here are outrageously expensive, and also aren’t particularly luxurious. You’ll pay $500 per night in peak season for something that could be a Holiday Inn.

A gorgeous-looking new resort named Lanserhof did just open in Sylt, but go figure it’s a “wellness resort,” and stays include a urine analysis. Hard pass. Why couldn’t it be a Six Senses, or something?

Given that we were traveling as a group, we spent ~$400 per night on a beautiful four bedroom house, which was less than even mediocre hotels were charging for just one room. Our experience was positive — it was so nice to have lots of space, a backyard, a fridge, a washing machine, etc.

Our Airbnb in Sylt
Airbnbs offer lots of room to hang out

I did miss some aspects of hotels, like easier and more flexible check-in and check-out, easier communication in advance, services, etc. But for a destination like Sylt, this was the ideal option, and I would rent the same house again in a heartbeat.

We can’t wait to return to Sylt

We couldn’t have had a better time in Sylt. Admittedly I think our impressions of places are largely informed by who we’re traveling with, and the general circumstances of the trip:

  • We’re incredibly grateful that we still have the chance to travel with my mom, and I’d enjoy spending time with her anywhere
  • Ford started learning German two years ago, and loves anything that lets him practice his German and experience German culture; Sylt is really German, so that made Ford super happy, and in turn made me happy
  • We came in with low expectations and those were greatly exceeded, and I think that always makes a trip disproportionately fun
  • Ford and I both like walking around and enjoying nature in a pleasant climate, and that’s exactly what we got in Sylt
  • I think we really lucked out with weather, as it can be hit-or-miss in June; there was only rain for one day, and otherwise we had almost perfect weather, with a breeze and temperatures in the 60s
Ford & my mom in a Strandkorb
Ford & my mom in another Strandkorb

Am I suggesting that everyone from around the globe should visit Sylt? No, probably not. But it’s a unique destination, one we enjoyed immensely, and one we plan to return to in the future. We’ve had so many amazing times with my mom, but our time with her in Sylt was among the most special.

Bottom line

I can’t say I was initially excited about traveling to a summer destination where ski underwear is recommended on the beach to stay warm. Fortunately Sylt exceeded all my expectations, and we had an unforgettable time that I’ll cherish forever. Ford and I are both grateful to my mom for introducing us to Sylt, and it won’t be out last visit.

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  1. ursula Guest

    maybe next time you can look into a Flugbereitschaft flight and get there in style!!! hahahahahaha!!!

  2. ulliro New Member

    That uniform housing style is by building laws in the village of Kampen.
    You see a lot of this style on the whole island but only in Kampen all houses are in that style specially that thatched roof.
    I lived 50 years 30 miles away and worked there in the late 60ties.

  3. pstm91 Diamond

    Looks really nice and I'd like to visit once, but considering the pricing of everything, I'm not sure why'd anyone would pick this over a location where it's actually nice to swim.

    “A gorgeous-looking new resort named Lanserhof did just open in Sylt, but go figure it’s a “wellness resort,” and stays include a urine analysis. Hard pass.” - This made me laugh, but Lanserhof is no joke. In fact, they are one of the...

    Looks really nice and I'd like to visit once, but considering the pricing of everything, I'm not sure why'd anyone would pick this over a location where it's actually nice to swim.

    “A gorgeous-looking new resort named Lanserhof did just open in Sylt, but go figure it’s a “wellness resort,” and stays include a urine analysis. Hard pass.” - This made me laugh, but Lanserhof is no joke. In fact, they are one of the wellness resorts people are referring to when they say no wellness resort in the States compares to what they have in Europe. Lanserhof is for the .0001% with rates routinely at 5-10k per night. The one in Tegernsee is right out of a Bond movie, but they are incredibly thorough.

  4. Ron Johnson Guest

    Great review. I have heard of Sylt but this made my curiosity even more. I really enjoy including Ford in your posts and especially seeing him in the photos. Your Mom is so sweet and lovely. Reminds me of my Mom who also had cancer.
    Thank you Ben.

  5. KK13 Guest

    Lovely pictures of your mom and Ford, and nice little review!

    I heard of Sylt from my Belgian friend who does lot of kite surfing. Will try to visit next year when I spend few months in Duisburg.

  6. Tom Guest

    +€3MM for ~1100 sq feet lol and I thought I paid too much for my house in Rosenheim expensive — Oh wait…I did. German homes are incredibly expensive and for what you get is often times terribly outdated and it cost an exorbitant amount of money.

  7. JoeSchmo Guest

    I used to date a German and she insisted that we visit Sylt after Christmas. I found the place to be hauntingly beautiful at that time of year and would love to return in the Summer.

  8. Ruth Guest

    Fantastic pictures and so true of Sylt. I was introduced to Sylt by my brother in law, who wanted to go there one last time. I went there again last month with my sister and we had a truly memorable time.

  9. Jimmy’s Travel Report Gold

    “A gorgeous-looking new resort named Lanserhof did just open in Sylt, but go figure it’s a “wellness resort,” and stays include a urine analysis. Hard pass.”

    Ha!

  10. D3kingg Guest

    @BestBlackBrent

    A 10 yr old Mercedes g wagon in Germany ? Not much to go by on that photo. It’s a nice truck.

    Always spend time with your family. Well done Ben and Ford. Guten Morgan Wallen.

  11. ConcordeBoy Diamond

    Lovely pics of your mum and Ford. It's beautiful that she's so accepting and loving. Bless her.

  12. TheBestBlackBrent Gold

    I am not so sure about the sense of place. The uniformity of the houses seems disturbing, the G-wagons every wear scream nouveau riche and a cold beach place is confusing. Would rate 3.5* sense of place, just below the LH Skytrax rating.

  13. AJO Guest

    Sylt is also reachable by (car) ferry from the Danish island of Rømø (and Rømø itself is connected by a causeway to mainland Denmark).

  14. Tosh Guest

    Thanks for sharing a beautiful story about spending time with your mom. This is a very different kind of trip review and I truly enjoy it. Thanks!

  15. Surya N. Member

    Glad you had a great trip, sounds and looks like a wonderful experience!!

    Seconded on asking if you'd be willing to write something on the Airbnb reservation/booking process -- I figure reviewing someone's house/apartment is probably a little awkward, but I'd definitely be interested in hearing your thoughts on Airbnb itself. What card did you use (I'm guessing CSR)? Did you go for the SkyMiles partnership, or is there another shopping portal you prefer...

    Glad you had a great trip, sounds and looks like a wonderful experience!!

    Seconded on asking if you'd be willing to write something on the Airbnb reservation/booking process -- I figure reviewing someone's house/apartment is probably a little awkward, but I'd definitely be interested in hearing your thoughts on Airbnb itself. What card did you use (I'm guessing CSR)? Did you go for the SkyMiles partnership, or is there another shopping portal you prefer to use for Airbnb bookings?

  16. Marshalg New Member

    Thank you for letting me know of another interesting place in the world I have never heard of.

  17. Kevin Guest

    My family is from Hamburg and we used to go to Sylt every summer. Once I grew up and paid for my own vacations, I didn’t travel as much … especially places as expensive as Sylt. But then, I got to be an adult, and I started going back to Sylt. It’s idyllic. Heavenly. Good for the soul! Hopefully back again next year.

    What’s the link to your AirBnB?

  18. Bill n DC Guest

    Another sweet report. Love the pictures of Ford and your Mom. My mom loved my Steve so much

  19. _ar Guest

    Thomas Mann used to spend many summers in Sylt …

  20. Rainer Guest

    Well I guess the punks, who used the 9€ summer ticket to visit sylt in the hundreds at the beginning of June, have already left.

    Sylt ist really beautiful and the air of the islands in northern Germany will help to free any clogged breathing system ;-)

  21. VitaliU Member

    Thank you for sharing, Lucky! great pics.
    Northern Europe is the place to go this time of the year. You couldn't pay me enough to go to the Mediterranean now.

  22. AA70 Gold

    My aunt vacations there twice a year and absolutely loves it. We visited other places this summer but begging her to take me next year

  23. Stvr Guest

    You should try Sanibel next lol. Might be easier to get to

  24. Felix Guest

    Feel that I need to gift my parents a trip to Sylt as well as this was the place where they got to know each other in the 90s.

    @Ben Can you provide some more details about the airbnb booking and selection. What are your best practices. How long in advance did you book?

    I really appreciate your insights.

  25. Chris Schaulandt Guest

    You know what. I live in Germany and so many of my friends suggested I need to try out Sylt, but I always declined as my picture of Sylt was very snobby upscale.

    But your experience actually makes me think to give it a chance...

  26. John Guest

    Missing the pics of the Morsum cliff ("buntes Kliff") and the Kampen cliff ("red cliff"). ;)

    But yeah, Sylt is nice. Not a fan oft Westerland/GWT but the other smaller towns are great

  27. Greg Guest

    Reminds of coast of Uruguay between Punta del Este and Jose Ignacio but less warm.

    $400 a night is a bargain if the property value is over 3 million euros

  28. Never In Doubt Guest

    My mid-90s GF lived in Hamburg, we spent some fun times on the German coast opposite Sylt. Same house architecture, similar coastal vibe.

  29. Pete Diamond

    These reviews with pictures of Ford and your mom will always be one of my favorite reviews to read. Awesome.

  30. Dave Whettingsteel Guest

    Im a keen Ozzie kitesurfer, and was a windsurfer for 30 years before. Sylt is very well done as a windy (albeit cold) Euro kiting / windsurf destination. There are a couple of world level comps there each year in both disciplines. Its certainly well known to the wind and wave community. Am glad you enjoyed it! Your mum is spot on. xx

  31. GroeneMichel Member

    Never heard of this place but looks definitely charming to visit! Thanks for sharing, Lucky, and enjoy those precious moments with your mother.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Pete Diamond

These reviews with pictures of Ford and your mom will always be one of my favorite reviews to read. Awesome.

5
Ron Johnson Guest

Great review. I have heard of Sylt but this made my curiosity even more. I really enjoy including Ford in your posts and especially seeing him in the photos. Your Mom is so sweet and lovely. Reminds me of my Mom who also had cancer. Thank you Ben.

1
Tosh Guest

Thanks for sharing a beautiful story about spending time with your mom. This is a very different kind of trip review and I truly enjoy it. Thanks!

1
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