Sylt is probably one of Germany’s most famous islands. Germany has islands? Well, there are a few in the North Sea as well as in the Baltic Sea. Quite a lot of them are very popular travel destinations. But no island is similar to Sylt in the North Sea. First of all, the landscape is one of a kind. The island is shaped like a small strip. On the east the open North Sea, on the west the Wadden Sea where you can walk around in twice a day when the tide is low. There are endless white beaches, fluffy dunes and an extraordinary animal wildlife: Sylt is a place for nature lovers. But it’s also kind of the German Hamptons. Since the 1960s, it became the hotspot for the rich and famous. Unfortunately, this fame makes Sylt one of the most expensive travel destinations in Germany. So be prepared for ridiculously high prices everywhere you go – but you won’t regret it, I promise!
Weekend trip to Sylt: All you need to know!
First of all, I advise you to start the day with a proper Sylter breakfast: No matter what you’re having, have a glass of champagne or at least sparkling wine with it! You will notice soon: People love to drink their champagne, white wine or Aperol Spritz here! And it goes super well with all the sea food being served here – we’re by the sea! Somehow the whole island is always in weekend mode, everybody is very relaxed (sometimes rare to find in Germany!) and is enjoying the island lifestyle.
In plain summer though, Sylt gets very crowded (and obviously, even more expensive), so I recommend going there in low season. You probably won’t get to take a swim in the sea, even in plain summer the North Sea is super cold, but you get to experience the island with less people around. Don’t forget though to pack proper clothes! The wind and the rain on Sylt can be very nasty, but at the same time the weather can change from one minute to the other from horrible to the most beautiful sunshine.
Sylt is a Surfers’ hotspot – but don’t forget a thick neoprene suit!
Sylt is also a hotspot for surfers, which I think is unbelievable considering the water temperatures. But even with an air temperature of 8 degrees Celsius I spotted some surfers in the water. So if you are a sports person and don’t mind the freezing cold, you should definitely try out some surfing on Sylt.
Sylt in one weekend: Is it possible?
You only have a few days or a weekend to visit Sylt? Don’t worry. The island is small and perfectly connected to the main land due to an singular construction: The Hindenburgdamm. This dam was built exclusively for the railway service! It’s fast, and there are always good connections to Sylt from cities like Hamburg or Berlin. If you want to take your car on the island of Sylt you can even do so by taking it on to the auto-train which is leaving from Niebüll. It’s a very popular option to travel to Sylt!
➜ Check prices and schedule times on the website of Deutsche Bahn* (German train service)
Sylt also has a small airport in Westerland, with connections to bigger airports in Germany like Frankfurt or Munich. There are several airlines offering flights to Sylt:
Westerland: Sylt’s capital
Westerland is Sylt’s biggest city – and probably the least charming. You will find lots of restaurants, cafés and shop in the small pedestrian zone, and the beach is also close by. Many buildings in Westerland were constructed in the 1960s, and it lacks a little bit of the typical Sylt atmosphere.
Nevertheless, due to its geographic location in the middle of the island and the good public bus transportation on Sylt, it’s a perfect place to stay if you don’t come with your own car!
I stayed in a small apartment in Westerland, and it was perfect! I rented a bike for a few days and explored the island by bus as well. You can even take your bike with you, when riding the bus. All buses have a special bike storage at the back, just tell the driver that you want to put your bike there.
The Uwe Dune & the Red Cliff
North of Westerland you will find the Uwe Dune, the highest spot of the island. Sylt is very flat and has a constant problem of erosion – parts of the island already have vanished in the North Sea! So don’t expect a high mountain, the Uwe Dune (Uwe-Düne) is more a hill. Don’t miss to go up, from the panoramic view point on top you will have the most impressive view over the island!
The village nearby, Kampen, is the hotspot on the island of the rich and famous. Even if the village with its tiny houses typically covered with thatch seem modest: Kampen is one of the most expensive spots in Germany! In the village, you will find the Sylt’s most famous clubs and restaurants and stores carrying Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Prada.
From the Uwe Dune you can walk further to the sea and enjoy the view from the top of the Red Cliff over the North Sea. The red cliff is also famous for being one of the most beautiful spots to watch the sunset. When the sunlight hits the red cliff the colors are even more glowing than by day. Do it like the locals from Kampen – grab a glass of champagne and enjoy the sunset up on the Red Cliff!
Buhne 16 beach bar: Old hipsters, champagne & pure nature
If you are by bike, the famous beach bar Buhne 16 is only a short ride away from Kampen. You can rent bikes everywhere on the island – and don’t make the same mistake I did! I rented a regular bike, but in the end I’ve regretted that I didn’t take an e-bike! The winds on Sylt can be awfully strong sometimes, so you’re definitely better off with an e-bike!
To get to Buhne 16 you will have to park your bike on the bike pathway – you aren’t allowed to enter the dunes by bike. Shortly before the beach there’s a small booth where you will have to show your guest card. No matter where you are staying on the island you are required to pay a guest fee of a few Euros per day. In exchange, you will get this guest card which gives you free access to all beaches (otherwise you need to pay a few Euros on site).
The beach bar Buhne 16 is located in between the dunes, protected from the strong winds. At first sight, it isn’t very spectacular. It’s a simple beach bar with a small menu – and the snacks like the potato salad aren’t special at all. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is one of a kind – Buhne 16 has still a little bit of the legendary Jetset hippie vibe of the 60s when Sylt was one of the favorite destinations of European bohemians.
Don’t bother about the prices though, it’s expensive like everywhere on the island. You will pay almost 10 Euros für a Hugo cocktail – but Buhne 16 and its beach vibe is definitely a must-see on Sylt!
List: Germany’s most northern fish shack
Further up north you will get to Sylt’s most northern village, List. While you can reach by bike from Westerland, I only recommend it for huge cycling fans. If you want to go there anyway by bike, you can also use the public bus transportation with your bike to cover some parts of the way! All busses have racks on the back where you can stow your bike! And by the way, they all have free wifi!
List is more about nature than glamour. In the Erlebniszentrum Naturgewalten you can visit an interesting exhibition about the ecological structure of the island. They also offer a lot of tours through the Wadden Sea, the dunes or a visit to Germany’s only oyster farm, Sylter Royal.
Another must do in List is a visit to Gosch and their most famous branch in the Alte Bootshalle by the harbor. Gosch and their fish snacks are famous in the whole country, but it all started here with a much simple shack decades ago! Prices are expensive, even for the self service area – but you haven’t been on Sylt without having had a Fischbrötchen (fish sandwich) from Gosch!
Gosch in List (Germany’s most northern fish shack, the original!)
Rantum: Spectacular beaches & an impressive bird sanctuary
Rantum is located south of Westerland, at the thinnest spot of the island. From the dunes overlooking the North Sea on one side you can also see the Rantumbecken, an official bird sanctuary with many different bird species.
There’s also a camping site nearby, located between the dunes! At the beach of Rantum you will also find the world-famous Sansibar, another beach bar which contributed to Sylt’s fame as the hotspot for the European Jetset.
Planning your visit to Sylt
Be prepared: Sylt is a tough spot if you are on a budget. But the spectacular nature, the fresh sea breeze and the relaxed lifestyle will be worth every penny! Sit by the sea, have a glass of white wine and enjoy one of the most amazing islands Germany has to offer!