Shipping and Trade

The location and shallow waters of the Danish Wadden Sea have, for centuries, made sailing and trade possible for the people who lived here. The Wadden Sea offered sheltered natural harbors behind the islands, and the depths between the islands ensured access to the mainland.

Rebekka af Fanø is an evert - a type of ship that has been used as a merchant ship from the Viking Age until the 1930s. Foto: Wasabi Film

Natural centre for Scandinavian trade

Sailing and trade have always played an important role for the people of the Wadden Sea. The many natural harbours and the good location with access to the major trading areas of Western Europe made the Wadden Sea a natural centre for Scandinavian trade in ancient times. In later centuries, the inhabitants of the Wadden Sea made their living as sailors, hunters and fishermen. Today, there is not much fishing in the area, but the Port of Esbjerg has become a centre for offshore companies.


The commander's farm on Rømø is proof that life as a commander on prisoner ships was advantageous. Foto: Alexander Köhler

The role of seafaring in the Wadden Sea region

It is hard to imagine that Hjerting was one of the most important loading points for trade in the Middle Ages. Foto: Gitte Lindeborg

Discover more of the trading history

There are many great places to visit where you can learn more about the maritime and trading history of the area, from the Viking Age to the present day:

Tirpitz - Varde Museerne

Esbjerg Museum

Fisheries and Maritime Museum

Fanø Museum

Fanø Shipping and Costume Collection


Ribe Vikings Museum

Ribe Viking Centre

Nature Centre Tønnisgård

Cultural history Tønder

Højer Mill