Author Archives: Ann

About Ann

I am a Maltese girl, who fell in love with a Dane in Prague. I just started a job close to Sonderborg, so we have both moved there (via London, where we lived for a while). I am excited about this new country and city, and look forward to learning and experiencing more in the area. Read more...

Review: Cafe Figo

Next to the bigger Broggeriet, Ib Rehna Cairo and Marcellos, on the main square, there is a 4th cafe that we often forget about for some reason. We haven’t been to Cafe Figo since this trip for brunch three years ago. So when a friend suggested we go there for a catch-up dinner yesterday and had good words to say about it, I decided to go with her suggestion. And I was not disappointed!

The Cafe

Cafe Figo is much smaller than the other cafes on the main square. When we arrived for dinner on a Friday night with no booking, there were only 2 tables available. The rest was completely full, with a number of bigger groups. This augured well for the place, especially as everyone seemed to be having fun.

The main downside of that is probably that the place was very loud. Sometimes I could not hear what my friend was saying, and she was sitting right across from me. I could see a few panels on the ceiling that looked like sound-absorbing panels. But I would say that they need many more of them!

The Service

The service was very friendly and with a smile continuously. Even in a very busy restaurant. I would say it was perfect when we visited! Present when needed with barely any effort for grabbing their attention but not overbearing. Either they have very good selection processes or very good training processes. I was very impressed.

The Food

I expected similar food here to the other cafes, which can sometimes be a mixed bag. Following my friend who visits regularly, I opted for the pasta; she had the chilli pasta and I had the salmon pasta.

Both pasta are served with a salad. Now, I am not the biggest fan of cafe side salads as I often find them an uninspiring mass of a lot of salad leaves, some tomatoes and cucumbers, and then some other addition that often doesn’t work together. So when i saw the plates coming with equal amounts of pasta and salad I was sceptical. I loved this salad though! It had the right amount of leaves (which were not too big) and tomatoes, together with some raw onion and grains for some crunch, feta for a salty tang, and a dressing that was just right. I actually finished the salad while still really enjoying it, rather than having gotten bored of it.

The pasta was also quite good. It had one downside: very salty! Now, this is a common complaint of mine in Denmark, and my friend who has been there plenty of times said this is not normally a problem. We didn’t say anything at the time (as we were enjoying things too much), so we didn’t give them the opportunity to rectify things, but based on the rest of the service I saw I have no doubt that they would have been very gracious with it.


We should really stop overlooking this place and opt for it as a first choice much more often. The prices are also slightly cheaper than the other cafes. To be honest, I have no idea why we skip over it so often. However, considering it was quite full, maybe it is us who have not gotten the memo about how great this place is!

And sorry, no pictures. I started eating the food before I thought about it, and then could not stop!


Torve-Hallen, South European Food

One of the new restaurants in Sønderborg in 2016 is Torve-Hallen, with a Southern Europe inspired theme and fantastic views over the water. We went to try it out today for lunch.

Torvehallen Sønderborg


Having views over Als Sound, it would be very hard to mess up the ambience: just give great views over the sound and everyone would be happy. And this is what has been done, with big windows overlooking the water on both levels, and an outside balcony on the second floor.

The interior is decorated with grafitti pieces by local artist Welinoo and there is imagery from Paris, Madrid, Rome, LA, Sydney, Berlin – and Sønderborg on the walls.
Streetart Torve-hallen Sønderborg

Besides the view, the place is quite nicely set up, with a wood burning oven, different seating areas, and a very airy feel. I loved the herb plants in random places on the two levels. A sniff of rosemary always makes me feel at home, where we had a big rosemary bush right outside our back door.



There are two levels to Torve-Hallen: a downstairs which feels more like a food hall, and an upstairs which has more of a restaurant feel with tables set up. We opted for the upstairs, where we were told that for lunch there is no service, but we are to order downstairs. On ordering we were given a buzzer to collect our food from the order desk.

Having gotten used to a pub culture in the UK, where you order at the bar, this was perfectly fine for us. It also meant that there was a bit of movement in the place, and our young son running around was not a problem (also as there weren’t that many people at 11 am). Other than that, everyone was very welcoming and helped when we had questions with a smile. No complaints!

The food at Torve-Hallen

Here the outcome was very split. We ordered a burger and one of their artisan pizzas. The artisan pizza was really good! A dough that is thin but not too thin, with still a bit of chew to it, and good quality toppings. The burger, however, was not that much of a success for us.

Let’s start with the positives of the burger. First off, I loved that the burger was not a monstrous constructions often offered in cafes here that I always struggle to understand how to eat. You could actually manage to taste all components of the burger together easily and without much mess. I liked that. However, when it came to the taste, it felt like someone looked at a McDonalds burger and attempted to improve on that. Luckily for them, they did manage to improve on that, but there is not much more positive I could say. Unfortunately, on biting into it, McDonalds is what first came to mind and kept on returning with every bite.

There was one amazing bit to the burger though! I loved the ketchup-like sauce offered with the fries! The only downside was that I could have had oh so much more! Especially as they first gave me regular fries rather than the sweet potato fries I had ordered. To their credit, they noticed before I even did and gave me a portion of sweet potato fries before I had even noticed! So again, great service.

They have an interesting selection of beers and seem to use the same distributor as Fox and Hounds. We haven’t yet tried the coffees there but could imagine they would be quite good.

Good beers at Torve-hallen in Sønderborg


So what would be our recommendation here? Do check it out. On a nice day sit upstairs on the outside balcony, or next to the big windows on other days. As for food, stick with what they do best: pizzas! Asking around, everyone we have talked to who has had pizzas has nothing bad to say, but everyone who has had the other meat dishes was not as impressed. And if you can, ask for a side of the amazing ketchup they serve with fries. Even if just to taste it :D.


Kebab Town Opens in Borgen

Another eating location opened at Borgen earlier this week. Located opposite Inspiration, Kebab Town serves pitas, sandwich or wraps with a kebab, chicken or falafel filling. This brings Middle Eastern food to join the Asian food already on offer in Borgen. Chicken nuggets and fries are also on offer.


Quick meal by the new cinema in Sønderborg

The place seems to be mainly set up as a take-away, though there are also a number of tables if you want to eat there (and unlike most takeaways, the seating looks comfortable). This is probably to offer something different from the other sit down locations, and potentially to target the cinema-going customers when this opens just opposite Kebab Town in Borgen sometime next year.

We made it down to the opening reception at Kebab Town on Monday for our lunch. Between us we had a falafel and kebab wrap, with each of us preferring a different one. The food is not expensive so if you want something quick this would be a good option.

Castillo & Co: Revisited

Around one year ago we visited Castillo & Co and said we would probably not visit again. However, around a month ago Muzeyde, the owner, commented on the blog admitting that there were some teething problems in the beginning and that we should give it a second try. We agreed.

IMG_20160531_173654Have things improved? We would say: Absolutely! In the past month we first tried the evening buffet and I really liked the salads selection. On the day we visited everything looked fresh, colourful, and tasty.

The fact that my least favourite dish (a curry pasta) was one of Michael’s favourites and his least favourite (a meaty pasta dish) was my favourite also shows that the food has improved.

Besides the salads there is also other warm food, such as ribs (my guilty pleasure) and other warm meat dishes. The dishes, although maybe not all labelled, are mostly labelled at least with what meat is in them.

Castillo & Co, Borgen Sønderborg

Then earlier this week we also tried out the a’ la carte menu. Michael tried the tenderloin, I tried the beef sandwich and my mother, who was visiting, tried the chicken burger. The plates were all empty by the end of the meal, and the food was enjoyed by all (including our young son tasting all our food). The prices are also very competitive when compared to the cafes in town and we like the value for money you get here.

Castillo & Co buffet restaurant Sønderborg

Finally, we sent my mother ‘incognito’ to try the brunch buffet. She liked the food and had very good service. In fact, the service has been great on all visits. We thought it could be because they knew who we were, but they also served an older non-Danish speaking woman with a smile and very friendly service. My mum particularly liked the ice-tea.


So our experience of Castillo & Co has changed significantly from our visit one year ago to today. To the question of if we would visit again, we would say: Very likely. The convenience and the buffets, especially, are excellent for meals out with children where you want to be sure they would like something on offer rather than you order one dish that they refuse. There are plenty of high chairs as well if you need one, although do be warned that they have no harnesses, so if you have an escape artist do take this into consideration.

Disclaimer: Castillo & Co offered us gift cards for food for three meals to try out the different selections on offer.

Saigon Sandwich: Vietnam comes to Sønderborg

It took Sonderborg Nyt till 1st of June to report about it, and us till the middle of June to spot it (I know!). But we have spotted it, and we have visited and tasted! With the help of some friends we went to try out Saigon Sandwich earlier this week.


Saigon sandwich is a Vietnamese restaurant/take-away on jernbanegade 46, close to the wool shop and what used to be Blockbuster. On offer are a mixture of cold sandwiches (inspired by the French baguette, the French having colonised Vietnam from 1862-1954) and warm dishes. Between the four of us we ordered summer roll for starters and a mixture of the warm dishes for mains.The starters were, of course the first to arrive, together with a peanut dipping sauce. Unfortunately, our reaction to them varied from OK to ‘wouldn’t ordered them again’. So the start was not that promising.

Luckily for us, the main course dishes were a much bigger success! I absolutely loved my dish of stegt oksekød med pebersauce, which I ordered on the recommendation of the owner. The indbagte kylling and andesteg got also similar raving reviews, with the indbagt rejer getting a great (though not as impressed) review. The portions were also huge! I managed to eat mine, but only just (and with a bit of help from our son). A downside to our mains was that they all arrived one by one, with the last of us four receiving his plate when the first had nearly finished.


The drinks were also a success. I had (2 glasses!) of homemade citronvand. I also tasted the coconut juice one of the others had and liked it (though not all did). After dinner, one of us also got the Vietnamese ice coffee with condensed milk. Another great tasting dish!

So my recommendation would be: steer around the summer rolls (will try the spring rolls next time) to take your pick from the main courses. Also make sure to try out the Vietnamese drinks. Some of them might not be to everyone’s taste, but I sure liked them all!

Would we be back? Well…I still need to get a glass all to myself of the Vietnamese coffee (and I don’t even drink coffee!), and I need to taste the soups, and oh…get another glass of that citronvand. So I guess, the answer to that is a big yes!  But only when I have some time.

Pub Quiz at Penny Lane, Sønderborg

Pub quizzes, as the name implies, are very popular in pubs around the UK; apparently there were over 22,000 regular pub quizzes in 2009! They are maybe not as popular in Denmark, but Penny Lane pub is one that does offer one: every Thursday night at 20:15.

I turned up to my first quiz last week with a group of friends. Doors to the pub open at 20:00, and there were already quite a number of people waiting to get in. In fact, do remember to book a table (on facebook or tlf 26348644) as the tables seem to have all been booked in advance. Luckily for me my friend had sorted that out for us. So on entering we looked around till we found the table with our team name and sat down.

Before the quiz starts the quiz master came over to explain the rules and give us the sheets where we would note down the answer. In all there were 2 halves with 16 questions each. Questions 17 and 18 in each round are bonus questions and you decide whether you want to answer them or not before they are asked (both right = double points, one right = no change, both wrong = half points for the round).

Once the quiz starts the questions go at a steady pace. Each half will have 4 ‘themes’ and the questions cycle between the themes. A few hours before the quiz the themes are posted on the Penny Lane facebook page so you can prepare yourself if you so wish. The bonus questions are riddles.

It is maybe wise to note that the quiz is in Danish. However don’t despair if your Danish is not great. All the tables around us, including ours, were speaking English between them! And we all had fun! And we still managed to come 3rd (out of maybe 8-10 teams?)!

Down to the details: participating is free, though do book in advance, and you can, of course, buy drinks during the quiz. The atmosphere is very friendly and it was good fun. A good way to spend a Thursday evening doing something a bit different.

Jens Funder-Nielsen: The H.C. Andersen Artist

Jens Funder-Nielsen has through a life-time been an author and artist of many media. Having grown up in Egernsund he moved to Copenhagen and Esbjerg to study and work, before returning to Sonderborg. We found out about him via a tip off from a friend who has bought some of his works of art to decorate her house. We wanted to learn more, so a quick phone call resulted in an appointment made to visit him in his house a couple of days later.


On arriving at his house you can immediately see that the fairytales of H.C. Andersen are some of the things that inspire him the most. The items that had originally caught my eyes were the gold-plated HC Andersen fairytale ornaments. But that is not the only H.C. Andersen-inspired items he makes. There are also paper mobiles and paper cuttings, some of which you can buy and others which you can buy books with patterns to make your own.

Besides books about paper clippings inspired by H.C. Andersen, the 14 books he has published also include decorations for Christmas, table decorations for parties, and mobiles on other themes. Looking through the books the patterns are really detailed and intricate. A work of art in themselves!

His paintings are very colourful, covering many whimsical subjects in a childlike manner. You can see a few of his paintings here and as is to be expected, the local events and landscape are also an inspiration. If you have ideas he might also be open for making some on commission.

If you are interested in his work, do think about going to visit him. Jens and his wife are very friendly people. For many years they have been producing and selling art and books out of their house in Dybbøl. At an age of 81 years Jens is getting on in years so there are no regular opening times. But make a call like we did and you can sort a visit out very easily.

Jens also mentioned that every Christmas they have an open week, so you can also keep your eyes peeled on the local newspapers for more information about that when we get closer to December. His smaller items are perfect for giving as gifts, especially if you have foreign family and friends.

Oh! And just so you don’t say we didn’t warn you! If you visit I can promise you that you won’t allow yourself to leave empty-handed! We left with a small collection of items: some for us, and some to give as gifts.

See Jens Funder-Nielsen’s website for more information.

Sauna Experience at Humlehoj Hallen

Humlehoj Hallen is mostly know for its pool. During weekends and holidays and in the evenings it is often full of people swimming up and down the lanes, children training, or just playing in the toddler pool. But twice a week, outside of opening hours, there is a
different kind of experience possible: a saunagus.

Saunagus Sønderborg

My first reaction was: but what is a saunagus? Saunagus refers to the use of aromatherapy oils as part of the sauna experience, where besides water being thrown onto the hot coals to bring up the temperature, aromatherapy oils are also added, in the process vapourising the oils to reach your senses.

Michael and I tried this experience at Humlehoj on a Tuesday evening. We arrived a bit before time to be directed into the pool from the side door, we paid our 50 DKK and were directed to the showers to get changed into our swimming suits ready for the experience to begin.

The experience consists of 3 sessions of 10 minutes each, each with their own aromatherapy oil. When we went we started with ginger and lavender, then elderflower, and finished with lemon grass. During the 10 minutes the saunagus leader adds water and oils to the coals and then swirls towels or a fan around the room, helping the hot vapours to reach the participants. At points a sprinkling of cold water is also offered. When the 10 minutes are up you then can go outside, cool down under the shower heads and also jump into the pool.

If you ask me how the experience was, I would say: HOT! As a beginner I could feel the temperature, but sitting on the lowest step helped. Most of the others when we went there however have been there many times and enjoy the high temperatures. Each mini-session being limited to 10 minutes also meant that it didn’t get too much, although if that is the case you can easily leave the sauna to cool down a bit.

Another thing I would say would be that the experience felt surprisingly indulgent, especially for 50 DKK! The atmosphere is very relaxed and friendly. The pool is darkened and illuminated with under-water lighting. You also get little treats along the way, but I won’t spoil the fun there. I guess for 50 DKK I expected just the bare bones.

I can definitely see this being something I would do with my friends for a relaxing evening together, or when my mother comes to visit, or on another occasion with Michael. If I had to remember anything I think for next time I would take an exfoliating cream to apply between sessions as some of the other more experienced saunagus-goers had.

If you’re interested first of all look at the Humlehoj hallen webpage to check when the sessions are. The dates seem to change every month, but there are typically 2 sessions a week. Do send a text to the number on the webpage, or an email to Humlehoj hallen to book in advance. On the day we went the saunagus was full, and people trying to book for upcoming dates found many dates booked. Once you’re booked just go there and enjoy the experience. And maybe come back and tell us what you think about it!

Image by Thomas Wanhoff

Improving your Swimming with Sonderborg Swimming Club

I have a small confession to make. Up to this year I couldn’t swim ‘properly’. Well, if swimming to you meant getting safely from point A to point B in water as it used to do to me then, yes! That I could do. But if swimming meant I had to know how to breathe, how to angle my arm and how to move my feet then, no! That I had no clue.


Now you might associate swimming lessons with school children. And that might be so if you come from a country where swimming lessons are standard. But if you come from a country like mine where you learn how to swim with your parents, most of whom don’t know the right technique either, and where the teaching mostly consist of being placed in water and encouraged to stay afloat then, no. They are not.

Luckily for me Sonderborg Swimming Club offers adult swimming classes. The classes are offered in 3 levels: beginners, little experienced, and experienced. After some emails back and forth I opted for the little experienced as I could float and feel safe in water but had no technique.

I started swimming lessons in September this year. I unfortunately had to miss a number of lessons but other than that I am very happy with what I got. I can now tell you what crawl, back crawl and breast stroke is like, and I can even do a decent imitation of what they should look like.

Will I win any medals for my swimming? Most definitely not! But I am now safer in water than I was before and that can only be a good thing. So if you are looking for something to try in the new year, or if you know someone who would like to improve their swimming, do check out their sessions. Registration for the new season starting in January opens on the 20th of December at 12:00. It seems that children classes are very popular, so if you have children you may also want to keep an eye out for those ones.

The image in this post is from SKS’s Facebook page.

Getting a Dagpleje Plads

In Sonderborg you have 2 options for daycare for toddlers: a dagplejemor (or childminder) or a nursery (vuggestue). We opted for a dagplejemor as Michael was very happy with his. At the moment we have been offered one but haven’t met her so I thought of writing about the process so far.

If I had to describe the process in two words it would be ‘It sucks’!

We were told to sign Benjamin up within a month of birth. And that we did. We were told to write any wishes on the online form. That we did. At just over a month from when he should start we hadn’t heard anything so I started by calling Pladsanvisning (the place that handles daycare offerings). They passed me on to the relevant person and this is the way that went (in Danish):

Me: I am calling about the dagpleje place for my son.

Dagpleje person: Ok. What his name

Me: (Giving details).

Dagpleje person: Oh yes. I see he is on the list. Does this mean he needs a place.

Me: Erm. Yes. Of course.

Dagpleje person: Hmmm OK. I will have to look into it. I will call you with the details end of this week, maybe start of next week.

End of next week comes. No call. So I call back the Monday after.

Dagpleje person: Ah yes I remember you. You need a place is that right?

Me: Erm. Yes. That’s why I called.

Dagpleje person: Hmm. I will look into it and get back to you by the end of the day.

End of day, no call. I call back on Tuesday

Dagpleje person: Ah yes. I know you need a place. I will look into it.

me: Erm. OK.

And that is where we are now. We have been offered a place 30 minutes walk away. We only have one car. Nothing closer we were told. Even if our wish was to have somewhere close.

What about the person we have requested (based on a recommendation from a neighbour)? Oh, that place is taken up we were told. I asked: But we have had her in our remarks section where we were told to include this for a long time’. “Oh yes I can see that” dagpleje person said, “oh well, the place she had available in January is no longer available”.

If I was starting over I would definitely not rely on the system to find an appropriate place. We followed the process just as we were supposed to, thinking that they would have an appropriate system for assigning places. But the system seems to be to assign a place when you call! Absolutely nothing seems to have been done before (besides us being on a list). So I would say ask your neighbours for recommendations, and get on the case of Pladsanvisning on the phone to assign you to that person.

Don’t do like us and trust the system. I know! I have lived here long enough. I should have known! And if you have no one in mind call anyways to make sure that your other requirements (like distance and location) are accommodated as much as possible.