The Vidå runs along the southern side of the old town and was once essential to the trade of Tønder. When the estuary of river Vidå began to sand down in the 17th century (probably due to the construction of dykes in the North Sea) and the river carried less water at all, sea trade became more difficult and the impostance of the town declined with that of the river.
Today, the area along the Vidå looks pretty rural, even idyllic. It is not used for shipping anymore, instead there are nature preservation programs. One included the houting, a fish species which was said to have only survived in the Vidå. However, it was noted that the species thought to be the houting was Coregonus Maraena which means that the original houting became extinct somewhere in the 1940s. Still, people are trying to preserve whatever species lives now in the river.
The pedestrian area along Vestergade, Storegade and Søndergade has most of the oldest buildings in town. Many of them are former merchant's houses, often used as a combination of warehouse, living house and office. One of them has a memorial plaque dedicated to author Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg who was born in that house. The current Klostercafé is the oldest preserved building in town and dates back to 1520. Close to the museum and town hall, directly at the banks of river Vidå, there is also an old warehouse from 1598.
Tønder has a rather untypical market square which is rather a curved street than a real square. There a coupld of older buildings surrounding the Square, including the church (Christchurch), the tourist information building and the Klostercafé which is the oldest preserved building in town. Right in the middle, you will see the "Kagmanden" figure. It was erected in the 17th century to reming the citizen to obey law and order, but the original wooden figure was moved to the city museum and replaced by the current one. His whip was often stolen so that he now only recieves a whip temporarily on special days.
There have been wooden churches on this spot since at least the 12th century, but they have become vctims to fire. The present church was built in 1592 which still makes it one of the oldest buildings in town. It is a late gothic beauty and highly decorated for being a protestant church. It has many artworks from the 17th century, especially pictures and epitaphs of rich merchants which gave some money to the church. It is interesting to find Latin, Danish and German inscriptions. Note also the carved 16th century pulpit and some old carvings on the benches. The spire has an interesting shape and wooden clock faces painted in several colours. During the week, the church is open for visitors between 1000 and 1600.
Tønder museum has three museums in one which might be confusing. So if you hear something about Kulturhistorie Museet, Kunstmuseet, Museum Sønderjylland Tønder or the Water Tower - it's all the same. Probably the only museum which is not in here is the Zeppelin Museum...
The museum is surprisingly large for a town of Tønder's size. There are several exhibitions - some temporary, some permanent. The museum is partly located in the former guards' building of Tønder castle, which was used as a prison in the 19th and early 20th century. Some of the prison cells are preserved in its original state and are open for visitors. Other permanent exhibitions include a folk art exhibition in the basement and an extensive part about local handicraft such as furniture and bobbin lace making, together with a sollection of silverware. The interesting exhibition "The Soul of Old Houses" is located in the attic, but is temporary only. However, I was told that exhibition in this space always include city history (including that of nearby castle ruins) - just in different forms. The Kunstmuseet has mostly modern art, but also a couple of 19th and 20th century local artists. Here again, it was supplemented by a temporary exhibiton, this time about Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala. The exhibition in the Water Tower is permanent and shows the different chairs deigned by H. J. Wegner. This exhibition can be a little exhausting (by steps) or annoying (by elevator) as it is located over six floors (remember - water tower?). On the so-called panorama deck, you can get a good view over the whole city of Tønder.
All objects are described in Danish and in most rooms there are English and German booklets with translations. The small museum guide (included in the entry fee) gives you an overview about the different exhibitions and is written in the three languages mentioned. As of 2012, entry fee is 50 DKR (35 DKR discounted).
If you like contemporary folk and jazz music, Toender Festival is something for you! It takes place on the last weekend in August. In recent years, the weather was still very pleasant and you could still swim in the North Sea which is some 15 km from Toender. Not far away are the holiday islands of Sylt (Germany) and Romo (Denmark)
Tonder's Torvet has a fascinating look. It's an irregular space surrounded by nice buildings - among them the town hall - and a lot of (pricey!) cafès. In the middle of it stands the polychrome statue of the last "postman" i.e. man of order. I think he looks funny rather than terrific. This Torvet is one of the nicest I visited in Denmark.
This was my "first" Church in Denmark. I think that it has a weird but gorgeous bell tower. Actually, this is the oldest part of it: it dates back to the XII century, part of a former romanic church with a Dutch influence.
The inside has important baroque furniture and sculptures dating back to the XVII century.
The torvet, or square, is sort of a focal point, accentuated by a replica of a statue that once stood in the same place, called the Whipping Man. He symbolizes Law and Order--a not-so-subtle reminder, shall we say?
Vestergade (West Street) had an interesting mix of old merchants' homes and shops. The merchants left with their nouveau riches a lasting architectural heritage.