After a flight to Hamburg, a three-hour train ride and 45 minutes on a ferry, you hit the shores of Norderney (nord-irn-eye), a relatively unknown island in the North Sea that has a beautiful indie hotel. Inselloft is boutique spot with only 34 rooms, designed by architects/brothers Marc and Jens Brune. In what can only be described as sleek German engineering, the Brunes constructed special cubes in many of the rooms so that guests sleep on top of their kitchens and closets—making a 500-square-foot room feel twice as big. In addition to the gorgeous efficiency you’d expect from a German hotel, the rooms look out to the North Sea, which is just steps away. With its striking modernity, the design could easily make you forget you’re in a seaside village of just 6,000 people.
But Norderney has a lot to offer. The Inselloft itself features its own coffee bar and bakery, which are open to the public, as well as a wine bar cum gourmet shop with regional cheeses, charcuterie and more than 100 wines focused on new-generation German vintners. We talked with Nils Klimek, who runs Inselloft, about how to make the most of this trip off the beaten path. Here, his Norderney travel guide includes where to find a milk bar (for pancakes and milk shakes!), a cool old cinema and even a shipwreck.
What is the best time to visit Norderney?
Summer is the high season, but I really like November. All of the restaurants are still open, and it’s not that busy. It’s incredibly peaceful just going to the sauna, having a drink by yourself and watching the stormy weather roll in off the coast.
What’s one great, cheap activity on the island?
For 8 Euros, you can rent a bike and ride it to the eastern end of the island (less than seven miles away). Past a certain point it becomes a national park where you can’t go by bike or car anymore. So you walk two hours to the farthest eastern point of the island where you’ll find the Capella, an old shipwreck beached on the island. Just bring a backpack with some drinks and a picnic, and you have a great full day.
Where is the one place any visitor should eat?
Hotel Seesteg, our sister spot, has the first restaurant in the area to earn a Michelin star. Their menu is constantly changing seasonally, but their seafood dishes—sole and sea bass especially—are outstanding.
What are some cool places to grab a drink in Norderney?
Weisse Düne is a restaurant right in the middle of the dunes outside the village. In 2005 it was converted from an old wooden shelter, and is a great place to stop if you’ve been out hiking or bicycling.
MilcheBar (Milk Bar) Milk bars have a long tradition on the islands here—places you go to get pancakes and a milk shake and just relax with a book. But our milk bar has opened up a bar that has a fantastic gin selection. It’s the place to be on the island.
What’s a great locals’ spot for an authentic Norderney experience?
The Attelier Art&Bar. It’s in the foyer of an old cinema. The owners have excellent taste in music. And it’s usually just a bar, but they also put on events for the community. Their barbecue nights are particularly good.
What about one splurge activity?
You can actually charter a small plane and take a sky tour of the islands, which is very beautiful.
What makes Norderney special for you?
It’s back to basics here. Five minutes outside the city center there is just pure nature and you can slow down from your hectic life. From 1 to 3 p.m. each day, everything closes while people take a lunch break. No one is in a rush. If you need something immediately, you won’t get it and there’s nothing you can do about it. And I like that.