With its tranquil beaches, the tiny northern island of Sylt is the country’s best-kept summer secret.


Where to Stay

Long and narrow, and spread over 36 square miles, Sylt has a verdant countryside peppered with its signature low-slung cottages. Many house tiny hotels, like the secluded Dorint Söl’ring Hof (1 Am Sandwall, Rantum; 49-4651/836-200; soelring-hof.de; doubles from $550), a 15-room inn tucked into the dunes on the southern coast with its own hidden stretch of sugary sand. For those who want to be closer to the action, there’s the Hotel Stadt Hamburg (2 Strandstrasse; 49-4651/8580; hotelstadthamburg.com; doubles from $253), in the charming village of Westerland. You’ll have to walk five minutes to the beach, but this tidy hotel, built in 1869, is an ideal base for exploration.

Where to Eat

The island’s dining scene attracts a number of German celebrities (Claudia Schiffer, Boris Becker), and many frequent the stylish Sansibar (80 Hörnumer Str., Rantum; 49-4651/964-656; dinner for two $130). But the restaurant’s North Sea–meets-Asian dishes, like fresh mussels in a sweet curry sauce, are also a potent draw. In Kampen, you’ll find Greta’s Rauchfang (5 Strönwai; 49-4651/ 42672; dinner for two $92) next to Louis Vuitton and Hermès. Here, socialites enjoy bottles of Kristall (opened dramatically with sabers), along with small plates of the sweet local shrimp. To get away from the fabulous set, head to Alter Gasthof (5 Alte Dorfstrasse, List; 49-4651/877-244; dinner for two $65) on the isle’s northern tip. This 200-year-old inn dishes out classic regional food, including stellar house-smoked salmon and eel.

What to Do

Sylt is known for its nude beaches. The most famous is Buhne 16 (133A Listlandstrasse, Kampen), where Germans of every stripe let it all hang out as they lounge in wicker basket chairs. For those who like things a bit more covered up, try Am Roten Kliff, just north of Kampen, which is also (no surprise) less crowded. An ideal way to see the island—especially in late summer when the heather is in full bloom—is by bike. Fahrrad am Bahnhof (49-4651/5803), in Westerland’s main train station, has a terrific rental selection, and the staff will happily suggest a route along Sylt’s 136 miles of well-laid-out paths.

Sylt is reached by train from Berlin (5 hours) or Hamburg (3 1/2 hours). By car, take the autobahn to Niebüll from Berlin (290 miles) or Hamburg (120 miles). There is no road connecting Sylt to the mainland; vehicles board a train for the 30-minute trip to the island. For more, see bahn.de.