Germany’s hidden gem: the island of Sylt

Germany's hidden gem: the island of SyltAsk most international tourists about holidays in Germany and they’ll probably tell you all about fabulous city breaks in Berlin, Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich, and cycling along the wine trails in the Rhineland. White sand beaches and windswept coastal roads are unlikely to feature very prominently in most people’s minds – but that just means they’ve never had the good fortune to visit the beautiful Isle of Sylt.

Sylt is a 30km stretch of land characterised by unspoilt beaches, excellent seafood restaurants and a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. The country roads wind past charming traditional thatched cottages, and most people get around on two wheels rather than four. The island’s distinctive shape comprises mainly of a particularly long and thin curving coastline with a central arm leading back towards the German mainland, with the majority of the population based in Westerland, the biggest town on the island. Home to around nine thousand residents, Westerland also boasts a fantastic aquarium, a seawater spa and the Windsurf World Cup, making this an excellent destination for watersports fans as well as those looking for an indulgent escape.

The island also has plenty to offer environment enthusiasts, with one in seven square metres of land on Sylt now under conservation as the government works to protect its natural attractions. It also boasts an unexpected UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Wadden Sea National Parks were given this elite status in 2009. UNESCO describes the site as ‘unique in the whole world in demonstrating how nature, plants and animals adapt themselves to constantly changing conditions, in an area where freshwater (from land) and saltwater (from the ocean) meet.’

These unusual conditions also create a beautiful backdrop for some truly picturesque villages, so it’s no surprise that the island is becoming a particularly popular location for second homes – current estimates suggest that there are already 12,000. Many of these are located in Kampen, where properties are particularly highly valued and an impressive selection of designer shops is in place to cater to its wealthy part-time inhabitants. Heading back towards the centre of the island you’ll find Keitum – one of the most traditional settlements on the island, this area is famed for its ancient church, pretty avenues, and thatched roof houses. It’s also only 8km from the main population centre of Westerland, making this an ideal location for those seeking the peace of the countryside without sacrificing the conveniences of a large town.

In the north, the harbour of List is home to the only oyster farm in Germany, with Lister oysters shipped to restaurants and gourmet shops all over the country. Visitors to the coast at this part of the island will be standing at the very edge of Germany’s northern border – and to prove it, List is just a short ferry ride from the Danish island of Romo, another beautiful destination that remains largely untouched by international tourism.

Whether you’re interested in buying a second home on Sylt for the holidays or are intrigued by the idea of an island investment, Engel & Völkers can help you to find the perfect property. With two offices located on the island itself in Kampen and Westerland, our agents have the local knowledge and expertise to ensure you close a successful sale.