© SMG/Michael Reidinger

Typically Sylt

Our island is unique – thankfully.

Between tradition and modernity, both the natives of Sylt and their guests find ample freedom for idiosyncrasies, which are nurtured and celebrated with considerable regularity. Some special features of Sylt are widely visible, others are insider's tips.

So take your time and read between the lines now and again, who knows what you might discover?

The „Strankorb“ beach chair

Thousands of them migrate to the islands beaches every spring. Braving wind and weather they are only relocated into covered halls in late autumn: 12,000 beach chairs (called „Strandkörbe“ in German) populate the island from north to south. And they are on easy street all season long: In a manner of speaking, the indestructible outdoor chairs have found their tailors, hairdressers and beauticians in the carpenters, upholsterers, painters and basket weavers of the „Sylt Strandkorb Manufaktur“. Nevertheless, two to three thousand roofed wicker beach chairs move to the mainland every year to find a new home on balconies in Bavaria or terraces in Thuringia. Advance bookings at the islands tourism offices make renting the basket of your choice a breeze.

© SMG/Jan Blaffert
© SMG/Jan Blaffert

The islands lighthouses

How do you justify the necessity for five lighthouses on one little island? Well, first of all Sylt is rather long and so the navigational aids that beam far out to sea are to be found in the southern- and northernmost tips in Hörnum and List, as well as the middle of the island in Kampen. Secondly the notorious shoals around Sylt can pose a bit of a challenge for even the most experienced of navigators – making navigational lights essential signals. Since the 1970s the facilities have been centrally controlled from the mainland. This however is not detrimental to their character as landmarks and general ability to upgrade your holiday photos: Sylts lighthouses give the island its radiance.

„Ring Riding“

It sounds bizarre. And quite honestly: it is! From May to August, riders from eight clubs on the island – five male clubs and three „Amazon squads“ – armed with lances ride at full gallop towards a small brass ring hardly a centimeter in diameter. Whoever can spear the ring reaps applause – and points – on the way to earning the title „Ring Riding King/Queen“. Natives of Sylt have been hooked on this zany tradition for over 150 years. The first ring riding club was established in 1861 – and who knows since when this outlandish sport has already been a part of island life!

The tournaments are held regularly throughout the summer in the east of the island. When you join the festivities for the first time you will need a bit of assistance to make sense of it all. Our experts commentating live will let you in on the secrets of this tradition. But care to know why the Sylt natives hold their sport so dearly, you should talk to one of the athletes...

© SMG/Andreas Hub

Traditions on Sylt

On Sylt, tradition is treasured and plays a major part in the life of the islanders today.

One of the most beautiful customs upheld by local groups is the performance of old dances in traditional costume, an event that never fails to draw an audience. What may seem somewhat exotic in our modern times used to be as ordinary as jeans and a T-shirt. The traditional costumes had their heyday in the 18th century, when the general wealth brought in by seafaring was also mirrored by people's dresscode: men were clad in silk and velvet, and women wore gowns with gold coins sewn onto them for their weddings.

When the so-called Galgen (gallows) are put up in the east of the island, it is not because some criminal's last hour has struck. The only thing swinging from the gallows is a small brass ring, which the Ringreiter (ring rider) has to spear on a lance at full gallop. The best rider is crowned Ringreiterkönig (Ring Rider King). This tradition, reminiscent of medieval tournaments, is kept up by eight clubs, five men's and three women's.

Every year on 21 February, the islanders celebrate their ancient local festival, the Biikebrennen. For miles around, the evening sky glows with bonfires made of big woodpiles. The origins of Biikebrennen lie in the dim and distant past. As a pagan sacrificial rite, the fires were meant to appease the gods and symbolized the belief in the powers of nature. In later times, the flames were intended to drive out the winter and bid a shining farewell to Sylt's sailors. Nowadays, many tourists join the fiery spectacle, and afterwards everyone comes together in the island's restaurants to have the traditional dish of kale.

Celebrating tradition


21st February

Ringriding tournaments

May – August

Living History

May – September

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