Ribe’s Night Watchman – a free must-see attraction

Step back in history to find out more about Ribe’s past.  Explore Ribe’s history and hidden treasures. The Night Watchman will take you on a free town walk through Ribe’s historic streets.
He will both entertain and educate visitors to Ribe on his route through the old, winding streets, while he is singing to alert citizens about bedtime approaching. Along the way he will tell you tales about witches, kings and queensstorm surges, pirates and much more.
As a supplement to the Night Watchman Tour or if you prefer to walk a free self-guided Ribe walk, see Danhostel Ribe’s “Old Town Walk”  and “Vikings” (the last one only for knowledgeable and enthusiastic persons about Vikings, as it is a bit difficult to understand)

11/02/2019 – 16/02/2019 monday – saturday kl. 20:00
15/04/2019 – 22/04/2019 Monday – saturday kl. 20:000
1/05/2019 – 31/05/2019 Monday – saturday kl. 20:000
1/06/2019 – 31/08/2019 Monday – saturday kl. 20:00 & 22:00
01/09/2019 – 19/10/2019 Monday – saturday kl. 20:00

Night watchman tours in Ribe 2017

The tour starts from the town square (300 m from Danhostel Ribe).
This free sightseeing tour takes around 45 minutes. Just turn up, tickets are not required.

  • February 11th to 16th February 8pm
  • April 15th to 22th at 8pm
  • May 8pm (except May 16th 17th and 18th May)
  • June, July and August 8pm and 10pm
  • September 8pm.
  • October 1st till 19th at 8pm

Ribe’s Night Watchman. After dusk falls, Ribe’s colourful history comes back to life in the narrow alleys around Ribe town centre. Follow the night watchman on his rounds through the medieval town for free

The history of the Night Watchman in Ribe

As early as the 14th century the night watchmen have made their nightly rounds in Ribe. The most important task for the watchmen was to make sure citizens could walk in the streets at night unharmed. Citizens were also able to sleep without worries, because they could be sure the watchmen would be warning them in case of fires or threatening floods.

It was a tiring job and at winter time a very cold job to walk around the streets in Ribe from sunset to sunrise. Around 1850 sentry boxes were built, where the four night watchmen could rest in between the rounds. However, they were taken down again, when one of the night watchmen fell asleep in a sentry box and didn’t manage to warn citizens in his district about a flood. At that occasion some cattle drowned at the meadow and the warehouse of a merchant called Kolvig was flooded. (Kolvig’s Restaurant today)
To keep awake the night watchmen were obliged to sing a verse with certain intervals all through the night.

The night watchman’s song at 10 pm

Master, maid, and boy,
would you the hour know
It is the time that you
to rest should go
Trust in the Lord with
faith – and careful be
of fire and light, for ten o’clock has struck.


Before the first street lighting was introduced in Ribe in the 19th century, it could be difficult to find one’s way in the dark. Assailants could easily hide. Therefore the night watchmen had to make sure that the citizens were not assaulted when they moved around in the pitch-dark streets and alleys.

Although the job as Ribe’s night watchman wasn’t particularly well paid, his work was highly valued and the punishment was severe, if anyone should assault a watchman. To defend themselves watchmen were armed with a mace, an awe-inspiring weapon with sharp iron spikes at the top.

Fire Watch

Strolling around in the narrow winding streets and alleys of Ribe, it is easy to understand how fast a fire could spread. In the old days open fires were used and the half-timbered houses had thatched roofs as well. An important task for the watchmen was to prevent fires. In 1580 eleven streets and 213 farms and houses were destroyed by a fire in Ribe. After that it was decided to hang up fire ladders and fire-hooks. You can still see some in Kølholt Slippe.
From the beginning of the 19th century the watchmen had to light the 18 oil lamps in the town, except at full moon. In 1854 they had to look after 37 lamps.


The night watchmen also had to keep an eye on storm surges. In case of an impending flood, they should warn the citizens and shout from which direction the wind came.

The night watchman as a tourist attraction

The job of the night watchman was abolished in Ribe in 1902, but in 1935  the watchman round was reintroduced as one of Ribe’s tourist attractions. As in earlier times the Night Watchman carries a lantern in one hand and in the other a formidable spiked mace.

© Danhostel Ribe. Text and photos may not be copied to other sites – but you are welcome to link to Danhostel Ribe or to this page: Ribe’s Night Watchman