Downtown Gilleleje today is full of new and uninteresting houses that have not improved the ambience - the real values of Gilleleje lie in the summer house areas, the beaches and the harbour.
Gilleleje is a major fishing harbour. Gilleleje comes from the words Gilbjerg, meaning cleft, and leje meaning fishing haven. Fishing has taken place from Gilleleje since the 14th century. The town has also been a trading harbour for the back country and was even a base for capers that attacked British ships during the Napoleonic war.
Gillleje Harbour is used by both fishing boats and leisure sailors, making it a very busy place. Gilleleje is a very popular - and expensive - summer house area for the Danes, and both the town and harbour reflect this, with many restaurants and shops that are very busy during the vacation seasons.
Before the harbour in Gilleleje was built, the fishermen used to land their boats and offload their catches here at the mouth of the stream running into Kattegat, the sea. The old coast line followed the bank to the right.
During World War II, Gilleleje was a significant transferpoint of Jewish fugitives, trying to escape Nazi persecution in an occupied Denmark. Many refugees were transported by ship from Gilleleje to Höganäs in Sweden as part of a much used underground railway. The memorial commemorates this, and the Israeli ambassador to Denmark was present at its inauguration to once again thank the Danes for their help in a time of need.
Gilleleje is located close to a navigation point called Nakkehoved, with its 2 lighthouses. The tall Western one and the lower Eastern one, which today serves as a lighthouse museum as well as a restaurant.