Originally the name was applied to the peninsula but it now usually refers to the town itself.The settlement began in the Middle Ages as a fishing village, renowned for its herring industry.Skagen's White Lighthouse with adjoining accommodation for the keeper was built in 1747.In 1775, accumulations of drifting sand made it difficult to access St Lawrence's Church, finally leading to its closure and partial demolition in 1795.Its remaining artefacts were sold by auction in 1810.St Lawrence's was replaced by Skagen Church, completed in 1841 and redesigned in the local style by Ulrik Plesner in 1910. The same year, bye-laws were established specifying building requirements including the completion of tiled roofs within five years. In 1871, the author Holger Drachmann and the painters Fritz Thaulow and Karl Madsen arrived in Skagen, the first of the colony of artists which became known as the Skagen Painters.
Between the 1930s and 1950s the town grew rapidly, with the population more than doubling from 4,048 in 1930 to 9,009 in 1955.
Further to the south west, St Lawrence's Church was built at the end of the 14th century.
In 1413, Erik of Pommern granted Skagen the status of market town with the result that for a time it became Vendsyssel's largest community with up to 2,000 inhabitants.
The modern port of Skagen opened on 20 November 1907, and with the railway connections to Frederikshavn and the rest of Denmark, tourism began to develop.
In the early 1910s, Christian X and Queen Alexandrine often visited Skagen and brought friends from other European monarchies.
The Hvide Klit Golf Club is 17 km (11 mi) south of the town.