Aarhus is Denmark’s second city, after Copenhagen. It’s definitely the cooler little sister though, with unique galleries, a hipster shopping street, Danish style everywhere you look and possibly the coolest museum you’ll ever find.
If you’re planning an interrailing trip, or just looking for a European weekend away somewhere new and different I’d strongly recommend visiting Aarhus. I was there for two days over the summer and loved the chilled out vibe, the distinctive museums and the focus on cycling the great outdoors over motors.
So, after two days of research I’ve compiled the best of Aarhus into a 24-hour itinerary for you to enjoy.
Morning – Den Gamle By
It’s always good to know a little history about the country you’re visiting and the best way to do that in Aarhus is to visit the village of Den Gamle By. You won’t find some boring history lesson here though; Den Gamle By is a recreation of the Aarhus of times gone by that you can walk round, shop in and explore. It’s even got a little river and a café where you can get a good old Danish bacon sandwich.
There are 75 buildings in the village, collected from all over Denmark that range from the 1800s to today. From the beautician and hairdresser to the local shop and the sweetie parlour you can take a look around and even buy old produce in some.
My favourite part of Den Gamle By was the Aarhus Rocks exhibition. The exhibits follow the progression of Danish music from 1960 to the Aarhus festivals of today. There were radios, clothes, posters and instruments to depict what was en vogue at the time. Even if you’re not au fait with Danish music, like me, it’s still worth a look round.
Suggested minimum time: 2 hours
Cost: from 75DKK / £7.30
Lunch – Stroget
Take a stroll down the main street of Aarhus, Stroget, and window shop along the cool outlets that line the route. I never knew I wanted so many things, but that Danish design spin just makes everything seem more attractive, including the people. Could be a good idea to leave your credit card at home.
Keep a look out for smørrebrøds, the local delicacy in Denmark. Anyone else will tell you it’s just an open sandwich, but your average Danish person would argue it’s a lot more complicated than that. Either way they’re the cheapest way to fill up in Denmark.
Suggested minimum time: 1 hour
Cost: Smørrebrød from 12 DKK / £1 / shops, depends how much you get sucked in!
Early afternoon – Aros Museum
Depending on the time of year you visit you’ll probably want some time away from the sun or the snow, so now’s the time to get inside and explore one of Aarhus’ main attractions: the Aros Museum. The rainbow panorama is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, as you walk through you can see out to the city under different colours. It was designed by Olafur Eliasson in 2011 and has become an icon of the city.
Of course, there’s the whole of the rest of the gallery to enjoy too, with exhibitions from controversial artists like Claus Carstensen’s exhibition on freedom of expression, intimacy and nudity. It’s one of the most beautiful and modern galleries I’ve ever been to, so enjoy.
Suggested minimum time: 1 hour
Cost: 110 DKK / £11
All of the above are close enough to walk between but now it’s time to see Denmark the Danish way and rent a bike. Your hostel will be able to sort you out with wheels, or otherwise there are plenty of rental shops about.
Make your way to the coast and the clear and safe cycle routes mean you can follow for as far as your legs will take you. I made my way down to Mindeparken, the city park.
The Mindeparken would be an excellent spot to take a picnic from one of the many 7/11s dotted around town. Dinner can be an expensive business in Denmark, especially for us budget backpackers.
Suggested minimum time: As long as you can
Cost: 70-100 DKK / £7-10
If you have time…
The Moesgaard Museum is well worth a look around if you have time. The museum actually looks super modern but go inside and you’ll find exhibitions dedicated to Denmark’s archaeology and ethnography with over 50,000 artefacts. If you want to learn about the Vikings, this is the place to be.
You could also visit the Tivoli Friheden, an amusement park. I sadly didn’t pay attention to the opening times so only managed to take this photo outside. There are over 40 attractions in here and it’s apparently a great place to while away a day if you have longer in Aarhus.
Getting in and out
There are cheap flights available from the UK to Aarhus to go direct. Or, Aarhus is only three hours from Copenhagen by train, on a totally different island so you get to travel over Danish waters. It’s known as Denmark’s happiest city, so go and see for yourself why everyone’s so cheerful!