A couple of weeks ago my studies brought me back to Denmark for one last time. As I haven’t been able to see any other places than Copenhagen during my previous visits, I thought it was about time to see something else in this beautiful country that I called home for a bit. So I made up my mind and travelled to Jutland to see Aarhus. And it was my first ever solo trip so not only was I stoked to see more from Denmark but I was also excited to do exactly what I wanted without making any compromises ;)
A brief overview
Aarhus – Denmark’s second largest city (330,000 inhabitants – municipality, 1.4 million – metropolitan area) – is located on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula at the river mouth of the Aarhus Å river. Starting out as a fortified Viking settlement due to its advantageous location in the 8th century, the city turned into the cultural and economic centre of the region, a centre for trade and a top 100 conference city. One of the oldest cities in the North, Aarhus actually has the youngest population (average age) as 13% of the population consists of students. Especially noteworthy is that Aarhus (together with Paphos in Cyprus) has been selected as European Capital of Culture in 2017.
The most important sights of Aarhus.
The Latinerkvarteret – Latin Quarter – is the oldest quarter of the city as its construction started in the 14th century. There are many cafés and chic shops that you won’t find on the high street. It is filled with people, the streets are narrow, cobblestoned with medieval timbered buildings can be found there, giving it a great atmosphere and turning it into probably the most picturesque neighbourhood. The longest (93m) and tallest (96m) church of the country is also located in Aarhus (& in the Latin Quarter) – the Aarhus Domkirke – which was built in the 12th century. It is situated on the central square Store Torv in the centre of the city.
A great architectural spot of the city is definitely the Dokk1 which opened only in June 2015. It is a culture and multimedia house, a library (the largest one in Scandinavia!) and citizen service centre, as well as a fully automated parking house. The Dokk1 is located right on Aarhus’ waterfront by the mouth of the canal, where many new buildings are currently being constructed, representing a link between the open sea and the city centre.
Whoever has been to Copenhagen before has probably payed a visit to Strøget, the main pedestrian area and shopping street of Denmark’s capital. Aarhus has its own Strøget. People come here to take a stroll and do their shopping in the boutiques and high street shops.
My path also lead me past the City Hall of Aarhus, another favourite of mine. The building is 75 years old, a symbol and trademark of Aarhus and Danish architecture, as it is built with clad and Norwegian marble. Originally, a tower was not included in the construction plans but the people of Aarhus wanted to have a city hall with something monumental so it had to have a tower, and the 60-metre rectangular tower with six balconies and two clock faces was added to the plan.
The cultural aspect.
The most prominent and well-known museum of the city is definitely the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum. It is also one of the largest museums of the North. What really stands out is the rainbow panorama roof where one can move around in a 150 meter long, circular panoramic path with a spectacular 360° view of the city. I was really impressed by the building, the rainbow panorama, and its exhibitions that I decided to highlight my stay there in a future blogpost. Stay tuned ;)
The other cultural attraction that I spent some time at (or in?) was the Den Gamle By – the Old Town – an open-air town museum located not far from the city centre. This museum was the first of its kind worldwide when it opened in 1914. Not only will you see a total of 75 historical buildings from various centuries there – the oldest being a storage house from 1550 and the youngest a garden pavilion from 1909 – but also people dressed up and acting as the folk at the end of the 19th century. Streets, townhouses, shops, backyards, and workshops are exactly re-erected as they stood in the past. So basically it’s like you’re time travelling. This is definitely a museum for families, and there were many school kids there during my time in the Old Town. Unfortuantely, some of the buildings were under construction which diminished the flair of the area, and I also did not go into every building so I might have missed out on a few cool spots as well as my time there was rather limited, but nevertheless, it was still interesting to look at everything.
Some lunch spots in Aarhus.
While wandering around I saw many nice-looking restaurants or cafés, especially in the Latin Quarter and along the canal. So you could either just walk in and try something out, or have a look beforehand in case you are looking for a special cuisine.
After doing some research to find something to have for dinner on my first evening there I tried a few restaurants or cafés but most of them did not have any tables left. After some time wandering around in the Latin Quarter of the city I stumbled upon the Cafe Gemmestedet (that is technically not in the Latin Quarter but quite close to it). I just enjoyed staying at this place for a long time while eating a tomato soup and reading a book. Plus, they had a student discount of 10% on everything!
For lunch/dinner the next day I went to Anette Sandwich in Vestergade in the city centre. This is a rather small but very cute place where you get really delicious, freshly made, healthy sandwiches for just 48 DKK. The selection of subs is really big in my opinion – one can choose from 17 different sandwiches! Definitely a place that I’d recommend any Aarhus visitor ;)
The other times when I wanted to eat something I went for quicker, more easier options such as fruits, small sandwiches, or a granola bar at a café.
My favourite – the canal and the sea in Aarhus.
Through the city centre of Aarhus – Midtbyen – flows the Aarhus Å, and gives a distinct charm to the whole area. The Åboulevarden is thus in the heart of the city, the main boulevard along the canal – a pedestrian street that is lined with many cozy cafés and restaurants, and apparently offers a ‘great’ nightlife to various websites (haven’t checked it out myself, so I cannot tell firsthand).
What I always like to do on my trips to new cities is walking around in a neighbourhood that I like so I can drink in the picturesque architecture, especially in a city with a river or a canal, or a city that lies next to the sea. Aarhus perfectly combines the two – I got to enjoy the beautiful architecture along the canal and could spend some time looking at the sea (despite the fact that it was only the harbour and I wasn’t really able to see the open sea).
My overall impression
Aarhus is a beautiful yet rather small city that is perfect for a day trip (or maybe two days if you really want to spend more time in the museums or other places, or do some shopping). It may not be the most adventurous town, or the most buzzing one, but it is very relaxing and calming, great for people who want to get away from a busy city while enjoying some Danish culture and architecture.
How to get there & where to stay
Aarhus is fairly easy to reach from Copenhagen by public transport (plane, train, bus!). I opted for the bus as it was the cheapest option and it took around 4 hours. My plan to go to Aarhus was made fairly spontaneous so I did not have much time to do a lot of research for various accommodation options so I just booked a bed in a very small hostel that was in a great location and had key lockers instead of a reception so I was not dependent on anyone.