A Beginner’s Guide To Aarhus
Next year Aarhus will take its turn in the spotlight as European Capital of Culture. Here’s the low-down on Europe’s rising star. First, some fast facts. Aarhus (pronounced oar-hus) is Denmark’s second-largest city. It was founded by the Vikings as a trading town in AD 900. Today, 315,000 people live there. This includes 50,000 students. So what else is there to know about this Nordic gem?
Tamara Hinson is a Surrey-based freelance travel journalist who writes for newspapers such as the Telegraph and Guardian, along with in-flight publications and travel websites. She’s especially interested in getting off the beaten track and some of the more unusual destinations she’s visited include North Korea and Benin.
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It’s Got Some Great Museums
ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum is one Europe’s largest art museums. It’s instantly recognisable, thanks to the rainbow-coloured, glass-walled rooftop passageway – head here for spectacular views over the city. The museum’s lower floors are where you’ll find temporary exhibitions, while the upper floors contain artwork dating from the nineteenth century to the present day. To learn about Denmark’s history, head to the Den Gamle By (meaning “old town”) museum, which transports visitors back in time to a typical Danish market town. You’ll get to meet the residents, learn about their lives, and in the café, you can sample cakes baked with recipes dating back to 1885, but don’t worry – they’re surprisingly delicious.
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Another essential stop-off for history buffs is the Moesgaard Museum, which explores Denmark’s history with the help of storytelling and hi-tech displays. Fancy some girl power? Head to the Women’s Museum in Aarhus’s historic town hall, which dates back to 1937. Exhibit show how the roles played by men and women have changed over the years.
The Food’s Fantastic
The City of Aarhus and Central Denmark Region have been awarded the title of European Region of Gastronomy 2017, and it’s not hard to see why. In Aarhus, there’s a real passion for fresh, seasonal produce, and there are currently three Michelin-starred restaurants in the city: Frederikshøj, Substans and Gastromé. But Aarhus’s – and Denmark’s – dish du jour is undoubtedly smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich.
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Some of the city’s hottest chefs are currently putting their unique stamp on this highly sought-after snack. Try it at the Traktørstedet Simonsens, a cosy café which is also known for its delicious cake, or opt for an organic version at hip eatery Langhoff & Juul. Aarhus residents are also huge coffee fans, and the city’s streets are filled with quaint cafés. We love Street Coffee at Brammersgade 15, where the walls are covered with art and the soundtrack’s provided by an antique gramophone.
It’s Incredibly Stylish
Style comes effortlessly to Aarhus residents, and the city has a number of independent boutiques selling everything from designer furnishings to bespoke clothing. Invest in some Danish-designed homeware at 1+1 Textil at Grønnegade 41, where you can pick up everything from cushions to ceramics.
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Aarhus’s buildings are equally gorgeous. Sign up for a tour of the town hall (rådhus), or admire the beautiful Dokk1 building which houses one of Scandinavia’s largest libraries, and which was built as part of an enormous regeneration project, transforming the city’s waterfront. The nearby Docklands area is home to several other architectural gems, including the spiky – and very instagrammable – Isbjerget (iceberg) building.
It’s One Of Europe’s Most Family-Friendly Cities
In Aarhus, the great outdoors is always close by, whether it’s the huge waterfront, the surrounding forests, or Risskov, to the north, which has a sandy beach. But that’s not the only reason this city is ideal for visitors with little ones in tow. Most of the museums have dedicated children’s areas and exhibits (the Women’s Museum has a fantastic hands-on section), while the city centre theme park, Tivoli Friheden, has a great selection of rides for kids of all ages.
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If you’ve got time to head further afield, it’s worth remembering that the Legoland theme park is just 100 kilometres south of Aarhus. Silkeborg, 45 kilometres west, is also worth a visit – this spectacular area is known as the Danish Lake District.
Ask The Experts
We get under the skin of this fantastic city with top tips from some passionate locals.
“In the summer, my favourite place is the riverside, but in the winter it’s the Latin quarter, and also the woods close to the city,” says Rico Jørgensen, owner of award-winning restaurant Malling Kro. “And the forests of Marselisborg are beautiful all year round.”
“My favourite exhibit at the Den Gamle By museum is the town district exhibit depicting the 1960s and 70s,” says museum director Thomas Bloch. “It’s a time-period which encompasses some of the basic values of modern Denmark: the welfare society, the open-mindedness, the equality between genders and the non-authoritarian thinking.”
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“When I have time off, I love to go to the forests around Moesgaard Museum, where you can find wild herbs and mushrooms on the forest floor,” says Kasper Pelle Christensen, head chef at Aarhus restaurant Nordisk Spisehus. “I also like to eat the delicious tapas at the cosy restaurant CANblau.”
“I would definitely advise visitors to stop by the city’s two new food markets – Aarhus Street Food and Aarhus Central Food Market,” adds Kasper Pelle Christensen. “They’re both just a two-minute walk from Aarhus Central Station, You’ll find an abundance of Nordic food delights.
“People in Aarhus are very kind and open, and more relaxed than the people in Copenhagen, who always seem to be so busy,” says Rico Jørgensen.