Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city, but its youthful, diverse population means it is in no way Copenhagen’s poorer cousin. Its vibrant cultural scene, range of outdoor activities, and thriving food and drink scene, combined within a compact, easily walkable city centre make it perfect for a weekend getaway.
The Old Town (Den Gamle By), is a unique museum located about 10 minutes walk from the city’s main shopping district. An open air museum, it’s an eclectic collection of buildings from all over Denmark, ranging from the 1500s to the present day. Wandering through its remarkably atmospheric winding medieval streets, you turn a corner to find yourself suddenly confronted by a 1940s Ford Motors dealership, with a recreation of a glamorous 1980s travel agency not far away.
During the winter period, the centre of the Old Town becomes a charming Christmas market, with all manner of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, and other Christmas treats on offer. There’s also a Christmas bar, celebrating the beloved Danish tradition of Yule Beers, as well as a museum of Christmas and quaint shops selling traditional Christmas ornaments and books.
Wandering through the quiet streets of Den Gamle By, you’ll be struck by the view of the modern, glass-and-steel skyline in the distance.
Throughout the rest of the city, there are numerous stalls and markets selling Christmas treats, and generally adding to the festive charm of Aarhus. Tivoli Friheden is also transformed into a festive paradise, more details below.
Aarhus has a vibrant arts and culture scene, offering many world-class museums that specialise in a range of subjects. Without a doubt, the most famous of these is Aarhus’ modern art museum, ARoS.
Immediately upon arriving in the city, you’ll spot the rainbow-coloured, circular walkway that dominates the skyline, perched atop ARoS. This 150 metre-long panoramic walkway is called Your rainbow panorama and was designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.
While ARoS houses some spectacular works of art, it’s well worth visiting the museum for this piece alone, and snapping both the perfect view of Aarhus as well as the perfect rainbow-drenched selfie.
For families, Tivoli Friheden is an amusement park located in the city’s Marselisborg Forest. At more than 100 years old, Tivoli Friheden offers everything from rollercoasters to 5D cinemas, with all sorts of family-friendly activities in between.
Additionally, during the Christmas period, Tivoli Friheden is transformed into a winter wonderland, with its festive decorations and Christmas market.
Beside The Old Town, you’ll find Aarhus Botanical Gardens, featuring huge eye-catching geometric greenhouses. This collection of outdoor gardens as well as themed indoor greenhouses is well worth a look.
Aarhus has a vibrant, diverse food scene on par with any European capital. There’s something for everyone here, to suit every taste and budget.
The best place to start is in Street Food, Aarhus’ large enclosed food market, which serves all kinds of food from all over the world, as well as boasting several well-stocked bars.
I’d recommend Ugood, serving Ugandan Rolex, which is a delicious cross between a kebab and an omelette, followed by a Crème Brulee donut from Cheesecake, washed down with any one of the mind-boggling array of beers on offer.
There’s also Danish, Italian, American, Vietnamese, Indian, French and many other cuisines on offer, as well as wine and cocktail bars. With its large communal seating area in the middle, it’s a lovely relaxed place to spend the evening before venturing into Aarhus’ nightlife.
Other great food stops are Café Gaya, offering vegan food in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, as well as Faour, which serves wonderful falafels and manakish.
For coffee lovers, the absolute must-visit is Great Coffee. With its impressive range of coffee-making glassware, shining steel roasting equipment and aproned staff, it feels more like a laboratory than a coffee shop. The owner, Søren Stiller Markussen, is one of the best baristas in the world.
If you’re interested in what goes into a cup of the black stuff, he’ll be more than happy to talk to you about the various farms he visits across the world every year, and the longstanding relationships he builds up with the farmers, flying them to his coffee shop in Aarhus and working with them to develop exactly the kind of coffee his customers love, all roasted right there on the premises.
As a university town, and the town with the largest population of youngsters in Denmark, Aarhus has a vibrant nightlife. The best place to start is in the city’s Latin Quarter, where you’ll find a range of chilled-out bars. For a selfie-perfect location, it’s well worth visiting the range of bars along the city’s canal, which is lit up beautifully at night.
There’s plenty of accommodation options in Aarhus to suit every budget. The most interesting is definitely the Hotel Oasia, which is a centrally-located boutique hotel.
It markets itself as a ‘design hotel’, so expect the elegant, minimal Scandinavian design we’ve all come to love in recent years, with rooms finished out in purely designer furniture, from the Bang & Olufsen televisions to the Hästens beds which are as comfortable as they are beautiful.
Though the hotel is undoubtedly minimal in its aesthetic, it’s a very welcoming and cosy place to relax after a long day sampling all that Aarhus has to offer.
You’re less than one hour by bus from Aarhus Airport, and less than 90 minutes by bus from Billund Airport.
The first thing you should buy on landing in Aarhus Airport is the AarhusCARD, which offers remarkable value for money.
As well as offering free entry into over 20 museums, attractions and activities (including everything listed in this article), it also offers free transport on bus and light rail networks.
This includes your airport bus, and so represents a huge saving. Additionally, the card offers a range of shopping discounts around the city. AarhusCARDs can be purchased in 24, 48, 72 and 120 hour versions.