I had the chance to visit the lovely Danish city of Aarhus last weekend – and I knew straight away that I had to share some tips with you! Located roughly half-way up the Jutland Peninsula (that sticky-out bit north of Germany), Aarhus is a wonderful harbour town that’s home to around 330,000 people. Its compact size makes it the perfect destination for a little weekend away, or even as part of a big adventure in Europe. And since the city’s been elected as the 2017 European Capital of Culture, now is the perfect time to go!
48 Hours in Aarhus – tips for the perfect Danish weekend!
OK – admittedly it is a little difficult to get here from Ireland. I cheated a little bit by hitching a ride from a Danish friend from Germany, but there are other alternatives! If you’d like to fly, then your best bet is to fly to the capital Copenhagen – which is why it’s a good idea to maybe book yourselves some extra time to see the capital too, since it’s a truly amazing city! Factor in some transfer times – it takes roughly 3 hours to get to Aarhus by train, but you’ll have a lovely ride through the Danish countryside. Similarly if you know that you’ll already be in Europe (maybe you’re planning a big adventure or a spot of interrailing!), then there are direct services from Germany from Hamburg. In fact you can even book the whole journey as a single ticket with Deutsche Bahn. Danish trains are really comfy and there’s just a short little passport check once you reach the border city of Flensburg, but that’s about it! Just kick back and enjoy the ride. :)
If you’re travelling outside of summer then be sure to pack your umbrella and wrap up warm for winter – the seaside climate is quite like ours, so expect a bit of rain or snow! But during the summer it’s lovely. Just chill out on the Spanish Steps by the river with the locals and enjoy the sun!
Aarhus may be compact in size, but there’s plenty to see in Smilets by, the City of Smiles! And since the city has been elected as the European Capital of Culture, there’s a wealth of museums, cultural spaces, events, theatre shows… The list goes on!
But first things first – let’s start with the old school. Aarhus is home to some lovely architecture and wonderfully wonky buildings, mostly centred around the Latin Quarter, or Latinerkvarteret. One of the most photogenic and Instagrammable spots is the small side street of Møllestien with its colourful cottages tightly packed together – they might be small, but come with some eye-watering price tags! The gables of larger townhouses and apartments often sport some awesome street art too. Just keep your eyes peeled!
If you want to take a proper trip back in time, then I recommend heading to the fantastic open-air museum. Locals call it the Old Town (den Gamle By), and it’s a great way to look at how people really lived in different periods of time. One section looks at life before the 1900s, with medieval buildings that were taken from regions all over Denmark and reconstructed in a cute little town. You can even take a look at some authentic interior design from the 70s, or check out one of the many exhibitions on offer.
And then comes the modern. One seriously cool place is Dokk1 (pronouned ‘docken’), located by the harbour. You can’t miss it – its cutting edge architecture is seriously impressive! It serves as a social and cultural space for the locals, featuring everything from a very well-stocked library to a play area for children, study spaces, auditoriums and a café. And while a car park might not sound too exciting at first glance, it’s still worth taking a look there – up on the ceiling is an impressive art installation of an upside-down city complete with skyscrapers, factories and even a football stadium.
You should also check out the ARoS, Aarhus’ modern art museum. It has a selection of fantastic exhibitions on offer (I managed to see Ron Mueck’s famous Boy sculpture!) and a really funky installation in the main forum made out of all sorts of fabrics and more fairy lights than you can shake a stick at. You’ll be glad to hear that the museum shop is excellent too. But what really sets this museum apart are the things up on the roof! The main draw is the amazing Your Rainbow Panoramainstallation, designed by Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson. This ring-shaped walkway features glass windows in all the shades of the rainbow, making it a lovely splash of colour even if the weather is a bit grey outside. Beneath it is a spacious roof terrace, and there’s even a restaurant on the floor below. Seriously cool stuff!
Food and Drink
Denmark sure does know how to do fine dining. Copenhagen’s famous for its fair share of Michelin restaurants, and Aarhus has some of its own too! But it’s totally possible to eat well on a budget here too – I’ll show you my favourite places to grab a bite to eat in the city!
Let’s start with breakfast – it’s the most important meal of the day after all! If you head to Guldsmedgade in the Latin Quarter, you’ll find two lovely cafés opposite each other that are well-suited for a nice morning meal or a bite to eat at lunch. Charlie’s Café & Sandwich Bar offers everything from smoothies and pancakes to bagels and sandwiches with a wide choice of fillings, and there’s a lovely courtyard round the back that you can sit in too. But my favourite is Emmerys, an organic bakery that makes fresh bread and pastries every day. I had an amazing chicken toastie made with rosemary bread and a cinnamon mocha to go with it – it was delicious!
For dinner, lunch or brunch there are two places that I really recommend. The first is the Burger Shack at Frederiksgade 39. It’s a tiny little place, but don’t let its looks deceive you! They do amazing burgers with plenty of cheese and bacon on them, and the fries even come with Parmesan and sprigs of thyme on them. Even if you’re really hungover you will wolf this down, believe me! If you can’t get a place to sit down, then just tell the staff that you’d like to eat it at Tir Na Nóg, the Irish bar on the other side of the road – Burger Shack has a partnership with them. :)
The last place on my list is the awesome Aarhus Street Food Market, located close to the harbour at Banegårdsgade 46. Again, looks can be deceiving! It’s situated in a former bus depot, which is why you’d be forgiven to think that it doesn’t look like the most inviting place in the world. But once you step inside, you’ll be amazed! There’s tons of street food vendors who have set up shop in shipping containers selling everything from Vietnamese and Mexican food to Thai and Indian (I’m particularly fond of the pulled duck burgers at Duck Off!). The walls are covered in street art, fairy lights are hung up everywhere and there’s lots of seating for everyone to sit down and have a chat. It’s also a great place to grab a drink or two towards evening!
Another great place to go for a few drinks is the Irish bar Tir Na Nóg and the Golden Lion if you’re fancying a proper pint (a good spot to watch the footie too). Along the river is Åboulevarden, a street with plenty of busy bars and clubs such as Barstart and Herr Bartels, or you can head to the harbour for a cosy evening slurping on amazing cocktails at La Plage Deux.
Aarhus really is a fantastic city to visit, and if you’re ever considering a trip to Copenhagen or Denmark then I definitely recommend you to consider spending a night or two here! There’s a very wide programme of festivals during the year to commemorate its status as Culture Capital – I recommend checking out the official website here to get an idea of what’s on!
If you want to visit Aarhus yourself then just get in touch with me at my Deal Finder, or check out the handy links below to help plan your own little adventure. I stayed at the SimpleBed Hostel (Åboulevarden 86) – I paid 500kr for 2 nights over the weekend. Vi ses!
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