Walk through a rainbow. Time-travel to a historic Danish village. Learn about vikings. Relax on the beach. Feed deer near a royal palace. Aarhus, Denmark is full of surprises and charm, much like Denmark itself!
Denmark is a small country with a rich history and culture that many of us know and love – think Vikings, fairytales, hygge, etc. But many people only know Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, without realizing that this wonderful little country has an often-overlooked little sister city that will give you a different taste of this nordic country: Aarhus.
Aarhus is the second-largest city in Denmark, and though many people outside of Denmark aren’t aware of its existence, its rich cultural heritage makes it a standout on its own – not to mention the charming historical Old Town, stunning modern architecture, incredible food, beautiful beaches, and a theme park in the center of town!
Aarhus was founded as a small Viking settlement over 1250 years ago on the northern eastern coast of Jutland, the large peninsula of Denmark that is connected to mainland Europe. The Vikings built their fortified settlement near the mouth of the river, and the old Danish word for “river mouth” was “AROS,” which morphed into “Aarhus” of today. Its protected strategic location in a natural fjord helped Aarhus grow into an important port for the area.
In 1441, Aarhus was granted prestigious “Market Town” privileges, meaning the town was allowed by the Danish ruler to host a market – a really big deal at the time – which helped the town to become the economic and cultural center of Jutland.
Aarhus eventually grew to become the second-largest city in Denmark, with a distinct personality as an art lover’s paradise, a vibrant center of learning (one of Scandinavia’s largest universities is located in the city), and a cultural oasis with a plethora of museums, restaurants and modern architecture.
Today Aarhus is home to only 350k people, and although it doesn’t have any famous landmarks, buildings, or monuments, what it does have is history, culture, and plenty of “Hygge”. The people you’ll meet in Aarhus are the friendliest bunch in the country and the happiest! Aarhus’ nickname among the Danes was “Smilets By” – or the Smiling City, which the city has now embraced as its motto: “City of Smiles.”
We are lucky enough to have Danish Natives Nick and Kia give us the scoop about this historic and welcoming “city of smiles”. Take it away, friends!
Table of Contents
Planning a trip to Denmark? Take a look at our other posts:
- 12 Charming Things to Do in Copenhagen in Winter
- Copenhagen Castles Guide: Self-Guided Day Trip from Copenhagen
- 6 Traditional Danish Christmas Foods to Eat in Winter
Looking for more resources for a trip to Europe? Check out a few of our other travel guides:
- 10 Things to do in Vienna, Austria in the Winter
- 12 Delightful Things to Do in Prague in December & January
- The Perfect 7-Day Norway Itinerary for an Epic Winter Trip
Ready to visit the city of smiles? This is what you need to know before your visit:
What’s the weather like in Aarhus?
The weather in Denmark can be really, really bad, or if you are lucky, it can be acceptable! Outside of July and August, the weather is mild to chilly. Dress appropriately, ideally in layers – we’ve included more details below.
It isn’t likely to be as cold as you imagine, though. To our amazement, many tourists think of Denmark as an arctic winter wonderland, much like what you see in Disney’s Frozen (which was also inspired by our very own H.C. Andersen).
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It won’t be ice and snow you need to deal with: it’s the rain and wind will be your biggest adversaries. If you have come to see snow, you need to go much further north. May we suggest you check out Norway or Iceland instead?
How expensive is Denmark, really?
Like most Scandinavian countries, Denmark can be super expensive. Anything from coffees, to drinks, to food, will cost you half an arm. For example, a good coffee will cost you around $6 (37 DKK) and even a fast food meal combo will set you back around $13 (79 Danish Krone or DKK). At the supermarket, food is still a bit higher than neighbouring European countries, with fresh baked bread starting at around $2 (12 DKK) and a liter of milk costing about $1.40 (8.5 DKK). Accommodation is also high – even a hostel bed can cost over $60 per night. It is good to know this beforehand, so as to mentally prepare yourself. Most people who’ve had a bad time in Denmark quote the high cost as the main reason for that.
- What’s up with those extra letters in Danish?
You have probably noticed the letter Ø in words like “Strøget” and wondered what that means in terms of pronunciation? So here is a little fun fact: We have two more letters like it, which are unique to Scandinavian languages. One is Æ, and the other is Å. For us, these are the three last letters of the alphabet, and they are widely used.
When we write in English, we usually omit any such characters, replacing Ø with OE, Æ with AE, and Å with AA. That means, in Danish, Aarhus is actually called Århus.
This also means that Aarhus isn’t pronounced with the sound of an “A.” You shouldn’t say “Aaaaarrhus.” No, you should go more like “Ooooorhus.” Now practice saying it out loud. “Or-Hus.”
- What’s the best way to get around Aarhus?
Getting around in Aarhus is easy. There are plenty of buses and trams, but most places are actually within walking distance. If you are feeling a little adventurous, you can also rent a bicycle.
For public transportation, use the free App (or website) Rejseplanen (“Itinerary” in English) to find departures. It’s a journey planner that allows you to plot where you want to go from and to. For actually buying tickets, use the Midt Trafik App or just pay-as-you-go in cash.
Uber, and other ride-sharing services, are illegal in Denmark. Unfortunately, this means taxis are incredibly expensive, so we always suggest visitors to make use of the public transport system instead.
How to get to Aarhus, Denmark?
Most flights to Denmark will land at the Copenhagen Airport. Getting to Aarhus from Copenhagen is fairly easy, but it does take a bit of time.
There’s more than 186 miles between the two cities, which are connected by a boring highway. The only interesting part is crossing the 11-mile Great Belt Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. While you cross it, you can think about the interesting fact that this is the largest and most expensive structure ever built in Denmark. That’s why you’ll be charged a hefty price of 245 DKK (36 USD) per vehicle for the privilege!
We recommend you take the train. This will allow you to properly relax on your journey, plus it’s cost-effective, and the trains run frequently. Tickets can be booked online at the website of the national railway company DSB or at Copenhagen Central Station. You can also prebook and get great deals using Omio.
For the cheapest possible tickets, book well in advance and travel outside of peak times. Not that we’ve ever tried this (wink) but never travel without a valid ticket. You will definitely get fined.
If you want to save money, the bus will often be cheaper, but the trip will also be much less comfortable and flexible. It’s essential you book tickets in advance, e.g., with Flixbus.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to avoid the 3-4 hour journey, you can fly directly into Billund Airport, the largest airport in Jutland. From here, the only mode of transportation to the city will be a car or a bus. Considering it’s a one-hour drive, taxis will be outrageously expensive and cannot be recommended. Luckily, the bus drives frequently and is fairly priced.
What to pack for Aarhus?
As we said, the weather in Denmark is likely to be … not great. The warmest months are July and August, and the rest of the year is typically chilly – think early spring weather.
You need to prepare for the rain and wind and realize that while it isn’t as cold as Norway, there’s a good chance it will be pretty cold, especially at night. Prepare well with layers and footwear to keep you warm and dry.
- Plug Adapters: Planning to use a phone or anything electronic during your trip? You need a plug adapter. These are important. Don’t forget them! And don’t make the same mistake many do and buy a giant, clunky 5-in-1 adapter brick: you don’t need it. 99% of Europe uses just one plug: this one.
- Umbrella: There’s a very good chance of rain during your trip. Bring a little travel umbrella with you just in case, and a lightweight, packable rain jacket too.
- Merino Wool Undershirt: Layering is crucial in Aarhus, where the weather spans from mild to chilly. My favorite way to make sure I stay warm and dry all day is to put a warm layer of wool on before everything else. This is the wool cami Lia wears, and this is the wool undershirt Jeremy wears.
- Travel Jeans: Unlike regular jeans, travel jeans are designed specifically to solve travel-related woes. One of my personal woes is the lack of pockets on women’s jeans. My favorite travel jeans have 7 POCKETS. 7!! And 2 of them are zipped and hidden inside other pockets, for extra pickpocket protection – crucial in any European country. Jeremy and Lia each have a pair of Aviator USA black jeans. They’re super stretchy and buttery soft, dry quickly in the rain or when wet, and keep our legs warm when it’s cold out. They’re cozy enough to wear on a plane, stretchy enough to accommodate that 5 extra pounds of holiday weight I always seem to bring back home with me, and they’re super cute! We’re obsessed. You can get a pair of men’s or women’s jeans in black or indigo on the Aviator USA website.
- Packable Down Jacket: Lightweight, travel-friendly packable down jackets are perfect for those days when you might need a coat but aren’t sure – or when the temperature drops like a stone after dark and you don’t want to be caught without a jacket! We keep our jackets stuffed in our daypacks in case we need an extra layer of warmth. Here’s Lia’s jacket and Jeremy’s jacket.
- Good Walking Shoes: Depending on the time of year you’ll be visiting, you’ll either need good walking shoes, or good waterproof walking shoes. In either case, we’ve got suggestions in our guides to the best travel shoes for women and travel shoes for men.
Editor’s Note: For theft prevention and safety tips, head over and read our travel safety guide. And if you’ll be visiting during the winter, we’ve got a whole post about what to pack for Europe in the winter!
Things To Do in Aarhus
There is no shortage of things to do in Denmark’s second biggest city: fascinating museums, an historic old town to transport you back in time, plenty of Nordic food, and of course some LEGO bricks!
This taste of the Nordic way of life is sure to whet your taste for even more adventures, and by the end of this post, you’ll be putting Aarhus straight on your bucket list.
Time Travel in The Aarhus Old Town
The Old Town, or “Den Gamle By” in Danish, is actually also a museum, but not in the traditional sense: it’s a living, breathing, all-encompassing experience! As the name suggests, it’s a restored old town showing how life looked like in Aarhus back in the day.
There are three different areas to explore, showcasing exactly how Aarhus appeared in 1864, 1927, and 1974. Throughout these 3 areas, there are 75 historical buildings to see, collected from over 20 townships from all over Denmark.
The concept works really well in that you feel completely engrossed, making you feel like a badass time traveler as you stroll down the old streets.
What really makes The Old Town so absorbing is the fact that you can enter all buildings, many of which have actors dressed in period-appropriate clothing who you can interact with. For instance, you can walk into the blacksmith and see him craft old kitchen knives, stand in line for the bakery to taste old-school Danish pastries, or drop by the supermarket and get nostalgic from seeing all the old products and packaging. That kind of stuff triggers something in your mind, and suddenly, you recall long-lost details from your youth.
This is a place where you could easily spend half a day and get lost in the old town!
Stroll down Strøget, the High Street of Aarhus
Strøget is the main pedestrian shopping street in Aarhus and is actually named exactly in the same way as the High Street of Copenhagen (or any other Danish city for that matter). Here you can shop (duh) or just look at everyday Danes going about their business on this over the half-mile stretch. Even if you don’t make any purchases, it’s a good way to spend a few hours checking out the historic architecture mixed with modern Danish living.
We won’t go into details for any of the stores on Strøget, except for just one. Salling is a sizable department store, which boasts all the usual stuff you would expect from such an establishment. However, this one is most famous for what is in the basement, and what is on the roof.
Starting from the bottom, you have Salling Super. It’s an upscale supermarket, widely considered to be the best in all of Denmark. If you have to visit just one supermarket during your visit, Salling Super is the one to see. Whenever we are in a new country, we are always curious to see what the locals eat and drink – and it’s just fun to see how different things are!
Salling Super has a mouth-watering array of regional specialties, including fresh-caught fish, local fruits and veggies, a whole department just for cheeses, and, of course, licorice. The Danes have an obsession with all things licorice – plain, cubed, covered in chocolate, and salted. For a real Danish treat, try any of the covered Lakrids by Bülow licorice – even if you don’t think you are a fan of this salty sweet!
Once you are done spying on the grocery-shopping locals, head from the basement all the way up to the rooftop.
Here you find the aptly named Salling Rooftop, which is sort of a mix between an eclectic rooftop bar and a tranquil garden. If you are like most others, and it’s a sunny day, mind you, you’ll order a sparkling Aperol Spritz. It’s amazing how the popularity of this drink has exploded in recent years, worldwide, and Denmark included. But having a drink or two is okay because you are on holiday!
Maybe afterward, you become brave enough to step out on the see-through glass bridge. From there, you’ll have a perfect view of the Aarhus skyline, as well as straight down on the thousands of shopaholics below.
Taste the New Nordic Kitchen
New Nordic Cuisine is a culinary movement that began in Copenhagen and focuses on using local, natural and seasonal produce as its basis for creating new dishes. The most famous restaurant in this category is Noma, which has been voted the best in the world four times over. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to get a table at Noma, and besides, it’s located all the way over in Copenhagen. But don’t worry, you can have plenty of interesting culinary experiences in Aarhus as well.
There are actually four restaurants in Aarhus holding Michelin stars. That’s quite a lot for a city so small!
You won’t go wrong with any of them, but Restaurant Frederikshøj is particularly famous. It’s run by celebrity chef Wassim Hallal, who is half-Lebanese but focuses on new Nordic cuisine. Everything is made entirely with local ingredients and believe it or not, that does something amazing to the taste. It’s as if nature somehow orchestrates that what grows together, will complement each other in taste as well.
Of course, a meal in a Michelin restaurant won’t be cheap. If you are looking for something a little more affordable, we totally understand. And don’t worry, you won’t go hungry in Aarhus.
If you’d like to try some of Wassim Hallal’s famous cuisine without paying the big bucks, and have an even more of a Danish experience, check out Restaurant F-Høj serving traditional Danish smørrebrød with a modern twist.
A visit to Denmark simply wouldn’t be complete without a piece of smørrebrød. It’s basically an open-faced sandwich where the fillings are put on top of buttered dark rye bread. There are a ton of options for toppings, but for the most Danish of Danish experiences, have a piece with pickled herring – it sounds like it might be an acquired taste, but it’s delicious, we promise!
We live what we preach, and Danes really do eat rye bread for lunch every single day, pretty much without exception. If you don’t believe us, remember to check out the bread section and the pickled herring display in Salling Super!
However, if the sound of pickled fish makes your mouth water in the wrong way, it’s perfectly okay to go for something else. You can put pretty much anything on top of a slice of rye bread, even boiled eggs, potatoes, or roast beef.
Aarhus Street Food. is probably the opposite style of food compared to Michelin restaurants. Of course, that doesn’t make it any less tasty! When we visit a new place, especially on a city-getaway, we always check out the local street food options. They almost never disappoint, and that holds true for Aarhus as well.
Located in an old bus garage, the place is as quirky as street food joints come. The outside courtyard is buzzing on a warm day, and we highly suggest you grab a pint of Carlsberg in the sun. The food here really runs the gamut from juicy burgers at The Burger, to delectable Korean cuisine at Bap, or traditional Danish food at Grandma’s Kitchen.
Whereas the smørrebrød and street food options are probably best suited for lunch, Restaurant KöD is a great candidate for dinner. The name literally translates to Restaurant “Meat,” and it is, as the name suggests, a steakhouse.
It isn’t just any steakhouse, though, it’s probably the best in the country. The quality really is outrageously high, and if steak isn’t your thing, you could really go for the side dishes alone. The béarnaise sauce is out of this world yummy!
Let’s not forget about dessert. There’s really only one feasible choice when in Denmark, and we bet you already know this one: Danish pastries. You’ll see bakeries on every second corner, but do try to avoid those larger chains.
For a more authentic (and better!) taste, try out a local joint like Briancon. Their croissants have been voted the best in Aarhus several times, but it’s their more Danish options we’d suggest you sample, like a cream-filled Fastelavnsboller bun or rye sourdough bread with walnuts or dill. No matter what you order, we guarantee you’ll leave happy and full. How could you not, everything is made with handfuls of sugar and butter!
Visit a Museum
What Aarhus lacks in international recognition, it makes up for in its rich history and culture. The best way to really understand the spirit of Aarhus’s history is to visit one of its many museums celebrating its fine arts, Viking and Norse mythology, and even the best-preserved man from the Iron Age (now if that isn’t a draw to Aarhus, I am not sure what is!).
So spend an afternoon pursuing these museums to see some truly old (not USA old, but truly ancient) objects!
ARoS (Aarhus Art Museum)
ARoS is the fancy name awarded to the Aarhus Art Museum, one of the largest museums in Northern Europe. Interestingly, Aros is also the original name of Aarhus, back when the first Viking settlers moved in. In their native tongue, it meant “river mouth.” Obviously, it didn’t quite stick, but the Viking overlords of yore will be happy to learn that Aros now lives on as the top museum and most notable landmark in town!
ARoS’ ten floors contain a massive and diverse collection of Danish and international pieces, including Ron Mueck’s Boy, a 15-foot but very realistic statue of a squatting boy whose facial expressions change depending on your vantage point, and 18th century neoclassical pieces by N.A. Abildgaard, a famous Danish artist who had a thing for color and painting melodramatic scenes from ancient literature. Most of the pieces are from the past two hundred years but the temporary exhibits can feature almost anything.
Even if you are not impressed by the art, the building itself is worth the visit. Inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, ARoS’s ten floors – aka the nine circles of hell and the mountain of Purgatory – open up to a permanent installation called “Your Rainbow Panorama,” aka perfection in Paradise.
The installation is basically a giant, futuristic halo installed on the roof. It’s made entirely of glass and includes all the colors of the rainbow. Literally the whole color spectrum. You’ll see it from many parts of Aarhus, and, on a clear day, it offers a beautiful contrast to the blue skies.
You can walk around inside the full diameter of the glass circle, and enjoy skyline views of Aarhus filtered by your favorite color and grab a coffee or pastry at the cafe!
The Viking Museum
Although ARoS was named after the Vikings, it doesn’t have much to do with Norse mythology. If that’s what you’re looking for, you should head over to the Viking Museum. It’s a small museum in the city center, located in the basement of a commercial bank.
Why this peculiar location, you may ask? Well, the museum was built “on-site,” when the construction of an office building in the 1960s unearthed the original Viking settlement of Aros from over 1200 years ago. Archaeologists continued the excavations and found structures, everyday items, and even some runestones, giant rocks or boulders engraved with the old letters used by Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet which Vikings used to mark territory, commemorate the dead, tell of an important event, or just boast about your latest glories as a Viking. Think like, Viking Twitter.
From street level in the 21st century, you’ll walk 3 meters down a set of stairs and emerge more than a thousand years back in time. The best part? Due to its modest size, you won’t have time to get bored!
From the outside, the Moesgaard Museum looks like a slice of earth rising out of the ground – and you can actually take a stroll up the building’s long, sloping, turf-covered roof. It has a futuristic look that is also very tied to connecting with the Earth itself, like so much of Denmark’s incredible architecture.
Inside, you’ll find multiple exhibits on prehistoric ages and Viking life, including the Grauballe Man. Have you heard about the Grauballe Man? No? We don’t blame you, but he is actually quite cool.
He is the world’s best-preserved bog man from the Iron Age, dating back to around 500 BCE to 330 BCE, and spoiler-alert: he’s one ugly dude but in remarkable shape considering his age.
Named after the small village where his preserved body was found in the 1950s, the Grauballe Man was most likely killed during a ritual sacrifice, after which his body was placed in a bog as an offering (while we may think of bogs as mucky places, these watery landscapes were considered sacred places and the boundary between humans and the spirits).
Since bogs are oxygen-free environments and have naturally occurring chemicals that help prevent decay, the Grauballe Man remained almost perfectly intact for over two millennia – there was even still food found in his stomach! Because of his near-perfect preservation, the Grauballe Man’s body tells us lots about what life was like during the Iron Age in northern Europe, such as the fact that dental health was probably quite poor given the amount of small rocks consumed. Explains a lot, right?
The museum is located about 6 miles outside of the city center. It’s worth the trip, though, particularly if you are interested in archaeology. It does cost 160 DKK (23 USD) to look at the old bones and the pretty building, but in Denmark, that amount wouldn’t get you much more than two cups of coffee anyway!
The Danish Monarchy is over 1000 years old, making it one of the oldest in the world, so it’s only a matter of time before we’ll film our own version of The Crown! But if it’s grand castles you are after, Copenhagen is a much better place for this, with three castles nearby making for the perfect castle day trip.
But even if we are lacking a true castle, we make up for it in a palace and some very old churches! Marselisborg Palace is a stately white rectangular county house that looks like it could be a building made out of Legos but it’s really the Danish royalty’s summer and Christmas residence. The Marselisborg Palace is the holiday escape of Her Majesty the Queen Margrethe II, and during the times she is staying at the palace, you’ll be able to see the changing of the guard at noon every day.
The palace was built on an old farm using donations from locals and was given as a wedding present from the Danish people to the Crown Prince Christian X and Queen Alexandrine, the grandfather and grandmother of the current queen.
You can’t go inside the palace but the grounds are open to the public (as long as the royals aren’t there) to wander around, including Her Majesty’s impressive rose garden.
Marselisborg Deer Park
If you’re in the area of the palace and the weather is nice, we suggest you head over to Marselisborg Deer Park. Here, you can walk freely among the many deer, and you are even allowed to feed them fresh apples and carrots.
There are picnic tables as well, so you could bring a few pieces of smørrebrød with you for lunch and make an afternoon of it!
By the way, don’t be afraid of carrying along a bottle of wine with you. Public drinking is entirely okay in Denmark, both socially and legally. Heck, it’s pretty much encouraged.
The Cathedral of Aarhus
The Cathedral of Aarhus is special to Denmark because it is the tallest and longest church in Denmark, standing at 315ft high and 305ft long, and seating approximately 1200 people. The cathedral was originally completed in 1350 in the ornate Romanesque basilica style, but was redesigned in 1500 with gothic elements to make it bigger and taller.
Inside you will find medieval frescos of figures like St. George and the dragon, as well as an ornate, golden altar that stands as the cathedral’s centerpiece. A model of a boat also hangs from one of the cross beams of the church, which is customary in many parts of Denmark to pay homage to those who were lost at sea and of Denmark’s close connection with the sea.
An interesting fact about The Danish Church is that all Danes automatically pay 1% of their income directly to them through the tax system. You can choose to opt-out, but 75% of people actually contribute. This seems slightly odd since more than half of the Danes don’t consider themselves religious. It’s most likely a cultural thing, although most people only go to church a single time each year on Christmas day. The benefit of this steady flow of cash is that our churches are free to visit, beautiful to behold, and in immaculate condition.
The Cathedral of Aarhus is conveniently located right in the heart of Aarhus, and standing so tall, it’s very easy to find!
Take in Aarhus’ Modern Architecture
Back in 2017, Aarhus was Europe’s Capital of Culture, a city chosen to host cultural events for one year to celebrate the richness and diversity of the EU. Being selected as a Capital of Culture led Aahus to revamp vacant industrial areas and build some of Europe’s most impressive examples of modern architecture.
The Iceberg, a striking collection of buildings in the new Aarhus East district, is actually an apartment complex but is worth checking out from the harbor’s edge due to its bizarre angles and combination of blue glass and white metals.
These buildings were designed to look like floating icebergs and allow all 7,000 residents to have city harbor views, which is a miraculous design plan in itself!
Heading out to The Iceberg will give you a chance to check out the harbor as well, and glance out into Aarhus Bay.
Located along Aarhus’ docks, this futuristic-looking heptagonal building, known as the Dokk1, is an architectural wonder, with sweeping irregular staircases, expansive industrial-looking spaces, wide windows overlooking the harbor, and around 3,000 square meters of solar panels donning its iconic roof.
Once you are done looking at the building itself, there are tons of free activities and programming to partake in within this unique cultural library, from tactile science exhibits, tango classes, games, and quirky public art (look for the Magic Mushroom display!).
Oh, and there are plenty of books as well – Dokk1 is Scandinavia’s largest public library with over 350,000 books and other media!
If you want the chance to get wet and wild, The Harbour Bath is located right by The Iceberg and will give you a chance two enjoy two architectural wonders at once. Designed by famous Danish architect Bjarke Ingels Group BIG, The Harbour Bath is a triangular floating complex that includes a rectangular 50-meter-long swimming pool, a circular diving pool and two saunas.
Take a walk on the elevated plank walkway, which doubles as a viewing platform overlooking the pools and the Aarhus Bay beyond.
In true Nordic fashion, you can take a dip during the winter months, or in the summer months for those who are less brave.
Located near Marselisborg Palace and Deer Park, the Infinite Bridge (‘Den uendelige bro‘ in Danish), is a circular wooden pier built along the ocean shoreline. It was originally planned as a temporary installation but became so popular it’s now a permanent fixture!
You can stroll down the sandy beach of the Aarhus bay, and admire the verdant forests in the surrounding area, or just walk in circles on the Infinite Bridge forever!
Go on a Self-Guided Walking Tour
The concept of free guided walking tours hasn’t really made its way to Aarhus, but luckily for you, we’ve created one of our own!
The city is really small, so it’s easy to take a scenic walking route that takes you past most of the areas of interest in Aarhus – including most of the things to do in Aarhus featured in this post!
Our self-guided walking tour of Aarhus is only 2.2 miles in total, and is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with the city on foot.
Aarhus Self-Guided Walking Route
The day starts at Aarhus Central Station. Your hotel will most likely be located close by, and if not, you can easily take a train or a bus there.
- Start out by walking a half mile to ARoS, the art museum. It’s good to get the heavyweight museum out the way first thing before you get tired. All the art and visual stimulation will also get you excited for the rest of your day!
- Next, you’ll walk 0.3 miles down to The Old Town (Den Gamle By). Spend a few hours there walking through the recreated historical streets, and working up an appetite for your next stop.
- As you think about smørrebrød, you make your way 0.4 miles towards Restaurant F-Høj via the picturesque Møllestien path, filled with colorful 15th-century Danish houses among a cobblestone street. Snap a few Insta-worthy pictures en route.
- After lunch, you can grab dessert at Briancon bakery just opposite the canal from F-Høj. If you aren’t in the mood for something sweet, drop by Magasin next-door, an outrageously popular shopping mall, or have a cup of coffee at one of the many cafes by the canal. If the weather is nice, the area here will be buzzing, and you might even be lucky that a live music performance is on.
- By now, it’s the early afternoon, and you’ll want to get your second dose of culture. Proceed 0.2 miles to the Church of our Lady and then make your way 0.3 miles through the Latin Quarter (Latinerkvarteret). It’s the oldest part of Aarhus, filled with charming and colorful houses and plenty of fantastic photo opportunities.
- Explore that area for a while before walking 0.1 miles towards the Cathedral of Aarhus. This is where the main shopping street starts, so take a leisurely stroll up that towards your next destination.
- Once you’ve felt plenty pious after visiting two churches, walk 243ft to the Viking Museum, and spend a little time in the small museum dedicated to Aahus’s Viking forefathers.
- In another 0.2 miles, you’ll reach Salling, where it’s finally time for a much-needed afternoon aperitif on the rooftop. Here you can have a snack, a drink, and take in a bird’s eye view of the city you just explored!
If you have paid attention throughout the first part of this post, you’ll notice we have left out Marselisborg Palace, Marselisborg Deer Park, and Moesgaard Museum. Those are a bit too far out of town to be reached on foot, unfortunately.
If you want a little more in-depth history, Aarhus Culture Walk offers a guided two-hour Historical Walking Tour. They will guide you to the Aarhus Cathedral and City Hall, to the ARoS art museum and then to the reconstructed Viking stave church on display at the Moesgaard Viking Museum, all with a knowledgeable guide explaining the history of Aarhus!
Visit a Theme Park
Few places can boast of having amusement parks in walking distance of the city center, but two of them are in Denmark! Copenhagen’s iconic Tivoli Gardens has a sister park in Aarhus called Tivoli Friheden, aka Tivoli Freedom.
Much like its sister park, there’s more to do in Tivoli Friheden than just have a blast riding thrill rides and stuffing your face with sweets. In the winter, the park turns into a charming Christmas Village, complete with twinkling lights and jul-time hygge and cheer.
In the spring, the park blooms with daffodils and tulips. And in the summer, the park is home to Denmark’s largest flower festival, dripping with pink begonias, green boxwood, purple perennials, blue lobelia, red roses, light purple yarrow, white giant lilies, a sky of differently colored umbrellas, and an explosion of confetti.
Take a Day Trip from Aarhus
Aarhus is not a large city. At only 35 square miles in its urban area, and 181 miles municipally, you can comfortably explore most of it in just a couple of days. However, scheduling yourself extra time will allow you to venture out into the countryside of Jutland – the part of the country that juts into the North Sea – to experience the “real” Denmark. There are countless adventures waiting out there, but these three are the must-see places.
If you are a fan of LEGOs – or were as a child – you can’t miss the original LEGOLAND theme park. LEGOLAND might not equal Disneyland in size, variety, or glamour, but it has its own charm.
Here you can ride LEGO-themed rides, like a LEGO Haunted House or one of its several roller coasters, but the real stars are the impressive LEGO structures. In Miniland alone you can see over 20 million lego bricks creating structures like the White House, the Acropolis and Denmark’s very own Kronborg Castle, which is the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and one of the castles near Copenhagen.
LEGOLAND also happens to be located in the town of Billund where Ole Kirk Christiansen invented LEGOs, and where the headquarters of LEGO still operates. It’s no wonder the family behind the LEGO company is by far the richest in all of Denmark; there’s definitely money in the plastic building brick business!
Want to climb the tallest mountain in Denmark? We’ve got good news for you: You can definitely handle it.
You won’t be needing any prior mountaineering experience or any special equipment. So long as you can put one foot in front of the other, you can probably handle our tallest of peaks.
The mountain we are talking about is called Himmelbjerget – “The Sky Mountain“. It sounds intimidating, we know, but the numbers speak for themselves. Himmelbjerget is 147 meters tall or just 482 feet.
There aren’t a whole lot of other countries worldwide where you can climb the highest peak without breaking a sweat. The average altitude in Denmark is just 111 feet (34 meters) above sea level. This makes it the 5th flattest country in the world!
If there is one thing Danes hate about Denmark, this is it. We love love love to hike but what’s the fun in that when you’re walking on nothing but level ground!?
We’ve saved the best for last. This is our favorite place in the whole country! We just talked about the tallest point in Denmark, i.e., the topographic top of the country. Now it’s time to mention what you could call the geographic top. Okay, no one would call it that, so let’s simply say the northernmost point in Denmark.
All the way up there, you’ll find the charming little settlement of Skagen. This little town is filled with picturesque yellow buildings with red roofs, and plenty of museums to learn about the local history and lore.
The highlight of your trip, however, will most likely be “Grenen.” This is the pointy tip of Denmark, a stretch of beach that extends out into the northern oceans.
It’s quite a unique place, and it’s immensely beautiful. The sand stretches as far as the eye can see in either direction, and we bet this is the widest beach you’ve ever seen. You might even be lucky to spot a seal basking in the sun.
Walk a few feet out into the cold water, and you’ll find yourself standing with one leg in the sea of Skagerak and the other in the sea of Kattegat. The waves will roll in from both directions and clash together right where you stand.
Where to stay in Aarhus?
While Aarhus is far from the cheapest place in the world to visit, there are plenty of budget-friendly options that will make your stay comfortable and memorable.
- Hostel: Danhostel Aarhus City is located in the heart of downtown Aarhus and is cozy, spacious, clean, and bright. Best of all, it has a rooftop cafe where you can take in the sights of the city and chat with new friends!
- Boutique Hotel: Wakeup Aarhus is part of a small Danish chain of budget hotels that were designed by Danish architect Kim Utzon, son of the famous architect of Sydney Operahouse Jørn Utzon. The hotel has a very modern feel decked out in black, white, green, and orange, with very bright and tidy rooms. The best part is that the location is right next to Aarhus Central Station so you’ll have the whole city within easy walking distance, and can catch a train or bus in minutes.
- Premium hotel: Hotel Oasia is also located in the heart of downtown, and while a little more expensive, still completely reasonable for a boutique hotel. Lobby and rooms are the epitome of Nordic design: warm woods, blue ginghams, and inviting designer furniture really give you the Danish experience. The breakfast buffet has a large spread of foods, including a smørrebrød station, so you can feel like a true Dane while staying here!
About Our Contributors: Nick & Kia are native Danes, and when it comes to stuff about Aarhus, they might just know what they’re talking about. They do know a fair bit about the rest of the world as well because they are also avid travelers!
Which of these things to do in Aarhus are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below!
Planning a trip to Denmark? Take a look at our other posts:
- 12 Charming Things to Do in Copenhagen in Winter
- Copenhagen Castles Guide: Self-Guided Day Trip from Copenhagen
- 6 Traditional Danish Christmas Foods to Eat in Winter
Thinking about where else to visit in Europe? Here are some of our favorite nearby European destinations to explore!
- 10 Magical Things to do in Bremen, Germany in Winter
- The Perfect 7-Day Norway Itinerary for an Epic Winter Trip
- 14 Adorably Romantic Things to do in Bruges, Belgium in Winter
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