The best things to do in Aarhus highlight the coolest attractions of Denmark’s second capital. As Copenhagen’s cool little sister, it shows promise. The city was elected the European Cultural Capital back in 2017 and spent years beautifying itself for its turn in the spotlight. Nestled into the craggy Jutland Peninsula, we can’t help gushing about the city’s charming streets and hygge cafes and shops. In fact, we’re confident in saying the city represents a fine balance of small-town charisma and big-city sophistication.

    With over 10% of the population being students, the atmosphere in Aarhus is laidback and youthful. The city boasts impressive museums and cultural spaces, as well as pristine outdoor spaces which live up to Scandinavia’s reputation for immaculate cleanliness. Below is a revised list of the best things to do around the city in a day.

    What are the best things to do in Aarhus?

    1

    Graven

    Start the day a coffee and Danish pastry

    • History
    • Photo
    • Food

    Cute little flower pots and wooden benches make Graven a cute spot that is great for people-watching. Pop into La Cabra – an award-winning coffee shop that serves up a cosy atmosphere and fluffy pastries – or grab an organic fruit juice at Café Ganefryd. The Latin Quarter is one of the oldest quarters in the city and with that, also one of the most charming places to wander around. 

    This historic district’s name reflects the area’s similarities with the Latin Quarter in Paris. As you leisurely walk down these stone pathways lined with colourful houses, you’ll notice a few which show some age. Some of the houses are very old - dating back to the 16th century.

    Location: Graven, Latinerkvarteret, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

    Map

    photo by RhinoMind (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    2

    ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum

    Art inside a rainbow setting

    • History
    • Photo

    ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum is one of Europe’s largest art museums, and the only one with a rainbow rooftop. The colourful walkway attracts hundreds of visitors to the museum and sits at the top of the building. The view from the top offers lovely panoramas of the city. Find yourself mesmerised by the glowing colours of the walkway and bask in multi-colour light as you walk in circles. 

    The museum’s exhibitions focus on modern and contemporary art with themes ranging from human nature to satanic conversations. One of the landmarks of the museum is Ron Mueck’s ‘Boy’, which is an impressive 4.5m-high sculpture of a crouching youth. The museum is closed on Mondays.

    Location: Aros Allé 2, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

    Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 9 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +45 87 30 66 00

    Map
    3

    Den Gamle By

    A great place to learn about Danish history

    • History
    • Photo

    Den Gamle By is named the Old Town museum of Aarhus, with buildings dating back as far as the mid-1500s. It’s an open-air museum made up of ancient buildings that reek of history. This area puts on a fascinating display of Danish life over the centuries and is a must-see for first-timers to the city. The area covers three main time periods: 1700s, 1920s and the 1970s. 

    The museum really allows visitors to explore and immerse themselves in the experience; you can enter almost every building and each café and shop has period-accurate foods and goods. History fanatics will definitely love this attraction. Look out for staff all dressed up in period-style clothing and in character.

    Location: Viborgvej 2, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

    Open: Hours vary by season

    Phone: +45 86 12 31 88

    Map
    4

    Aarhus Domkirke

    Denmark’s largest church

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Aarhus Domkirke, otherwise known simply as Aarhus Cathedral, was founded in the last decades of the 12th century. The cathedral appears in a Gothic style with green-pointed skinny towers and beautiful brown brickwork on the outside and entrances of the cathedral. Inside, there are well-preserved murals and wall paintings, an intricate altarpiece from the 15th century and a grand baroque organ. 

    For a small fee, you can climb the spiral stairs of the bell tower to a great viewpoint of the city. If you want to venture a little higher, the bell tower is open for viewing as well. Services are on Sundays at 10 am and 5 pm, and Wednesdays from 12 pm to 12.30 pm. 

    Location: Store Torv, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

    Open: May–September from 9.30 am to 4 pm and October–April from 10 am to 3 pm daily (extended hours on Sundays)

    Phone: +45 89 40 92 00

    Map

    photo by Luke McKernan (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    5

    Møllestien

    One of the city’s most beautiful lanes

    • History
    • Photo

    Møllestien is an old, picturesque lane adorned with gorgeous hollyhocks and ambling roses, which grow up the exteriors of the tiny half-timbered houses. On a sunny day, stand in adoration of this idyllic lane and watch the sunlight gleam off its cobbled street and the small-paned windows of the colourful houses. 

    With the houses dating back to the 18th century and the street itself back to Viking times, there’s an undeniable ancient charm in the atmosphere. You’ll find yourself taking pictures at an alarming rate, with every corner of this street as attractive as the next. If you’re lucky, snap a picture of a cyclist riding down the lane – a quintessential Danish setting.

    Location: Møllestien, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

    Map

    photo by Tanya Dedyukhina (CC BY 3.0) modified

    6

    Dokk1

    Danish architecture at its best

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    Dokk1 is a public library and cultural centre found in the city centre, along the waterfront. The structure is impressive in all respects, appearing as a sleek, modern spaceship. This stunning glass building holds Scandinavia’s largest library. Now, you may be thinking – I didn’t come to Denmark to look at a library – but this structure is so cutting-edge, it’s been named the best public library in the world. 

    Explore the futuristic grounds of the building, grab a book or a refreshment and relax on the waterfront. Come nightfall, enjoy the dazzling view of Dokk1 illuminated in light and reflected in the waters of the Aarhus Bay. Dokk1 also hosts the main tourist centre of the city.

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    Location: Hack Kampmanns Plads 2, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

    Open: Monday to Friday from 8 am to 10 pm, Saturday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +45 89 40 92 00

    Map

    photo by Leif Jørgensen (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    7

    Vesterbro’s Godsbanen

    Home to flea markets and pop-ups

    • History
    • Photo

    Godsbanen, located in the neighbourhood of Vesterbro, provides Aarhus’ creatives with all the space and opportunity they could imagine. Made up of open workshops, studio spaces, project rooms, auditoriums, theatre stages, dance halls and much more, the centre represents the city’s burgeoning creative scene. 

    Previously an area for Denmark’s largest freight train yards, the space is now filled with flea markets and pop-up stalls, some of which sell Danish street food like hot dogs. Check out the website for any events during your stay. If you'd rather a hearty meal, pop into Spiselauget for a sit-down dinner – they serve Nordic gastropub food.

    Location: Skovgaardsgade 3, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm

    Map

    photo by RhinoMind (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    8

    Marselisborg Castle (Marselisborg Slot)

    Visit the queen’s summer residence, and be king or queen for a day

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget

    See Queen Margrethe’s summer residence, Marselisborg Castle (Marselisborg Slot), on top of Memorial Park (Mindeparken) and with a view of Marselisborg Forest (Marselisborg Skov). This old castle, which dates back over 100 years, paints a beautiful picture from behind the tall trees, and you can admire it when walking through Memorial Park. The actual castle is not open, but when the royal family is not staying there, the beautiful castle park offers ample opportunities to get some great Instagram pictures. Take an enchanting walk through the English-inspired garden, with its rose beds, small lakes and trees. The queen’s great interest in art is also apparent from the numerous sculptures that you can find around the park.

    When the royal family is staying at the castle, the Royal Life Guards perform a changing of the guard at noon every day.

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    Location: Kongevejen 100, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

    Open: The castle park is open when the royal family is not staying at the castle.

    Map
    9

    The Viking Museum

    Check out the Viking town of Aros as it was on both sides of the ramparts

    • History

    Step down into the basement, three metres under Nordea at Skt. Clemens Torv, and walk in the footsteps of the Vikings at the Viking Museum, which is quite literally placed on top of the old Viking town of Aros. When you move around the museum, you are walking on the same surface as the Vikings who built Aros (present-day Aarhus) walked on over 1,000 years ago.

    A six-metre-tall and 18-metre-wide rampart was built around the town to protect it from attacks led by the German emperor. The museum depicts the commerce, seafaring and longships outside the ramparts as well as the houses and streets on the inside, which echo with chicken clucks and grim tales.

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    Location: Sankt Clemens Torv 6, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

    Open: Monday to Friday from 10:15 am to 6 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10:15 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +45 87 39 40 00

    Map
    10

    Marselisborg Forests

    Enjoy a picnic in the woods

    • Couples
    • Families
    • Photo

    Spread over 1,300 hectares of lush, enchanting woodland, Marselisborg Forests is found south of Aarhus. Find yourself amongst a typical Danish fairytale setting, with towering oak trees glittering in faint light and the occasional deer (visitors from the neighbouring Marselisborg Deer Park). 

    Also found within the woodlands are anemone fields and rare plants, such as bleeding corals and the poisonous Satan’s mushrooms. The grounds are hilly with deep green slopes, so wear walking shoes and find a cosy spot amongst the trees to relax in. Spread around the forest there are a number of 200- to 300-year-old beech trees.

    Location: Marselis Skoven, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

    Map

    photo by RhinoMind (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    11

    Åboulevarden

    Bar-hop along the riverfront

    • Photo
    • Nightlife

    Åboulevarden is a lively street and promenade meandering through the Indre By neighbourhood, which is a popular thoroughfare for tourists and locals. Sat along the Aarhus River, sunny days on the street are particularly pleasant as crowds flock to enjoy the sunshine and the attractive views of the glistening river. 

    Åboulevarden is the ideal place to end your day with bustling bars and exciting cafes. Check out Cross Café, which serves Danish and international beers and colourful cocktails, and Lava for a more relaxing atmosphere.

    Location: Åboulevarden, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

    Map

    photo by News Oresund (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Sophia Macpherson | Contributing Writer

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