Aarhus is the second biggest city of Denmark and was the European Capital of Culture 2017. Did I visit in 2017? Yes! Did I jump on the bandwagon and write about Aarhus and the festivities for its year of culture? Nope. I’m totally behind, but the good news is that I’m finally catching up!
I actually spent an entire week in Denmark and got to admire 4 other charming Danish towns that you should totally visit as well! I was based in Aarhus for my entire stay and even though I didn’t get the chance to explore nearly as much as I’d have liked, I hope you’ll still find this mini-guide to Aarhus useful for future reference!
Aarhus is kinda like the often overlooked brother (or sister?) of Copenhagen, and while the latter is my favourite city in all of Scandinavia and the Nordics, the mainland of Denmark (yes mainland, because Denmark consists of 10,000 islands!) should totally be on your Denmark itinerary as well!
As the former Capital of Culture, Aarhus has developed quite rapidly in recent years and now offers you plenty of fascinating architecture, great shopping opportunities and lots of great restaurants - all located in beautiful surroundings right by the Baltic Sea!
10 Things to See and Do in Aarhus
1. Visit ARoS - My new favourite modern art museum
Regardless of whether you’re actually a fan of modern art (or art in general) or not, trust me, ARoS is worth a visit anyway! This museum of modern art has some really fascinating and quirky exhibitions to offer, but the highlight of the museum is, without doubt, the infinite bridge on its rooftop!
Take in Aarhus from above while strolling past ever-changing colours - and, of course, don’t forget to take a selfie!
2. Have a look at the Grauballe Man at Moesgaard Museum
Have you ever seen a bog body? The so-called “Grauballe Man” is one of the best preserved bog bodies in the world and originates from the 3rd century BC! It was found in the 1950s and has since then been exhibited at Moesgaard Museum - which is worth a visit not just because of the bog body.
At Moesgaard Museum you can, for instance, learn more about the Vikings, and after your museum visit, you should also check out Moesgaard Manor and the nearby beach. There is lots to discover on the estate, so don’t miss the Thai house and the reconstructed building from the Iron Age!
3. Watch the deer and visit the castle at Marselisborg
Just 20 minutes from the city centre by bus, you can find yourself in lush greenery at the local deer park. Entrance to the park is free and close by, you can also find Marselisborg Castle - the summer residence of the Danish royals. The castle is closed for visitors, but you can go for a stroll in the castle grounds and watch the changing of the guards at noon, whenever the royals are in town!
4. Travel in time at Den Gamle By
The open-air museum “Den Gamle By” is an absolute must when visiting Aarhus! Even though me and my family visited in April when it was still pretty much freezing outside, I thoroughly enjoyed traveling in time and getting to know the Denmark of the olden days!
Den Gamle By is a little bit like a town within a town. The museum is located in pretty much the city centre of Aarhus and here, you can find 75 houses from the 19th to the 20th century. Whether you’re interested in visiting old farmhouses or mansions, this open-air museum has it all and even provides reenactors who depict locals from the olden days.
You can easily spend an entire day at the museum if you want to visit every building, and there even are museums within the museum - for example the Danish Poster Museum and the Toy Museum.
And if you’re getting hungry during your visit? Don’t worry! A visit to the local bakery is a must - but more on that later!
5. Go for a stroll around the Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden of Aarhus is situated right next to Den Gamle By and makes for a wonderful afternoon stroll on a sunny day! The garden itself, as well as the greenhouses, are free to visit and there are 4 climate zones to discover and explore in the latter!
6. Get that Insta-shot at the Infinite Bridge
This is the one sight of Aarhus that I really regret not having seen! The infinite bridge is, unfortunately, only set up at the bay during the summer, so don’t expect to find it when visiting during the Easter holidays (which is when I was in the area).
The bridge was originally set up for an event in 2015, but apparently it was so popular, that it’s now a local feature every summer. Just imagine all the Instagram pictures you could take here at sunset!
7. Imagine life in an “iceberg” at Aarhus Ø
Aarhus Ø is an entirely new neighbourhood of the city that is still under development, but shapes up to be the new local hotspot. The iceberg-buildings that have already been constructed are an architectural masterpiece, and I could totally picture myself living there.
I mean, just imagine waking up in the morning and being able to look out onto the ocean? What a dream!
The area is well worth a visit - even if it’s just to imagine what living here like a local must be like… Or maybe you could even find an Airbnb in one of the buildings?
8. Get your culture on at Dokk1
Dokk1 is the new library of Aarhus where you can also find the tourist information. It was built in order to transform a former industrial area to become more of an urban space where locals and visitors can hang out. The building was only finished in 2017 and now hosts concerts, workshops, poetry slams, and all sorts of cultural events.
If you’re interested in the architectural side of Dokk1, you can participate in free guided tours!
9. Visit one of the many Beaches in the area
Being located at the Baltic Sea, Aarhus has plenty of beaches to choose from for a stroll in off-season, or sun-bathing and swimming in summer! I visited Bellevue Beach (on a chilly April day, might I add) and absolutely loved the view.
I really need to come back during the summer to properly enjoy it, I think!
10. SHop till you drop
Aarhus has a pretty compact city centre with lots of pedestrian alleyways with shops and small malls. While Denmark isn’t exactly the cheapest place to go for a shopping spree, Danish design is definitely something to splurge on, so make sure to at least go and check out the stores on a rainy day - even if just to window-shop!
Where to Eat in Aarhus
As I stayed with my family in an Airbnb, I didn’t eat out for all my meals, but I was fortunate enough to had a bite at the following places, which I would 100% recommend:
Konditoriet Café Bonnich at Den Gamle By
They call them “Danishes” for a reason, right? So, where better to try Danish pastry than Denmark itself?!
While visiting Den Gamle By, my parents and I stumbled upon this gorgeous old bakery with a display of the most delicious cakes in their shop window: Konditoriet Cafe Bonnich! Needless to say that their shop window lured us in and we ended up enjoying afternoon tea in the bakery cafe. No regrets - their cakes tasted as delicious as they looked!
The Burger Shack - the best burger in town?
Before visiting Aarhus, I had read somewhere that you could find the best burgers of town at the Burger Shack and well, we had to test whether that claim was actually true, right?
As I haven’t been to all burger restaurants in town, I can’t say whether the Burger Shack is actually the best one, but I thoroughly enjoyed their chicken burger with fries (they also have a veggie option, though). Unfortunately, the restaurant is tiny and they only have a couple of tables available, but you can also sit outside in summer!
Edit: A local birdie told me that Burger Shack has a collaboration with the pub Tir Na Nóg (The Tap Room) just across the street, so you can also sit there when it’s too crowded in the shack!
Grappa - Italian in style
For our last evening in Aarhus, we decided to just go for pizza/pasta, but stumbled upon this really nice Italian restaurant at the canal side called Grappa, which turned out to be a great find!
We all enjoyed our meals, the atmosphere in the restaurant was lovely and the price of 140 DKK for a pizza isn’t too bad for Denmark!
Cafe Sidewalk - A bit of everything with a view
Pretty much right next to Grappa is Cafe Sidewalk which we discovered a day earlier after a shopping spree in the city. It was literally the first restaurant we stumbled upon that wasn’t still closed, but we were quite happy with our find!
Sidewalk is also situated right by the canal side and provides a lovely atmosphere! We went for pasta (which were delicious!) but they also offer burgers, tapas, salads, sandwiches, brunch (!) and heavenly-sounding desserts! They have plenty of veggie options available and their prices are really moderate.
Where to Stay in Aarhus
As I said, my family and I stayed at an Airbnb in the outskirts of the city, as we had a car available and weren’t dependent on public transport (even though it would have only taken us 25 min to get from the Airbnb to town by bus).
Now, I don’t know about you but I’m absolutely fascinated with Scandinavian interior design, and the flat that we rented was absolutely gorgeous - pretty much like the definition of hygge, I’d say!
If you’re visiting Denmark for the very first time, I can only recommend you to stay in an Airbnb and see how locals live for a couple of days. You can use this link to sign up for the platform and get 350 NOK in travel credit as a gift from me!
If you’d rather stay in a hotel in the city centre, I personally always try to book a Scandic hotel whenever I can. I’ve never had a bad experience with them as their rooms are always super cosy and their breakfast buffet is to die for!
In Aarhus, there are three Scandic to choose from: Scandic Aarhus in the city centre and the two slightly cheaper Scandic Aarhus Vest about 10 min from the centre of town, and Scandic The Mayor, which is in the centre of town as well!
Are you planning a trip to Aarhus or have already been there?
Share your questions and/or advice in a comment below or by using the #nordicinsider on Instagram!