Located in the heart of the Jutland Peninsula and awarded the European City of Culture in 2017, Aarhus (pronounced oar-hus), Denmark’s second city, packs a lot in. Striking architectural landmarks nestled between enticing restaurants attracting food lovers and city-breakers. Easy-going and unpretentious, read our guide to a quick tour of Aarhus.
Travel Essentials for a tour of Aarhus
Airline: Ryanair from London Stansted (STN) to AArhus (AAR). From £10, return.
To the city: Airport bus 925 runs to the centre. Taxis and buses are expensive.
Cost: 115 KR (£13) for an adult single.
Journey time to centre: 50 minutes. The airport lies 45km (28 mile) north-west of the centre.
Need to know
Visa: From 1st January 2021, UK residents can visit for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period.
Travel: See the FCDO website.
Currency: Danish Krone (£1 = 8.7 DKK approximately).
Tips: Included in the bill.
Travel Adapter: Type C, E, F, K.
Language: Danish. English is widely spoken.
Best time to visit: May until September.
Time: GMT + 1.
Quick facts about Aarhus
- Aarhus means ‘mouth of the river’.
- It is one of Denmark’s oldest cities, dating from the Viking age.
- Voted European Capital of Culture in 2017.
- Twinned with St. Petersburg, Russia.
- A population of 300,000 inhabitants.
Quick city tour Aarhus
- Explore the Strøget district – Free.
- Dokk1 – Free.
- Aarhus Domkirke – Free.
- Mølleparken – Free.
- Cottages of Møllestien – Free.
- Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum – 150 KR (£16.80) for one adult.
- Musikhuset Aarhus – Free.
- Botanical Garden and the Greenhouses – Free.
- Den Gamle By – 150 KR (£16.80) for one adult.
Day 1 – Morning
Start the day perusing Strøget, the main pedestrian area in Aarhus. Nearly a kilometre in length, starting at the Aarhus Central train station and ending near the Aarhus Domkirke. Midway at Østergarde, take a right and head towards the port.
The landmark building is Dokk1, a cultural centre and public library. With clean, striking architecture lines above ground, there is an underground automated parking facility for 1,000 vehicles.
Dokk1 is the largest public library in Scandinavia and an ideal spot to relax with a coffee overlooking the industrial port of Aarhus.
With the port on the right, continue for 10 minutes before reaching the city’s cathedral, Aarhus Domikirke. Dating from the 12th century with its Romanesque basilica, ornate chapels and seating for 1,200 people, the chapel at 93m (305ft) is the longest church in Denmark.
Near the Domkirke is the 19th century Aarhus Teater, the largest provincial theatre in Europe. Across the road from here is the KØN – Gender Museum Denmark, which exhibits the lives of Danish women, showcasing gender policies and equality.
Day 1 – Afternoon
Take a lunch break at the excellent Mexican eatery, Vaca (Mejlgade 17, 8000 Aarhus C). Walk for 15 minutes towards Mølleparken, an area of canalside paths, well-kept lawns and bars. This green space is a perfect spot to relax.
Around the corner is Møllestein, an Instagram-ready residential cobbled street of colourful timbered cottages, giving the air of bygone era. Despite being located in the middle of Aarhus, it is easy to miss.
The penultimate stop for day one is the Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum, the oldest public art museum in Denmark outside Copenhagen. Entry is free, but opening times are limited to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays. Aside from the inspiring exhibitions, the museum is identifiable by the rainbow rooftop panorama walk.
Day 1 – Evening
As the evening draws in, admire the Musikhuset Aarhus, a music venue for 3,600 people and the largest concert hall in Scandinavia. Enjoy pre-dinner drinks in modernist surroundings with an ambient setting. The venue boasts a diverse and full calendar of events.
Day 2 – Morning
Start the day on our tour of Aarhus with a visit to the Botanical Garden and Greenhouses, passing the windmill en route. With four climate zones (Mediterranean House, Desert House, Montane Forest House and Tropical House), there are nearly 2,000 plant species from all over the world.
The main greenhouse has tropical butterflies that roam freely, a treehouse that is possible to climb, and giant water lilies native to the Amazon rainforest. The leaves of the largest species can reach 2.5m in diameter. The lower side of the leaves are covered in thorns, which protect them from being eaten by fish.
Adjacent to the Botanica Gardens is Den Gamle By. This open-air museum is a journey back to life in 1864, 1927 and 1974. There are more than 75 historic houses, courtyards and narrow streets with mannequins of woodcarvers, shop assistants and bakers. Inertactive presentations and costume-clad staff help recreate the story of the past.
The 1974 section is retro and one of the museum’s highlights is The Danish Poster Museum. Starting as a private collection in 1972, it now holds a collection of 200,000 posters from around the world.
The BOOK1 Design Hostel (Møllegade 3A, 8000 Aarhus) in Mølleparkern is more like a swanky hotel. The futuristic, industrial-feel bar doubles up as the reception. This concept hostel where design features heavily is super clean and one of the best hostels I have stayed at. A single bed with an en-suite bathroom starts from 185 KR (£21) per night.
Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel (Margrethepladsen 1 Entrance from, Thomas Jensens Allé 1, 8000 Aarhus) is a 4-star, 234 room hotel at the heart of Aarhus. Ideal for business or leisure travellers and located next to the Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum and Town Hall. Standard doubles start at 900 KR (£100) per night.
The Villa Provence Hotel (Fredens Torv 12, 8000 Aarhus) offers 35 unique rooms and four suites as part of an elegant, intimate boutique hotel decorated in a Provencal style. Standard doubles start at 1350 KR (£151) per night.
Although Aarhus boasts Michelin-starred restaurants such as Nordisk Spisehus and Restaurant Gastrome, more modest options include Cafe Piccolina for excellent pizza and vegan dishes or Sevags Graekeren for tasty Greek food. Around the city, there are plenty of places serving excellent coffee and snacks, such as La Cabra Coffee and Cafe Ziggy. For quick bites, including hearty burgers try, Burger Boom. Their burgers cost from 90 KR (£10.15) upwards and come with delicious sauces.
Denmark is expensive, even by Western standards and Aarhus is no exception. The Danes pride themselves on lifestyle and healthy living. This is reflected in monetary terms everywhere you go. Food can be expensive, transport is not cheap and admission fees are high compared to other parts of Europe. Conveniently, our tour of Aarhus does cover some free things to see and do.
So while not the first-choice destination for travellers on a shoestring, Aarhus can make for an ideal weekend break. Copenhagen, as Denmark’s first city, is the obvious choice but Aarhus offers, decent museums, stylish architecture and a series of Michelin-starred restaurants that will delight foodies.
Read about our European weekend breaks.