Since moving here, I have discovered that Aarhus is a wonderful city. It’s the perfect size to live in, and it offers everything you could need as far as atmosphere and entertainment for those just visiting. I suggest that you see Aarhus in the summer, as it’s really the best time to visit. The sun is typically shining brightly, and the light lingers late into the night, covering the whole city that soft afternoon light that’s just perfect for photographs. There are many things to do in Aarhus in the winter, especially if you’re coming around the Christmas season, but summer is when the city really comes alive.
Here are my suggestions of things not to miss while you’re visiting Aarhus, Denmark:
- The pedestrian area (known as Strøget) and Åboulevarden: In the heart of the city is an area only for pedestrians, and here many people come to stroll and do some serious shopping in the boutiques lining the streets. Åboulevarden is the name of the biggest pedestrian street that runs along Aarhus’ one canal, and it is lined with cafés and restaurants. This area is always packed with people, and you can almost always find street performers or some form of entertainment going on.
- The Latin Quarter (Latin Kvarteret): From Åboulevarden, you should head just a few blocks north into the Latin Quarter. This is my favorite part of Aarhus, as it’s probably the most picturesque neighborhood in the whole city with its cobblestone streets and medieval timbered buildings. It also houses the cathedral and Aarhus’ two main squares: Lille Torv and Stor Torv. And it’s just full of things to do. You can have coffee in a cozy café (and feel free to sit and chat or people watch for hours as the staff won’t pressure you to move on) or go shopping in the many little boutiques. You can even linger here until evening and choose one of the many restaurants as your dinner spot.
Tip: Just one small warning about eating out in Denmark: it is expensive. Casual dining doesn’t really exist here; most Danes eat out only on special occasions. Also, servers in Denmark are paid salaries rather than working for tips. All of this adds up to surprisingly expensive dining experiences. But the food is usually excellent, so my advice is to sit back and relax and enjoy the experience. And remember, you don’t have to tip in Denmark!
- The beaches: Want to do something a little more nature related or family friendly? Well, since you are in Aarhus in summer you have to check out one of the city’s two lovely beaches: Den Permanente in the North and Ballehage Beach in the South. These beaches are the perfect spots to have a picnic in the rare Danish sun, take a refreshing dip in the Baltic Sea, and watch all the Danes come out of their winter hidey-holes to soak up the sun next to you.
Tip: Just beware that Danes are not shy about sunbathing, and you may see some nude bathers.
- Riis Skov or Marselisborg Skov: Another great option for nature lovers is going for a lovely walk under deep green leaves of the two forests in town. Riis Skov is towards the North, by Den Permanente, with walking paths and a playground. Marselisborg Skov is in the South near Ballehage Beach. Marselisborg Skov is the top point of a whole collection of fun outdoor activities, which includes Mindeparken (Memorial Park), featuring a memorial to WWI and a lovely view of the sea; Forstbotanisk Have, lovely botanical gardens; Rømerhaven, beautiful Roman gardens; and Marselisborg Slot, one of the royal palaces where the royal family still comes during the summer and sometimes on holidays. (If the flag is up, you’ll know the queen is in residence.)
- Eat as much “softis” as you can: Softis is a traditional Danish treat and is something you absolutely have to partake of if you come to Aarhus. It’s like soft serve ice cream if it had been mixed with whipped cream. It comes in two flavors, vanilla and strawberry, and there are tons of toppings like nuts or even licorice sprinkles!
- Walk around the neighborhoods and drinking in all the lovely architecture: This is my favorite activity to do when visiting a new city, especially a European one, and I definitely did this a lot when I first moved to Aarhus. Be sure to make time to visit Frederiksbjerg, a quaint little neighborhood just South of the train station, and Trøjbjerg, a hip neighborhood to the North by Riis Skov. These are also good neighborhoods to check out if you want to do some shopping outside of the more touristy shops around Strøget.
Tip: There’s a great flea market and farmer’s market, called Ingerslev Marked, in Frederiksbjerg on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Among other things, it has a whole truck devoted to cheese!
- ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuset: Aarhus has some wonderful museums and cultural activities, but one that you really shouldn’t miss is the art museum, ARoS. Apart from its really excellent exhibits, which have a little bit for everyone since they are a mix of traditional and modern art, there is the stunning art exhibit on top of the building that you can walk through called The Rainbow. It dominates the Aarhus skyline, and is one of the most quintessentially tourist things you can do while in town. Up in The Rainbow, not only will you get a panoramic view of the city, but it will come in every hue! The café and museum gift shop are also great.
Tip: ARoS is a wonderful place to go when it rains (as it tends to do in Denmark), and it’s a great place to take the kids. They have whole exhibits and activities set up for children.
- Den Gamle By: If you’re looking for that perfect activity to do with your children, this is it. The Old Town is made up of dozens of actual historic Danish homes gathered together in this one place. Employees in traditional dress fill the houses and streets, carrying out the tasks that would have been typical throughout Danish history. The town has an area dedicated to many different eras in history – even a new area themed like the 1970’s! – so you can see Danish history throughout the ages. Visit the bakery, the bookshop, or the sweet shop and take part in the many activities for children.
- Bike around town: Denmark is a biking country, and especially in the summer you will see that Aarhus is full of bicycles. Experience the city like a Dane by renting a bike or borrowing one of the public city bikes for 20 DKK, which you get back when you return the bike. Biking would be a great way to get to the beaches or forests, which are just slightly outside the city center. The best biking trip that I can recommend is to take the Brabrandstein path out West to Brabrand Lake, a 30-minute ride. The scenery is breathtaking, and it will get you outside of the city and into Danish countryside faster than anything else.