Home to Denmark’s largest university and a wide assortment of museums, cultural hotspots, and dramatic contemporary architecture, Aarhus is something of a hotspot for the always-hip Denmark youth. Without clear urban organization like its big sibling Copenhagen, it can be more difficult to navigate the city and discover all that its streets hold, but not to worry! Here is an Aarhus itinerary to give you the best possible 24 hours here.
Morning: Explore the new and old landmarks of Aarhus
Start your Aarhus itinerary off right by stopping by Dokk1. This massive glass and steel construction right on the harbor is a public library, café, and event space, but it’s also home to the visitor center. There you can learn a little bit about the city, grab a map (always good to have), and get your bearings. It just happens to be a really cool building too, so do yourself a favor and poke around a little bit once you’re inside. The wraparound deck outside offers fantastic views of the harbor.
Once you’ve finished at Dokk1, it’s time to check out the Aarhus Cathedral. In many ways, it’s the historical equivalent of Dokk1—a large, imposing building that dominated the landscape of Aarhus through the 19th century and provided a traditional centerpiece for the community. Even now, as the buildings of Aarhus have gotten bigger and bigger, the spire of Aarhus’ cathedral looming above the competition. It remains the tallest building in the city, and it’s both the tallest and longest church in Denmark.
The interior feels suitably cavernous, and the white walls and myriad gold decorations are sure to look beautiful in the morning light. Make sure to check out the altarpiece, one of the city’s prized treasures, which features removable panels so that scenes may changed out to reflect the seasons.
Now that you’ve seen the cathedral, consider crossing the street and checking out Aarhus’ Viking Museum—it’s a tiny, basement operation on the site of a late 20th century excavation and it will give you some fantastic historical context for the city. Plus, who can go to Scandinavia and not learn at least a little bit about the vikings?
Lunchtime: Nosh on your pick at Aarhus Street Food
For lunch, take a quick stroll and dive into the wonderful chaos of Aarhus Street Food. This collection of food trucks, food stands, and shipping-container-restaurants occupies an old industrial building and an adjacent outdoor lot. It’s a hectic, bustling place packed full with vendors selling food from every cuisine imaginable. There’s traditional Ugandan street food, French dinner crêpes, dessert grilled sandwiches, craft beer, and everything in between. If you’ve ever been indecisive about where to eat a meal, then this place is for you—every type of food you can think of is here, in one spot, calling your name. Dig in!
Afternoon: Stroll through modern and historical Aarhus
Having spent the morning of your Aarhus itinerary diving into some of the city’s rich history, it’s time to spend the afternoon looking at some of its modern splendor. The next stop is ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, which is the most visited art museum in Scandinavia and a very cool spot to see some amazing contemporary art. Covering ten stories and more than 200,000 square feet, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum has several notable large-scale permanent exhibitions worth checking out, as well as rotating special exhibitions. The first is Ron Mueck’s Boy, which is an extremely lifelike sculpture of—you guessed it—a boy. Here’s the catch: he’s 15 feet tall and weighs 1100. It’s an unsettling and fascinating piece, and the room where the statue lives is covered in mirrors that allow you to constantly see yourself in juxtaposition to him.
The second large-scale piece worth checking it out has a much different flavor. At the top of the museum is Olafur Eliasson’s Your Rainbow Panorama, a circular walkway around perched on the roof that’s enclosed in glass that’s the colors of the rainbow. As you stroll around the circle, the space is infused with constantly changing hues and you can view the city laid out below through dozens of different lenses.
After you’ve had your fill of the art, it’s time to head back outside and explore one of Aarhus’ most memorable outdoor spaces. Take a short walk to reach Den Gamle By, or “The Old Town,” a reconstructed historical neighborhood designed to immerse you in Danish life through the centuries. Den Gamle By is a result of a relocation of a number of historic houses and buildings from around Denmark to the center of Aarhus, where they’ve been restored and turned into a series of cultural museums. Walk through the cobblestone streets of town and you’ll be surrounded by buildings straight out of Medieval Europe—most of the buildings are open and can be explored, and they’ve all been furnished with period-appropriate trappings. As you walk through the streets, you’ll gradually be moving through time—candles turn into light fixtures and carriages lose their horses and gain engines.
Evening: Head to Frederiksbjerg for dinner and catch a concert
To round out your Aarhus itinerary, head to Frederiksbjerg, Aarhus’ foodie spot. Lined with restaurants, cafes, and bars from high-end to takeaway, you’re sure to find somewhere that fits your mood. After dinner, it’s time to enjoy some of Aarhus’ rich music scene. For classy, established fare, the Musikhuset is your best bet. It’s the largest concert hall in Scandinavia and regularly pulls in music legends from all genres. Because it’s affiliated with the Royal Academy of Music, you can also see some immensely talented up-and-coming students and young musicians try out their fare on the big stage. Events at the Musikhuset are regular, but make sure to buy tickets in advance if you want to see a big name show.