Just to help you blend in with the locals when you get here, it’s pronounced ‘Or-hoose’ not ‘Are-hoose’. Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive into the reasons why you should be getting to know Aarhus, one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 European Destinations, as soon as you can!
When we say this, we say it as a compliment – Aarhus is tiny! It’s a historic city that remarkably feels like one cosy neighbourhood, where all of the biggest sights and attractions really are within walking distance of each other. (We promise.) Despite this local feel, Aarhus has a few distinct and exciting districts which each give you a different kind of city break experience. It just means you’ll be able to explore them all in one visit!
Once upon a time, a trip down to the harbour in Aarhus would’ve brought you up close to some hardy fishermen and the ferry out of Aarhus. These days, the harbour is a major attraction in itself where you can get up close to some of the city’s most exciting attractions, like the bustling Dokk 1 Cultural Centre, or iconic buildings like the Iceberg at the new Aarhus Ø district. You can also swim at the harbour baths (designed by Bjarke Ingels), something we Danes love to do, or, just as in Copenhagen and Odense, you can take a green kayak out for free, as long as you bring back some trash from your trip.
The sights worth seeing extend all along Aarhus’ sandy coastline, into the woodlands around the city. Just south of the city centre, you can visit the summer home of Denmark’s Queen Marguerite. If she’s home, you can watch the changing of the guards every day at noon. If she’s not, you can explore Marselisborg Castle’s beautiful rose gardens, which you can easily reach by bike in around 10 minutes from the centre of Aarhus. Close by is the extremely photogenic Infinite Bridge (Den Uendelige Bro). And if you hear screams coming from the woods, it’s probably just crazy people trying one of the world’s highest freefall rides at the Tivoli Friheden fairground.
Two of Aarhus’ biggest attractions couldn’t be more worlds apart. ARoS Aarhus Art Museum has become one of Aarhus’ most iconic spots, with its dazzling rooftop sculpture you can walk inside, Your rainbow panorama by Olafur Eliasson. For old-world charm, head to the Old Town Open Air Museum. It’s one of Denmark’s biggest attractions and a place where you can literally walk through time, soaking up the buildings, atmosphere and ways of life from Denmark’s history.
Just near the Old Town Museum you can wind down and enjoy the extensive parks and tropical houses of Aarhus Botanical Gardens. They’re free to visit and you can either picnic there or grab a bite at the café. And it’s actually possible to get around the biggest sights in the city for free. Aarhus has a free city bike scheme, where you can pick up a bike to explore without paying from one of the 56 stands around the city.
How about dinner in an old bus garage? Just hear us out… Street food markets have been popping up all over Denmark and in more and more outlandish locations! Aarhus’ Street Food Market is no exception and it’s a great place to eat elbow-to-elbow with Danes and other visitors. But if you fancy splashing out, Aarhus has evolved to become a Michelin-starred city, where you can eat at some of the best restaurants in Denmark.
You’ll want your camera at the ready in Aarhus. It’s a very pretty place! One of the most-photographed places is the cobbled street, Møllestien. The colourful buildings will certainly brighten your day. If you’re on the hunt for more iconic buildings, head to Aarhus City Hall with its famous clock tower, designed by legendary Arne Jacobsen. A little further afield is the ground-breaking building and collections at Moesgaard Museum, a sight to behold and a fascinating day out. It's not just an incredible museum about human civilisation, it's also one of the world's most energy-efficient museums, built with sustainability in mind from the start. And the building is pretty cool.
If it’s Danish design you’re after, Aarhus is a great place to grab it. It’s one of the best places to shop in Scandinavia and a walk around the cosy Latin Quarter is a must, not least for the atmosphere. A shopping trip to Aarhus will also lead you to two fantastic city viewing points. The first is on top of the Godsbanen centre, where you can also see local artisans at work. The second is the rooftop at Salling department store. Kick off the weekend here with cocktails and music with the whole of Aarhus as your backdrop.
Aarhus is close to both Aarhus Airport (surprise surprise!) and Billund Airport. You can take the train to Aarhus from Copenhagen or drive in just over 3 hours. It’s also possible to get the ferry to Aarhus from Zealand.