the sunday guide to // aarhus
Visitors to Denmark tend to flock to Copenhagen, but all that seems set to change as the countries second city, Aarhus is named as the European Capital of Culture for 2017. Those in the know already visit Aarhus for its art galleries, fine dining and beautiful scenery, so why not discover Aarhus before the crowds appear.
For those who love to shop, Aarhus has recently been named Denmark’s number one shopping city, with a multitude of small independent stores to explore among the traditional high street names. However, Aarhus has much more to offer than shopping. Only a small city, it is easy to walk or cycle to the beach, the harbour and the forest, providing plenty of opportunities to escape the city centre if you so wish. We’ve outlined below numerous ways that you can spend a relaxing Sunday away from the hustle and bustle of the shopping streets.
Watch the world go by with a cup of coffee
Aarhus is no exception to the Nordic tradition of relaxing with a cup of coffee ('fika' in Sweden). Despite the size of the small city, there are a large number of coffee shops to choose from.
Thomas Sigfred's coffee shops are a local institution, staffed by numerous award-winning baristas. Supplied by the Copenhagen-based Coffee Collective Sigfred's pride themselves on delivering only the very best coffee. Choose to have yours served as a pour-over, an Aeropress or a French Press, dependent on your preference.
One of our other favourites is La Cabra, a great Scandinavian roastery who never compromise on taste. Their mission is to serve up an experience to their guests, and make them challenge prior conceptions about coffee. The beans are roasted lightly and gently in order to create the perfect aroma and character. Find out more about La Cabra here.
photo: marianne jacobsen, via la cabra, delicate-photoart.com
Attend the Aarhus Festival
The ideal time to visit Aarhus is at the end of August and beginning of September, to experience the traditional Aarhus Festival. One of the most prominent cultural events in the whole of Scandinavia, the festival involves a diverse programme of art exhibitions, street performances and musical events, providing entertainment for the entire community. The 2016 festival has the theme of 'Upside Down', and is set to begin the celebrations for Aarhus becoming a European Capital of Culture the following year.
Hire a bike
Akin to Copenhagen, the locals like to get around Aarhus upon bicycles. The small scale and general flatness of the city make it ideal for exploring on two wheels, and as everything is so compact, there is no need to hurry. The city is incredible bike-friendly, with an abundance of cycle paths, rental shops and places to lock up your bike. Cycle through the town admiring the architecture, or take your bike out into the forest to discover friendly local deer.
photo: ryan overton, via trover.com
Spend the day at the beach
If you need to escape the city, Aarhus is lucky enough to boast several beautiful beaches, some of which are within walking distance of the centre. The perfect place to retreat to at any time of year, locals flock to the beaches to swim in the summer and walk along the shore in the winter months. If the freezing Baltic waters don't tempt you in for a swim, perhaps visit at the end of the day to admire the sunset from the shore.
This incredible shot was taken at Ballehage Strand during sunrise, by the bloggers at ShinMichi (a great travel journal exploring the Nordic regions).
Experience traditional Danish culture
There's plenty of modernist architecture to admire in Aarhus (including the city hall that was designed and built by Arne Jacobsen), but tear yourself away from the modernism to retreat to the Old Town of Aarhus. Den Gamble By is composed of historic Danish homes and shops, that you can wander around to gain a sense of what life was like in Aarhus in the past, yet can be a bit of a tourist trap. Alternatively, head to Møllestien to walk down one of the most picturesque streets of the city, which is lined with traditional one-story timber outhouses. Here, you will discover one of the calmest and most relaxing areas of the city.
Take in the views and admire the art
The ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum is one of the largest art museums in the whole of Europe, and is a huge cultural draw to the city. Not only does the gallery house a fascinating collection of Danish modernist and international contemporary art, but the building itself is spectacular. The huge ten-story building features a large glass wall and a striking spiralling staircase, but the predominant feature is the installation on the roof. Your Rainbow Panorama is a circular walkaway around the rooftop, where you can look over the views of the city through colourful glass. The size of the gallery means that it never gets uncomfortably crowded, and the rooftop walkway is the perfect place to relax whilst admiring the views.
photo: alex bandea [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Another museum with a great architectural setting is the Moesgard. Lifting from the ground, this minimalist masterpiece is a great place to visit for the building alone.
Relax at a spa
Badeanstalten Spanien, the oldest public swimming pool in Aarhus, is the perfect place to spend several hours relaxing. Recently renovated to incorporate slick Danish design features, the building houses traditional swimming pools and whirlpool baths, but it is the wellness bath on the top floor that will help you to unwind and relax after a busy week of sightseeing. Featuring a cold water pool, steam baths, a rain shower, saunas and a sensory pool with sound and light installations, this is no ordinary swimming baths.
Stroll around the botanical gardens
The perfect place to retreat from a freezing Danish winter, the botanical gardens are home to the new domed greenhouses that showcase a variety of tropical and sub-tropical plants from all around the world. Regardless of your level of interest in the plants themselves, the gardens are a great place to visit for a relaxing stroll.
Visit the harbour-side apartments
Located along Aarhus' waterfront is the striking apartment complex of Isbjerget (or 'iceberg'). The white triangular apartments break up the horizon, and are layered in graded whites and blues. At the tip of the icebergs lie the penthouse apartments, whilst townhouses lie on the ground-level.
It's worth a wander by at dusk when the arctic themed buildings reflect in the still water and are illuminated by the sun setting.
photo: jds architects