Speaking of Denmark, the images of Copenhagen certainly pop up in the heads of many travelers: the colorful Nyhavn, the magical Tivoli, and the iconic Little Mermaid. But do you know there is another city in Denmark whose popularity is on the rise? Often regarded as Copenhagen’s Little Sister, Aarhus impresses visitors not only as a charming student city but also as a pioneer in art, architecture, and gastronomy.
Aarhus (Århus in Danish) lies on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula, about 200 kilometers west of Copenhagen. With a population of 269,000 people, it is Denmark’s second-largest city, after Copenhagen. 13% of Aarhus’ population are students, making it the youngest city in Denmark. Historically though, it’s one of the country’s oldest, began as a fortified Viking settlement in the eighth century.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a lover of art, a food enthusiast, or an avid architect, Aarhus always has something to offer. From the otherworldly ARoS Museum, the futuristic Aarhus Ø to the vibrant gastronomic scene at Latin Quarter, everyone surely has a reason to visit this city.
1. ARoS Museum
With a distinctive rainbow-colored ring standing tall above the city, ARoS Museum is hard to miss. Established in 1859, it’s the oldest public art gallery in Denmark outside of Copenhagen. After three relocations, the museum was opened again in 2004 in a building next to the Aarhus Musikhuset. The new venue is more spacious and more modern in terms of appearance. In 2011, “Your Rainbow Panorama” was added, boosting the museum’s attendance by hundreds of thousands. It’s a rainbow-colored circular skywalk designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson.
With thousands of square meters spanning ten levels, cultural vultures will be happy in ARoS. The museum houses one of the largest art collections in Northern Europe, ranging from the Golden Age to today. Special exhibitions also change regularly, the latest being “The Garden – The Past”.
2. Aarhus Ø
Built on the eastern side of Aarhus, Aarhus Ø (Aarhus East) is the city’s newest district. Began in 2007, this project has been seen as the rejuvenation of the Nordhavn – a former container port and Aarhus’s waterfront. The area is filled with cutting-edge and environmentally friendly buildings.
For instance, the Isbjerget – a unique apartment that strongly resembles floating icebergs breaking up. Or the Dokk1 which is Scandinavia’s largest public library. There are canals leading to the open sea and a public garden called Ø Haven where Aarhus residents can grow their own flowers, vegetables, herbs, etc.
3. Latin Quarter
If you think that Aarhus is all about modernity, then you will be surprised when visiting the Latin Quarter. With churches dating back to the 12th century and 14th-century buildings lining hilly cobbled backstreets, the neighborhood is perhaps the town’s most picturesque part.
Chic shops, bustling cafes, and a vibrant gastronomic scene characterize this area. And thanks to its innovative Nordic cuisine in which regional and seasonal products are splendidly combined, Aarhus was crowned as the European Region of Gastronomy in 2016.
Tips for visiting Aarhus
- Most sights in Aarhus are located near the city center, except for the Aarhus Ø. Bus 23 or 33 will bring you directly to the waterfront. Or you can take bus 17 and 20 to station Øsbanetorvet and then walk to Aarhus Ø (15-20 minutes).
- Aarhus is covered by an excellent bus network. A day ticket costs 80 Kr. (around 8€) and can be bought online at Midttrafik.
- Trams only operate on the main boulevards. And they run less frequently than buses.