After a trip to Copenhagen back in 2016 (that I only briefly wrote about), I had been dreaming about returning to Denmark: The country’s capital blew me away with the quality of its food, coffee, and beer. And it’s obviously super photogenic!
Naturally, I had very high expectations for Denmark’s second biggest city, Aarhus. And to make it clear right away: Aarhus did most definitely not disappoint!
In many ways, Aarhus proved itself to be the perfect destination for a relaxed city break: There is enough to do, see, and eat, but Aarhus also doesn’t overwhelm with too many options. Thus, Aarhus is perfect for an extended weekend trip!
These points below present my personal highlights from the trip Steffen (the husband) and I made to Aarhus in January 2020 (back when international travel was still possible). They don’t only show the best things to do in Aarhus, but also the best things to do in Aarhus in the winter!
Explore ARoS Museum
As a medievalist, art from the Middle Ages is my comfort zone, because I can easily ‘read’ it. Modern art however, often confuses me completely.
Every once in a while I challenge myself by visiting a museum with art from the 20th to the 21st centuries though — especially when the displayed art offers enough interactive fun for someone who doesn’t necessarily understand it.
ARoS Museum has been on my radar for the longest time as it seemed not like your average stuffy museum. And this reputation doesn’t even do it justice!
ARoS was definitely one of the most fun museum experiences — I can highly recommend it, even if you’re not a (modern) art aficionado!
The highlight at ARoS is the famous rainbow walk on top of the museum. Not only offers it spectacular views over the city of Aarhus, it also messes with your perception in a very confusing yet fun way.
It turned out that the rainbow walk at ARoS is quite the interesting photography challenge, too, because the color are quite tricky to edit!
Visit DOKK1 Culture Center
Dokk1 is a huge building right by Aarhus’ harbor that can’t be missed (meaning you can’t overlook it, but you also should put it on your Aarhus itinerary). This building is a public library and culture center that first impresses with its unique architecture.
I was blown away by how futuristic everything about this building was. For the first time ever, Steffen and I voluntarily visited a parking lot on on vacation: Because Dokk1 has automatic parking, which was crazy to watch!
Oh and: Books rentals are apparently automated here to, which impressed me even more than the parking, because I have definitely spent too much time in my life filling out old-fashioned paper rental sheets and getting lost in-between chaotically organized library shelfs.
And even if you’re not into nerdy things, just stop by for a coffee and for soaking in the great atmosphere among students, families, and researchers.
Eat at the Street Food Markets
Yes, that’s a plural: Aarhus has two (!) street food market halls and they both offer tons of great food and drink options! Especially in the winter, these market halls are just wonderful to explore new flavors and enjoy the relaxed vibe of Aarhus!
Stroll through Den Gamle By
Den Gamle By is a huge outdoor museum consisting of over 70 historical building thus making it the perfect place for a little time travel: It’s an entire Old Town within the city of Aarhus and some of the old Danish houses there even date back to the 16th century!
There are also actual shops and cafés which add to the time-travel experience and offer a glimpse into what life was (probably) like centuries ago.
Visit the Botanical Garden
I like visiting pretty gardens, but Aarhus’ botanical garden was an especially nice activity on our Aarhus itinerary!
The botanical garden has several greenhouses with tree houses making your visit feel like a mini-jungle excursion — they even added animal sounds here and there to give you a full 3D experience of the botanical regions you’re ‘traveling’ through.
Walk along the Harbor
It’s no secret that I love harbor cities — from Lisbon to Hamburg to Rotterdam, I always seem to fall for the seagull sounds and the promise of faraway lands across the sea. To this feeling, the harbor of Aarhus adds pretty Danish buildings and an artsy area with community garden and café.
Even in January, a stroll along Aarhus’ harbor was great way to soak in the city’s atmosphere!
Enjoy the Restaurant Scene
I have to highlight two aspects of the culinary scene of Aarhus in this blog post, because not only the street food markets were top notch but the restaurant scene as well. Every spot we visited surprised us with great flavors and new combinations! These were some of our favorites:
La Cabra is a world-famous coffee brand — its reputation is very justified: Their flat white was exceptional! And it’s a great place for breakfast, too!
Steffen and I really enjoyed Vietnamese lunch at Pho C&P — delicious food and great vegan options!
We also splurged on a five course dinner at Møf, which was a wonderful experience.
The burger at Burger Shack was another highlight worth mentioning — great fries (you know, I’m an expert) and vegan burger options as well!
Among the many great beer spots, Mig & Ølsnedkeren stood out for its many on-tap options. We stumbled into this bar by accident, but loved it there!
All in all, Aarhus has a great vibe and I really enjoyed our time in Denmark’s second city. It really was the prefect winter weekend break!
(And in case you’re based in Europe: Steffen and I traveled to Aarhus by train, which was super relaxed, affordable, and once again confirms my love for train travel in Europe!)