Aarhus, one of Denmark’s oldest cities, is a vibrant and lively city infused with the youthful pulsations of a ‘happy’ population! Perhaps, this charming city can be described as an interesting amalgam of a young and modern way of life with the carefully preserved old town culture.

Situated on the eastern coast of the Jutland peninsula, in the midst of beaches, harbours and forested woodlands, Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark. It is also the commercial and cultural hub of Jutland.

Besides being an important port and industrial centre, Aarhus is well known as a university town that has the best university in the country. This fact, coupled with the large percentage of student population, makes Aarhus an alive and ‘happening’ place to be in!

The city has so many eating houses and cafes that it is often called the ‘City of Cafes.’ There are a plethora of dining options, ranging from the high end fine dining places to pubs, restaurants, international food chains and also street food stalls. Be it international cuisines or popular local food, Aarhus has it all!

The city of Aarhus has lots to offer by way of entertainment. It has several museums, cinema houses and shopping malls. With many nightclubs, discotheques and bars which remain open all night, it offers a lively night life which is not easily found elsewhere!

At the same time, the seamless integration of the old with the new is clearly evident. The history of Aarhus goes back to the earlier part of the Viking Age, and the oldest church in Denmark still exists in Aarhus. Old buildings and churches form an integral part of the city, and this cosmopolitan University town has painstakingly preserved its ancient cultural heritage. The city has re-created a historic village called Den Gamle By, a kind of walk in open air museum, which provides a wonderful experience of life as it existed in the ancient city.

Aarhus, with its dynamic spirit, infectious exuberance and quaint old world charm, is indeed a happy place with happy people! It is no wonder that this old city with a young heart, is often referred to as the ‘City of Smiles’.

Where to stay in Aarhus

Best Aarhus Attractions

1. The Old Town (Den Gamle By)

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-Den-Gamle-ByFlickr/Roger W

The Old Town is a National Open Air Museum of town life and culture. It is made up of a collection of 75 historic buildings brought from various townships all over Denmark to create a historic town, which captures the essence of life through the different ages.

This open air museum has gardens, grocery shops, a school, a theatre, a post office and other essentials which constitute town life. There are bakers, grocers, potters, a postman and other real life characters going about their daily business, with whom you can interact and get the feel of a ‘live’ merchant town.

The museum was opened in 1914, the first of its kind in the world. It has already received 3 million visitors, and is especially popular with International visitors.

2. ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-ARoS-Aarhus KunstmuseumWikimedia/EHRENBERG Kommunikation

This is one of the largest art museums in Denmark. It has a fantastic collection of unique works of art by Danish artists from the 18th century onwards, as well as some innovative creations by international sculptors and painters.

A special attraction of this museum is the recently added skywalk ‘Your Rainbow Panorama’.  This skywalk starts from the roof of ARoS and moves along a 150 metre long circular path, providing a complete 360 degrees panoramic view of the surrounding areas of the city. It also has a rooftop restaurant.

3. Moesgaard Museum

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-Moesgaard-MuseumWikimedia/Nico-dk

Moesgaard museum is a museum of archaeology and ethnography. It is housed in an aesthetically designed building which is located amidst natural surroundings, overlooking the sea and woods.

An interesting feature of the architecture of the building is the ‘evolutionary stairway’ which takes you on an intriguing journey to your origins. Along the stairs, you are introduced to seven hominins, members of the Homini tribe, which means ‘human species’.

This world class museum uses state of the art techniques to make your visit a fascinating experience. It presents a unique and innovative overview of the pre-historic past, by using the tools of staged settings and dramatized story telling. It brings the people in the exhibits to life, and makes them come forward to tell their story!

The museum has a priceless collection of rare archaeological findings. These are mainly of Danish origin. Of special interest is the Grauballe Man, which is the best preserved bog body in the world. Weapons pertaining to the Iron Age are also on display.

Besides exhibits from Denmark’s ancient history, some 50,000 artifacts have been collected from other countries and exhibited in the museum.

4. Marselisborg Palace

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-Marselisborg-PalaceWikimedia

Marselisborg Palace is used by the royal family as their summer residence. However, the palace grounds and the Queen’s rose garden are open to the public when the Royal family is not in residence.

Marselisborg Palace has a huge park, landscaped in a typically English traditional style. Large sprawling lawns bordered by rows of green trees, slopes covered with shrubs, and small ponds characterize this beautiful park. The Queen’s rose garden and a herb garden are special attractions of the palace.

Whenever the Queen is residing in the palace, a Changing of the Guards ceremony with the Royal Life Guard takes place at noon every day.

5. Women’s Museum Aarhus

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-Womens-MuseumWikimedia/Villy Fink Isaksen

Situated in the historic Old City Hall, the Women’s museum in Aarhus is centred on the cultural history of women in Denmark and focuses on their lives in the midst of changing environments.

An exhibition titled ‘The History of Girls and Boys’ is on permanent viewing in the museum. It depicts childhood throughout civilization and the different childhood experiences of girls and boys, gathered over a period of 150 years.  In addition, exhibitions on various thematic topics are held from time to time.

Interestingly, there are very few such museums world over, so the Women’s Museum at Aarhus certainly warrants a visit!

6. Viking Museum

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-Viking-MuseumWikimedia/RhinoMind 

The Viking Museum is a museum on seafaring and the culture of building boats right from, the ancient to the medieval times.

The first part of the museum to be built was the Viking Ship Hall, which opened in 1969. It has on display the five Viking ships found at Skuldelev. It holds exhibitions and screens educational film shows on the excavation of ships.

Viking Museum was later extended and the Museum Island was opened in 1997. It houses a boatyard where visitors can view people at work, building boats. A large collection of traditional wooden Nordic boats can be seen in the harbour at Museum Island. Also on display are the reconstructed models of the 5 Viking ships which are kept in the Viking Ship Hall.

7. Aarhus Botanical Gardens

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-Botanical-GardensWikimedia/Andreas Joensen

Lying to the west of the Old Town Museum, The Botanical Gardens complex is a beautiful green area of Aaarhus. This landscaped garden has two small lakes and large lawns with a beautiful rockery in the centre.

Originally started as a fruit trees and useful plants initiative, the Botanical Gardens now have a vast range of trees and plants from different habitats. There is an exclusive section on herbs and medicinal plants. A wonderful assortment of bogs, beech woods and theme beds can also be seen here.

The greenhouses in the Botanical Gardens take you on a tour through different climate zones of the earth, and introduce you to a fascinating range of plants typical to that particular zone.  This tour is a visual delight and a wonderful sensory experience.

The Botanical Gardens are open throughout the year, and offer recreational facilities as well. A children’s playground and large lawns have made the area a popular picnic spot.

The gardens also have an open air amphitheatre and several events are hosted here.

8. Mindeparken

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-MindeparkenFlickr/Mizrak

Mindeparken is a huge park area overlooking the Aarhus Bay. It has a wonderful view of the beach and the sea beyond it. Various types of trees, a botanical garden and a sculpture garden are some of the notable features of Mindeparken.

The park contains a large limestone monument which is a memorial to the soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War.

The memorial is surrounded by sprawling lawns which are used for recreational activities. There are slides and swings in the children’s playground, open places to play football, and designated areas with barbeque pits which serve as popular picnic spots.  Mindeparken is also used for hosting public events and gatherings.

9. Church of Our Lady

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-Church-of-Our-LadyWikimedia/Nico-dk

Located in the centre of the city, this church is one of the largest churches in Aarhus. The Church of our Lady was previously the abbey of a Dominican monastery. There are still some traces of frescoes and a magnificent altarpiece.

The crypt of the church contains a very ancient stone church dating back to 1060 AD, making it the oldest vaulted building in the entire Scandinavian region.

10. Aarhus Cathedral

Best-Aarhus-Attractions-CathedralWikimedia/Havne_udsigt_fra_dokken

The building of the Cathedral started in the late 12th century, but was completed only by the middle of the 14th century. Originally it was a Romanesque basilica built of red brick, a material rarely used in Denmark .around that time.

The Cathedral, as it exists today in its re-built form, is patterned on the Gothic style of architecture. It no longer has its earlier heavy and sombre appearance, having been transformed into a beautiful Gothic church. All that remains of the Romanesque element in its appearance are its external walls and beautiful chapels along its eastern transept.

Aarhus Cathedral has the distinction of being the longest and highest cathedral in Denmark. Situated next to the cathedral, is the Aarhus Cathedral School, which is also more than 800 years old, making it the oldest existing high school in the world!

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