Try Denmark's second city for a short break with a difference
Gallery reference view
Mollestien in Aarhus
Aros, Your Rainbow Panorama, Aarhus
The Old Town, living museum, Aarhus
"Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen" may be an established favourite in the city-break stakes, but visitors to Denmark will find that exciting urban experiences aren't just limited to the country's cosmopolitan capital. Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city, is rapidly earning a reputation as a viable and attractive short-break destination for British travellers thanks to its winning combination of historical attractions, laid-back ambiance and convenient, daily Ryanair flights from London Stansted. Add in excellent shopping, interesting museums and eye-catching architecture - not to mention plenty of fascinating Viking heritage - and it's clear that Aarhus offers a city break experience that's well outside the ordinary.
Part of the city's appeal lies in its relatively small size, which means that all the key attractions are easily accessible either on foot or (in true Danish style) by bicycle. Visitors can comfortably enjoy the full Aarhus experience in just a few short days, so whether they choose to wander among designer shops and cosy cafés, relax in renowned restaurants or stroll along the fine, sandy beaches found just outside of town, they're sure to appreciate the effortless ease of getting around alongside the typically Danish, unhurried pace of life.
Aarhus' central districts are a genuine pleasure to explore. The city was voted as being the 'best Nordic shopping city' and offers everything from designer gear to hand-made jewellery and one-off antiques. Strøget, the pedestrianised main street, features an excellent selection of department stores and mainstream, brand-name goods, while the charming and historic Latin Quarter and Frederiksbjerg districts are good for edgier finds like clothes, ceramics and other creations from local artisans and designers - not to mention plenty of welcoming cafés where visitors can relax and catch their breath while contemplating their next purchase.
The atmosphere may be relaxed in Aarhus, but that doesn't mean there's a dearth of things to do. The city is renowned as a centre of art and culture, with plenty of events and happenings over the course of the year to add spice to any city break. A particular highlight of every summer season is the Aarhus Festival, one of the largest cultural events in the whole of Scandinavia. This week-long extravaganza takes place the first week of September and brings world-class opera, ballet, theatre, music and more to the city centre. At other times, the focus falls predominantly on the centrally-located Concert Hall, while Aarhus also prides itself on being Denmark's 'city of music', having produced a great many musical artists of national repute over the last 30 years.
Another of the city's key cultural attractions is the impressive ARoS art gallery, which is an architectural gem as well as an important collection of paintings, sculptures and installations of international repute. As part of its continual expansion and improvement, the gallery recently unveiled its crowning glory - a massive new rooftop installation called 'Your Rainbow Panorama' by the Danish-Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson. This permanent work takes the form of a circular, 150m-long walkway made of brightly-coloured glass panels and presents a striking and much-lauded addition to the city skyline. Other interesting museums in the city centre include the Women's Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Aarhus Urban Museum and the Steno Museum of science and medicine.
In addition to these cultural treats, Aarhus also offers a range of historical attractions that provide a glimpse of Danish lifestyles in times gone by. Foremost among these is Den Gamle By ('The Old Town'), a fascinating recreation of a Danish country town circa the Nineteenth Century. Here, old-style stores, gardens and workshops create a unique, living museum where visitors can experience life as it was in the days of the famous Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen. The attraction recently added a new section that mimics a town district from the early 1970s, showcasing retro electronic goods like TVs and radio sets from the era, as well as a replica travel agency offering deals that were typical in the early days of the package holiday.
Looking further back into time is the Moesgård Museum, which is located in a woodland setting to the south of the city. The focus at this interesting attraction is the history of Aarhus in the Viking era, over 1,300 years ago. The most popular exhibit here is Grauballe Man, a perfectly preserved Iron Age man who lived over 2,000 years ago and whose body was recovered from a peat bog in the vicinity. The museum also contains a selection of weapons from Illerup Ådal, an important archaeological site 20km to the south of the city where an invading Iron Age army was vanquished and their weapons and other spoils of war cast into an ancient lake, only to be rediscovered in the 1950s.
With so much to see and do in the city, visitors will find it both cost-effective and worthwhile to consider purchasing an AarhusCard. These are available for either 24 or 48 hours and provide discounted admission to key attractions including Den Gamle By and ARoS Art Museum and free entry to a host of other attractions including the Moesgård Museum, plus free access to the city's public transport network. A 24-hour card costs 119 DKK (around £14) and can be purchased from hotels, the bus station and the tourist information centre.
Ryanair's flights from London Stansted start from as little as £12.99 one-way, so a short break in Aarhus can easily be achieved on a budget. What's more, there are some excellent and very well-priced accommodation options to be found in the city, such as the recently-opened, 27-room Hotel Guldsmeden. This stylish and individual boutique-style property is situated in the heart of the old town and is one of several well-designed new hotels to have opened in Aarhus that's perfectly pitched to appeal to the short break market.