It’s very unlikely you will find yourself visiting Aarhus by an accident, or just because you happen to have too much free time to spend in Denmark. It’s a pretty small city with a population of around 300,000 people, many of them being university students.
That’s exactly how my feet took me there. My not so little brother started studying architecture here in August and the time to visit him with my mum came just now. While I’ll never understand why would someone choose such a cold place to live, it certainly carries a Scandi chic vibe and boasts peacefulness. Aarhus is located by the sea, my favourite feature of the city and you can smell the salt in the air as soon as you get off at the tiny (and only) airport. To get to the capital Copenhagen it takes around 3 hours on a bus and a ferry, so it’s not too far from all the buzzing city life and culture if you feel like you need to escape to somewhere more lively.
If you’re coming to Denmark to have the time of your life, you’ll be disappointed. The country, including Aarhus, is full of dazzling views, beautiful and serene nature and wildlife, sea-side cities, fishing villages and sandy beaches. The culture, both classical and contemporary can be explored in one of the galleries, such as ARoS art museum and Viking museum. But night-life and pubs are not the most important part of the menu. Danes prefer exploring the outside, going on bike trips and hikes and gather around a kitchen table for dinner in the typical hygge atmosphere. It’s pretty cold here too, so if you don’t like wind and low temperatures, make sure to travel here in summer.
However, the city is full of cute little wine bars and hipster pubs, such as the Mexican pizzeria Mackies. Hawaiian Poke bowls also found its way to this Nordic country. Typical Danish cuisine isn’t anything exciting and even less if you aren’t a meat eater so head down to one of the many Vietnamese places for a hot bowl of Pho instead. The city is full of them and you won’t regret it. When you get lost in the narrow streets, you often find little gems in form of boutiques and family-run restaurants.
Visiting during Easter perhaps wasn’t the best idea, as most of the students went for holidays to their home countries and shops and restaurants had shortened opening hours. On the other hand, I loved how quiet the city was at night. You would never think that something so “boring” and normal such as empty streets could take you fancy.
The weather in April is still very cold and coming from 12 degrees and rain in London to 2 degrees and wind in Denmark was a bit of a disappointment at first. You never get used to it, but at least it means you can hide in coffee shops and local breweries. And when the sun comes out for a day or two, it will make you appreciate the small things in life. You can even hit the beach and walk on the promenade. An interesting thing was to see locals happily dipping in the sea on a sunny day, while I was wearing four layers.
I didn’t have anything planned for this trip, mostly because all I wanted was to spend time with my family, eat good food and sip tea under a blanket. Most of my wishes came true and thanks to having no high expectations, nothing has let me down. The food was delicious, whether it was the fresh bread and pastries in local bakeries or healthy groceries such as my favourite yogurt SKYR (they have every type you can think of ). We also visited Aarhus street food, located in a large hall walking distance from the Centraal station. Here you can sample local beers and get lost in gustatory heaven of various countries. We tried some typical grilled cheese sandwich, ramen, Mexican tacos and burrito and home-made mango and blueberry cheesecake. I’m still having dreams about it.
The only thing I wanted was to visit Aarhus’s botanical garden, which is quite small and the outside area was still covered in an icy blanket, but I loved both the architecture and the plants. The tropical greenhouse also has a pond with water lilies, sky-high palm trees and butterflies flying around.
The other was to buy some Danish home accessories, as Denmark is well known for its beautiful homeware brands. Unfortunately, everything was either too expensive or I couldn’t fit it into my suitcase. Danish contemporary brands are also not very wallet-friendly and therefore I stuck to fridge magnets (one for 5 euro) and some sweaters from COS.
The Old Town is beautiful and consists of many canals and historic buildings. The architecture, for which my brother came here, is also spectacular. What’s even better, all the student flats are beautifully designed with modern furniture and balconies. The law says that the apartments have to be renovated every 3 years to meet the standards. I wish this existed in London too!
Visiting Aarhus was a very relaxing experience and I’d definitely love to come back in summer to see more of the lush greenery, tan on the beach and get involved in some fun summer activities and music festivals. Last year Aarhus was named Europe’s city of culture and I have a feeling this year it’s going to get even funkier here. For those of you who want to see a different side of Denmark or are looking for a peaceful gateway, Aarhus is perfect for a short city break or a day trip from Copenhagen.