Despite its relatively diminutive size, Aarhus is no cheaper than anywhere else in Scandinavia. If you want to see the best of Denmark’s up-and-coming second city without ploughing through your kroner at an alarming rate, then look no further. We’ve got you covered with this list of great value things to do for no more than 110 DKK (around US $15).
Our tips are split into the following categories, which you can jump to using the menu below.
1) Head into the heart of Aarhus to see the statue of King Christian X on Bispetorv, set against the attractive façade of Aarhus Theatre. The statue depicts the king on horseback – he is remembered for his daily rides through the streets of German-occupied Copenhagen during World War II.
2) Once at Bispetorv, you’re only a stone’s throw from the towering 12th-century Domkirke (cathedral). Climb to the top of the spire (entry 20 DKK; ask a member of staff) for a bird’s eye view of central Aarhus.
3) Go time travelling to Den Gamle By. Okay, so the entry fee is 110 DKK. But kids go free and Aarhus’ iconic open-air museum (its name translates to The Old Town) is such good value for money that we can’t leave it out. Actors in period dress stroll around neighbourhoods set in different historical eras, where you can buy hindbærsnitte (a type of pastry) from a 19th-century baker or snoop around a 1970s apartment block. Try the wooden stilts in the fairground section for hours of free (though sometimes frustrating) fun.
4) For a free alternative to Den Gamle By, wander along Møllestien, a small alley tucked neatly into the city centre, with its brightly painted one-storey houses, cobbled road and creeping plants and flowers.
5) Go to Riisvangen Stadium to cheer on the semi-pro club that proudly (and not without a hint of irony) calls itself “Aarhus’ number two”. Entry at second division Aarhus Fremad is wallet-friendly, the hotdogs are cheap, and kids can usually get their photos taken with the mascot.
6) Go to the races. It won’t be cheap if you’re careless placing your bets, but entry is free for a day of pony and trap races and steeplechasing at Jydsk Væddeløbsbane.
7) Do your best Bambi impression. During the winter, Aarhus Municipality sets up a mobile ice rink on the doorstep of the Musikhuset concert hall. It’s free to use, so get your skates on (or rent a pair for just 35 DKK).
8) Listen to locals read their poetry and prose in various languages (but primarily English) at Y Aarhus Poetry Club. If you’re feeling brave, you can even step up to the mic yourself.
9) Do the Viking thing at Aarhus’ Viking Museum (free entry), hidden away in the basement of a bank. Make your way past the cashiers and downstairs to see the interactive exhibits.
10) See a large collection of somewhat disconcerting stuffed animals along with educational displays on biodiversity and evolution at the Natural History Museum (adults 75 DKK, children free).
11) Judge Denmark’s claims to being a world leader in feminism at Kvindemuseet (The Women’s Museum). Entry is 50 DKK for adults and 40 DKK for students.
12) Learn about the Aarhusian resistance to occupation during World War II at Besættelsesmuseet (Occupation Museum, entry 30 DKK).
13) Browse 400 square metres’ worth of modern Danish and international art at the extensive Galleri V58, set in the stately Børnely building five minutes’ walk from the town hall. Entry is free.
14) Stroll down to the leafy Botanical Gardens and meander around its stony paths and trickling streams. If it’s summer, bring a disposable barbecue. A downloadable map of the gardens can be found here.
15) Discover flora and fauna in four different climates at the recently-rebuilt domed Væksthus (glasshouse; free entry), located bang in the middle of the botanical gardens.
16) Follow the footpaths of the 7km-long forest belt that runs parallel to the coast, stretching from Marselis Forest at the southern limits of the city to the Moesgård manor house. In autumn, brown leaves fall like rain from the towering beech trees.
17) Soak up life on a green university campus with a walk through the University Park. Should you visit in April or May, you might find yourself swept up in crowds of tens of thousands, descending upon the park to take in Aarhus University’s annual Kapsejlads (boat race) – a raucous take on a regatta involving fancy dress, beer chugging competitions and chaotic paddling across the lake in rubber dinghies. The rest of the year, the park is serene.
18) Visit one of Denmark’s highest natural points, Himmelbjerget (the name translates rather optimistically to ‘sky mountain’) for beautiful panoramas of the surrounding forests and lakes. Take bus #311 from Silkeborg bus station, which is served by regular buses from Aarhus.
19) Go running. Aarhus is compact enough to combine city, forest and coastal scenery into no more than a 5km-long jog. Aarhus Motion organises running events throughout the year.
20) Swim in the ocean. Aarhus Havbane offers open water swimming in a demarcated zone in the redeveloped harbour area on regular dates during the summer. You’ll need a wetsuit to protect you from low temperatures (and jellyfish). The wetsuits can be rented, but call ahead to check availability.
21) Tune up with a bit of non-profit yoga in the great outdoors.
22) Ride a bicycle (it’s Denmark, so you really have to). Aarhus has broad cycle lanes and the entire city can easily be covered by bike. Rent from Cycling Aarhus from around 100 DKK per day or brave a bone-rattling bycykel for free (you’ll need a 20 DKK coin to operate it).
23) Walk slowly through the streets of the Latin Quarter – particularly along Mejlgade and Graven – and check out the offbeat second-hand shops. There are enough LPs in Vinylrock Café, toys and utensils in Heidis Bix Mix, and vintage clothes at Soul Shine for you to browse away an entire afternoon.
24) Get off the beaten tourist track at the sprawling ethnic market Bazar Vest in the Gellerup neighbourhood. Here you can find Aarhus’ spiciest doner kebab; a souvenir clock in the shape of a mosque; fresh papaya in the fruit and veg market; sequined winkle pickers; and endless other treats.
25) Wander around a flea market and nose at Aarhusianers’ unwanted treasures. The markets at Ingerslevs Boulevard and Ridehuset (check the calenders of both before setting out) are good places to start, but there are plenty of others.
26) Go to the library. Doesn’t sound exciting? You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Dokk1 is the showpiece of the wave of redevelopment taking place around the harbour area. The ultra-modern new city library opened its doors to the public in 2015. It is host to lectures, exhibitions and a kids’ play area. You can also just find a quiet spot and read a book – there’s a decent international selection.
27) Worn out after all that free and cheap activity? Wind down to some Sunday jazz with the enthusiastic audience at down-to-earth Cockney Pub.
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