Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city and enjoys a youthful, progressive and laid-back vibe. The city centre is compact and easily walkable and is notable for its eclectic mix of architectural styles.
In 2017, Aarhus was European Capital of Culture and it’s easy to see why. The Moesgaard Museum and the ARoS Art Museum are both relatively new and world-class. Similarly to Copenhagen, the food scene in Aarhus is on fire with lots of opportunity to sample contemporary Danish cuisine and food from all over the world with a Danish twist.
The city’s size, its long list of attractions and the ease of getting there by air from all over Europe combine beautifully, making Aarhus a fantastic European city break destination.
In this complete travel guide to Aarhus, we unveil the highlights that this fabulous city has to offer. This includes things to see and do, where to eat and drink, a full weekend itinerary and finally the practicalities of how to make your visit a reality.
At A Glance
This travel guide to Aarhus is seperated into sections. Click the links below to skip forward to a section of interest.
- Things to See & Do in Aarhus
- Wander Through the Latin Quarter
- Visit Dokk1, Aarhus’ Awesome Public Library
- Explore the Glasshouses at Aarhus Botanic Gardens
- Step Back in Time at Den Gamle By
- Browse the Galleries & Rainbow Walkway at ARoS Art Museum
- Visit the World-Class Moesgaard Museum
- Feed Wild Deer at Marselisborg Deer Park
- See Panoramic Views of Aarhus at Salling Rooftop
- Food and Drink in Aarhus
- Plan your trip to Aarhus using our weekend itinerary
- Plan your Visit to Aarhus
- How to get there, how to get around, where to stay etc.
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Things to See & Do in Aarhus
For a relatively small city, Aarhus packs a punch when it comes to finding things to see and do. Here are our suggestions for how you can spend your time in Denmark’s second city.
Wander Through the Latin Quarter
Aarhus is a city of architectural contrasts. Whilst buildings along the waterfront of Mid-town (Midtbyen) scream of modernity, the Latin Quarter (Latinerkvarteret) enjoys a much calmer and quainter ambiance.
Here you’ll find independent cafes and one-of-a-kind speciality shops lining narrow streets paved with cobbles. There is a younger and cooler vibe with huge works of street art adorning the sides of buildings. Come expecting tiny stores selling Danish interior design, vinyl and antiques and minimalist coffee houses roasting artisanal beans.
Visit Dokk1, Aarhus’ Awesome Public Library
It might seem odd listing a public library in a tourism guide, but Dokk1 is so much more than a library. It’s a sleek, modern and magnificent example of how to masterfully provide public services to the masses.
Every centimeter of Dokk1 shimmers with modernity. If you come here just to admire the architecture, you’ll be rewarded. Linger a little while longer however, and you’ll discover that libraries are no longer just about books.
Here, you can browse the latest music on CD & vinyl and borrow video games for a variety of consoles and even try them out before taking them home. An informal auditorium plays host to films and talks, whilst the in-house cafe encourages conversation over coffee and cake. Behind thick sound-proof glass, students study in small groups while others find a chair in a quiet spot by the huge windows overlooking the harbour. Outside, encircling the entire building, imaginative playgrounds encourage kids to continue being kids.
If you’re looking to see a slice of the real Aarhus, the library is the best place to see it.
Top tip: Dokk1 is open until 10pm on weekdays and tends to be quieter by night than by day. This will give you a chance to browse the collection unhindered and there’s a greater chance you’ll get to play on the games consoles.
Explore the Glasshouses at Aarhus Botanic Gardens
There aren’t many freebies in Denmark, so it’s always a delight to stumble upon one, especially one this good.
There are four different climate zones to explore inside the glass houses of Aarhus University’s Botanical Garden. There’s plenty of information provided and some great displays made especially for kids. Inside the largest dome you’ll find an impressive viewing platform and live butterflies.
Entry is completely free for all.
Step Back in Time at Den Gamle By
A truly remarkable and unique outdoor museum of Danish urban history and culture, situated in the city centre.
Connected by a network of pathways and roads, visitors can explore over 75 historic houses, each dismantled and relocated from their original locations all over Denmark and rebuilt here. The buildings are grouped into different eras, starting with life in the late 1800s, through to the 1930s and ending in the 1970s. The doors are open and visitors can go inside and speak to actors playing the part of people from those eras. Some shops and cafes are even operating as they once did.
You could easily spend all day here.
As well as exploring the streets and buildings, there are also two additional on-site museums – Bymuseet tells the story of Aarhus in a fabulously interactive way, whilst the Danish Poster Museum is a modern gallery full of advertising and public information posters through the ages.
Top tip: Entry to Den Gamle By is included with an AarhusCARD. Get yours now on GetYourGuide*.
Browse the Galleries & Rainbow Walkway at ARoS Art Museum
ARoS has an ambition to be among the ten most eminent art museums in the entire world. It’s hard to deny that they’re well on their way to achieving this.
Split across ten storeys, this modern, accessible and unpretentious art gallery is wonderful. As someone who, generally speaking, doesn’t get too excited about art galleries, this is high praise indeed.
I think my main reason for liking it so much is that there’s a little something for everyone in each gallery. Oil paintings hang alongside much more modern prints. There are tapestries and sculptures and large galleries dedicated to interactive works. It’s like an artistic buffet.
On the roof, you’ll discover one of the tourism highlights of Aarhus – the Rainbow Walkway. The large glass walkway slowly works its way through the full spectrum of colour, winding around the rooftop in a complete circle, offering fantastic views of the city.
Top tip: Entry to ARoS Art Museum is included with an AarhusCARD. Get yours now on GetYourGuide*.
Visit the World-Class Moesgaard Museum
Fans of archaeology and ethnography rejoice! Aarhus has got your back.
Opened in 2014, Moesgaard Museum is a modern temple to all things anthropological. The exterior has a modern and curious design, a bit like a launchpad emerging from a gentle grass slope. Inside, galleries are meticulously themed with plenty of moody lighting, soundscapes and interactive exhibits. Touchscreens, virtual-reality headsets and projections are all used copiously, making for a fabulously immersive learning experience.
The museum is fairly large and we recommend spending the best part of a day here, so that you can take your time exploring the galleries. We coupled our day trip with a visit to nearby Marselisborg Deer Park (see below).
Getting there: From the city centre, catch bus 18 which terminates at Moesgaard Museum.
Top tip: Entry and transport to Moesgaard Museum is included with an AarhusCARD. Get yours now on GetYourGuide*.
Feed Wild Deer at Marselisborg Deer Park
Just south of the city centre is a woodland that a population of sika and fallow deer call home. These deer are so used to seeing humans amidst their territory that they are happy to graze directly from the hand.
Sure enough, we spent a happy hour or so seeking the deer out amidst the trees to offer them fresh carrots. Natural instincts are difficult to suppress entirely, so the deer appeared to be quite skittish still. With some cautious coaxing however, we eventually managed to offload all of our veggie treats among the herd.
If you can’t manage to find carrots, apples are a good alternative. Beware of the antlered male deer, who can be somewhat unpredictable and boisterous.
The deer park is open from 8am to dusk and entry is completely free.
If you visit between May and October, make sure you head for the nearby coastline and walk along the Infinite Bridge, a circular boardwalk over the incoming tide.
Getting there: From the city centre, catch either bus 18 (for Moesgaard Museum) or bus 100 (for Hornslet) and alight at Højbjerg Torv. From there, walk northbound along Oddervej, then turn right onto Morvadsvej. Bear left at the fork then follow the road into the forest. You’ll see pathways leading off of the road up hill into the deer park.
See Panoramic Views of Aarhus at Salling Rooftop
For 360° panoramic views of the entire city, Salling Rooftop, on the top floor of the Salling department store, can’t be beat.
For starters, entry is free. You can show up whenever you like and make your own way up. Secondly, the views are truly excellent and give a great perspective on how walkable the city is. Almost all of the city’s major sites are visible from this one vantage point.
The rooftop is nicely landscaped, with plenty of seating and a cafe/bar where you can stop for a bite to eat or a cocktail. In warmer months, live music and other events are held in front of the terraced seats (pictured above).
The highlight of the rooftop is the viewing platform which juts out over the pedestrianised shopping street, 25 metres below. To add to the thrill, the end of the platform has a glass floor. Fun!
Food and Drink in Aarhus
Denmark is a notoriously expensive country and food is no exception. Generally speaking, prices were around 20-30% higher than those in the UK. That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that you tend to get what you pay for. Throughout our weekend, the food we ate was of consistently high quality.
Here are four recommendations for eateries you should visit during your stay in Aarhus.
Aarhus Street Food
A fabulous atmosphere and a great selection of dishes representing a wide range cuisines can be found at Aarhus Street Food.
Housed in a former bus garage, this street food hub attracts residents and tourists of all ages, all keen to try something new and exciting. There are around thirty kitchens to browse, each specialising in a particular type of dish.
We sampled two dishes, one a Nepalese vegetable curry with roti and another, a vegetarian sushi bowl. Both were fresh, tasty and good value.
After our food, we headed to a stand selling a large selection of craft beers. Everything was incredibly expensive, but the more we drank, the less we cared. Before heading back to our apartment, we bought a couple of artisan ice cream lollies. Tasty!
Veggies/vegans should be able to find plenty to feast on.
Aarhus Central Food Market
If the urban, post-industrial aesthetic of Aarhus Street Food (above) isn’t your thing, Aarhus Central Food Market might be a better option. Situated right in the centre of town, this food court is a much more polished and less-gritty affair.
That said, there is a shared ethos between to two food markets – to serve a large range of high quality and great value cuisine from all over world.
We were after a quick snack between meals, so we opted to share a delicious Shakshuka with accompanying mezze bits. It was a comforting and tasty treat.
Veggies & vegans are well catered to here.
Open sandwiches (or Smørrebrød) are Denmark’s national dish. These tasty snacks usually have a rye bread base, are piled high with fresh seafood and are normally put together with great care and finesse. Prawn and egg is a staple, as is pickled herring.
For the best value Smørrebrød in Aarhus, head to the bistro at the Salling Department store where you’ll find a decent selection at pretty reasonable prices.
Veggies and vegans are unfortunately not well catered for here.
The people behind Grød claim to have opened the world’s first porridge bar in Copenhagen back in 2011. Now, they bring their range of healthy breakfasts and mains to Aarhus’ Latin Quarter too, one of six locations across Denmark.
The Aarhus branch only opened in January 2019 and, upon our visit, there was still a lot of early interest. In fact, we were lucky to get a table. We showed up for breakfast and enjoyed a Chia Pudding (pictured above) and porridge served with apples, almonds and thick caramel sauce. It was an awesome way to start our day of exploration.
While Grød is known best for breakfasts, there is a small daytime menu as well.
There are a handful of veggie/vegan options here.
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We spent three nights in Aarhus from Friday to Monday. To help you plan your visit, here’s our itinerary.
1330 – Arrival at Aarhus Airport
We catch bus 925x to the city centre (see details below). Upon arrival at Aarhus Central Station, we walk the rest of the way to our accommodation. The city centre is small and most accommodation should be within walking distance.
1730 – Explore the Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter is easily walkable and most shops are still open.
1800 – Dokk1
The city’s public library is quiet, meaning it’s a great time to explore its modern interior.
1900 – Aarhus Street Food
It’s time to eat and Aarhus Street food is a good value and flexible place to grab something tasty. Stay for a couple of hours and enjoy the ambiance with a beer from the awesome craft beer stand and an ice cream lolly from the stand by the entrance.
All of the places visited on Saturday are easily walkable from one another.
1000 – Breakfast at Grød Århus
With a day of exploration ahead, you’ll need some slow-release energy in the form of a bowl of porridge or a Chia pudding.
1100 – Aarhus Botanical Gardens
The tropical houses at Aarhus University’s Botanical Gardens are lovely. Best of all, entry is completely free!
1200 – Den Gamle By
You could easily spend all day in this outdoor living museum. Leave time to explore the Danish Poster Museum and other galleries that uncover the history of Aarhus itself. Have a spot of lunch in the 1970’s zone where you’ll find a cafe and food vans.
1530 – ARoS Art Museum
The gallery normally closes at 5pm, so visit the exhibitions that interest you most first. We headed to the Rainbow Panorama on the roof first and still found we had plenty of time to visit all of the exhibitions.
1700 – Dinner
Walk into the city centre for dinner. We were pretty tired, so we just ordered a pizza to enjoy in our Airbnb.
0900 – Moesgaard Museum
Set off early and catch bus 18 to this world-class archaeology and ethnography museum. Take your time and fully immerse yourself in every exhibit. When you’re done, walk up the sloping roof for a view of the surrounding countryside and coastline.
1400 – Marselisborg Deer Park
Catch the bus back to the city but alight at Højbjerg Torv. From there, walk to the deer park (see above for more detailed instructions) to explore the woodland and feed the deer. Make sure you have a bag of carrots or apples ready.
1500 – The Infinite Bridge & Beach
The coastline run adjacent to the deer park, so take the opportunity to walk along the water’s edge in the direction of the city centre. Between May and October, you can also walk along the circular Infinite Bridge.
1700 – Aarhus Central Food Market
Head back into the city by foot, by bus or hire a bike (we found some Donkey Republic bikes parked up nearby). If you’re peckish, head to the Aarhus Central Food Market for a bite to eat.
1730 – Salling Rooftop
The Salling department store is open until 1800 on Sundays. Take this opportunity to head up to the rooftop to take in the views of the surrounding city centre and, if you dare, walk on the glass-floored viewing platform.
It’s time to head back home. Make sure you’ve checked to see what time your airport bus is leaving (read more below).
If you have an hour of two, wander about in the city centre and see what you can find. Stop at a cafe for a coffee or perhaps head back to Salling to sample some Smørrebrød in their bistro. Don’t forget to pick up some cakes to enjoy on your flight home from the bakery on the ground floor.
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Plan your Visit to Aarhus
Getting There by Air
Aarhus has it’s own international airport, just under 40km to the northwest of the city. Six airlines currently operates flights to and from various European destinations. The airport terminal is tiny, but since there are so few flights each day, it doesn’t really need to be any larger.
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Transport to the city centre is provided by bus 925x (operated by Midttrafik). The journey time is 50 minutes. Since there are only a handful of flights each day, buses do not have a regular timetable. Instead, buses are arranged to wait for each incoming flight. Tickets can be purchased from the driver with cash or card.
Buses from the city centre to the airport depart outside the main railway station and are also scheduled in relation to specific departing flights. You can check which bus you should catch on the Midttrafik website.
Getting There by Train
It’s possible to get to Aarhus by train (with one or to changes) from Germany, Sweden and elsewhere in Denmark. Search for the best fares and buy your tickets in advance with Trainline.
Getting There by Bus
Aarhus is a small city that can be easily explored on foot. It’s so small in fact, you could easily walk from one side of the centre to the other in around 20 minutes.
The bus network (operated by Midttrafik) is comprehensive and well run, if a little expensive. There’s also a single light-rail line (Aarhus Letbane), though it’s currently not hugely useful for tourists. AarhusCARD holders can travel on the network for free.
Top tip: We were able to save some money on entry prices and transport with an AarhusCARD. Get yours now on GetYourGuide*.
Wheelchair users and those with limited mobility will have no trouble getting around. The city centre is mostly flat with very few steps and ramps/lifts in place wherever you might need them. Some streets, particularly in the Latin Quarter, are cobbled and these might present a small challenge.
Where to Stay in Aarhus
Like any major city, Aarhus has a plethora of accommodation options. Rates tend to be higher than the European average.
Hotels in Aarhus tend to be business-focused and therefore lack character. Interior design tends to favour minimalism and straight lines. There are some exceptions however.
Our picks from Tripadvisor’s highest ranked hotels in Aarhus are:
- Villa Provence – the highest ranked hotel on Tripadvisor and stacks of character
- Hotel Oasia Aarhus – tastefully designed rooms and right in the city centre
- Hotel Royal – elegance and opulence in abundance
- Helnan Marselis Hotel – Aarhus – escape the city centre for unrivalled coastline views
- Wakeup Aarhus – tiny but modern rooms and great if your budget is tight
We stayed in a fabulous apartment* (pictured above) in the city’s Latin Quarter through Airbnb. If you want to live like a local during your visit, we highly recommend taking a look to see what is available during your stay.
With an AarhusCARD, visitors can access 25 museums, attractions and activities and get unlimited travel on public transport. Cards are valid for 24, 48, 72 or 120 hours.
We purchased a pair of 24 hour cards, which gave us access to Den Gamle By, ARoS Art Museum and Moesgaard Museum (plus the bus). The cards are pretty expensive, so you should calculate whether you would make a saving before you buy one. We simple added up the three standard entry prices and subtracted the cost of a 24 hour AarhusCARD. Of course, you should also ensure you can realistically visit all of the places you wish to see in the allotted time.
You can buy your AarhusCARD online* and collect it from several locations throughout the city.
Money & Spending
The currency in Denmark is the krone (crowns in English). Most international visitors to Denmark will find prices are higher than they’re used to, sometimes substantially so.
If you’re happy paying by card, you’ll be pleased that all but the smallest shops, cafes and restaurants accept card payments. We took out 200 crowns upon arrival at the airport and struggled to spend it all across our three night city break.
Whilst the official language in Denmark in Danish, English is widely understood and spoken with almost universal fluency. You’ll find most signs and notices around Aarhus are in both Danish and English.
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