Less known than the famous Copenhagen, Aarhus in Denmark is a bustling city filled with shopping arcades, cultural and music venues, beautiful parks, world-class restaurants and much more. Whether you are a foodie, architecture or design enthusiast or simply looking for a place for a relaxing urban holiday, Aarhus will not disappoint.
This ultimate travel guide to Aarhus will show you all the most beautiful places in Aarhus, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Aarhus and things to do in Aarhus which will help you in planning a trip to Aarhus.
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How to get to Aarhus
Aarhus does have its own airport, but it is not a popular one. Denmark has two main international airports: Billund in central Jutland (only 100 km from Aarhus) and Kastrup airport in Copenhagen. Whereas Billund airport may be closer to your final destination, keep in mind that it’s smaller than Kastrup and only selected International airlines fly to Billund. From Billund, you can either take a train or a bus (912X) to Aarhus city. The one-way bus ride is 162 DKK (approx. 25 USD) per person and you can make the payment with cash, credit card or ”rejsekort” (Danish pre-paid travel card which can be purchased in the major train stations).
If you arrive in Copenhagen, we recommend to further travel to Aarhus with FlixBus. You can book the tickets online. The bus journey is 4,5 hours long, but you only pay 129 DKK (approx. 20 USD). It is also possible to take the train, but you will only save one hour of travelling time, and the train ticket price is much higher (369 DKK = 56 USD).
What to expect in Aarhus
Being the second-largest city in Denmark and home to a popular university, Aarhus attracts young people from all over the country as well as expats, so it’s easy to communicate and navigate in English.
Even though Denmark is a part of the European Union, it has its own currency. You cannot pay in Euros, but all major credit cards are widely accepted. Actually, paying with cash is becoming less common, so you don’t have to worry about exchanging your currency into Danish Krona before you arrive. In Denmark, all shop cashiers serve as ATMs too. If you need cash, you can easily go to a grocery store, buy something small and ask the staff to give you a certain amount of money ”oveni” (meaning: ”on top of”). It’s a smart way to avoid international ATM charges!
Speaking of money, Danish salaries are generally high, so you do not have to tip your waters, taxi drivers or hotel staff. It is still a nice gesture, and tips are gladly accepted, but not mandatory. If a restaurant or a hotel has a policy of adding a staff fee on top of your final bill, it will be clearly stated in the menu or otherwise communicated to you prior to your order.
How to get around Aarhus
In Aarhus, you will see most locals riding bikes, and we recommend you to jump on one too! Aarhus was one of the pioneering cities in Denmark to introduce shared bikes, so look out for public bike stations and rent one for a small amount of money or ask your host or hotel if they provide bicycle rental.
Aarhus is also a very walkable city, and you will be able to see much of the city on foot. If you aren’t much of a walker, the public transportation is, of course, a great (but not the cheapest) option. If you are planning to use public buses, we recommend you to buy a “Rejsekort”, a pre-paid travel card that you can re-charge at major stations.
We do not recommend you to take taxis within the city, as the starting tariff is approximately 50 DKK (7,5 USD), so even a short ride can easily come up and cost around 15 USD.
Best time to visit Aarhus
Denmark is infamous for its rains and winds. If outdoor activities are important to you, you should plan your visit to Aarhus between May and September, during the Danish summer. The temperature is pleasant (18 – 24OC) and most days are dry and sunny. Note that the summer season is also the most expensive time to travel so the prices of flights and accommodation may be accordingly higher.
The challenging weather might make it less attractive to visit Aarhus between October and early April, but paying a visit around Christmas time in December is recommendable too! Remember that Danes invented the world-famous concept of “hygge” (nice atmosphere/cosiness), and with the lights, beautiful decorations, intriguing culinary scene and Christmas markets, a trip to Aarhus in late December is a great choice!
Things to do in Aarhus
Visit the Museums
Aarhus is home to ARoS Art Museum, a world-class contemporary art institution. The building is crowned by “Your Rainbow Panorama” by internationally known Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The “Rainbow” is a round corridor/observatory deck above the museum, from where one can see a full panoramic view of the city of Aarhus, all through glass walls in all hues of the rainbow. “Your Rainbow Panorama” has only been open to the public since 2011, but it has become a symbol of the city, and one of the main Aarhus tourist attractions.
Another popular museum in Aarhus is the Moesgaard Museum. It’s an institution dedicated to archaeological and ethnographical exhibitions, curated in close collaboration with the University of Aarhus. However, many visitors come to Moesgaard simply to experience its splendid architecture. The museum building emerges organically from between hills, spreading into green grass-terraces and man-made meadows.
Explore the Latin Quarter
Behind the Aarhus cathedral, you will find “Latinerkvarteret” as the Danes call it. The Latin Quarter is the oldest preserved neighbourhood in the city and ranks high on the list of the most popular Aarhus tourist attractions. It is a part of the old town (in Danish: “den gamle by”), and today the area it is filled with boutiques selling clothes and unique homeware, Danish design and other rare funds.
The building style reminds more of a South-European village than a Scandinavian city centre with plenty of open cafés with seats spread over wide pavements, but the real gems wait for you in the backyards. Look out for coffee shops located in narrow alleyways or hidden in between building arcades.
Tour around the Botanical Gardens
Officially, Aarhus Botanical Gardens are a part of Aarhus Science Museums, but unlike a typical museum, the gardens are open all day, every day, and the entrance is free of charge. Specific greenhouses within the Botanical Gardens do have limited opening hours that vary with the seasons, so if you’re interested in exploring certain flora species, we recommend you double check the public opening hours of the glasshouses (“væksthusene”).
Aarhus Botanical Gardens are the perfect place for a calm stroll or a brisk jog if you want to keep exercising while on holiday. During the day, the park is a great spot for outdoor lunch, and visitors are allowed to bring food with them into the park grounds.
Enjoy Tivoli Friheden
Tivoli Friheden is an amusement park located just outside of Aarhus. Unlike the free botanical gardens, the entrance to the park grounds is 135 DKK (20,5 USD), and one must purchase entry pass for amusements on top of the entry ticket price. You can buy a full carnet for all attractions (called “turbånd”) for 125 DKK (19 USD) or pay separately for each attraction.
Even if you aren’t enthusiastic about roller-coasters, you will for sure not regret a trip to Tivoli Friheden, where you can stroll around beautiful gardens, dine in exquisite restaurants and attend concerts and performances. Check the event calendar for upcoming shows if you are looking for interesting things to do in Aarhus at night.
What to eat in Aarhus
Aarhus does not have any dishes that are typical for the city as such, but trying the Danish “smørrebrød”, open sandwiches with cold cuts or fish layered abundantly on a thick piece of rye bread, decorated generously with remoulade or mayonnaise and sprinkled with fresh herbs, is a must!
Danes are famous for their bread and pastries, so make sure you get to try “wienerbrød”, sweet puff pastries filled with marzipan and drizzled with sugar and almond flakes. They go perfectly with an afternoon coffee, but in Denmark, it is also common to eat sweet for breakfast. Start your morning with a Danish cinnamon bun and a bowl of yoghurt – Danish dairy is excellent!
For lunch, make your way to Aarhus Street Food, located in the old bus garages by the Bus Station (“Aarhus Rutebilstation”). There are more than 30 vendors selling diverse dishes from all over the world at affordable prices. According to the official vendors’ rules of Aarhus Street Food, each vendor must have in the menu at least one filling dish for no more than 50 DKK (7,5 USD).
Last, but not least, it may not satisfy your food cravings, but visiting one of Aarhus’ many microbreweries and trying the locally crafted beers, it is an extraordinary cultural and taste-experience. Microbreweries are popping up all over the country, and the quality and variety of the local beers are exquisite. Aarhus has quite a few, so try visiting Humleland, Hantwerk or Bryggeriet Sct. Clemens while in town!
Where to stay in Aarhus
If your agenda for your trip to Aarhus is to relax, be close to the seashore and you prefer tranquillity to the urban bustle, we recommend you book your accommodation in Marselisborgkvarteret. It’s not one of the central Aarhus neighbourhoods, yet it is close to the sea, a forest as well as the Tivoli Friheden amusement park. You can either check into a hotel or book an Airbnb in Marselisborgkvarteret, but beware that because of high property prices in the area, staying in Marselisborgkvarteret is quite expensive.
If you are a design enthusiast, we recommend choosing one of the hotels in central Aarhus, as many of them collaborate with well-known Danish design brands and their interior design will take your breath away! Comwell Aarhus has collaborated with HAY Design, and the furniture in City Hotel Oasia Aarhus comes from Danish brands like Montana and Poul Kjærholm.
Aarhus is not a city of cheap hostels, and even staying in a shared dorm can become quite pricey. For budget travellers, we, therefore, recommend to look for an Airbnb or try couch-surfing outside of the city centre. Just make sure that you host either has a bike they’re willing to lend you or can help you rent one elsewhere.
Tours to do in Aarhus
We already mentioned Aarhus Street Food, and now we want to recommend you to explore Aarhus Street Art! Join a walking tour with a local, English-speaking guide who will lead you through the Aarhusian alleyways showing you some of the most impressive graffiti and street art pieces of the city. Your guide will also bring you to a few selected rooftop terraces from where you will not only be able to admire contemporary urban wall art but enjoy a breathtaking view of the whole town too.
Not in the mood for walking?
Join a well-curated biking tour led by a certified guide who will introduce you to some of the most spectacular cultural and architectonic sites in Aarhus. On the tour you will see the Aarhus Theatre, Marselisborg Castle and become familiar with local tales and stories about the city. The tour lasts about 3 hours, and easy to operate bikes will be provided (and adjusted) for you.
Day trips from Aarhus
Only 90 kilometres from Aarhus you will find Denmark’s most popular amusement park – LEGOLAND. The first LEGOLAND opened in 1968 and was an outdoor exhibition of LEGO-houses and landscapes. Much has changed since then! LEGOLAND is now a full village with amusements, roller coasters and beautiful outdoor areas where you can relax while admiring the incredible buildings, figures and cityscapes built entirely of plastic LEGO bricks. Today LEGOLAND parks are opening up all around the world, but paying a visit to the original one is a charming experience and for sure great choice if you are travelling with children!
Recommend budget tours in Aarhus
- Historical Walking Tour in Aarhus
- Aarhus 3-hour Private Bike Tour
- Street Art and rooftops of Aarhus
- City Sightseeing Aarhus Hop On Hop Off Tour
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