Aarhus is Denmark’s “second city”, a bit like Copenhagen but smaller, even more relaxed (if that’s even possible), and with plenty of its own charm and style to make it a very worthy weekend destination. Copenhagen is one of our favourite cities ever but having been there a few times, we finally tore ourselves away to visit Aarhus, which is now even easier due to direct flight routes from London on Easyjet and Ryanair. It’s a couple of hours flight, plus a half hour bus trip into the centre, and it’s small size really means that you can pack a lot into a couple of days, from eating all the best food to visiting some incredible museums and even some beautiful beaches. Read on for our guide on the very that Aarhus has to offer.
Obviously Copenhagen has some pretty famous restaurants but, this being Denmark, Aarhus has an excellent bunch of eating options for a small city, including a clutch of Michelin-starred joints. The city even held the ceremony for the Nordic Michelin Guide in 2019 so it’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.
If you have one fancy meal in Aarhus, make it Ghrelin. It’s one of the city’s newer openings, located out in the new harbour-side Aarhus Ø development, and it was definitely our favourite meal of the weekend. Whereas some high-end Danish restaurants can sometimes forget about flavour when constructing an intricate, pretty plate of food, Ghrelin never loses sight of the fact that food should primarily taste good and, for that, we love it. The bread alone is worth the visit – they bake it every 20 minutes so you get fresh bread throughout the night, and it comes with an incredible dill cream cheese. Wines are excellent too.
Pondus is the sister restaurant to Substans which is one of Aarhus’ best-known restaurants. While Substans is about to close to relocate to Aarhus Ø in 2020, Pondus is just getting started in its city centre location. There’s some very good bistro-style dishes here including a great beef tartare with beetroot crisps and crispy pig cheek. Wines are natural for the most part and there’s some excellent bottles to be discovered.
There are two locations for street food in Aarhus – there’s a huge university here which perhaps explains the need for casual, relatively cheap eats. One is quite literally called Aarhus Street Food, and has a bit of an early days Street Feast vibe about it, with around 30 traders set up in an old industrial warehouse. There’s a global spread to proceedings but we’d really recommend hitting up Stegen & Dellen, which serves traditional Danish pork sandwiches smothered in gravy and topped with mustard and crackling. In the summer, outdoor bars serving local beers make it a great place to come and drink too.
The other spot is the Central Food Market, just a couple of minutes walk away. It’s smaller but also has some great Danish options including a hot dog stand and traditional Smørrebrød (Danish open-faced sandwiches), at Kähler – go for the salmon with potato and shrimp salad, and roast beef with honey mustard.
Mig & Ølsnedkeren
Drinking some locally-brewed ridiculously strong beers is a must wherever you are in Denmark. Sure there’s a Mikkeller bar you could go to but you can do that in London now too. Check out Mig & Ølsnedkeren instead – it’s a very hipster spot with some excellent beers including a nice pilsner and a sightly wacky yuzu and raspberry sour.
St Pauls Apothek
This cocktail hotspot is located in an old chemist’s building, dating from 1899. Nowadays it’s chock full of bottles of booze instead which are turned into some pretty epic cocktails by this award-winning team. It’s well worth stopping by for some drinks before dinner, although they also do food, and the street it’s located on, Jægergårdsgade, is also full of cool restaurants and bars.
There’s lots of cute little wine bars in Aarhus but pick of the bunch is S’vinbar in the Latin Quarter. The selection of orange wines and grower champagnes is particularly good, though there’s something for everyone. It makes for a perfect pre- or post-dinner stop off, but they do serve some snacks too if you want to bed in for the night.
La Cabra Coffee
Along with Bill’s, La Cabra serves the best coffee in Aarhus. There’s two locations, one in the station and one in the Latin Quarter and they are both uber-hipster (we love it) with minimal Scandi design, tattooed baristas and an amazing selection of breads and pastries to go with some seriously, seriously strong coffee.
This is the oldest part of Aarhus, dating from the 14th century, and it’s still the city’s beating heart. This hugely ‘grammable part of town is chock full of pretty cobbled streets, boutique fashion stores, jewellers, cafes and restaurants. Graven is the main street you’ll want to head for but also check out all the little side streets that run off it, as well as another street called Vestergarde.
Remember Olafur Eliasson, the artist that bought the sun inside the Tate Modern? He’s got an awesome installation on the roof of the ARoS Museum; the Rainbow Panorama is a circular, 150-metre-long and three metre-wide circular walkway in all the colours of the rainbow. It looks pretty cool from the outside but even better when you’re actually inside it, looking down on the city through trippy rainbow colours. The rest of the museum is great too (the largest art gallery in Northern Europe) so it’s definitely a must-visit.
If you’re in Aarhus in summer, you’ll want to head straight for the Harbour Bath, a triangular floating complex featuring a rectangular 50-metre-long swimming pool, a circular diving pool, square children’s pools and two saunas. It’s not going to be the warmest water, even in summer, but it’s definitely a whole lot of fun. Just outside of town, about 15 minutes on a bike, there’s some epic white sand beaches too – nice for a walk at any time and even better in summer.
Fancy getting out of town? As well as the beaches there’s a nice wildlife park that’s home to loads of deer. They will happily come right up to you, especially if you have a bag of carrots.
Easyjet and Ryanair fly direct to Aarhus from London Gatwick and London Stansted repectively.