Your Rainbow Panorama by Olafur Eliasson on the roof of the ARoS Museum in Aarhus, Denmark. Photograph by Erin Brown
In a bizarre twist of Ryan Air-inspired fate last year, I found myself en route to Delhi from Barcelona via Aarhus, Denmark. I had what I can only deem “stopover expectations” for the second largest city in Denmark; I figured I’d just find a cafe to set up camp, catch up on correspondence, and wait until my next flight. But Aarhus came out swinging: from the train station I found myself within walking distance of a top-notch contemporary art museum with a hip and gritty alternative art space cuddled up at its feet, an art-house film theatre, botanical garden, beach, forest, tragically cool clothing and furniture shops, meandering canals and a surprising array of creative, affordable restaurants. Needless to say this cozy college town with metropolitan aims won over my heart in an instant, and for good: Aarhus was the first stop on my summer vacation again this year.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Denmark, consider making a stop in Aarhus. Here’s how to make the most of your 24 hours in the Jewel of Jutland, from start to finish.
08:30 Breakfast at Lagenaes Bageriet Bread and pastries are staples for a traditional danish breakfast, and this bakery does both with aplomb, baking almost everything on-site in their modernist building where long lines snake around the corner on weekends. Their wholegrain croissants and cardamom bread are two of our favorites.
09:30 Bike Ride to the Forest Aarhus, like most of the cities in Denmark, is best explored by bike. But unlike most cities in Denmark, Aarhus is snuggled up next to a beautiful forest that hugs the shoreline of the Baltic Sea. A quick 2 km bike ride from the center will take you into the woods where you can explore on bike or foot. Bring your swimsuit for a dip in the surprisingly mild waters of the harbor. Aarhus has a city bike program that enables you to rent bikes for free (just stick a 20 kr coin in the slot on the bike’s lock and you’re good to go), with kiosks around the city.
11:30 Havnens Fiskehus and The Iceberg Take a ride along Strandvejen to the other side of the harbor and stop at Aarhus’ most illustrious fishmonger, Havnens Fiskehus, for some fish cakes and sliced rye bread to go, then bike around the corner to the Iceberg, an ultra-modern condo complex jutting into the harbor, where you can sit on the dock and enjoy your lunch.
14:00 Hay, Old News, Samsøe Samsøe Downtown Aarhus is bursting with brilliant Danish design—from clothing and textiles to furniture and paper goods. The functionalist and democratic design of the beech wood furniture at Hay is inspired by chairs produced in the 1940s by the Danish Consumer’s Cooperative Society, and are some of the most affordable Danish design around. Old News revamps vintage dresses and has become a staple of second-hand style mavens redefining Scandinavian fashion. Samsøe Samsøe makes chic, minimalist, Scandinavian clothing that is the pinnacle of hip and functional.
17:15 Oli Nico Start queuing early for the chance to grab one of the few tables at Oli Nico, where a nightly prix fixe of new Nordic cuisine is served up on the premises or for a takeaway picnic for a few brief hours. The food is surprising, un-fussy, and refreshingly affordable. The creative dishes conjured up by their young chefs often include braised veal cheek, langoustines, local mushrooms, “herbs from the beach,” or whatever the berries of the moment are in the farmer’s market.
20:00 Sunset at ARoS It is hard to miss Olafur Eliasson’s Your Rainbow Panorama on its perch atop the ARoS museum, and sunset is just the time to amble through the vivid colored-walkway. Be sure to venture to the other floors of the museum, particularly the basement where the “Nine Spaces” house site-specific installations including a James Turell light room and a video installation by Bill Viola. ARoS is open until 10 pm Wednesday and Thursday.
22:00 Øst for Paradis Finish off your night by catching an independent film at Øst for Paradis, one of the art house theaters in Aarhus. With films ranging from local film school productions to Sundance nominees to American classics, it is a great place to grab a drink, a pastry (because one a day is not enough) and relax at the end of a long day.