Weekend in Aarhus: Discovering Denmark’s Second Biggest City

Aarhus theatre

Everyone knows about my love for Copenhagen – I mean, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been there. Yet despite that, I’ve never been anywhere else in Denmark.

Enter Aarhus: a city that had been on my radar since University. I’d applied numerous times (unsuccessfully) to work at Bestseller, a Danish fashion company based in Brande, just outside of Aarhus. If I’d actually gotten to work there, it’s likely I would have been living in Aarhus.

Flights to Denmark’s second biggest city are pretty cheap – we flew with Ryanair on a Friday morning from Stansted. Landing into Aarhus was laughable. If you’ve ever been to Gothenburg City airport (before it shut down), compare it to that: a shed. OK, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but the inside is essentially a concrete corridor, with flame torches lit to keep you warm.

The airport was a 40 minute bus ride away, with nothing to see but fields and lakes. It didn’t really set my expectations for Aarhus – Copenhagen isn’t exactly massive, so I wasn’t sure of the size of Aarhus.

Shopping in Aarhus

So. Much. Shopping.

We were dropped off outside of the train station, and walked 20 minutes to Frederiksbjerg, where our Airbnb was. We stayed in a block of flats on Søndre Ringgade, and it was HUGE. Typically Scandi too, with minimalistic whitewashed walls, bare floorboards, and a smattering of fairy lights.

By the time we’d unpacked our cases, it was half past four, so we headed back to the centre. Frederiksbjerg was a pretty cool area – alongside lots of red brick apartment blocks (great place for a photoshoot), there were lots of bars and restaurants lining the backstreets.

So, what was the first thing I decided to do when I got to Aarhus city centre? Umm… go shopping! I’m going to make a bold statement and say that the shopping in Aarhus is equally as good as Copenhagen. Their Strøget featured Samsøe & Samsøe, Vero Moda… not to mention Weekday, & Other Stories and other classic Scandi brands nearby! My first evening of shopping was actually quite restrained: I bought a black velvet turtleneck from Monki, and a mesh long-sleeved top and teal vinyl skirt (to add to my growing collection) from Weekday.

Canal in Aarhus

As we came out of Monki, we found a set of stairs that led down to a canal. Restaurants lined the water, so of course we had to have dinner there. We went to Café Ziggy (mainly because my gran’s cat is called Ziggy). I opted for pasta; and when we were finally ready to face the cold, we headed back to Frederiksbjerg and stopped off for cocktails at Forlæns & Baglæns – I had a White Cloud, which consisted of vodka, crème de cacao and coconut cream.

We got back to the flat for midnight, which wasn’t bad considering we’d been up since 5am.

Pastries, Icebergs, Cocktails… and More Shopping

As Saturday was our only full day in Aarhus, we made sure we were up early at 9am. Wearing my new favourite sweater and ice blue faux fur coat, I was ready to go. I’d even made a list to make sure we got to see everything we wanted to (I love making lists).

I was so excited because Lagkaghuset has stores in Aarhus, so I got my fix of direktørsnegls (washed down with a chai latte) for breakfast. That was the first thing ticked off my list.

The next thing? A quick trip back to Vero Moda to pick up some trousers I’d seen yesterday. I also found a black bag.

Aarhus views from Salling

We then headed over to Salling, a department store on Strøget – not to look at the clothes, but to go to the roof. In the summer, there’s an outdoor bar; but it still made a great viewing deck. There was a walkway with a glass floor, but it was kind of misty when we were there, so you couldn’t really see much below!

Gamle By

After we’d gotten our fix of rooftop views, we walked through the botanical gardens to Den Gamle By. We weren’t entirely sure what it was going to be, as we kind of thought it would just be the Old Town section. In actual fact, it was an open-air museum – a smaller scale Beamish, if you’ve ever been there.

You started off in the 1500s, and walked around the villages to see what life in Denmark was like throughout the centuries, until reaching the 1970s. There was supposed to be people walking round in costume, but perhaps that’s only in the summer, because we didn’t see anyone.

House in Den Gamle By

We were done by 3pm, and the next thing I wanted to see was Isbjerget. An architectural dream, the flats are made to look like an iceberg; and if I lived in Aarhus, I think that’s where I would live.

On the way over, I bought a beanie in H&M (this turned out to be a smart move, because it was FREEZING by the sea). I then had a bit of a drama – innocently walking past some shops, what did I see in the window? A Céline. The exact one I wanted, in fact – the right size (micro) and colour (black. All black). I wandered in and held it for a bit, contemplating what to do. The issue was, the shop shut at 4pm, and it was 3.55pm. As much as I LOVE Céline, and have lusted after the luggage tote for so long; I needed a good ten minutes to decide whether it was the right time to drop £2,000 on a bag. I’m sad to say that I let it go. Never before had I seen it in the right colour and size – I hope I didn’t make the biggest mistake of my life when I said goodbye.

Isbjerget

ANYWAY… on we carried to Aarhus Ost. There were loads of new flats being built, but it seemed to be a really long walk as we ventured away from the city, closer to the sea. Every step we took, it got colder and windier. But it was worth it, to see Isbjerget up close – and the views of the sea and neighbouring forest weren’t bad either!

It was getting to 5pm by this point, and we were all so cold, we just couldn’t face the long walk back to Frederiksbjerg, so broke it up by taking refuge in a nearby Baresso for tea and chokladbollar.

That evening, we had dinner at Aarhus Central Food Market, which was just off Strøget, and I had satay chicken and noodles. The rain was falling heavily, so we hid in there for refuge, until it was time to go to Gedulgt.

Another thing that everyone knows about me, is that I love a secret bar. However, it’s not fun trying to find one when you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, and it’s throwing it down with rain. When we finally found Gedulgt (in an unmarked garage in a courtyard off Fredensgade, FYI), it was a relief to realise wandering in the rain had been worth it. It was so my kind of bar.

Cocktails at Gedulgt

I ordered the American Beauty, which consisted of tea-infused gin, orange flower water, double cream, egg white, lemon, lime, honey and rose hip lemonade. Oh, and it was served in a bath full of rose petals. Cute.

The other cocktails we sampled were What’s Up Buttercup, which was a combination of rum, condensed milk, egg yolk, nutmeg and tonka beans; and a Pop Pop Popcorn (can you guess which one that is?!), with rum, lime, walnut and popcorn syrup.

I would go back to Aarhus again, literally just to go to Gedulgt.

The walk back to the flat on the other hand, was horrible. By the time we got back, our clothes were soaked through, and we were just freezing in general.

Elle in Aarhus

Back to the UK (Urgh, Depressing!)

We didn’t really have much time in Aarhus at all on the Sunday, considering our flight was at 2pm. We left the apartment by 10am, and headed back to Lagkaghuset for one last direktørsnegl and chai latte. After that, it was a case of waiting for the bus to take us back to the airport… aka, the shack.

Aarhus definitely surprised me. I was pretty certain I’d like it, because… hello, Denmark! But I just wasn’t sure what to expect of the “second city”. Turns out, it was basically a mini Copenhagen. Everyone was just as stylish (in fact, the week after I got back I strictly wore only black – yeah, that meant no blue faux fur coat!).

The atmosphere in Aarhus was cool – sure, there weren’t as many bars as there is in Copenhagen, but the ones I went to were pretty good. And in fact, finding reasonably priced restaurants seemed much easier in Aarhus.

I’m actually planning a trip back to Aarhus as we speak – combined with a weekend away in Copenhagen, because it would be rude not to. Let’s be honest: in my eyes, Denmark can do no wrong. And Aarhus? Well, it’s definitely a liveable city.

Elle Pollicott

9 Comments

  1. That was such a perfect weekend getaway, exploring new city, shopping and trying out some amazing foods and drinks! Isbjerget seems like such a great neighbourhood, just love the architecture <3

  2. Oh that Gedulgt bar sounds so cool, I love hidden quirky gems like this. Aarhus sounds like a cool vibrant and I will have to visit soon, I’ve never even been to Denmark.

  3. I always hear so much about Denmark that it was nice to read somewhere different. The Isbjerget building is so fascinating. It really does look like icebergs!

  4. I love learning about cities I’d never even thought of before, so it’s been a pleasure to look at Aarhus with you. A good option for a two city break with Copenhagen perhaps!

  5. I love this! Everyone is always drawn to the “main” city but it’s so great to explore other parts of the country! I haven’t been to Denmark yet but I will be sure to add Aarhus to my list when I’m there 😊

  6. Loved your article! I’m obsessed with architecture and those iceberg apartments are amazing! Your description of the airport is hilarious!

  7. I have heard of Copenhagen but have never heard of this city before. Looks like you had a great time exploring. Now that you are back home do you regret not buying the luggage?

  8. Sounds like a fun weekend getaway! I’ve had Denmark on my list for ages! Totally googling all the different foods you mentioned though haha

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