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A picturesque city in the heart of the Jutland Peninsula, Aarhus has an extraordinary creative vibe that spreads to every corner of the city, where cutting-edge art galleries and must-try restaurants cross paths with stunning architectural landmarks. Its compact centre makes Aarhus great for an express, 24-hour tour of the city. Follow our insider’s guide to Denmark’s prime hip destination and discover some of the best cultural attractions in Aarhus.
Stoll down the steep Christiansgade, or walk from the top of J.M. Morksgade, only to arrive at the very end of the two streets, where the Kunsthall Aarhus is located. This tiny contemporary art centre offers free entrance throughout 2014 and is well worth a visit, with diverse exhibitions, workshops and events held throughout the year. The Kunsthall is without a doubt one of the best galleries in Aarhus to discover up-and-coming Danish talent.
From there, head towards the bottom of the street and cross the small bridge that goes over the Å canal, from which the city takes its name. The very end of Møllegade, a street running along the cosy Mølleparken park, will lead you to what is widely considered the most beautiful street – or even spot – in Aarhus, the Møllestien. Its cobbled surface and picturesque houses from the 18th century convey the essence of Aarhus: it’s a cosy, cheerful city with many cultural secrets waiting to be discovered. Keep strolling around Vestergade, where the Gallerie Image and Lunch Money Gallery are great art spaces to visit in this area; alternatively, those with little time on their hands can stop by the exhibition space Lynfabbriken Box and peer inside through its big windows, where works of art are usually displayed.
Keep walking down the Vestergade, passing close by the Von Frue Kirke and a gigantic graffiti of the ‘similing sun’, the symbol of a worldwide anti-nuclear movement designed back in 1975 by two Danish students from Aarhus. Take a moment to contemplate the historical significance of ‘Atomic Power? No Thanks’, and move on, heading for the two main paved squares of Aarhus: the Lille Torv (‘the small square’) and the Store Torv (‘the big square’). This area is home to the stunning Aarhus cathedral, while the nearby Aarhus Theatre is a must-see architectural landmark, renowned for its art nouveau design.
Walk in the direction of Mejlgade, the alternative neighbourhood that is home to some of the most trendy, laid-back bars and restaurants in the city. Those wishing to bring back an artsy souvenir will not be disappointed by the TANK Art shop and café. Grab a coffee while looking through original pieces by local illustrators and browsing catalogues and art books. Until 1 August 2014, TANK also hosts the I DO ART LAB project, a multilayered initiative produced by several artists working with different media.
Aarhus is a port city, which makes a visit to the harbour an absolute must. A stroll around its less industrial part, where smaller fishing and sailboats are, is a great way to experience the authentic atmosphere of Aarhus. The very end of the harbour unveils a big surprise, the hyper-modern and stunning Isbjerget complex, built by JDS Architects in 2013. Its buildings, combined, resemble an iceberg in shape, and represent the city as a hub for innovation and modernity in Denmark.
You can finally relax and enjoy dinner at the marina in Frøken Koch. This is a newly opened restaurant owned by the brothers Koch, who have already proven their ability in the art of dining with Restaurant Koch and Den Glade Vanvid. The restaurant offers a classic Danish menu of uncomplicated dishes, all prepared with fresh ingredients – the fish market is just a few steps away. Weather permitting, leave the minimalistic and modern interiors to dine on the terrace, where views of the harbour are a definite perk.
For an after-dinner drink, head back to the city centre. Løve’s Bog and Café is a cosy bohemian-style library and café specialising in wine, but it also features a good selection of Danish beers. Order a Høker or ask the friendly staff for their recommendation. Another evening option is a beautiful corner bar in the Latin Quarter: Café Drudenfuss has traditionally been the hangout spot for Aarhus’ political avant-garde. Although it may not attract the same clientele anymore, it is still a trendy place with a neat and polished look, and a laid-back atmosphere.
Finds out what Godsbanen, a local cultural centre, has to offer before your visit, or simply climb the steep roof in the courtyard and let yourself be surprised. In the foyer, a minimalistic open-space café, Torvalds, offers breakfasts and brunches. It’s a great spot to get a taste of traditional cinnamon buns, and organic savoury or sweet choices with ingredients provided by local producers.
Last but not least, the very pride of Aarhus: the Aros Museum and ‘Your Rainbow Panorama’, the permanent site-specific installation by Olafur Eliasson. Inspired by Dante’s masterpiece The Divine Comedy and by the visionary idea of the afterlife environment, the circular installation can be entered via the top of the museum. The best way to get the most out of the museum is to visit the various collections spread across its ten floors, and experience the breathtaking rainbow-coloured circular work at the very end.