Aarhus Things to Do: A Perfect 24 Hours

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours of the best Aarhus things to do. I’m ashamed to admit that until I Googled the phrase “Places to go in Denmark that aren’t Copenhagen”, I had never heard of Aarhus.

This is truly tragic because Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark and a fantastic destination in its own right. It has an excellent university, delicious street food, and the famous open-air museum Den Gamle By. Join me for 24 hours of the best Aarhus things to do and you’ll see why Aarhus may be second in size but first in cuteness!

aarhus things to do

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

Where to Stay?

Denmark, like all Scandinavian countries, can be quite expensive. It’s hard to find a good hotel that won’t cost you a troll’s mountain full of gold. That’s why I like the chain Wakeup and the specific hotel Wakeup Aarhus. It’s within walking distance of pretty much everything, the rooms are clean and comfy, and there’s a full breakfast buffet included. (Yes the coffee is decent, and you can even take it to go!) Then you’ll be ready to take on the best Aarhus things to do!

If you want a great deal on this hotel click here. And if you’re looking for great deals in many different hotels in Aarhus, click here.

aarhus things to do

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

What to Pack?

  • A cell charger so that you’ll be able to keep taking photos all during your exploration of the best Aarhus things to do.
  • The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, or British like I am not, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics in Denmark during your day of the best Aarhus things to do.
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
  • Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
  • My favorite travel guide to Denmark.
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by an ugly duckling during your exploration of Aarhus.
24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

Morning: The Aarhus Story

I’m very excited to take you on a journey of one of the best outdoor museums in Europe, if not the world. Den Gamle By, Aarhus’s open-air historical museum, is so large and fascinating that we’re going to spend all day here. One of the best things about Den Gamle By is that it has several museums within the museum, so there’s something for everyone, no matter what your interest is.

The best and most exciting museum in Den Gamle By is the recently opened Aarhus Story, which is surprisingly great for a museum located in someone’s basement. To get to this Den Gamle By museum, you need to descend to the bottom floor in an elevator.

A video will play explaining that you are traveling back in time to the age of the Vikings. So cool! And I didn’t even know they had flux capacitors in Denmark. Once your time machine arrives, you can explore this interactive museum dedicated to Aarhus’s history and learn much more than…

three fun facts: aarhus edition

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do
1) War of the Roses

Like most Scandinavian countries, Denmark was a Catholic country for much of the Middle Ages. Then it converted into Lutheranism. Perhaps the most notable Catholic associated with Aarhus is Jens Iversen Lange, the Bishop of Aarhus during the 15th century. He was responsible for renovating Aarhus Cathedral and transforming it into the Gothic style.

Lange wasn’t above a feud, however. He apparently got into a vicious argy-bargy with the wealthy Rosencrantz family that turned so ugly that fights broke out in the streets of Aarhus. It’s hard to imagine fights breaking out in the streets of Denmark today. It seems like such a peaceful, well-behaved country. I suspect it’s all the butter cookies and cinnamon rolls.

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

Lange’s influence can still be seen on Aarhus today, thanks to the Cathedral. According to this picture, it’s still the tallest building in the city at 305 feet. How cute, Aarhus! In my hometown New York City, our tallest building is 1,792 feet high. But I’m sure if you just stick a massive weird spire on the top of Aarhus Cathedral, you can beat us. Keep your dreams alive, Aarhus!

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do
2) Industry Comes To Aarhus

If you’ve never heard of Aarhus before this trip, you’re not alone. Aarhus was a sleepy little town for most of its history. Then came industrialization and mechanization and everything changed.

Aarhus grew from 4,000 people to 150,000 people in the space of 150 years. It became quite competitive with Copenhagen for trade and resources. Even today there’s a bitter competition between the two cities, which you can learn all about at this museum.

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

My favorite example of this competition is this map showing the second cities of Europe like Birmingham, Barcelona, and Bergen. The largest cities in each country are simply not pictured. I mean, who even knows what the largest city in France is called, anyway?

First off, props for showing the second city of even tiny countries like Moldova because I bet even the citizens of a country as well-educated as Denmark is have never heard of Tiraspol. Also, this is a very creative way to handle a rivalry–just erase your rival city from the map! Problem solved!

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do
3) The Danish Resistance

Now we arrive at another time when there was fighting in the streets of peaceful Denmark. I’m sure all of you already know that World War II hit Denmark hard.

Denmark famously resisted the Nazis more than most other European countries. They even managed to save about 90 percent of their Jewish population by sending them to neutral Sweden. But with the war came violence and poverty. The child’s shoes above were made out of fish skin because no other material was available.

aarhus things to do

The most moving part of the exhibit on World War II was this replica of a 1940s Danish living room. If you sit here, you can hear the real broadcast announcing that Germany had surrendered to the Allies and agreed to leave Denmark.

I don’t speak any Danish, so the only words in the broadcast I could understand were “General Montgomery”. Yet I was still moved to tears. I hope that I could be as brave as the members of the Danish Resistance were. This isn’t very likely, as I am only just brave enough to take the New York City subway during rush hour.

aarhus things to do

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

Afternoon: Explore Den Gamle By

Now that we’ve seen Den Gamle By’s biggest and most high-tech museum, it’s time to explore the rest of the historic homes. We can take We’ll see medieval-inspired gardens, magical potions, and classic Danish cars. But first, lunch!

Approximately Top 5: Aarhus Things to Do at Den Gamle By

aarhus things to do
1) Smorrebrod

The food at Den Gamle By isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but eating here will give you a chance to rest your feet and try some smorrebrod. These are the legendary Danish open-faced sandwiches. Open-faced sandwiches go best in an open-air museum, as my grandmother always said.

One was made with cured meat, and the other was a combination of shrimp, egg, mayonnaise, and white asparagus, making it just about the whitest thing I have ever put in my mouth.

Don’t pass up the chance to get a very flavorful Den Gamle By beer with the sandwich. I’ve never seen this beer outside of Aarhus, so drink it while you can.

aarhus things to do

There’s also a Den Gamle By bakery nearby where you can purchase homemade sweets. I recommend this crumbly strawberry-apple hand pie. I’m pretty sure it’s called a hand pie because as soon as you put it in your hand, it falls to pieces. This is what pastries looked like before people had to worry about Instagram.

aarhus things to do
2) The Mayor’s Room

The first home in Den Gamle By was the luxurious Mayor’s house. Each room is decorated in the style of a different time period, from the Renaissance to the Empire style. The room above is the Renaissance room. You can tell because it’s entirely done in heavy dark wood. People in the Renaissance needed to sit in heavy, dark rooms because they were busy thinking deep thoughts about perspective and indulgences and flying machines.

aarhus things to do
3) Apothecary

Den Gamle By is full of workshops and replicas of stores. Most of these are staffed by docents who will be happy to explain how the goods were produced at each store. But my favorite was the 18th century apothecary. Den Gamle By claims it’s the oldest apothecary in Denmark.

But I liked it because they sold random things like snakes and sea monkeys. I really don’t understand how people, even in the 1700s, thought giving a sick person a snake would make them feel better. Most people don’t even want to look at a snake when they are feeling 100 percent.

herb garden
4) den gamle by Historical Gardens

There are at least seven historical gardens around Den Gamle By, from a Renaissance style garden (made out of heavy wood for deep thoughts) to a Vicar’s widow’s kitchen garden, which seems weirdly specific. But as I already showed you the apothecary’s house, allow me to present you with his garden. According to the signs, many modern drugs use ingredients that would have been found in the apothecary garden.

I’m a murder mystery junkie, not a doctor, so I was more curious about ways to murder people with untraceable poisons found in this garden. Sadly the staff just looked at me funny and refused to answer when I asked them about the poisonous plants. I promise not to commit the perfect murder in Denmark, Den Gamle By staff! What are you so nervous about?

aarhus things to do
5) 1927 Shopping Street

Let’s move our time machine a little forward into the future with the Den Gamle By 1920s shopping street. Here you can enter an authentic period bookstore. You can also stop in S.P. Jepsen, which is a hardware store.

Back in the 1920s, you could buy anything in a hardware store, from your regular nuts and bolts to tin toys for kids to something called Madam Blue coffee pots. I personally think that sounds like a coffee pot especially made for a sex worker, but this is why I’m not a Danish coffee pot manufacturer.

aarhus things to do
6) 1970s Home

The 1970s is as modern as Den Gamle By gets. Frankly, I was surprised they had something so modern in a historic museum. But I learned that many apartments in Denmark didn’t have private toilets and baths until the 1970s. They had to share with other people in their building. That just proves how polite the Danes are. If people in New York City had to share toilets and tubs, the entire population would be murdered within a week.

aarhus things to do

There was also an exhibit at Den Gamle By on household pests going on in the 1970s home, so I guess that’s why there was this replica of a giant spider in the corner of the house. She made everyone who passed her scream in surprise and horror.

I think the staff of Den Gamle By should have put up a sign in front of her saying: WARNING! A GIANT SPIDER IS AROUND THE CORNER! Maybe there would have been less screaming that way.

aarhus things to do

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

Late Afternoon: Dokk1 Aarhus Library

Some of you might think I’m strange for suggesting that you spend the late afternoon perusing a library. After all, if you don’t live in Aarhus, you probably can’t check out a book.

But the Dokk1, as the Aarhus Library is called, is so much more than just a library. In fact, it was voted the best library in the world! You can walk around the outside and get views of the harbor. If you have kids, you can bring them to the play areas here. And of course, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be looking for the snacks.

aarhus things to do

The citronmane cake, which translates to lemon moon cake, is a classic Danish sweet. They are made with lemons and marzipan, which is a delectable combination I had never tried before. Usually you buy them in a store, so it was surprising to see that they sold homemade citronmane at the library cafe.

A Danish person told me that there is a stereotype that Danish policemen like to eat citronmane. I say we should have an international cop convention, only invite Danish cops and American cops, and see whether the group ends up preferring citronmane or doughnuts.

aarhus things to do

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

Evening: Aarhus Street Food

Street food has become extremely popular in Copenhagen. There’s even an entire market of street food vendors in Copenhagen. They’re called Copenhagen Street Food because all the creativity goes into the food, not the name.

Well, Aarhus decided that anything Copenhagen could do, it could do better. That’s why they opened up their own street food market called Aarhus Street Food. Danes really need to get more clever at naming things. As with any good street food market, the vendors will change on a fairly regular basis. But if my choices are available, you should definitely try…

ugood rolex
24 Hour Treat: Rolex

I tried a stall called Ugood that specializes in Ugandan street food. (It isn’t there any more, but I’m sure you’ll find another stall that’s just as delicious.) This dish you see pictured above is a rolex, which is a chapati (flatbread) filled with vegetables and an omelette. It’s called a rolex because you roll it. I had mine with a side of sweet potato fries and garlic mayo. It was a satisfying and comforting dinner.

Rolex is often a breakfast food in Uganda, so I don’t imagine it’s usually paired with alcohol. However I think rolexes go very well with a nice rose. Here’s hoping Rolexes and wine start trending!

aarhus things to do

For dessert I stopped at Popsicle, which is the gourmet popsicle stand. (Please work on these names, Denmark!) Their flavors change daily, but I opted for the incredibly Danish raspberry-licorice bar. Danes, like all Scandinavians, love their licorice. If there’s no licorice in it, it probably doesn’t count as a Danish dessert. Unless you’re a Danish cop. Then it’s okay to eat a citronmane.

aarhus things to do

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

How to Get There

Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a box of the finest Danish butter cookies. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to this list of the best Aarhus things to do.

But I can tell you that you can use an airplane to get to Copenhagen, and then take a shorter flight to Aarhus. I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to Danish cities at the best time of day.

You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)

Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out on your 24 Hours of the best Aarhus things to do.

That’s 24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

What are your favorite Aarhus things to do? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Aarhus? Have you ever eaten a wrap named for a luxury watch before? And why won’t the staff of Den Gamle By teach me how to poison people? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the best Aarhus things to do. If you have another 24 hours for the best Aarhus things to do, try this itinerary.

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