A Perfect 24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours of 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!

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 of different hotels in Aarhus, click here.

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

What to Pack?

Denmark can be on the rainy side. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Sweden.

For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.

Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do

Morning: The Aarhus Story

So 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. The best and most exciting museum in Den Gamle By is the recently opened Aarhus Story.

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

jens iversen lange chasuble
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 feud 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.

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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 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.

aarhus story den gamle by train
2) Industry Comes To Aarhus

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 competition between the two cities.

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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. 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!

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3) The Danish Resistance

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.

world war ii radio

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.

den gamle by garden

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’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

A Perfect 24 Hours: Aarhus Things to Do 5
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.

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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.

mayor's room aarhus
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.

apothecary den gamle by
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?

SP Jepson Den Gamle By
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.

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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.

giant spider

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 library 24 Hours: 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.

citronmanne cake

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 have an international cop convention, only invite Danish cops and American cops, and see whether the group ends up preferring citronmane or doughnuts.

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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

Ugood specializes in Ugandan street food. I had never tried Ugandan food of any kind before, so I was pretty thrilled. This dish you see pictured above is a rolex. Don’t worry, Internet Stranger! It has nothing to do with watches. A rolex 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!

licorice raspberry popsicle aarhus

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.

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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