Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to one day in Aarhus. Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’d sure like to visit Copenhagen, but it just seems too large and overwhelming?” Then why not give Aarhus, Denmark a try! It has everything Copenhagen has, just on a smaller scale.
In just one day in Aarhus, you can experience adorable architecture, ponder the mystifying Aarhus art museum, and dine on some of the best Nordic cuisine in the country. Aarhus: It’s like Copenhagen for shy people!
One Day in Aarhus
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 spent my one day in Aarhus at 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!)
One Day in Aarhus
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: One Day in Aarhus
Morning: Explore Aarhus
Aarhus is a good mixture of small town and up and coming city, so there’s plenty to see and do. It’s expanding all the time, especially because of the recent expansion of its port. This expansion created 7,000 jobs and 3,000 houses. So we can expect more Danes to be arriving in Aarhus by hummingbird, or however Danes travel. I get most of my ideas about Denmark from reading Hans Christian Andersen.
If you’re spending One Day in Aarhus in the summer months, you can learn fun facts like this on the Hop On Hop Off bus that travels around the city. But if you’re spending 24 hours in Aarhus at another time of year, or you just really hate Hop On Hop Off buses, the city is small enough that you can get around by foot. Either way, you’ll have no trouble finding…
approximately top 5: One Day in Aarhus
Some people call Mollestien the cutest little street in the whole wide world. It’s got everything an adorable street needs: flowers, creeping vines, short square houses, muted pastel colors, cobblestones, and tile roofs. Basically it has everything except elves doing the garden work. And maybe there were elves doing the garden work; they just didn’t want me to see them because I am not Danish and I’ve never met the Snow Queen.
Maybe you think I’m exaggerating this whole “Denmark is a fairy tale country” thing. Well, just so you know, two women who lived on this street were convicted of witchcraft in the 17th century. And as we all know, only real witches were convicted of practicing magic in those times. So I rest my case.
2) Vor Frue Kirke
You’ve already met some witches. Now would you like to meet a 1000 year old crypt? Then follow me to Vor Frue Kirke, which means The Church of Our Lady. It is divided into three parts: the main church, the medieval abbey church, and the 1000 year old crypt that is definitely haunted by an angry skeleton.
The Abbey Church is worth visiting for the astonishing cross-vaulted ceiling and detailed pink murals. According to the church’s brochure, the gatekeeper of the Abbey Church was charged with keeping out women, robbers, and scum. You should know that doesn’t sound very good, person who was instructing medieval gatekeepers. What if the woman was being chased by a scummy robber? Would you let her in then?
And here’s the terrifying crypt I promised you! The church brochure says it has been around since Viking times. That makes it the oldest room in Aarhus. That’s very impressive for me, since I come from New York City. I’m pretty sure the oldest room in New York City is the ladies’ bathroom in Port Authority.
3) Aarhus Cathedral
As I mentioned in my last post, Aarhus Cathedral is the tallest building in Aarhus, and it remains the biggest church in Denmark. Suck on that, Copenhagen! It began construction in 1201, when it was dedicated to St. Clement. I assume he was the patron saint of tall buildings. As impressive as the exterior is, wait until you get inside.
Now that is what I call a cathedral. Who can help but think of heaven with all that white, gold, and pointy ceilings? Of course, the Cathedral used to be more colorful and covered with frescoes back when it was a Catholic church. But after the Reformation, the Lutherans…did something to them. I can’t find out what. The Cathedral’s website just said that they disappeared, which makes me feel like something horrible happened to them. Were they eaten? Were they burned at the stake for being witches? I must know.
Fortunately some of the frescoes survive, including this famous depiction of St. George and the dragon. That dragon is way too cute to kill. It looks like a kitty cat, the way it’s rolled over on its tummy. I think the dragon, George, and the princess should all go on a picnic together and forget about the slaying and the eating people.
4) Viking Museum
We visited a crypt that dates back to the Vikings, and now it’s time for the Viking Museum. Aarhus used to be a Viking settlement named Aros. (Remember that name because it’s going to show up on the test.) Because of its strategic location on the river, the Vikings protected Aros with strong walls like the ones seen above. I don’t really understand how such tiny little walls could protect a whole city, but perhaps that is why I’m not a Viking.
Some people complain that the Viking Museum is small, but that’s sort of the point. The Viking Museum in Aarhus is filled the with artifacts that they couldn’t find room for at the much larger Moesgaard Museum outside of Aarhus. But the undeniable treasure of the Viking Museum is this guy.
According to my notes, this melancholy Dane is the oldest citizen of Aarhus ever discovered, and he was “probably murdered”. I don’t understand how such an adorable city could begin with such murderous beginnings, but perhaps that is why I am not Danish.
5) Aarhus Street Food
I know I recommended Aarhus Street Food in my previous one day in Aarhus itinerary, but that’s only because it’s amazing and I love it very much. There are about twenty different stalls there, so you could drop by every day for a few weeks and never repeat a restaurant. For lunch today, we will stop at the Bao Bun stall for some steamy buns. “Sun’s out, bun’s out!” as my grandmother always said.
You can choose two different bao, so I suggest getting the duck and the pork. The gamey duck is a good match with the lighter pork. Plus you get two bitty spring rolls as lagniappe, and who doesn’t like something for nothing?
Wash it all down with a blueberry-lavender-white chocolate pop from Popsicle, the literally-minded popsicle stand, also in Aarhus Street Food. It looks like an Easter egg and tastes like a spring day, so what’s not to love!
One Day in Aarhus
Afternoon: Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum
Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum is arguably the major tourist attraction in Aarhus. It’s certainly the most famous Aarhus art museum. It’s also one of the best contemporary art museums I have ever been to. You experience it by beginning in the basement and making your way to the top floor. (There’s a magical surprise on the top, but I don’t want to spoil it until we get there.)
I was told by a guide that the theme of the museum is The Inferno so you are making your way from Hell into Paradise. So abandon hope, all ye who read my…
three fun facts: aros aarhus kunstmuseum
1) Hell is other people…
The basement level, which may or may not represent Hell, consists of different creepy and surprising sound and light installations. It is called Level 0, which definitely sounds like what they would call Hell in an episode of The Twilight Zone. My favorite installation is Too Late, which is a recreation of a gay nightclub the night morning. Wandering around made me feel like some sad dude that nobody wanted to go home with, so I’m just wandering around the empty nightclub aimlessly, trying to avoid the meaningless of existence. Sounds like Hell to me!
2) Boy, you’ll be a terrifying sculpture soon…
This colossal escapee from the uncanny valley is simply named Boy. He is the lovechild of an Australian artist named Ron Mueck. He is 4.5 meters high and weights 500 kilograms, whatever that means. (I didn’t learn the metric system in school.) But I don’t need a kg to pounds converter to tell me this Boy is gigundo. I feel like he looks what would happen if the Blue Fairy turned Gollum from The Lord of the Rings into a real boy and he didn’t know how to process it.
3) Why are there so many songs about rainbows?
The crowning jewel of Aros is this halo-shaped rainbow-colored walkway known as “Your Rainbow Panorama”. The Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson created it so that museum goers could have the experience of being inside the artwork and both inside and outside the museum. Also this is the Paradise part of the museum, so you get to feel like an angel floating in a rainbow halo. Now if I am ever so lucky as to get to Heaven, if there aren’t rainbow clouds to walk on, I’m going to be a tad disappointed.
Pro Tip: the rainbow light is excellent for taking rainbow colored selfies. Now I know what I would look like as a redhead!
One Day in Aarhus
Evening: Dinner at Domestic
I’ve written so much about the New Nordic cuisine at this point that I feel almost qualified to open my own local-ingredient-driven-focused-traditional-technique-using tasting menu restaurant in a repurposed warehouse somewhere in Scandinavia. But in lieu of that, I’m going to introduce you to one of my favorite Scandinavian tasting menu restaurants: Domestic.
Domestic has one Michelin star, and on the Michelin website they say that Domestic only uses Danish ingredients. Aha! Suddenly the name makes perfect sense. But also, I imagine the place is called Domestic because they want the guest to feel at home there. The restaurant combines a multi-course tasting menu with friendly service and an inviting atmosphere.
How friendly are they, Internet Stranger? Well, I’m pretty sure I accidentally stole my menu at the end of the one day in Aarhus and they didn’t even say a word to me. But since I have the menu with me forever, it makes it all the easier to share with you…
approximately top 10: domestic
It can’t be overstated how ingredient focused Domestic is. The menu only lists the ingredients for each dish, not the preparation. And before the main courses begin, you are presented with a dazzling display of one-bite snacks. Here’s a perfect strawberry dusted with fresh dill…
A potato with chicken heart.
A radish with fresh cheese…
A buckwheat pancake filled with mackerel
A small dish of tongue topped with swamp cress. I’m sure my seven year old self would have found the idea of eating this completely appalling. What could be less appealing sounding than tongue with something that came from a swamp? But of course this snack was delicious and surprising just like all the others.
This was beef tartare wrapped in hemp. After eating this I got the munchies so bad, I started eating the bread of the people at the table next to me. They were very nice and did not try to have me thrown out of the restaurant. Danes are so polite!
This is thinly sliced veal topped with diced rhubarb. (I remind you again, we haven’t actually encountered the first course of this meal yet.)
And our final snack…pork barbecue served on spruce for a little smoky flavor. Spruce is a very popular local ingredient in Scandinavian fine dining, as unlike tomatoes or lemons, it’s easily available all over the country.
2) Fjord shrimp-oyster-rhubarb
Finally, the actual food arrives! Our first course is fjord shrimp with an oyster emulsion and rhubarb. Oyster emulsions were popularized by Scandinavian restaurants like Noma and Maaemo, and now you can find them on almost every Nordic tasting menu. I think it’s made by pureeing oysters and then adding oil, but I am not a Swedish chef, so I haven’t been properly indoctrinated in the ways of the oyster emulsion.
3) Lobster-green strawberry-chanterelles
One of the things I like about contemporary Scandinavian cuisine is that it uses ingredients that are often overlooked. Exhibit A: the humble green strawberry. Like the mighty green tomato, the green strawberry has a mildly sour taste that balances the sweet lobster and savory mushrooms in this dish.
One thing I liked about this dish, as in the first course, was the use of two, and only two, different kinds of seafood. You can really taste the similarities and differences between the denizens of the mighty deep this way. Isn’t it wondrous that there are so many different types of oceanic creatures to snack on?
I forgot to take a picture of this course, which fills me with great shame and heartbreak. Like spruce, lovage is a common ingredient in Scandinavian restaurants that try to stick to local ingredients. I’ve read that it’s because they provide a little acidity, and acidic foods aren’t as common to the Scandinavian countryside as they are, say, in Italy. Even your humblest Nordic farmer probably wants a little acid to brighten up his diet of potatoes and salted fish.
6) Pork-new onion-black garlic
Take a moment to admire the colors of this dish! How harmoniously the somber tones of the meat, sauce, and garlic come together! Truly it is as poetic as a sunless Scandinavian afternoon in the dead of winter! Also, I’m terribly glad this dish was made with new onion because this place has a Michelin star, and I don’t want none of that old onion mankying up my plate.
I’m assuming that Domestic had just received an excellent bouquet of lovage, as it was all over the menu this evening. But for me, the star of this dish was the beetroot. Sometimes people ask me why I am so into dining at restaurants that cost…more than some people are willing to pay for food.
Why don’t I spend my spare change on useful things like shoes or fixing the New York City subway system? And I can tell you, the extra money is worth it to be able to taste a sweet beetroot like this. It is the Platonic ideal of root vegetables. When Doug Funnie dies and goes to heaven, this will be the beetroot he is presented with.
Here we come to the cheese portion of the tasting menu with some fresh buttermilk cheese, fresh herbs, and honey. Fresh cheeses seemed quite popular in Scandinavia, and I felt I encountered them almost as frequently as I did the harder, stinkier cheeses. Also, this is the portion of the evening when the wine pairings in the tasting menu start to go to my head, as you can tell from the blurry nature of this photo.
Some of you out there might be thinking, “Feh! Such a long, fancy meal, and all we get at the end is some berries? What gives?” If you are thinking this, you have obviously never had a Scandinavian strawberry in season. I’ve heard that Scandinavians sometimes suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter due to the lack of sunlight. They should just figure out a way to preserve these wondrous berries and eat them in the colder, darker months. I’m sure no one could be sad if they were nomming on one of these rays of sunshine.
10) Parade O’ Sweets
Just in case the berries weren’t enough, at the end of the meal you are presented with a cavalcade of petits fours. How about a brunsviger, which is a little Danish cake topped with butter and brown sugar?
Or perhaps an ice cream sandwich sitting on a rock paired with a caramel that is also sitting on a rock? I like to think they represent two lovers that are forever separated by the chasm of an endless ocean. Fortunately they eventually find each other when I chewed them up and put them in my stomach.
How about a dehydrated pear with fresh cream? Dehydrating the pear makes it much more intense in flavor and much more hideous, visually.
Finally, we have an artisanal marshmallow served on a stick plucked fresh from the Danish wild. I tried to turn this into a smore using the candle at my table and the Danes still didn’t kick me out of the restaurant. Stop being so polite, Danes! But other than that, it was a perfect end to my One Day in Aarhus.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Aarhus!
What would you do in One Day in Aarhus? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Aarhus? What is the cutest street you have ever seen? And how many times do you have to be rude before the Danes will kick you out of a restaurant? 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 one day in Aarhus. If you have another one day in Aarhus, try this itinerary.