Discover Aarhus: The Essential One-Day Itinerary


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On the Danish Jutland Peninsula and the second-largest city in Denmark, the city of Aarhus stands as a hidden gem as one of the lesser visited cities in Denmark.

Known as the “City of Smiles”, Aarhus, unfortunately, is typically overlooked by travellers in favour of Copenhagen, yet it is an exciting alternative to Copenhagen or the perfect addition to a trip to Denmark.

To help plan a wonderful one day in Aarhus, follow this itinerary to explore a dynamic culture, quaint sights, and a creative food scene.

How Many Days in Aarhus?

Although Aarhus is just a quarter of the size of Copenhagen, it remains a city with a wide array of things to do and see for a variety of interests.

With that being said, Aarhus is a city that can be enjoyed in a day, for those navigating a comprehensive Denmark trip. With one day, you’ll be able to explore the majority of the highlights and take in the friendly & laid back vibe of the city.

Aarhus is also a wonderful city to spend a longer period of time in, if you’re keen to explore metropolitan Denmark off the beaten path or have the city as a base as you explore Jutland or Northern/Central Denmark.

Aarhus Canal
Aarhus Canal

Getting To & Around Aarhus

As Aarhus is located in the heart of Denmark, it’s a city that’s easy to reach by just about any means of transport.

If you’re planning on visiting from other destinations in Denmark, Sweden, or Germany, Aarhus is well-connected by rail and has frequent train services, with hourly services running directly from Copenhagen to Aarhus.

Alternatively, for budget travellers, the bus is the cheapest option to reach Aarhus with a one way ticket from Copenhagen to Aarhus. You can view train & bus schedules here.

For those looking to fly into Aarhus from other cities in Scandinavia or elsewhere in Europe, Aarhus International Airport is located around 43 km from Aarhus’ city centre and services a handful of cities year-round, along with a larger number of cities as seasonal routes in the summer. 

Getting around in Aarhus is fairly straightforward and convenient, as the majority of stops on this route are walkable, and a well-connected bus system runs throughout the city with routes running along the main roads and most populated parts of the city.

City bus tickets range from 80 DKK to 160 DKK depending on the validity of the ticket, and tickets must be purchased before entering the bus.  

Aarhus Harbor
Aarhus Harbor

1-Day Aarhus itinerary

Aarhus is one of the oldest cities in Denmark, as well as a modern city known for pushing boundaries.

Because of this, Aarhus offers an intriguing blend of old and new, and this itinerary will reflect both aspects of the city, from medieval architecture, quaint streets, and Viking relics, to award-winning, modern-day art and a contemporary culinary scene. 

If you want to get an introduction to the city with a guide you can take a historical walking tour.

Aarhus Cathedral

Our route begins in central Aarhus, and there’s no better place to visit first than the city’s cathedral. 

The longest and tallest church in Denmark, at 93 m. long and 96 m. tall, Aarhus’ Cathedral proudly stands in the central square “Store Tov”.

Dating back to the 12th century along with a rich history, the cathedral is dedicated to St Clemens, the patron saint of sailors, corresponding to the cathedral’s location facing the port side of Store Tov. 

Inside the cathedral, you’ll find colourful fresco paintings and stained-glass remaining from before the reformation, the remnants of what was, before the refusal of pre-existing Catholic art from before the Protestant Reformation. 

Visits are free for visitors, and opening hours of the church can be found here

Aarhus Cathedral
Aarhus Cathedral

Strøget

Denmark is renowned for its impressive pedestrian streets, and Aarhus is no exception, boasting the 850-meter-long Strøget.

Running throughout central Aarhus from Banegårdspladsen central station to  Åboulevarden St. along the river, Strøget offers pretty much anything you can think of while on a trip to a Danish city; from well-known high street shops to independent specialist stores and boutiques, to vendors of classic Danish hot dogs, hot winter drinks, or summer treats.

I recommend spending an hour or so strolling along Strøget while enjoying lovely views and the leafy city surroundings before heading off to your next stop. This is really one of the best things to do in Aarhus. 

Viking Museum

Based on various archaeological findings, records show that Aarhus dates back to 700 and was originally founded as a Viking settlement by the name of “Aros”. As a result of this, Aarhus has an abundance of unique history to discover while visiting the once Viking city. 

One of the best ways to delve deeper into Aarhus’ Viking history is to visit the small yet informative Viking Museum, located at Sankt Clemens Torv.

Underground Nordea Bank, the Viking Museum will take you on a literal journey below, passing through time in the footsteps of the Vikings that once founded Aros with the perspective of local archaeologists.

Once you’ve reached the one-room museum, 3 metres below street level, you’ll find educational information and various interactive exhibits allowing you to hold a greater perspective of Viking life in what is now modern-day Aarhus. 

Tickets are 30 DKK for adults and admission is free for children.

Mollestien Lane 

Known by many as possibly the prettiest street in Denmark, Mollestien Lane is a quaint and idyllic cobblestoned street in Central Aarhus that feels like a step back in time to the 1800s, with traditional, wonky homes lining the streets along with colourful flowers and a deep history.

Despite its popularity today as a spot for admiring the enchanting surroundings of old-world Denmark, Mollestien Lane has a less favourable history. Poverty and crime ravaged the area up until the 1960s, however, artists and students then stepped in, restoring the area by fixing the homes and planting flowers.

Visiting Mollestien Lane for a short time is the perfect way to experience another facet of Aarhus that once was, as well as an ideal spot to take photos and admire this picturesque corner of Aarhus. 

ARoS Aarhus Art Museum or Moesgaard Museum

It’s apparent now that Aarhus is a city rich in culture and history, and the second part of your day will be spent at one of the city’s impressive museums. 

I’ve given two options to visit, as it’s hard to fit both in if you only have one day in the city, but if you’re keen to explore both, I’d suggest visiting both and possibly skipping the next part of the itinerary as both museums are known to be two of the best in Denmark and Scandinavia. 

The oldest public art museum in Denmark, ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, is an architectural masterpiece housing works from the Golden Age, Danish Modernism, and a variety of contemporary art.

One of its most recognizable installations is the magnificent ‘Your Rainbow’ panoramic rooftop walkway, offering incredible 360-degree views of the city through its colourful, rainbow-panelled glass.

Opening hours and ticket costs for ARoS can be found here.

If you’re more drawn to history and art through an archaeologic and ethnographic lens, Moesgaard Museum is another well-renowned and regarded museum in Aarhus known for its Danish and international historic and archaeological relics.

Like ARoS, Moesgaard is another museum housed in impressive clothing, with a grass-covered and tiled roof, with peaceful views of the surrounding Jutland countryside and sea. 

Opening hours and ticket costs for Moesgaard Museum can be found here.

Rainbow Panorama @ ARoS
Rainbow Panorama @ ARoS

Den Gamle By

For another look into Aarhus’ history, Den Gamle By, or “The Old Town”, is an appealing, open air museum with over 70 half-timbered homes brought in from across Denmark, reconstructed as a market town for visitors to wander through the bygone era of Hans Cristian Andersen. 

With various exhibits showcasing different aspects of life from the 1800s, and demonstrations from the town’s craftspeople, Den Gamle By is a fun way to explore Denmark’s past, as well as an ideal attraction especially for children, providing a fun and educational experience.

Opening hours and ticket costs for Den Gamle By can be found here.

Colorful houses in Den Gamle By
Colorful houses in Den Gamle By

Aarhus Street Food

After exploring Den Gamle By, you’re likely to have built up an appetite from all the wandering. I recommend heading back to central Aarhus to taste some of the city’s best local restaurants, ranging from traditional Danish dishes to exciting international flavours.

Set in a modern and vibrant environment, Aarhus Street Food is a culinary gem where locals gather to enjoy delicious food and drinks in good company.

With its diverse range of food stalls and lively atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to satisfy your hunger, take a well-deserved break, and immerse yourself in the friendly surroundings of Aarhus.

Marselisborg Palace

After spending the majority of your day exploring central Aarhus, your day concludes in the southern end of the city, where you can enjoy regal grounds and unique architecture overlooking the Bay of Aarhus.

Marselisborg Palace, originally gifted to Crown Prince Christian by the Danish people in the early 1900s, now serves as the summer and Christmas residence of the Danish Royal Family.

It is also a popular destination for both visitors and locals of Aarhus, offering a stately glimpse into Danish culture amidst its lush and picturesque surroundings. Despite its proximity to Aarhus’s city centre, the palace provides a wonderful escape into nature. 

The palace itself isn’t open to visitors at any time, but the palace grounds and gardens, including the queen’s rose garden, welcome visitors whenever the royal family isn’t in residence.

The grounds are expansive and diverse, offering various features such as ponds, forested areas, and statuary.

A delightful way to experience the area and this gorgeous botanical garden is to explore the adjacent Queen’s Park and enjoy a picnic or a refreshing drink while overlooking the breezy Baltic Sea.

While the palace grounds aren’t open to visitors when the royal family is in residence, you’ll have the alternative opportunity to witness the changing of the guard by the Life Guard daily at noon.

Although you won’t be able to wander the palace grounds and gardens on these days, the nearby Marselisborg Forests are a great addition to time spent at Marselisborg Palace. 

For more information on visiting Marselisborg Palace, visit here

Marselisborg Palace
Marselisborg Palace

The Infinite Bridge

Before heading back to the centre and continuing onward, whether for more time exploring Aarhus or elsewhere in Denmark, one of Denmark’s most intriguing art installations is just a short distance from Marselisborg Palace and well worth the visit. 

The Infinite Bridge, a circular, wooden, tranquil bridge stretching into the Baltic Sea, was created by architects Niels Povlsgaard and Johan Gjødes in 2015, and is truly a beautiful work of art as well as an enjoyable spot on a warm summer’s day to jump into the sea and take in the surrounding sea and forest. 

Keep in mind that the Infinite Bridge is only open during Denmark’s warmer months from April-October for safety reasons, although you can still witness the bridge from shore, with especially striking views at sunset. 

Infinite Bridge
Infinite Bridge

Have More Time?

While the majority of Aarhus’ main sights can be visited in just a day trip to the city, there’s much more to be explored if you’re keen to spend longer in Denmark’s second-largest city. 

Latin Quarter

If you’re looking to spend time in another neighbourhood during your time in Aarhus, the Latin Quarter neighbourhood on the east side of the city is the oldest part of Aarhus and an incredibly charming area lined with small shops, hip cafés, trendy restaurants serving traditional smørrebrød, and a cosy, local environment. 

Aarhus Harbour Bath

While wintertime in Aarhus is a time of hygge and cosy gatherings, summer is an exciting time in the city, with long sunny days and locals taking advantage of the warmer time of year.

One of the best ways to experience summer as a local in Aarhus, is to head to the Aarhus Harbour area and go for a dip in the Aarhus Harbour Bath, or “Havnebadet”. Designed by one of Denmark’s best renowned architects, Bjarke Ingels.

The bath is both an architectural marvel and an enjoyable spot to spend a summer’s evening. Beyond the bath, the area also features various restaurants, bars, and shops, creating the ideal environment for a wonderful day in Denmark’s second city. 

Ebeltoft 

If you have more time in the area and wish to explore beyond Aarhus, consider visiting the town of Ebeltoft, a historic town, boasting original architecture dating back to the 1600s, located around an hour away by bus from Aarhus.

Unlike Den Gamle By in Aarhus, which is an open-air museum, Ebeltoft remains in its authentic form, offering visitors a quaint and colourful atmosphere and a genuine glimpse into Denmark’s past.

Ebeltoft
Ebeltoft

Where to Stay in Aarhus

Hotel Oasia – A hip, designer hotel located a stone’s throw from the main train station, this is a good mid-range choice in this Danish city. There are many modern rooms on offer along with a great breakfast, a bar and a fitness centre.

Villa Provence – An intimate boutique hotel, this is a great luxe option in Aarhus. There are countless plush and comfortable rooms to choose from and there is room service and a fab breakfast each morning.

Danhostel Aarhus City – Centrally located, this is a great budget option for visitors. Offering dorms, double and private rooms, there are also good common areas and clean facilities.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Aarhus hotels!

Aarhus is a great destination for any kind of traveller to Denmark, whether your interest lies in history, modern architecture and art, or buzzing Scandinavian cities. With one day, you’re bound to understand why Aarhus holds the title of one of Denmark’s “coolest cities” and is affectionately known as the “city of smiles.”

Are you planning to visit Aarhus? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Olivia is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Michigan, USA, she is currently living in Athens, Greece exploring Europe and filmmaking. When she’s not travelling or writing, Olivia can be found cooking delicious new recipes from around the world, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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