Things to do in Aarhus: Let yourself be surprised by Denmark’s fantastic second city

When many people talk about Denmark, Copenhagen gets most of the attention. We’re not surprised; the country’s capital is a poster child for what happens when you get urbanism right. But what if we told you that Denmark’s second city is one of the best-hidden gems in Northern Europe, and you can find plenty of fun things to do in Aarhus?

Aarhus has received more recognition in recent years, thanks partly to its stint as the European Capital of Culture and the city’s high-performing university. Denmark’s youngest average population has created a fantastic place to live and visit with buzzing nightlife, enough cultural experiences to last for days, and more.

The city’s culinary scene is also blossoming, and its picturesque and compact core is as inviting as the locals themselves. But enough talking from us; it’s time for you to explore for yourself. If you’re wondering what to do in Aarhus, keep reading, and we’ll reveal 15 must-try experiences.

What are the top attractions to visit in Aarhus?

To help you plan your trip to Aarhus better, we’ll break down our top recommendations into various categories. Let’s start with the absolute essentials.

ARoS Museum

If you’ve ever wondered “What is Aarhus known for?”, one of Denmark’s largest museums is a main thing.

ARoS is one of the most famous attractions in Aarhus, thanks primarily to its rainbow panorama rooftop that you’ve probably seen on Instagram. The museum gets its name from Aros, which was the original name that the Vikings gave Aarhus.

Inside ARoS, which is the city’s main art museum, you’ll find the most extensive collection of art in Denmark outside the capital.

One particular attraction is the gigantic boy sculpture, created by Ron Mueck in the 1950s. It formed part of the “Far From Home II” exhibition, held between 2020 and 2022.

The museum features works from international artists and Danes alike; Mueck is from Australia.

Even if you don’t go to any art exhibitions, ARoS is worth visiting for the rainbow panorama alone. At the top of this building, you can disorient yourself by checking out Aarhus’ skyline in every color of the… well… rainbow.

You can also get a regular view over the city by stepping onto the terrace instead.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of ARoS’ entry fees:

  • Adults: 150 DKK
  • Young adults (under 31 years)/Students: 120 DKK
  • Children (under 18 years): Free
  • Groups of 20 people and more: 130 DKK

Den Gamle By

If you’re looking to experience Denmark’s history in a nutshell, one could argue that Aarhus is an even better option than Copenhagen. Do you want to step back in time? If so, you must add Den Gamle By to your list of things to do in Aarhus.

Inside Den Gamle By, you’ll discover a beautiful open-air museum with thatched-roof houses that will remind you of a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. Your experience is complete with people wearing traditional clothing and cobblestone streets, plus much more.

Den Gamle By features different quarters for various periods in Danish history, including an example of modern Denmark’s early days in the 1970s. You can also eat in multiple places, including at a pølsevogn (Danish hot dog stand) and a pleasant restaurant serving numerous dishes.

Den Gamle By’s entry fees fluctuate throughout the year, with winter being the least expensive time to visit. If you plan to stick around, you can buy an annual card. You can find a list of prices here.

Take a day trip to Ebeltoft

While sightseeing in Aarhus is a lot of fun, it would be a shame to visit and not check out the several gems nearby. One of the best day trips from Denmark’s second-largest city is the postcard-perfect town of Ebeltoft.

If you’re looking to discover that oh-so-famous “hygge” that has taken the world by storm, you can do a lot worse than here.

Ebeltoft is pretty much Denmark as you imagined it, with an abundance of colorful houses and cobblestone streets. In the town, you’ll also find various quaint stores and cafés — and generally enjoy taking things very slowly. 

To get to Ebeltoft from Aarhus, you can drive via Routes 15 and 21 in just under 50 minutes. Alternatively, the bus takes roughly one hour and 15 minutes.

Enjoy Aarhus’ culinary delights

Denmark’s major cities are basking in the limelight of their recent rise to culinary prominence. Outside of Copenhagen, Aarhus is the best place in the country to come and see what all the fuss is about.

Aarhus Central Food Market is one of the best things to do in Aarhus and arguably the best place to sample the second city’s abundance of flavors. The market is within a few hundred meters of the city’s central train station; you’ll find street food, beer stools, bakeries, and much more.

Not far from Aarhus Central Food Market is Aarhus Street Food. Here, you’ll find quick things to eat from around the world — plus a pretty large seating area. There’s more space to sit outdoors, even during the winter months — when you’ll get heating to keep you warm.

The Viking Museum

Aarhus was an important city for the Vikings, and as such, it’s one of the best places to learn more about Denmark’s history in this respect. The city has a dedicated Viking Museum close to the Latin Quarter, which features several artifacts and more from this era.

Vikingemuseet is an intimate and interactive experience that invites you to learn more about Aarhus during the Viking Age, with various informative boards and examples of old houses.

The museum is pretty small and one of the cheaper things to do in Aarhus. Entry for adults costs 30 DKK, and children go for free.

Moesgaard Museum

Having read this far, you’ve probably already gathered that Aarhus has several fantastic museums. So, we felt like adding another to the list for good measure.

Moesgaard Museum is south of the city center and located inside an interesting-looking slope building with an artificial slope.

The museum itself focuses on archaeology and ethnography. You’ll find several permanent exhibitions, along with a broad range of temporary ones. Inside, you can also enjoy food and drink at the museum’s café.

Entry costs 160 DKK for adults and 110 DKK for students. Children under 18 years old go for free.

What are the best outdoor activities in Aarhus?

Aarhus is an excellent destination for those that enjoy fresh air. Below, you’ll find the best ways to spend some time outside while visiting. 

Aarhus’ Botanical Garden

Right next to Den Gamle By is Aarhus’ Botanical Garden. The gardens originate from the 19th century; today, you’ll find several forms of plant life — plus numerous streams that continue into the museum mentioned earlier.

If you’re visiting on a pleasant day, you can enjoy a picnic in one of the seated areas for free. It’s also possible to have a barbecue, as long as you bring a disposable grill and get rid of it appropriately.

In addition to plants from other parts of Denmark, you can find several that originate from elsewhere in the world. The gardens are free to enter, and the same is true for its tropical houses.

Tivoli Friheden

If you’ve been to Copenhagen before, you’ll know all about the unmissable Tivoli Gardens. But if that wasn’t enough to satisfy your thrills, and you’ve already been to Legoland in Billund, why not try out Aarhus’ very own amusement park?

Tivoli Friheden is close to the city center and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Inside, you’ll find several roller coasters and other forms of entertainment — along with several places to grab some food when you’re feeling hungry.

Like its Copenhagen counterpart, Tivoli Friheden has several themes throughout the year. These include Easter, Halloween, and many more. The park also hosts several music concerts, with several famous Danish artists — including AQUA and KESI — playing shows here.

Entry to Tivoli Friheden costs 150 DKK if you’re over 90 centimeters tall, with those below that going for free.

Marselisborg Palace and Deer Park

Copenhagen has Dyrehaven, and Aarhus’ equivalent is Marselisborg. In this picturesque royal park just south of the city center, you’ll find several wild(ish) deer roaming and can even feed them in some areas.

Marselisborg is free to enter, and the park spreads across 22 hectares – so you’ll have plenty of space to roam as you please. You can enter from sunrise to sunset throughout the year, so it’s ideal for a full day if you visit during the winter.

If you want to visit the deer park for a run, we’re afraid to tell you that isn’t allowed — nor can you cycle inside the perimeters. Dogs are also not allowed.

Public transport will get you to Marselisborg in roughly 25 minutes, and the bike ride is around 15. You’ll need to go south of the city center; it’s close to Ballehage Strand.

The Infinite Bridge

If you’ve ever searched “What to see in Aarhus” on Google, you’ll probably have noticed a peculiar-looking circular object on a beach. That’s Den Uendelige Bro, which translates to “The Never-Ending Bridge” in English — and it’s one of the best things to see in Aarhus.

This circular walkway is between Varna Strand and Ballehage Strand and is within a reasonable distance of central Aarhus. Initially, it was a temporary exhibition; Danish duo Niels Pøvlsgaard and Johan Gjødes came up with the idea.

Since then, though, the bridge has become immensely popular — so much so that it now returns annually. You’ll almost always find locals chilling out on its edges during the summer months, and you can enjoy an uninterrupted view of the sea in front of you.

You can visit Den Uendelige Bro for six months of the year, between April and October. During the winter, it’s dismantled.

Enjoy Aarhus’ beaches

You’re never more than 50 kilometers from the sea in Denmark, so it’s unsurprising that you’ll find so many good beaches here — even if using them isn’t particularly enjoyable for most of the year.

If you’re still wondering what to do in Aarhus, and your visit is during the summer, why not grab a towel and soak up some Scandinavian sun?

When you visit Aarhus, you’ll find several perfect places for sunbathing within a short distance of the city center. One of the most popular places for the locals is Den Permanente, which is roughly 15 minutes away from central Aarhus by bike.

The beach is relatively secluded and surrounded by luscious forests, but it’s pretty small — so it’s worth keeping that in mind.

Another great place to enjoy those long summer nights is Ballehage Strand, which is a similar distance from the city center — though you’ll need to go in the opposite direction of Den Permanente.

Ballehage Strand is in the same area as two other attractions that we’ll mention later in this article.

Riis Skov

The Danes have a close relationship with nature, and that’s particularly evident in Jutland. Aarhus has plenty of experiences close by, and one of the most accessible day trips from the city center is Riis Skov.

Inside Riis Skov, you’ll find acres of trees and tranquility; even though it’s popular with locals year-round, you’ll still feel like you’re miles away from civilization.

You can also enjoy a free view over Aarhus, with several lookout spots towards the modern Aarhus Ø district and out into the sea.

Riis Skov has plenty of walking trails, which are just as enjoyable if you fancy going for a run instead. You can reach the forest in 25-30 minutes via public transport, and just under 20 if you take your bike. It’s just north of Aarhus University.

What are the best free activities in Aarhus?

While you’ll find plenty of fun paid activities in Aarhus, you can still enjoy the city on a budget. Below, we’ve outlined our favorite free things that Jutland’s largest urban area has to offer.

Møllestien

Simply wandering the inner city’s streets is one of the best free activities in Aarhus. And arguably the most picturesque part of Denmark’s second city is Møllestien — a cute row of houses not far from the ARoS Museum.

Idyllic Møllestien dates back to before the 14th century, though a large chunk of its houses were built in the 18th century. If you’re looking for places in Aarhus to prop up your Instagram feed, you can take your pick of which — and how many — houses you photograph.

If you want to sample local life as one of the people living in this quarter, you can book a stay at Møllestien 49 and 51. Møllestien 49 starts at 900 DKK per night altogether if 1-2 people stay, with extra charges for additional guests.

Meanwhile, Møllestien 51 starts at 1,000 DKK; again, additional fees apply for more than two people.

If you want to stay for one night, you’ll need to pay an extra cost. Nonetheless, it’s an experience worth trying.

Salling Rooftop

If you’re looking for free things to do in Aarhus, Salling Rooftop is an ideal place to enjoy yourself. You’ll find this viewing platform on top of the Salling department store, which is right in the city center.

Salling Rooftop gives you a superb view over Denmark’s second-largest city from all corners, including over toward the imposing Aarhus Cathedral. It can get pretty crowded here, especially around sunset — so it’s worth planning your trip ahead of time.

If you get hungry or fancy a drink while you take in your surroundings, you’ll find various pop-up bars and a restaurant here. The viewing deck is open year-round and closes at the same time as the store itself.

Dokk1

If you’re looking to sample local life and enjoy quintessential Danish modern architecture, Dokk1 fits the bill for worthy attractions in Aarhus. This multi-purpose building is right next to the harbor and one of the city’s most important cultural hubs.

Dokk1 has an extensive library where you can borrow several books in Danish and English. The building also has several events throughout the year, including plays and more.

If you’re moving to Denmark and coming to Aarhus, you’ll most likely use the Borgerservice at Dokk1 to finalize your application.

Besides the cultural and admin stuff, Dokk1 offers a free view toward Aarhus Domkirke and over the harbor.

Aarhus Ø

Generally speaking, the Danes do an excellent job of revitalizing old industrial areas into attractive places to live. You can see this first-hand in the modern Aarhus Ø district, which is close to the port and not far from the city center.

Aarhus Ø has an abundance of beautiful apartments, all of which are inside exciting structures. The best-known example is Isbjerget, designed to resemble blocks of ice. Living in them comes at a premium, but getting photos outside is one of the best free activities in Aarhus.

The district is far from a soulless modern outpost, though. In the Aarhus Ø neighborhood, you can enjoy several activities — including swimming and wakeboarding. The waterfront also has numerous cafés and food stools.

To get to Aarhus Ø, you simply need to walk or cycle north of Dokk1. If you’re coming from Sjælland by boat, the ferry from Sjællands Odde stops here.

Is Aarhus expensive?

Denmark is an expensive country to visit compared to many parts of Europe, and as one of the largest cities, Aarhus has a pretty high cost of living.

But while Aarhus can get pricey, its museums are pretty affordable, and you’ll find plenty of free things to do. You can save money by purchasing the AarhusCARD, which gives you free entry to multiple museums and includes the shuttle bus from Aarhus and Billund airports.

The AarhusCARD costs 329 DKK for adults and 165 DKK for children (24 hours). If you’re staying for longer, you can get lengthier periods. 

How do you get to Aarhus?

Now that we’ve covered what to do in Aarhus, we should probably tell you how to get here. The answer to this question depends on where you’re coming from; in the sections below, we’ll show you how to reach Denmark’s second city from abroad and Copenhagen.

Getting to Aarhus from abroad

Aarhus is surprisingly easy to get to from abroad. The city has two airports within a reasonable distance, with Aarhus being the closest.

Aarhus Airport (AAR) is just over 40 kilometers from Aarhus, and driving here takes 38 minutes; the bus is just over an hour. You can get flights from several major European cities, including Milan, London, and Warsaw.

Billund Airport (BLL) is also easy to reach from Aarhus. It’s 50 kilometers from the city, and journey times vary between 75 and 100 minutes. Again, you can fly internationally from several cities — including Amsterdam, Oslo, and Brussels.

You can also reach Aarhus from abroad by train; it’s roughly four hours from Hamburg (with changes). Meanwhile, FlixBus operates direct buses from Germany’s second-largest city.

Getting to Aarhus from Copenhagen

The easiest way to enter Denmark by air is to fly to Copenhagen, which is what most tourists do. If you’ve spent a bit of time in the capital and want to explore Denmark’s second city, getting there is pretty straightforward — and you’ve got several options.

Flying is the quickest way to get from Copenhagen to Aarhus, and the journey typically takes around 45 minutes. However, you’ll need to factor in the time it takes to get to the city center from the airport.

Traveling to Aarhus from Copenhagen is pretty simple if you do so by train. DSB runs several daily services between the two cities, with journey times ranging from two hours and 40 minutes to three-and-a-half hours.

Trains are spacious, clean, and comfortable — with free Wi-Fi and plug sockets on board.

You can also reach Aarhus by bus. FlixBus offers affordable tickets between the two cities, with generous baggage allowances. You’ll usually stop in Odense on the way.

Another way to get from Copenhagen to Aarhus is by a combination of bus and ferry. Kombardo Expression runs buses from Copenhagen to Sjællands Odde, where you’ll board the ferry to Aarhus and get back on the bus to the city center.

The whole journey takes roughly three hours and 30 minutes. There are plenty of things to do in Aarhus, and it’s well worth a weekend trip

Is Aarhus worth visiting? In short, yes.

Denmark is full of hidden gems, and the number of things to do in Aarhus will surprise you. The country’s second city is a hotbed of cultural experiences, fantastic food, and space to breathe.

And with a nickname like the City of Smiles, you can guarantee that the locals will look after you during your stay.

You can spend as long as you want in Aarhus without getting bored. If you don’t have much time, it’s an excellent day trip from Copenhagen. For more trip ideas, you can try one of these guided tours.

However, you should stay overnight and take things at a slower pace to appreciate the sky-high quality of life. Here’s some hotels you can book.

Denmark might be small, but it has several cities worth visiting. Why not check out our article listing the best of them and plan a longer stay?

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