Nordic charm and cool vibes make Aarhus the rising star of Europe

Mollestien, the most picturesque street in Aarhus.
Mollestien, the most picturesque street in Aarhus.

What’s the second largest city in Denmark, after Copenhagen?

It’s a question many may struggle to answer, but although I confess to not knowing much about Aarhus before our recent city break, it’s a place I know I won’t forget in a hurry.

The stylish corridor at Scandic the Mayor.

The stylish corridor at Scandic the Mayor.

A short Ryanair flight from London Stansted, we landed in the city’s remarkably small airport venturing into the unknown, but by the time we left this charming Danish delight we were sad to leave.

There’s a real feelgood vibe to Aarhus, which also happens to be one of Denmark’s oldest cities, blending young and hip perfectly with a rich and engaging history dating right back to the year 700. 

It’s exquisitely clean, too, and you can tell Aarhus is a place that has lots going for it, further reinforced by the fact it was named European Capital of Culture in 2017.

WHERE TO STAY

Food and cocktails at at St Pauls Apothek.

Food and cocktails at at St Pauls Apothek.

There are many great places to stay in Aarhus, but Scandic the Mayor Hotel is the perfect choice. Located in the heart of the city just yards from the central station and City Hall, it’s major plus point is that many of the popular cultural sights are right on the doorstep.

There’s a distinct cosy and friendly feel to the hotel, and like most Nordic-style accommodation it gives off a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, something the Danes are notoriously good at.

Many of the 162 rooms are recently refurbished, with each floor showcasing its own quirky theme. In GAST, the hotel also boasts its own Michelin-recommended restaurant showcasing traditional Italian cuisine and modern Nordic creations.

WHAT TO DO

ARoS Art Museum and its rainbow panorama.

ARoS Art Museum and its rainbow panorama.

There’s so much to see in Aarhus thanks to several internationally-renowned attractions such as Den Gamle By (The Old Town) and ARoS Art Museum, which has a stunning rainbow panorama viewing point helping to attract an incredible one million visitors a year.

It’s a pocket-sized city so it’s easy to find your way around, and although the public transport is more than reliable, you may not need to use it.

Setting off on foot, we began our first full day visiting the small but must-see Viking Museum, which sits in the very spot where Aarhus was originally founded .

Google maps engaged, we then embarked on our own customised tour, taking in the beauty of the Latin Quarter and its quaint cobbled streets and shops, before continuing to beautiful Mollestien, which is the most picturesque street you’re likely to come across.

Salling department store is worth a visit and not just for the shopping, because if you like a drink with a view its trendy rooftop bar gives you one of the best scenic lookouts across the city.

For something a little different, try the impressive variety of food offerings at Aarhus Central Food Market, where you can swap your krone for ‘gastro gold’ and visit as many stalls as you like. Tastebud-tingling pleasures for us included delicious sushi, fantastic North African ‘Shakshuka’ and traditional Danish Smørrebrød.

WHERE TO DINE

Wine pairings often crop up on menus in fine dining restaurants these days, but have you ever eaten a meal out which comes with a selection of cocktails?

Me neither, but that is exactly what we got at St Pauls Apothek, a trendy little bar and restaurant which was once a working pharmacy.

The only medicine offered there nowadays, of course, is food and drink, with diners more than happy to stay for the whole evening and revel in the restaurant’s sociable and vibrant atmosphere.

We kicked off with a champagne cocktail, and from that moment we knew we were in for a treat. 

There were many delights to savour over three courses, including hot smoked cod, duck with plum and marinated red cabbage and a lovely apple compote for dessert.

The cocktails which really impressed were the mandarin sour and amazing ‘Gingerbread Man’, a vodka-based drink which dramatically smoked away as it was brought to our table … what theatre!

TRAVEL FACTS

HOTEL

Scandic the Mayor offers double rooms starting at £105 with breakfast.

ATTRACTIONS

- Admission to ARoS Art Museum is £16 for adults, which is open every day except Mondays.

- Visit St Pauls Apothek for a dining experience evolved around cocktails. Set menus with pairing cocktails start at £46.

- Enjoy a 360 degree view of Aarhus from Salling Rooftop on top of Salling department store, open from 10am–8pm Monday to Friday, 9am–7pm on Saturdays and 10am-6pm on Sundays.

GETTING THERE

Ryanair flies from London Stansted to Aarhus with five weekly flights, with return tickets starting from £19.99. 

For more information see www.visitdenmark.co.uk

FROM STANSTED

To book airport parking at Short Stay Economy - Blue Zone at London Stansted Airport from £54.99 for four days, visit HolidayExtras.com or call 0800 955 5989.