Aarhus is a university town located in Jutland, Denmark’s oft-overlooked western province. The city was founded in the 8th century and is one of the oldest in the country, evolving into an important maritime trading hub during the Viking Age.
Today, it’s a small town and there’s not a lot to “do” here that would keep you here for days and days like in Copenhagen.
However, I found that to be the strength of the town.
It’s quiet, there are a lot of parks to wander through (the one near the university is especially peaceful), and there’s a lively music scene and a lot of cheap food thanks to a thriving community of poor university students that make up most of the population. In short, Aarhus is a calming contrast to busy Copenhagen and it’s worth spending a couple days soaking it all in.
This travel guide to Aarhus will help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your visit to this underrated city!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Aarhus
1. Visit the Aarhus Art Museum
Founded in 1859, the 10-story ARoS museum is home to Denmark’s largest art collection outside of Copenhagen, featuring both classical paintings from the 18th century Danish Golden Age, as well as modern art and sculptures. Explore four unique galleries and don’t miss the panoramic walkway on the museum’s top floor. Keep in mind that the museum is closed on Monday. Admission is 150 DKK.
2. Wander the Deer Park
A short stroll from downtown, this 22-acre park is a wooded area bordering the Marselisborg Forests that offers a peaceful afternoon amongst flora, fauna, and wildlife (including plenty of deer). There are benches and tables to relax with a book or picnic, and in the winter there is skiing and tobogganing. Admission is free.
3. See Den Gamle By
Den Gamle By refers to the “old town” — an aggregation of 75 historic buildings from the 16th to 20th centuries that serve as an open-air museum. This is a living history museum, so the educators at the museum are dressed in period clothing. You can watch re-enactments of common tasks and daily chores, or view traditional craftsmanship in the workshops. Special exhibits include a Toy Museum, the Gallery of Decorative Arts, and the Danish Poster Museum. Admission is 190 DKK if you visit during tourist season.
4. Visit Legoland
Aarhus is where Lego originated (it was started in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen, originally out of wood). Today, their park uses over 20 million Lego blocks to build Miniland, a display of various scenes from around the world, including a Lego Mount Rushmore, the Thai Grand Palace in Bangkok, and the Gota Canal in Sweden (they used to have Star Wars displays too but those were removed when Disney purchased Star Wars). There are also rides for all ages. Tickets are 329 DKK if you purchase in advance and 499 at the entrance.
5. Take in the Aarhus Cathedral
This cathedral dates back to the year 1200. Originally built in the Romanesque Basilica style, the only surviving remnants of this style are the outer walls, as well as the chapels along the eastern wall. The cathedral’s interior was remodeled in the Gothic style from 1449-1500. Aarhus Cathedral is the longest and tallest church in Denmark. Admission is free but dress respectfully as it is a place of worship.
Other Things to See and Do in Aarhus
1. See Clausholm Castle
Built in the 1690s, this castle (it’s more of a large country mansion) is one of the oldest Baroque estates in Denmark. Many of the rooms remain in their original condition. The estate is built on a man-made island and shaped like an H. It’s surrounded by a moat and immaculate gardens and parkland. I highly recommend taking a tour of this place. The surrounding grounds are home to 1,000 linden trees and the perfect place for a picnic on a warm sunny day after exploring the castle. Admission to just the grounds is 50 DKK, while access to the park and the castle is 150 DKK.
2. Visit Helsingor Teater
Dating back to 1817, Denmark’s oldest theater features regular performances during the summer. The acoustics on stage are so good, the performers still don’t even need microphones. Tickets start around 100 DKK and increase in price the closer you get to the stage. There are discounts for students and anyone under 25. Check their website to see what is playing during your visit.
3. Take a glassblowing class
Bülow Duus Glassblowers offers glassblowing workshops. This place is a splendid sightseeing destination as well as a great place to purchase glasswork. Craftsmen are set up blowing glass on huge kilns and are more than happy to make conversation and answer questions. One-on-one glassblowing lessons are 1,800 DKK per person or 2,000 DKK for a couple.
4. Attend the Aarhus Festival
Taking place at the end of August, this festival is one of the largest cultural events in all of Scandinavia. It showcases both local, national, and international artists. Music, food, and visual art can be found spread over an array of bars, galleries, and shops all over the city. Every year has its own theme to tie everything together as well. With 1,000 events at 100 venues, the festival hosts half a million people each year. Be sure to book your accommodation early as the city fills up!
5. Have fun at Tivoli Friheden
Designed to mimic the world-renowned Tivoli in Copenhagen, this popular amusement park features various art shows and concerts, clowns, rides, restaurants, and an open-air theater. There’s always something going on here so check the website before you arrive. Entrance to the park is 175 DKK. If you want to ride the rides as well, tickets cost 275 DKK.
7. Take a historical walk
The Prehistory Trail offers a glimpse of how Denmark looked in the prehistoric period. You’ll pass through a swamp forest, then a birch and pine forest, and, then further on down the trail, an old watermill. There are also reconstructed prehistoric houses. The walk ends at the reconstructed Viking age stave church. The trail is just 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) and is an easy stroll. It’s located just south of the city at the Moesgaard Museum, a regional museum dedicated to archaeology and ethnography. Admission to the museum is 160 DKK, though the trail is free.
8. Explore Aarhus by bike
Guided bicycle tours are available around the city and usually cost between 200-500 DKK. They generally last 2-3 hours and are a great way to experience the city. Check out Cycling Aarhus, only a 3-minute walk from the Aarhus Art Museum. Their tours are super fun and insightful and act as a great intro to the city.
9. See the Bispetorvet (Bishop’s Square) Dinosaur Footprint
Located in the Bishop’s Square is an object and one you wouldn’t think to find in the middle of a modern city: a dinosaur footprint! Found in a sandstone quarry in Germany in 1921, the citizens of Aarhus decided that it was just what their city needed when replacing the sandstone slabs in the walls of the square in 2005. The fossilized footprint was installed in 2006 and is thought to be of an Allosaurus.
10. Walk the Infinite Bridge
On the outskirts of the city is the Infinite Bridge. Designed by Danish architects Niels Povlsgaard and Johan Gjøde, it was constructed in 2015 and was intended to be a piece of interactive art. The bridge is a massive circle that extends out over the sea. It spans 200 feet (60m) in diameter and offers a wonderful view of the water.
For information about other destinations in Denmark, check out these other city guides:
Aarhus Travel Costs
Hostel prices – There are only two hostels in Aarhus. Dorms with 6-8 beds cost around 250 DKK per night. Free Wi-Fi is standard and both hostels have self-catering facilities if you want to cook your own food. Neither includes free breakfast. Private rooms begin at 1,000 DKK.
There are campgrounds outside of the city with prices starting at 85 DKK per night for a basic plot (a flat space for a tent, usually without electricity).
Budget hotel prices – For a budget three-star hotel, prices start at 700 DKK per night. These usually include free Wi-Fi, and some include breakfast too. There aren’t a ton of budget hotels here so book in advance if you’re on a budget.
For Airbnb, private rooms start at 300 DKK but average closer to 450 DKK. Entire apartments/houses start at around 500 DKK per night but average around 1,000 DKK. There aren’t a ton of options here so be sure to book early.
Food – Danish cuisine leans heavily on meat and seafood. Cod, herring, and beef are never far from any meal. Dark bread and open-faced sandwiches (smørrebrød) are a staple for both breakfast and lunch. Liverpaste is a local favorite, as is shrimp on bread. Most traditional dinner meals revolve around meat and potatoes.
If you want to try some traditional Danish cuisine, even at a moderately-priced restaurant the dishes start at around 200 DKK. For more cheap eats, check out Aarhus Street Food, an old bus garage turned street food market, with over 30 vendors selling international dishes. Everything from tacos to bahn mi sandwiches and Indian curries. There are also vegan and vegetarian options available too! Prices range from 55-75 DKK.
For Greek cuisine, prices range from 145-185 DKK. Thai food is relatively cheap in Aarhus, starting at about 65-75 DKK for a main course.
Cheap sandwich shops (Denmark is famous for its open-faced sandwiches) and fast food are your best bet and will be around 70 DKK per meal. Cappuccinos are around 40 DKK and bottled water is 20 DKK. A beer typically costs 50 DKK.
If you are going to cook your own food, expect to pay around 350 DKK per week for basic staples like vegetables, pasta, rice, and some meat or fish.
Backpacking Aarhus Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget of 480 DKK, you can stay in a hostel dorm, cook all of your meals, use public transportation to get around, avoid drinking, and do free activities like hiking and walking tours. If you want to eat out or drink, you’ll need to add at least another 100-200 DKK per day.
On a mid-range budget of 975 DKK per day, you’ll be able to stay in a private Airbnb, eat out for some meals, enjoy a couple of drinks here and there, take the occasional taxi, and do some paid activities like visiting museums and galleries.
On a “luxury” budget of 2,300 DKK or more, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for all your meals, rent a car or take more taxis, drink more, and do as many activities as you’d like. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky’s the limit!
Aarhus Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Aarhus is an expensive city in an expensive country. You can spend a lot here if you aren’t careful. However, if you find cheap accommodation, limit your drinking, and cook your meals, you’ll be able to cut your costs a lot. Here are some quick tips to help you save money in Aarhus:
- Take a free walking tour – One of my favorite ways to start a trip is with a free walking tour. You get to see all the main sites while chatting with an expert local guide. Aarhus Free Walking Tours offers a comprehensive free tour that serves as an excellent intro to the city. Just be sure to tip your guide!
- Refill your water bottle – The water in Aarhus is safe to drink and is held to very high standards. Skip buying bottled water here and refill your bottle instead. LifeStraw makes a reusable bottle with a built-in filter so you can always be sure your water is clean and safe.
- Eat on the street – Street stalls offering hot dogs and sausages are cheap and plentiful. Fill up on them.
- Stay with a local – Accommodation in Aarhus is pricey. If you plan ahead, you can usually find really nice Couchsurfing hosts. This way, you not only have a place to stay but you’ll have a local host that can share their insider tips and advice.
- Cook your food – Eating out in Aarhus is not cheap, and since Danish food isn’t going to win any great culinary awards, you won’t miss much by cooking your own food. If you must eat out, do so during lunch when specials and buffet deals make restaurants reasonably priced.
- Book in advance – When leaving the city, book your train and bus tickets a month in advance to save you up to 50%.
Where to Stay in Aarhus
Aarhus only has two hostels but both are affordable and have self-catering facilities:
How to Get Around Aarhus
Public transportation – The city’s bus and rail system operates on a zone system. Tickets start at 22 DKK to travel from zone 1 to 2, with a 10 DKK increase for each additional zone traveled to. A 24-hour bus pass is 80 DKK.
A single-journey ticket to the Aarhus Airport is 115 DKK. The journey is just under an hour. A ticket to the Billund Airport is 162 DKK and the journey lasts around 90 minutes.
Taxi – Taxis are expensive and should be avoided. Rates start at 50 DKK and go up 15 DKK per kilometer. There are no rideshares here so taxis are your only option in a pinch. I suggest avoiding them as much as possible since they are pricey.
Bicycle – Renting a bike is the easiest way to explore the city. Bikes can be rented all around the city with Aarhus City Bikes (Aarhus Bycycler). Simply slip in a 20 DDK coin to release the bike from the rack, and you can ride all day! When you’re done for the day, simply return the bike to the rack, insert the metal clip into the coin slot, and you get your 20 DKK coin back.
Car rental – Aarhus isn’t a huge city so you won’t need a car here unless you plan on leaving the city to explore the region. Rentals can be found for as little as 130 DDK per day for a multi-day rental. Renters need to be at least 19 and have had their license for at least one year.
For the best car rental prices, use Discover Cars.
When to Go to Aarhus
Since Aarhus is a coastal town, its temperature is heavily influenced by the sea. Winters hover around 0°C (32°F), so dress warmly with lots of layers. Crowds will be virtually non-existent and prices will be lower, but the weather will be grey and cold.
In contrast, summers in Aarhus are quite nice, with highs in July and August around 22°C (72°F). July and August are the most popular months to visit so expect some crowds here and there (though far fewer people visit here compared to Copenhagen).
Spring and fall offer cooler temps of about 11-13°C (52-55°F). There are fewer tourists and prices will be cheaper. It’s a good time to visit if you’re on a budget as prices will be lower and there will be more availability.
How to Stay Safe in Aarhus
Aarhus is a safe place to backpack and travel — even if you’re traveling solo. Denmark is the 5th safest country in the world so violent incidents are rare. Your only real concern is petty theft but even that is rare. Keep your valuables secure and you’ll be fine.
If you plan on cycling through the city, be sure to wear a helmet and always lock your bike with the back wheel lock so it does not get stolen when parked outside.
Solo female travelers should feel safe here for all those reasons. However, the standard precautions you take anywhere apply here too (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.). There are numerous solo female travel blogs that can provide more specific tips.
Scams here are rare but if you’re worried about getting ripped off you can read about common travel scams to avoid here
If you experience an emergency, dial 112 for assistance.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Aarhus Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- HostelPass – This new card gives you up to 20% off hostels throughout Europe. It’s a great way to save money. They’re constantly adding new hostels too. I’ve always wanted something like this and glad it finallt exists.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do group tours, go with Intrepid. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts with them too!
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- Eurail – If you are going to Europe and taking a lot of high speed or long distance trains, get a rail pass. I’ve used a rail pass three times and saved hundreds of dollars each time. The math just works.
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- FlixBus – Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, a free checked bag.
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
- LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
- Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
Aarhus Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Europe and continue planning your trip: