Visitors to Denmark often think first of that country’s largest city and its capital, Copenhagen. My first visit, however, took me up the Jutland Peninsula to Denmark’s second-largest city of Aarhus.
Taking the train from Copenhagen to Aarhus, I stared out the window the whole way; watching the land give way to water was enthralling. The land around the train’s route did not vary terribly much, but it did at times drop away suddenly, and if you weren’t on the side overlooking the bridge and its car traffic it looked as though you could pitch into the sea with the smallest gust of wind.
The journey took about three hours; going from Copenhagen to Aarhus is by no means a direct trip. You’ll make the curve southwards though Roskilde and Odense before heading back north through Vejle. Stepping out from the station in Aarhus, you’ll find yourself in a bustling downtown area only a short walk away from a wide variety of experiences. Across the road opposite you the pedestrian zone and shopping centre of the city stretches out; if you’re not a walker, Aarhus is connected by a network of buses, and, as elsewhere Denmark, there is a strong cycling culture.
This is not something to forget! Even if you do not cycle, make sure when you’re walking that you’re in the walking, not the cycling lane. If you hear someone ring the bell on their bicycle, take a moment and make sure you’ve not drifted by accident. The cyclists will be grateful, and you’ll run a much lower risk of returning home with a story of how you were hit by a bicycle.
Aarhus is certainly a student city; no matter the time of year, it’s filled with young people, something that gives the city an active, vibrant feel. Even if you’re not visiting for an academic experience, head along to the Aarhus University campus and take a relaxing stroll through the park. My visit was for an academic purpose, and the highlight of my morning was walking along Mejlgade and ducking into the park as soon as I could to walk the rest of the way. Heading back to my hotel in the centre of the city, I managed to dispense with a map pretty quickly because of one of my other favourite features in Aarhus: the Cathedral. I kept myself in line by keeping the spire within my field of vision, and every time I emerged into Store Torv, I had to stop and stare at the medieval Cathedral again.
Around the corner from the Aarhus Cathedral’s entrance on Kannikegade you’ll find another very Danish attraction. The Sct. Clemens Brewery has the distinction of being the first combined brewery and pub in the city, and while you’re sitting snugly in the cozy wooden interior you can kick back with the brewery’s own draught beer.
If cultural events are more your style, don’t miss the stunning Concert Hall. Also make sure to keep your eye out for the works of art scattered throughout the city; you’ll find everything from graffiti to spectacular works of art painted on the side of buildings, to the sculpture outside the Concert Hall which I dubbed the ‘Helicopter Whale’. Although I only stayed for a week, I’ll be looking forward to when I can head back and discover even more about the city, and of course revisit the Helicopter Whale.
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