Known as Denmark’s “second city,” Aarhus doesn’t make it onto most Americans’ European travel itineraries. But whether you’re into history, art or partying, Aarhus has it all, packaged together in a small walkable city that’s very charming. And being a college town, it’s significantly more affordable than Copenhagen.
Aarhus has an international airport and is easily accessible from Copenhagen (around a 3-hour drive or train ride). And if you’re making a road trip out of it, I recommend making a stop halfway in Odense if you have time.
If you’re looking for the perfect weekend getaway, I put together a guide to 36 hours in Aarhus just for you!
36 Hours in Aarhus: Where to Stay
Aarhus doesn’t have the extensive hotel scene of Copenhagen and I ended up in an Airbnb. But there are plenty of options. I recommend one of the Scandic hotels, always a safe bet. They’re usually very clean, comfortable and decently priced (and include breakfast).
The Scandic Aarhus City is centrally-located just a 10-minute walk from the train station. And most importantly, it’s even closer to the famous ARoS art museum.
[Required disclosures: In the past, I have received compensation from Scandic Hotels, although not for this post in particular. This section includes affiliate links]
36 Hours in Aarhus: What to See
ARoS Art Museum
The must-do activity in Aarhus is a trip to the ARoS Art Museum. Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s “Your Ranbow Panorama” exhibit is probably the most famous spot in the city (or at least, the most Insta-famous). It’s basically a colorful glass rainbow hallway in the sky where you can take in the city views.
But don’t skip the rest of the museum. We ended up spending half a day exploring the truly unique exhibits. If you’re a design fan, you’ll definitely appreciate this place.
Den Gamle By
Den Gamle By is an open-air museum that’s also a must-visit during 36 hours in Aarhus. Here, you can experience the day-to-day life of a mid-1500s Aarhus resident (complete with period actors).
Stroll the cobblestone streets and peek behind each door to see everything from home interiors to shops and even a saloon.
My favorite part was the ducks that followed us around the whole time. They were VERY suspicious!
36 Hours in Aarhus: Where to Eat
As mentioned, Aarhus is way more affordable than Copenhagen. So if you’re a foodie looking to indulge, this is the city for you because there are a ton of amazing restaurants in the city. From Memphis BBQ to French and Michelin-rated Scandinavian, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
For one evening’s meal, we headed to the picturesque Latin Quarter, or Latinerkvarteret. The Latin Quarter is the oldest part of the city. It’s a great place to spend a night out thanks to many bustling bars, shops and cozy (or in Danish, “hygellig”) restaurants. There’s also a big cafe culture here, making it ideal for people-watching.
We ended up at Den Rustikke, a French spot that serves up a three-course pre-fix menu for the perfectly reasonable price of $30 USD. We were lucky enough to walk in and get a table. However, reservations are definitely recommended at most restaurants.
Even more budget-friendly was the meal we ate on our second night at Restaurant Grappa. While touristy due to its location right on the canal, Grappa hits the spot when you’re looking for an affordable but filling meal.
Grappa offers half-portions of pasta (plenty for a meal) and nicely priced bottles of wine. This may be the only place in Scandinavia where you can get an entree for under $15.
After dinner, experience Denmark’s cozy hygge vibes at one of Aarhus’s wine bars. Our favorite was Love’s Bog og Vin Cafe (Book & Wine Cafe). As you may have guessed, they offered a combination of books and wine. The cafe draws a more mature and sophisticated crowd than many of the city’s college hangouts.
And if you want to see how the college students live, a trip to the “apres-ski” themed Heidi’s Bier Bar is in order. This place doesn’t have 1.5/5 stars for nothing. It’s definitely a sh*t show, albeit very entertaining. The night we stopped by, people were dancing on the tables and beer was free. Yes, free. I don’t know why or how they stay in business.
That wraps up my guide to 36 hours in Aarhus. Would you consider visiting Denmark’s second city?