After an incredible trip to Copenhagen last year, I was eager to return and discover more of Denmark. The people, culture, food... I seriously love it all. So when Visit Denmark got in touch about a press trip to Aarhus, I immediately jumped on board to experience the country's second largest city. I spent a weekend exploring with some fellow Instagram buddies and made this video to give you a taste of what we got up to:
It all began with a bike tour courtesy of Cycling Aarhus. Though it was rush hour on a Friday afternoon, it was abundantly clear how cycle-friendly Aarhus is... especially compared to the intimidating roads of London that I'm accustomed to. The tour was a great way for us to get a feel for the layout of the city, starting in Aarhus Ø, the harbour development area. Here we learned how the Danes are building the city's future in a socially sustainable way. A third of the development is set aside as affordable housing to promote a diverse community. A beach has been constructed where locals can play sports and enjoy drinks by the water. A balloted urban garden (Ø-Haven) thrives with strawberries, carrots and much more.
The area now known as Aarhus Ø used to house nothing more than industrial shipping containers. Now it boasts some really innovative architecture, like The Iceberg building. The roofs have peaks and valleys, and the blue glass on the balconies appear deeper and darker as you reach the bottom (much like a real iceberg).
A short bike ride from the waterside, we found ourselves in the very photogenic Latin quarter. This is the oldest area of the city and is buzzing with cozy cafes, cool boutiques and impressive street art. Tucked away is the residential street of Møllestien. Here, the cobbled street is lined with little half-timbered houses built in the 19th century. I wonder what stories lie behind their wonky doors and multicoloured walls covered in hollyhock?
On our first evening, we were treated to an unforgettable dinner at Pondus. It's the sister restaurant to Substans (which has a Michelin star) and focuses on simple, modern Danish cooking that is mostly organic and seasonal. The stand-out courses for me were the pork with roasted cauliflower and a kohlrabi and pear sauce, and the rhubarb compote with meringue and basil ice cream.
One of the most recognisable icons in the city is Your Rainbow Panorama by Olafur Eliasson, a 150m long glass circular walkway that sits on top of the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum. When I first stepped inside the installation, I had a few moments of disorientation as my senses adjusted to the colours around me. In the artist's own words, it "...establishes a dialogue with the existing architecture and reinforces what was already there, that is to say the view across the city. I have created a space that can almost be said to erase the boundary between inside and outside – a place where you become a little uncertain as to whether you have stepped into a work of art or into part of the museum. This uncertainty is important to me, as it encourages people to think and sense beyond the limits within which they are accustomed to function."
As a creative, I love admiring others' art and craft. Godsbanen is a cultural hub in Aarhus, with workshops, studio spaces, dance halls and more. The site has been renovated from one of Denmark's largest train freight yards. On a sunny Saturday, it felt like the perfect place for a free yoga class, a game of volleyball with friends and a stroll through the market stalls.
Of course no weekend in Denmark would be complete without some smørrebrød. The founder of Langhoff & Juul cafe has a passion for organic produce, and has created a space that is welcoming as it is beautiful. I loved the natural elements in the interiors, the funny quotes dotted around walls and (of course) the food! We enjoyed a range of smørrebrød - avocado cream, cottage cream, pea shoots, cucumber and pistachios; fish balls, pickled root vegetables and dill; and raw marinated potato, fried onions and mayonnaise - on homemade rye bread.
I've never experienced a museum quite like Den Gamle By (or The Old Town) where I was transported through different eras of Danish history. Homes and streets from as far back as the 18th century have been moved here brick by brick, to show visitors what everyday life was like. I explored a merchant's home in 1723, a bookshop in 1927, a hippie couple's flat in 1974... I wonder what new snapshots of 'history' from the 21st century will make it into this museum in a hundred years?
We ended our weekend in Aarhus with Spanish tapas at Forlaens & Baglaens. Good food, good wine and good company... what more could a girl ask for?
It's easy to understand how Aarhus earned the title of European Capital of Culture 2017. There is something for everyone in this city and I have definitely fallen for its charm. Disclaimer - I was invited on a press trip by Visit Aarhus and Visit Denmark, but all opinions are my own.