Hip bars, plenty of hygge and daring design, Aarhus – European Capital of Culture 2017, Denmark’s second largest city, invites visitors to be happy and (re)think.
What are the Capitals of Culture?
EU member states submit a proposal for consideration, usually through their Ministry of Culture. This way Europe highlights the richness and diversity of cultures throughout Europe. At the same time it increases European citizen’s sense of belonging to a common cultural area. This is probably more important today than ever before.
With four major events, 12 ‘full moon’ happenings and more than 300 projects lined up for visitors, Aarhus is gearing up to an extraordinary year of thought-provoking art and culture. A caste of several thousand people, including both Danish and international artists, will be coming together to create unique, magical moments, that will rethink art, food, music and ballet on a grand scale providing even more reasons to visit Aarhus in 2017.
Festivals and projects kick off on 21 January under the banner “Let’s Rethink”, reflecting the creative spirit that has long permeated this cool harbor-side sprawl.
“For an entire year, we will create spectacular events, extraordinary experiences and magical moments,’’ said managing director, Rebecca Matthews.
As the centerpiece for the celebrations, the harbor district in Aarhus is currently undergoing a major redevelopment program to create a new Maritime Urban Area, transforming the former industrial area into a new urban space. Dokk1, which houses the main library and civic center.
Visitors can take a stroll along the charming revamped canal with sustainable buildings and recreational areas to the city’s most striking new building The Iceberg, a uniquely angular housing development, which has been designed to take in the sea views whilst reflecting the natural beauty of an iceberg, how it breaks up and floats across the sea’s surface, capturing light.
Aarhus sits on the eastern coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula and feels more like a laidback town than a city, with cobbled streets, picturesque canals and charming docks. And with most points of interest accessible on foot or by bike from the compact center, getting around is easy.
Following a walk around the complex, visitors can take a break at Strandbaren – the Beach Bar – a new area with a lively beach vibe where they will be able to lie on the beach, chill out on HAY furniture with a cocktail, go for a sail or join in one of the many group activities such as volleyball, zumba, salsa and yoga.
A fleet of yellow city buses operate throughout central Aarhus. An AarhusCard gives unlimited travel, plus free or discounted entry to many of the city’s headline attractions, and costs Dkr 129 (USD 16) for 24 hours. Cards can be purchased at the bus station and most attractions.
On the outskirts of the city, Moesgaard Museum re-opened in October 2014 following a major redevelopment, retells the nation’s story in archaeology and ethnography. It houses some of Denmark’s most important artefacts such as beautifully preserved ‘Grauballe Man’.
An eclectic mix of arts projects are being lined up for Aarhus 2017 drawing on the creative input of Scandinavia’s foremost cultural figures. These include the renowned Danish-Icelandic visual artist Olafur Eliasson, whose 150-metre skywalk installation ‘Your rainbow panorama’ dominates the roof of the city’s ARoS art museum.
Aros takes its main theme from Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” and is designed as a journey from hell to heaven. Hell is The 9 Spaces, a black-walled basement of eerie installations, while heaven is Eliasson’s multi-coloured halo hovering high above the streets.
In Aarhus’ center point, Domkirkepladsen, the city’s 12th century cathedral looms large. At Nordea Bank, across the square, the Vikings founded the city in the ninth century. Its name comes from “Aros”, meaning “place at the river’s mouth”). The Viking Museum marks the exact spot.
As part of Aarhus 2017, Eliasson is collaborating with the Manchester International Festival, Park Avenue Armory, Paris Opera Ballet, Sadler’s Wells and FAENA ART and British music producer Jamie XX to create a contemporary ballet that rethinks American writer, Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Tree of Codes. Having débuted at the Manchester international Festival in in 2016 the ballet will visit Aarhus with six performances in the Concert Hall this year.
In the city’s oldest neighborhood, and by far Aarhus’ prettiest, you can wander through cobbled lanes, past churches and half-timbered houses in the Latin Quarter. The pastel-colored facades have looked the same for centuries.
The Danish Oscar award-winning film director Susanne Bier is another big name supporting the city’s celebrations with three of her feature films, Open Hearts, Brothers and After the Wedding all getting the ‘rethink treatment’ and will be performed as a ballet, an opera and a musical-drama respectively.
Gastronomy in Aarhus has seen huge advancements in recent years with many new restaurants, bars and cafés adding to the city’s evolving culinary scene and making Aarhus more vibrant and stylish than ever.
Don’t miss the Aarhus Central Food Market,which opened last October. This buzzing indoor market is full of specialist shops, delis and breweries, where you can grab everything from Kahler’s seasonal smorrebrod to gourmet porridge at Grod.
The nearby Aarhus Street Food opened last summer in a former car park with stalls in repurposed shipping containers. Enjoy melt-in-the-mouth pulled-duck burgers at Duck It, or spicy Vietnamese buns at Banh Mi Bandits.
Aarhus Food Festival has grown to become the largest in Scandinavia and celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2016.
Three of the city’s restaurants being recognized with a coveted Michelin star for the first time in 2015 and building on these initiatives and showing the strengthening cooperation between chefs and food manufacturers the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism has awarded Aarhus and its surrounding area the title of European Region of Gastronomy for 2017.
Shopping is also tempting in Aarhus. The Stroget is the backbone of Aarhus’ shopping life with an 850-metre long pedestrianized parade of stores. Highlights include Skagen, the iconic Danish watch house; department store Salling with big-name brands such as Royal Copenhagen porcelain; and Georg Jensen, featuring exquisite silverware and jewelry from the Danish master.
You will find more independent retailers in the so-called “Side Streets Quarter” between Aboulevarden and Norre Alle, where cheaper rents have allowed new designers and artisans to flourish. Check out 1+1 Textil for hygge-enhancing homeware and nearby St Valentin for stylish Scandi menswear.
In time to welcome extra visitors to the city in 2017, the new ‘Wakeup Hotel’ will be opening offering superb value for money and a level of comfort guests would normally expect from the city’s 3 and 4 star hotels but at hotel prices more in keeping with a 2 star establishment. The Wakeup hotel concept is based on relatively small, yet very well appointed rooms, with furniture from top Danish designers and will offer fabulous views over Aarhus.
The lively Scandic Aarhus City on Ostergade is a stone’s throw from the main shopping artery, Stroget, and just a five-minute stroll from the train station. Doubles from $119, including breakfast.
A stylish townhouse in the heart of the Latin Quarter, Aarhus Guldsmeden offers French colonial style rooms with four-poster beds and Persian rugs, plus a charming garden for cocktails. Doubles from €171 ($213) with breakfast.
Cabinn Aarhus has functional but budget-friendly rooms reminiscent of ship cabins that stretch along a vibrant canal front opposite Aarhus Cathedral. It offers compact rooms with twin or bunks beds as well as family rooms for four. Rooms from Dkr 495 ($62), room only.
For literary lovers further new accommodation will be made available when the city’s main library moves to its new location at Dokk1, by the harbor, making way for the new Library Hostel.
Mølleparken, which opened last year in the old library building, will complement the city’s existing accommodation with 100 rooms plus a café and social meeting space for locals and visitors.
Commenting on the plans, Kristian Würtz, Technology and Environment Councelor, said that “The Central Library is one of the city’s most distinctive buildings and a landmark of Aarhus. We will retain the main library’s architecture but rethink the content with bedrooms alongside a public café on the ground floor. Its new function of urban life will elegantly match the building’s original function as a popular public meeting place.
Don’t forget to do as the Danes do and get on a bike. With wide cycle lanes, few cars and relatively flat roads, Aarhus is geared for two-wheeled discovery. Cycling Aarhus offers rental bikes for Dkr 110 a day, as well as several themed tours of the city’s highlights.
An attractive 450km cycle route will be developed. This new bicycle route will take cyclists to various cultural attractions, beautiful landscapes, nearby villages, lakes and along the coast close to Aarhus. A book of maps, plus digital guides and signs will point the way with specially designed cycle shelters conveniently placed along the way for visitors.
Aarhus – European Capital of Culture 2017, edited by Tor Kjolberg