Once into November thoughts turn to the festive season and all it brings including the famous Christmas markets so popular in Europe. This year I discover the Christmas markets in Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city with direct flights from Stansted airport by Ryanair. From Aarhus airport it’s a fairly long coach ride into the city but the coaches are comfortable and time passes quickly travelling through countryside reminiscent of England. Purchase an Aarhus Card online to cover transportation costs to and from the airport, in and around the city, entrance to museums, festivals, shopping discounts etc., at a little over £71 at the time of writing they represent extremely good value for money. Staying at the Scandic Mayor Hotel situated in the heart of the city proves an excellent choice. Good size rooms, comfortable beds, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, tea/coffee making facilities, safe and a large powerful shower over the bath plus that very important item for so many, free wi-fi that works well.
Unpacked, and mid-afternoon, we visit Dokk 1 on the waterfront housing the public library and culture centre. An unusual feature, Magic Mushrooms, a 300m2 imaginary city, literally a large model city fixed upside down from the ceiling. A vast library area, seating and desks with electric sockets for the many people working at laptops carrying out research. The ground floor houses what must be one of the worlds most advanced parking systems. Drive to a barrier, it will open, drive through into a large lift, leave your car, pay for parking and take the ticket from the machine. The car is then taken by a series of lifts and moving floors to a parking space. On your return, scan the tickets bar code and your car is returned to you via the lift you first stopped in. Ingenious.
Time to visit the Salling Department Store, no not for shopping, but for ascending 80 feet to its roof top, now a terraced viewing area and restaurant, sporting a glass walkway extending out into space affording wonderful views of the city. Although only 3C the sensational views of the setting sun whilst sipping warm Gløgg, a mulled wine, creates the type of memories that last a lifetime. Sample the famous Danish AEbleskiver, a small dough ball, deep fried, topped with thick strawberry jam and icing sugar, forget the diet, it’s delicious.
Time to explore the Latin Quarter, passing through wide pedestrian only shop lined areas displaying Christmas lights and decorations, above the glow from thousands of miniature twinkling bulbs add to the atmosphere. Over the canal bridge into the Latin Quarter where large shops give way to small cafes, restaurants, book shops and others selling specialised items reminding me it’s time to eat. The restaurant of Langhoff & Juul looks inviting and certainly does not disappoint. Scallops with purée as a starter followed by marbled cod dressed with spinach and fresh berries and pureed apple topped with nuts to finish all washed down with a good selection of white wines. It’s been a long day so back to a comfortable bed ready for the next morning.
An early start heralded by a typical Scandinavian breakfast of juices, meats, cheeses, eggs and piping hot coffee. A short brisk walk across the park brings us to the Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum, originally opened in 1859 as the oldest public art museum outside of Copenhagen. 2004 saw the current 10 storey building opened, topped by a 360 degree glass walkway the colours of a rainbow affording unprecedented vistas of the city and harbour area. Each floor exhibits art, culture, history, paintings and sculptures.
Time to move onto the old town, an open air museum in the Botanical Gardens opened in 1914. Enjoy 75 buildings many of which are open to visitors depicting life as it used to be, scenes of trades from a bygone era, visit the house of the Mayor, admire the antique furniture as you move from room to room. Wander the cobbled streets or take a ride by horse drawn carriage, sit back, enjoy a journey through the area as it was in the past, if you feel cold stand by one of the open coke burning fires, hungry, visit one of the restaurants such as Simonsens Have and enjoy traditional Danish fare. I did, boiled and breaded plaice, smoked salmon, herring and roe with Danish rye bread washed down with a very acceptable rosé wine.
Next stop, the Aarhus Fortaeller, an underground museum portraying a journey of time telling the 1200-year story of Aarhus back to the era when Aarhus was a Viking town, through the middle ages, the German occupation up to the present day. There is even a real steam engine on show from the 1900’s, how did it get there, don’t ask.
The day passes quickly, time to visit Aarhus Street Food, an undercover area home to over 30 kitchens representing foods from all over the world. Not a place for the faint hearted, getting extremely crowded mainly with the younger generation who love to indulge the various cuisines. My choice, Thai green curry with cashew nuts and rice for 70 Krona, about £9, excellent value, however a glass of wine will cost you about the same, next problem finding a seat at one of the long tables in this heaving mass of bodies.
Dinner finished it’s a taxi ride to the outskirts of Aarhus and the Tivoli Friheden, an amusement park transformed into the largest winter wonderland I have ever seen. Enter for free with your Aarhus Card, wander along the entrance tunnel, a tunnel made with thousands of miniature twinkling lights, emerge into a different world, a world of make believe, yes, a world for children but one adults of any age will love just as much. Lifelike models of polar bears in settings of their native Arctic, reindeer, Bambi, Rudolf and of course, the boss, Father Christmas all backed by twinkling Christmas trees. Rides for all ages, 4 roller coasters, dodgems, Haunted House, Sky Tower, festively lit boats where the lake reflects twinkling lights of trees and huge globe, a Big Wheel glowing electric blue against the black sky. Visit Santa’s Town, see the elves, dwarfs, gnomes, and many more from the classic cartoon world all at work. Stalls selling hot food, warm mulled wines, chocolates, Christmas novelties and much more. Yes, as the evening progresses it gets colder but the open wood fires and coke burners give warmth enabling visitors to enjoy the visit, but alas, too soon, our taxi awaits, our hotel is beckoning.
Following next morning’s breakfast there is just enough time to take the bus to Moesgaard Museum a building of modern design with upper and lower levels in a setting of dramatic views across a countryside of low rolling hills to the sea. Learn here stories from the past, from the stone age, through time to the first immigrants, admire the glass enclosed cases containing replicas of buddhism symbols, life like models, listen to the stories surrounding the culture and history of Denmark and much more.
Our taxi has already arrived to take us to the airport for the homeward flight with Ryanair. The passenger services manager at Aarhus airport introduces us to a typical Danish lunch of Smørrebrød a type of open face sandwich of meats, cheese, eggs or any selection you wish on rye bread. Currently the airport is undergoing expansion due to the increased demand for flights to this beautiful city on the Baltic Sea.
This is a city which many will find makes for the perfect long weekend. There is much to see and do in the various areas, a vast choice of restaurants, bars, shops, museums, parklands, the Old Town, Latin Quarter, all easily reached on foot or by bus and tram. Public transport costs and attraction entrance fees covered by the Aarhus Card make for an affordable weekend away. Aarhus is also blessed with long golden sand beaches but that is for another day.