A short time ago I accompanied my husband on a combined business and leisure trip to Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark (300.000 inhabitants – yep, Denmark really is a small country!) also known as the City of Smiles. Many people know the city thanks to the amazing circular rainbow walkway on top of the art museum ARoS, from where the city can be admired in a variety of colors. But there’s much more to see in Aarhus than ARoS, where a buzzling café life, many university students and pretty little streets make the scene for a perfect little Danish get-away.
The nickname City of Smiles was probably started as a slogan to improve the city’s image, but has become the common name over time. The city is very easy-going, unpretentious and friendly, which is probably why the nickname still sticks to it.
While my husband was working, I quickly found my favorite coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants. So here are two of each category in Aarhus:
Two great coffeeshops
Great Coffee is a pretty ambitious name and I just had to test if the coffee lived up to it. It did. First of all the location in a backyard and the interior is excellent. They roast their own coffee and you can follow the whole process from your seat by the window.
The menu consists of coffee and nothing else. No cookies, no chocolate, no croissants. Just coffee. And the coffee is great. It really is. They don’t serve coffee with soya milk, almond milk etc because it changes the taste of the coffee. So I went for an americano and it was super creamy and very tasty.
The perfect place for great coffee.
Location: Klostergade 32H
Like Great Coffee, La Cabra roasts the coffee beans in house as well. The place is conveniently located in the Latin Quarter, close to many cute shops and with a little square just outside. The interior is inviting and the place is bathed in sun most of the day (well, if the sun is out obviously!). Just like Great Coffee, they don’t make soya or almond lattes, but they do have a nice selection of pastries. I went for an americano and my favorite raspberry cake (hindbærsnitte in Danish). Both were delicious. A very recommendable place.
Location: Graven 20
Two great lunch places
We passed OliNico by coincidence on a sunny Saturday. And thank God we did! The place is located perfectly in relation to the sun; full sun on the sidewalk for lunch.
We were recommended to order moules frites and so we did. The fries were among the best I have ever tried and the allioli that accompanied was super tastefull as well. The moules are good and the portion huge.
On top of the super quality the price was very reasonable: DKK 200,- for 2 x moules frites and 2 x Ginger Beer.
Location: Mejlgade 35
Cute little Mexican street food restaurant. Vaca is a perfect place for a quick lunch in the Latin Quarter. The burritos are very good and can be enjoyed by a large steel table by the window or ordered to-go.
Location: Mejlgade 17
Two great restaurants
Pondus is a super relaxed intimate restaurant with only twelve tables. The menu is displayed on a large blackboard and is quite limited (something I really enjoy, so that I am sure that the ingredients are fresh). We had potatoes and wild boar as a starter, beef as main course and blackcurrant ice cream for dessert. There is no wine menu, you simply tell the waiter what you like and they will find something for you. The prices are the same for all glasses of wine and for all bottles of wine. Very simple.
The menu is around DKK 275,- for three courses. Good value for money and a place we for sure will return to.
Location: Åboulevarden 51
Restaurant Komfur is like Pondus a great value for money restaurant. They offer three courses for DKK 300,- where you get to choose between four to five different starters and main dishes. I must be honest and say that we didn’t dine here on this trip (I had Room Service at the hotel the first night while he was having a customer event). We dined here last time we visited, which was a great experience. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the food then.
The only negative thing I can say about this place is the acoustics. The tables are pretty close to each other and there is a lot of noise when it is full. So I wouldn’t go more than four people together as you literally won’t be able to hear what they say at the other end of the table. However, for a dinner for two, the place is lovely and the food is very good.
Location: Guldsmedgade 38
Two great boutiques
Moshi Moshi Mind
Moshi Moshi Mind is a shop with origins in Copenhagen. However, I had never been to the flagship store in my own city (don’t ask me why!). This is the place to find relaxed, yet stylish home wear and yoga wear. I bought myself some yoga pants, which I literally wear everyday at home. The owner is a lovely lady who, besides of helping you out with the perfect relaxed outfits, can give you recommendations of what to do and see in Aarhus. She was such a sweetheart that I felt like staying the whole afternoon chatting with her!
Location: Badstuegade 18
Nova Møbler is a furniture shop, so not really what you typically would buy when traveling, but the interior is so well presented that it’s worth visiting. I fell for two laundry baskets made of straw. As dull as it sounds to be inspired by laundry baskets, I believe that these will give a relaxed touch to our bedroom.
Location: Guldsmedgade 25
Two great sights
ARoS became top of mind for architects and designers when the Danish-Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson, designed the Your Rainbow Panorama back in 2011. I had visited the museum on a previous occasion when I worked as a cabin crew and had lay-overs in Aarhus, but none of us had ever seen the rainbow panorama. If in Aarhus please do yourself a favour and see it. It is quite spectacular to walk on the top of the city and see how the light changes according to the color scale.
If you’re not really into art (which is my case), but still want to get an impression of what the museum has to offer besides of the rainbow panorama, I recommend using the Short Guide Top 12. Here you will find the 12 most famous pieces at the museum and this way cut your way though the many exhibition halls.
This service is available at most museums and it’s really helpful if you, like me, have no clue about where to go or what to see inside a museum.
Location: ARoS Allé 2
DOKK1 is the new cultural meeting point in Aarhus. It’s a public space with library, reading rooms, study spaces, play grounds and a coffee shop. It’s huge and from the many chairs by the windows you can follow the life in the biggest industrial port in Denmark. A great place to visit during your time in Aarhus, and if you have kids you’ll easily spend a couple of hours here.
Location: Hack Kampmanns Plads 2