Aarhus (Photo:Rolf_52/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Maria Smith
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Aarhus

The harbor town of Aarhus is off the beaten track -- so much so that it might not even be a destination except as part of an itinerary for a Scandinavian or Baltic cruise. It is the second-largest city in Denmark, yet all its main attractions are within walking distance of the port: One is never more than a pleasant stroll from parks, museums and shopping. Athletic visitors will enjoy the 30 bike stands which provide 250 bikes free of charge 24 hours a day for more energetic touring.

About Aarhus


Pro

After docking right in town, grab a bike from the city's free bikeshare program and ride to museums, parks and chic little cafes

Con

Watch your wallet! Shopping and dining can be expensive

Bottom Line

This walkable (and bike friendly) port city is both easy to navigate and full of interesting cultural and historical sites


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The city was settled by the Vikings toward the end of the first millennium, and by 1100 was a major regional port. Aarhus later faded from prominence until the 20th century, when the railway once again made the town a center of commerce. Now, the city is back on the map as an educational and commercial center with the Danish monarch's holiday palace. It is also a lively university town (the University of Aarhus features a wonderful park and museums).

Visitors will be lulled by the charm and ambience of this compact city full of friendly, English-speaking people. The city features many interesting sights, from its medieval cathedral to the World War II Resistance Museum, that offer glimpses of the past. Whether for its shopping, culture, dining or history, Aarhus is a gem -- and a great reason to cruise.

Where You're Docked

Ships dock literally across the street from downtown. The entire city is within easy walk of the pier.

Port Facilities

Cruise ships usually dock early, giving inveterate explorers a couple of hours to wander before most shops and museums open at mid-morning. A lovely morning stroll is to the University, with its sleek and stylish buildings, and through its park setting. From there, the shopping streets of Norregade and Studesgade are close by, and visitors can window-shop, and occasionally discover early-opening stores such as a cheese shop in which the entire front is a densely perfumed walk-in cheese refrigerator (nothing wrapped in cellophane to mask the aroma), a wine store whose owner might be delighted to talk about California vintages (and the advisability of avoiding Danish wines), and several galleries.

Good to Know

The exchange rate. As in most of Europe, in this day of the depressed dollar, shopping in Aarhus can be painful.

Getting Around

On foot! The entire city, from the University area on the north side to the Sondergarde (pedestrian-only shopping mall) and the Radhus (city hall) in the southwest quadrant, is compact and relatively flat. Cruisers can walk to every major attraction in Aarhus from the pier. For those who prefer to ride, cabs and local tour buses are available immediately outside the security gates.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Danish kroner (DKK); there are ATM's throughout the city, but are particularly clustered around the central, irregularly shaped town square.

Language

Danish. Almost all Danes speak English -- and are surprised when you ask if they do, responding with a polite "Of course."

Food and Drink

Unique restaurants and coffee shops abound in the town square. Try Teater Bodega (Skolegade 7, 86.12.19.17), a theatrical-themed restaurant with Danish country-style food. As cruise ships dock very close to the town center, less adventuresome or budget-conscious diners can easily scoot back to the ship for lunch.

Also, check out licorice ice cream, featured in the ubiquitous gelato shops throughout the town. The locals love it, but it is an acquired taste -- ask for a sample before committing to an entire scoop!

Shopping

Blown glass and miniature sculptures are highly unusual and (relatively) affordable. Two notable shops with unique local art and helpful sales staff are Bulow Duus Glassworks at Studsgade 14, and Galleri-Værkstedet at Studsgade 44. The Latin Quarter is a formerly seedy part of town now occupied by galleries of varying styles and price ranges. Many are located along Mollestien and Studsgade, easily reached on the way back to the dock after sightseeing.