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What to See in Denmark

 hen Aarhus was named joint European Capital of Culture for 2017, even seasoned travellers had to reach for an atlas. Denmark’s second city has long lived in Copenhagen’s shadow, but its cultural coronation has put a spring in its step, and increasing numbers of visitors have started succumbing to its charms.

One of which is its size. A small, compact city, with a population of just 330,000, Aarhus’s attractions are easily explored on foot or bicycle. They include: ARoS, the contemporary art museum whose rainbow-coloured roof installation can be seen from all over town; the cutting-edge architecture of the revitalised harbour area; the gobsmacking redevelopment of Godsbanen, a goods station turned cultural centre; and the medieval streets of the Latin Quarter. A bike also comes in handy for making the most of the city’s location on the Jutland peninsula. On two wheels, you’re barely 15 minutes from a forest or beach.

Despite its size and provincial mien, Aarhus is a lively place. Students comprise more than 10{05fee30d88f09f95d131a60c2a3e9278426e033ee0bbac6add5583602bf95042} of the population, making it Denmark’s youngest city. And it’s getting younger. Graduates now stick around for work rather than heading straight for Copenhagen. Another sign of the times is the “buggy park” at the new public library, which rings a tubular bell every time a baby is born in Aarhus – a metaphor, perhaps, for the city’s renaissance. Visiting families will appreciate free entrance to city museums for under-18s.

Aarhus is buzzing with new bars, cafes and restaurants – many of which showcase New Nordic cuisine, including a trio of Michelin-starred restaurants. While for visitors on tighter budgets, there’s a new street-food market in town.

WHAT TO SEE

Travel through time and terrain

The Moesgaard Museum is an essential stop, thanks to its bucolic setting in the southern suburbs and its fascinating exploration of pre-history. The museum has a magnificent collection of archaeological and ethnographic treasures and presents them in an intelligent way. An “evolutionary stairway” chronicles the origins of mankind as it sweeps visitors towards the exhibits. The highlights are Grauballe Man, the world’s best-preserved Iron Age “bog body”, and the spectacular views from the museum’s sloping grass roof.

Walk round the rainbow

ARoS has a world-class permanent collection, including works by Carsten Höller, Bill Viola and Andy Warhol. Ron Mueck’s five-metre-tall sculpture of a crouching boy is unmissable, but even more memorable is Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s Your Rainbow Panorama – the 150-metre-long circular walkway that sits like a crown above the roof. Its rainbow-coloured glass panels reward visitors with an unrivalled panorama of the city.

Relive Danish history

Equally engaging is Den Gamle By, an open-air museum that explores how Danes lived in three decades – the 1860s, the 1920s and the 1970s. The reconstructed market town, built with 75 historical houses relocated from around Denmark, is peopled by characters in period dress, including maids baking cakes and cobblers hard at work making shoes.

Get back to nature

Just uphill from Den Gamle By is the city’s Botanical Garden. The highlights of this award-winning attraction are four climate-controlled greenhouses, each devoted to a different region – including deserts and mountains. With play areas and engaging exhibits, it’s especially good for families.