Aarhus the city that smiles

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark is very popular, loves to smoke, is a straight shooter with a great sense of humour, and does not mind a tipple. So the locals in Aarhus tell us as we wait for her to arrive to open Festival Week in Denmark’s second largest city. Her daughter-in-law Crown Princess Mary hails from Tasmania so we think her majesty will surely stop and say ‘G’day’ to a couple of Aussies.
The Queen approaches to within a couple of metres but the 68-year-old monarch is whisked by along the red carpet by the local mayor into the Aarhus Concert Hall. She is running 30 minutes late but we are happy enough to feature on the local television news in a background shot.
Queen Margrethe duly opens a spectacular show to launch the largest multi-cultural festival in Scandinavia. It runs during the first week of September and features theatre performances, concerts, opera, ballet, music, and sporting events.
The city’s youthful energy is generated by 35,000 students who attend Aarhus University. This inspires an active and diverse nightlife with 22% of the city’s 300,000 inhabitants under 18 years of age. With its youngish, well-educated residents innovative art and crafts flourish in the region.
Nestled on the east coast of Jutland, Aarhus lives up to its name as the City of Smiles.
Visitors will find plenty to smile about. This includes the uplifting natural beauty of the beech tree forests running down to the shores, vibrant culture, fascinating Viking history and the zestful locals who love hiking through the nearby woodlands.
Sipping the famous Danish beers, Tuborg and Carsberg, and chatting to the friendly staff at the sidewalk cafes and restaurants are sure to create plenty of cheer.
Outdoor activities such as kayaking and sailing are always popular pursuits in Aarhus Bay. Just remember summer runs from June to August with an average temperature of 19 degrees centigrade while February is the coldest month when temperatures plummet to single figures.
Aarhus is a major port first settled by the Vikings in the eighth century. It has thrived ever since on its trading heritage and harbour development that drives a positive economic outlook.
The Vikings were attracted to settle on the banks of a small river that today remains the unpretentious urban heart of Aarhus known as Vadestedet – meaning the place to wade. Here the edges of the River Aarhus have become an elegant canal promenade filled with cafés and restaurants. Exploring this area, like many in the city, is easily done on foot or bicycle.
The streets in the city centre are all for pedestrian use only but there are plenty of places to park your bike.
Not far away is the Old Town a heritage-listed open air museum made up of 75 historical buildings, gardens, exhibitions, houses, shops and workshops. This is a living and breathing experience of what it was like in the days of Hans Christian Andersen.
The mix of old-world charm and contemporary buzz intertwines with new and ancient architecture. At one end of the scale the Aarhus Cathedral is over 800-years-old and the longest in Denmark while the ultra-modern Light House is currently under construction in the new harbour-front district, and at 142 metres will be the tallest building in Denmark.
A 15-minue drive away is the Moesgard Museum that is set in beautiful surroundings and tells the tale of the region’s Viking heritage.
Eating out in Aarhus offers international and local food. For a traditional Danish night out visit the Raadhuus Kafé established in 1924 and located in the heart of Aarhus. This has an informal and cozy atmosphere that offers hearty Danish meals with local herring dishes an excellent choice.
Accommodation options are plentiful with the Helnan Marselis Hotel at the upper end of the scale near woods and beaches and located less than 3 kilometres from the city centre.
The City of Smiles is more than a slogan first coined by the council in the 1930s. It now signifies a lifestyle that leaves visitors just as happy and relaxed as the inhabitants of this very liveable city.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark arrives at the Concert Hall in Aarhus – known as the City of Smiles.
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark arrives at the Concert Hall in Aarhus – known as the City of Smiles.
Vadestedet on the edge of the River Aarhus has become an elegant canal promenade filled with cafés and restaurants.
Vadestedet on the edge of the River Aarhus has become an elegant canal promenade filled with cafés and restaurants.

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