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Let's introduce this year's European Capital of Culture: Aarhus

The Iceberg is a unique apartment building in the harbour area. Inna Fangel

Let's introduce this year's European Capital of Culture: Aarhus

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AARHUS - Denmark's second largest city, Aarhus, which has world-class food, arts and nightlife scene, will officially become European capital of culture on Saturday. Aarhus's project with the theme "RETHINK", is supported by Region Midtjylland and the 19 municipalities in it (Horsens Municipality included).

So, let's introduce the "City of Smiles". We have collected some tips for you: what to see, what to do and where to go in Aarhus.

Back to the past

Aarhus is a lovely city of woodlands, beaches, amazing parks and charming Danish historical buildings. It has 1250 years of history and was first settled by the vikings, who called it "Aros", an Old Norse word meaning "river mouth". At Moesgaard Museum (specialising in archaeology and ethnography) and in The Old Town you can travel back to the earliest Viking Age.

Aarhus Cathedral (Århus Domkirke), situated in the city center, is the longest and tallest church in the country, having the biggest organ and the most frescos. Originally built as a Romanesque basilica in the 13th century, it was rebuilt and enlarged as a Gothic cathedral in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Another important and historic church in Aarhus is the Church of our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke) also from the 13th century in Romanesque and Gothic style.

The Latin Quarter, which lies near the cathedral, is the oldest quarter in Aarhus. It grew up between the late 14th century after the city had been given permission to demolish the old Viking fortifications. Interestingly some streets have historical names such as Klostergade (Convent St), Volden (The Rampart) and Borggade (Castle St). The Latin Quarter is a very cozy district in Aarhus, where you can find some of the city's fine antique shops, galleries and trendy designer shops. And it's an absolutely perfect place for a break.

The fascinating open museum, Den Gamle By (The Old Town), is located right in the center. It presents Danish townscapes from the 16th century to the 1970s with individual areas focused on different time periods. 75 historic buildings collected from different parts of the country have been brought here to create a small town in its own right. An interesting part is that you will see real people wearing clothes like people did in the past and you can try dishes and cakes made from traditional Danish recipes.

Everything for everyone

Aarhus offers the best of Denmark. And one of the most spectacular places is AroS, Aarhus Kunstmuseum, the city's main art museum and one of the largest art museums in Scandinavia. Here you can find a collection covering Danish art from the 18th century to present day, as well as paintings, installations and sculptures representing international art movements and artists from all over the world. But what makes this museum unique is its Rainbow Panorama. This is a circular walkaway glass with the colors of the rainbow around it, designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. This rainbow has also become Aarhus' trademark within the last couple of years.

Aarhus has other interesting museums. For example, Kvindemuseet (Women's Museum) from 1984 contains collections of the lives and works of women in Danish cultural history. The Occupation Museum (Besættelsesmuseum) presents exhibits illustrating the German occupation of the city during the Second World War. Kunsthal Aarhus (Aarhus Art Hall), one of the oldest art centers in Europe, built and founded in 1917, hosts exhibitions of contemporary art including painting, sculpture, photography, performance art and video.

Aarhus Theatre from 1916 in the Art Nouveau style is the largest provincial theatre in Denmark. The early buildings of Aarhus University, especially the main building completed in 1932, designed by Kay Fisker, Povl Stegmann and by C.F. Møller, have gained an international reputation for their contribution to functionalist architecture. The City Hall (Aarhus Rådhus) from 1941 with an iconic tower clad in marble, was designed by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller in a modern Functionalist style.

Why should just Copenhagen have Tivoli?! Aarhus has its own, right in the middle of Aarhus city. Tivoli Friheden (Tivoli Freedom) opened in 1903 and has since been the largest amusement park and a tourist attraction in the city.

Aarhus is famous for its musical history. In the 1950s many jazz clubs sprang up around the city. By the 1960s, the music scene diversified into rock and other genres. In the 1970s and 1980s, Aarhus became centre for Denmark's rock music, fostering many iconic bands. Nowadays Aarhus is home to the annual eight-day Aarhus International Jazz Festival, the SPoT Festival and the NorthSide Festival. Every year the outdoor Grøn Koncert music festival takes place in many cities across Denmark, including Aarhus.

Aarhus also hosts specific recurring events. Initiated in 2009, Sculpture by the Sea, Aarhus is a very popular bi-annual month-long outdoor sculpture exhibition on the beaches south of the city.

On a wave of new branding

Aarhus is a modern metropolis and currently is expanding dramatically. Over the past years the entire inner section of Aarhus Harbour has transformed into a new urban area with homes, businesses and educational institutions.

The Iceberg, one of the symbols of Aarhus, is a unique apartment building in the harbour area situated close to the city centre, close to the new quarter in Aarhus. It is constructed so that it provides optimum sea view from the apartments and the criss-cross points make the building bear strong resemblance to floating icebergs breaking up.

In 2015 the new culture and multimedia house Dokk1 opened. Here you can find the large central library and cultural center, civil administrations and services, commercial office rentals and a large underground robotic car park. The building of Dokk1 and the associated squares and streetscape are also collectively known as Urban Mediaspace Aarhus and represent the largest construction project Aarhus municipality has ever undertaken.

Aarhus is also the heart of business life in Denmark. Major Danish companies such as Arla Foods, one of the largest dairy groups in Europe, Dansk Supermarked, Denmark's largest retailer, Jysk, a worldwide retailer specializing in household goods, bedding, furniture and interior design, Vestas, one of the major wind turbine producers worldwide, and several leading retail companies have based their headquarters here.

Aarhus is a centre for research and education in the Nordic countries and home to Aarhus University, Scandinavia's largest university, including Aarhus University Hospital and INCUBA Science Park.

Eat, drink and be merry

Aarhus is getting a reputation for being the new place on the Scandinavian gastronomic scene. Two years ago three restaurants "Frederikshøj", "Substans" and "Gastromé", won the city's first Michelin stars. In Aarhus you can also find places offering traditional Danish food and New Nordic Cuisine, food from cultures from around the globe. Among the oldest restaurants are "Rådhuscafeen", opened in 1924, serving a menu of traditional Danish meals and "Peter Gift" from 1906, a tavern with a broad beer selection, a menu of smørrebrød and other Danish dishes.

Appraised high-end gourmet restaurants serving an international gourmet cuisine include "Restaurant Varna", "Nordisk Spisehus", "Det Glade Vanvid", "La Pyramide", "Restaurant ET" and "Dauphine" all considered among the best places to eat in Denmark.

The city's centre is packed with cafés, especially along the river and the Latin quarter. You can relax at "Café Casablanca", "Café Carlton", "Café Cross" and "Gyngen". Aarhus Street Food and Aarhus Central Food Market in the city centre are two new indoor food halls from 2016, comprising a variety of street food restaurants, cafés and bars.

We highly recommend you to take a stroll down the canal, where most bars are located. You can stumble upon different kinds of pubs depending on your choice. Friday and Saturday are the best of times for doing that. You can also try Aarhus' Ceres beer. The city used to have its own brewery which is now supporting the local football team.

We can assure you that Aarhus will give you a lot of memories. As one of commercial banner says: "Aarhus is not just a city, it's a feeling!" So come here and see for yourself!