Aarhus: the feel-good city

A comme Afrique. Impressions d’Afrique Avec un peu d’imagination, avec quelques accessoires aussi, avec une allée et des palmes, la Sicile, c’est aussi l’Afrique. Il ne s’agit pas d’arpenter la ville. Ailleurs est ce qui arrive.

A as in Africa: Impressions of Africa With a bit of imagination and a few accessories, such as a path and some palms, Sicily can also be Africa. You don’t have to amble all over the city. Afar is what appears.

A comme Afrique. Impressions d’Afrique Avec un peu d’imagination, avec quelques accessoires aussi, avec une allée et des palmes, la Sicile, c’est aussi l’Afrique. Il ne s’agit pas d’arpenter la ville. Ailleurs est ce qui arrive.

A as in Africa: Impressions of Africa With a bit of imagination and a few accessories, such as a path and some palms, Sicily can also be Africa. You don’t have to amble all over the city. Afar is what appears.

A comme Afrique. Impressions d’Afrique Avec un peu d’imagination, avec quelques accessoires aussi, avec une allée et des palmes, la Sicile, c’est aussi l’Afrique. Il ne s’agit pas d’arpenter la ville. Ailleurs est ce qui arrive.

A as in Africa: Impressions of Africa With a bit of imagination and a few accessories, such as a path and some palms, Sicily can also be Africa. You don’t have to amble all over the city. Afar is what appears.

A comme Afrique. Impressions d’Afrique Avec un peu d’imagination, avec quelques accessoires aussi, avec une allée et des palmes, la Sicile, c’est aussi l’Afrique. Il ne s’agit pas d’arpenter la ville. Ailleurs est ce qui arrive.

A as in Africa: Impressions of Africa With a bit of imagination and a few accessories, such as a path and some palms, Sicily can also be Africa. You don’t have to amble all over the city. Afar is what appears.

A comme Afrique. Impressions d’Afrique Avec un peu d’imagination, avec quelques accessoires aussi, avec une allée et des palmes, la Sicile, c’est aussi l’Afrique. Il ne s’agit pas d’arpenter la ville. Ailleurs est ce qui arrive.

A as in Africa: Impressions of Africa With a bit of imagination and a few accessories, such as a path and some palms, Sicily can also be Africa. You don’t have to amble all over the city. Afar is what appears.

Spécialités danoises et internationales se dégustent au Aarhus Street Food.Danish and international specialties are available at Aarhus Street Food.

A comme Afrique. Impressions d’Afrique Avec un peu d’imagination, avec quelques accessoires aussi, avec une allée et des palmes, la Sicile, c’est aussi l’Afrique. Il ne s’agit pas d’arpenter la ville. Ailleurs est ce qui arrive.

A as in Africa: Impressions of Africa With a bit of imagination and a few accessories, such as a path and some palms, Sicily can also be Africa. You don’t have to amble all over the city. Afar is what appears.

Isbjerget, bâtiment emblématique du nouveau quartier de la ville, Aarhus Ø.

Isbjerget, a landmark in the city’s new district Aarhus Ø.

Le centre culturel d’Aarhus, Godsbanen.Godsbanen, Aarhus’s cultural hub.

A comme Afrique. Impressions d’Afrique Avec un peu d’imagination, avec quelques accessoires aussi, avec une allée et des palmes, la Sicile, c’est aussi l’Afrique. Il ne s’agit pas d’arpenter la ville. Ailleurs est ce qui arrive.

A as in Africa: Impressions of Africa With a bit of imagination and a few accessories, such as a path and some palms, Sicily can also be Africa. You don’t have to amble all over the city. Afar is what appears.

Un intérieur de Den Gamle By, musée en plein air de l’histoire culturelle danoise.An interior at Den Gamle By, an open-air museum of Danish cultural history.

A comme Afrique. Impressions d’Afrique Avec un peu d’imagination, avec quelques accessoires aussi, avec une allée et des palmes, la Sicile, c’est aussi l’Afrique. Il ne s’agit pas d’arpenter la ville. Ailleurs est ce qui arrive.

A as in Africa: Impressions of Africa With a bit of imagination and a few accessories, such as a path and some palms, Sicily can also be Africa. You don’t have to amble all over the city. Afar is what appears.

Moesgaard Museum (ci-dessous), musée d’archéologie conçu par l’architecte Henning Larsen.

The Moesgaard archeological museum (below), designed by architect Henning Larsen.

L’exposition NATUR® dans le jardin botanique.The “NATUR®” exhibit, in the botanical garden.

Unravel the secrets of hygge, the art of happiness Danish-style, alongside author Miguel Bonnefoy as he explores the cheerful port of Aarhus on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula.

There’s nothing more Danish than the concept of hygge, pronounced “hoogger.” A one-word equivalent would be well nigh impossible to find in another language. It describes a sense of serene intimacy, relaxed enjoyment, spent alone or in the company of others, an appreciation of the ordinary pleasures of life. Drinking a cup of hot chocolate by candlelight; being together with family by the fire; sharing a flødebolle with a friend over coffee; or a cinnamon-flavored pastry with a loved one. In many ways, the ability to enjoy the sense of hygge encapsulates the Scandinavian mindset.

Threshold of Jutland

Aarhus is a hyggelig city. It’s something in the melancholic silence of the Nordic shores. Its half-timbered houses with beams painted red, green or blue, and backyards filled with raspberry bushes and strawberry plants. Its endless cloudy skies filled with seagulls. Its facades dotted all over with windows like an ivory checkerboard, and heavily shingled roofs keeping out the frequent rains and the cold in winter, and crow-stepped gables covered with a smattering of gray snow. Although the sea plays an important role in Aarhus culture, and while the anchor of Saint Clement appears on all its coats of arms, the city also has a rural beauty, with its old, asymmetrical facades, and slopes and hillocks scenting the air with a smell like wheat and licorice. Here, an oil mill; over there, railway tracks and cycle paths. In the distance, an industrial park, metalworks, concert halls and 15-floor buildings, ready to house thousands of new inhabitants, like an Asger Jorn painting (Life’s Activities, 1948). And in the middle of it all, the city hall with its striking belltower clad in Norway marble, designed by Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller.

How do you get the hygge feeling in Aarhus? You can sip a cup of tea at A.C. Perch’s, purveyor to the queen, or a coffee at BogCafé on Nørregade. Go for a rooftop stroll at the ARoS museum to take in the impressive city panorama from its circular rainbow skywalk. Stroll down Vestergade and Frederiksgade lined with bars and cafés, art galleries and music stores. Munch on some smørrebrød (open rye bread sandwiches) on a café terrace along Åboulevarden or at one of the harborside restaurants on Havnegade. In the daytime, lounge on the university campus opposite the Steno Museet; come nightfall, order one of the cocktails at St. Pauls Apothek served with a fabulous gourmet menu. Go on a bike ride, using one of the 400 free city bikes, in a country where over five million people cycle every day, and head to Den Gamle By, the Old Town, a magnificent reconstruction of 75 traditional Danish houses bordering the botanical garden, with its shoemakers, secondhand shops and 18th-century furniture.

Scandinavian heart

Being hygge is also about respecting community rights. Denmark was one of the first countries to give women the vote, legalize same-sex marriage and grant paternity leave. Its Protestant heritage instilled a sense of collective egalitarianism. Perhaps this is why some surveys have found the Danes to be the happiest people in the world. And while the Danish language doesn’t have a word for “please,” courtesy and politeness rule. The Danish lifestyle is based on citizen involvement, and in Aarhus, the culture of non-wastefulness is a source of regional pride. Telephone apps enable locals to play an active role in the city’s environmental challenges. For example, after last sittings, most restaurants sell off their remaining food at a reduced price, instead of throwing it away. In the street, old empty barrels sawn in half serve as plant boxes containing mint, dill, chives and tarragon, which passers-by are free to pick. Disposable braziers are available for picnics in the park and barbecues among friends. Young people buy their clothes from homegrown brands such as the Aarhus label Minimum. Never has a city illustrated so well the words of the geographer Vidal de La Blache: “Men create the environment, and then, in turn, the environment shapes men.” Here, everything is connected to environmental and regional solidarity, everything factors in the impact of human activity on biodiversity.

Traditional cuisine abides by similar principles. In Aarhus, dishes are in harmony with the seasons and the land: wild berries and herring filets on rye bread, pork crackling, oysters from the fjords, lumpfish caviar, frikadeller (meatballs) and beer-based rather than wine-based sauces. A family meal at one of the Latin Quarter restaurants near Store Torv square and the cathedral conjures up old recipes from the inland forests and the windy Kattegat strait between the North Sea and the Baltic. With a blend of awareness and conviction, lucidity and self-sovereignty, the city is in the vanguard of Scandinavian regional conservation, in its contribution to agricultural production and support for livestock cooperatives and small farms.

Happy ever after

Twenty years ago, you could only be hygge at home, on a Sunday spent with your partner, during a rainy public holiday or a winter evening. Today, the younger generations have taken the hygge concept onto the waterfront and into the street, to restaurants and café terraces, parks and festivals. Danish girls wrapped in shawls on the wooden benches look as if they’ve sprung from a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale or a Krøyer painting; young men sitting in a circle by a tree look as if they carried the secrets of the runestones in their beards. Thirteen percent of the city is made up of students, not only Danes but also Turks, Portuguese, Norwegians, Britons and Asians, who come to study at the university faculties on Silkeborgvej and Nørrebrogade, and to enjoy the Food Festival and the SPOT and NorthSide music festivals. So many places give that feeling of being right at home: cozy bars like Pica Pica serving excellent organic wines; seafood restaurants like Klassisk Fisk on Nørregade that sell the best oysters in town; cafeterias like the one in the tropical greenhouse near the botanical garden’s old black mill, where cappuccino is served with a camellia. Today, tourists can get almost as strong a sense of hygge as the Danes do, because Aarhus is no longer a remote port city, but a burst of sunshine over a row of apple trees, a quayside promenade, garlands of flowers bedecking balconies, blue-tinged stars peeping through the clouds, and the silent ships slumbering in its Scandinavian bay.

There’s nothing more Danish than the concept of hygge, a sense of serene intimacy and relaxed enjoyment, an appreciation of the ordinary pleasures of life.

Lieu d’écriture

A place to write In the Væksthusene at the botanical garden, I sit in the café at the entrace to the tropical greenhouse. I read the words of the Danish poet Sophus Claussen: “The city of tentacular terraces / secret passages, vertiginous walls.” Here, far from the urban hubbub, sunlight floods through the glass dome. This huge glazed structure set in the middle of a Scandinavian landscape is home to cocoa, papaya and avocado trees, palms and giant waterlilies. Here, the vegetation of another continent takes root, in the cold northern air, amid this landscape of coves and bays, sea inlets and fjords. It occurs to me that this place symbolizes a source of warmth on a long winter day; and I think to myself, this is a hyggelig moment.

Comwell Hotel

Like a monumental lantern lit up by the port, this hotel occupying the first 12 floors of the highest building in Aarhus quietly watches over the city rooftops. Lights twinkle in the windows of its 240 modern rooms, which enjoy an unobstructed view of the sky and the sea birds flitting about, and over the water below. Despite its massive presence, there’s not a trace of arrogance about it; rather a very Danish even-tempered ambience, right down to the carpets and cushions, wallpapers and curvy armchairs. It was all designed by the HAY furniture design firm, whose quietly upbeat touch slips in among panels of blond wood and splashes of vibrant color (royal blue, acid yellow, aubergine). It’s a central spot up in the sky, ideal for curling up and contemplating the Nordic city lights.  

Comwell Hotel Aarhus

Værkmestergade 2. Tél. +45 86 72 80 00.

www.comwellaarhus.dk

© CEBRA, JDS, SeARCH, Louis Paillard

© Henning Larsen Architects. Alcohol abuse is harmful to your health. Drink in moderation.

© Dome of visions, architectes Kristoffer Tejlgaard & Benny Jepsen

© 2006, Olafur Eliasson

© Arne Jacobsen & Erik Møller.

© Arne Jacobsen

Alcohol abuse is harmful to your health. Drink in moderation

Next

Essaouira, Near horizons

Carnet d’adresses

Comwell Hotel Aarhus

Værkmestergade 2. Tél. +45 86 72 80 00.

www.comwellaarhus.dk

Cafés & restaurants

A. C. Perch’s

Volden 3. Tél. +45 33 15 35 62.

www.perchs.dk

Løve’s BogCafé

Nørregade 32. Tél. +45 27 83 16 33.

www.loeves.dk

St. Pauls Apothek

Jægergårdsgade 76. Tél. +45 86 12 08 33.

www.stpaulsapothek.dk

Pica Pica

Vester Allé 15. Tél. +45 25 66 78 00.

www.pica-pica.dk

Klassisk Fisk

Fish and seafoods restaurants.

Nørregade 38.

www.klassiskfisk.dk

The Greenhouses’ Cafe

In the botanical garden, take a break at the café in the tropical greenhouse (Væksthusene).

Peter Holms Vej. Tél. +45 87 15 54 15.

www.sciencemuseerne.dk

Shopping

Minimum Balticagade

MTél. +45 29 19 68 42.

www.perchs.dk

À faire

ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum

ARoS Allé 2. .

www.aros.dk

SPOT Festival

Du 4 au 7.05.

www.spotfestival.dk

NorthSide Festival

Food Festival

Du 1er au 3.09.

www.foodfestival.dk
Address Book
Vidéo

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Going There

www.airfrance.com

FLIGHT FREQUENCY

AIR FRANCE  has 4 daily flights with HOP! from Paris-CDG to Billund.
Avec Hop has 5 daily flights from Amsterdam to Billund..

ARRIVAL AIRPORT

Aéroport de Billund.
À 2 km.
Tél. +45 76 50 50 50.

AIR FRANCE KLM OFFICES

Aux aéroports.

BOOKINGS

— Depuis la France : Tél. 3654.
— Depuis l’étranger :
Tél. +33 (0)892 70 26 54.

CAR RENT

Hertz, à l'aéroport.
Tél. +45 33 17 90 50.
www.aifrance.fr/cars

FURTHER READING

Danemark Gallimard
Coll. Encyclopédies du voyage.


Danemark Lonely Planet
En 2017, Aarhus est capitale de la culture européenne

 

© Parko Polo / Central Illustration Agency. Map for illustration purposes only