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Aarhus (oar-hus) has long laboured in the shadow of consummate capital Copenhagen, but transformation is afoot. Denmark's second-largest city is busy staking a claim for visitor attention, and building a reputation as an emerging European destination for savvy city-breakers, festival-goers, art and food fans, and those looking beyond the capital-city conga.

This Viking-founded, student-filled hub has accrued some weighty accolades to shore up its appeal, too: in 2017 its titles included European Capital of Culture and European Region of Gastronomy (the latter was awarded to Aarhus and the larger central Denmark region). The ever-expanding menu of architectural landmarks, lauded restaurants, bars, festivals and boutiques is a mark of a vibrant city on the rise. It's a great place to explore – compact, photogenic and friendly (its local nickname is 'the city of smiles'). Here you'll be left in little doubt why Denmark scores so highly in those liveability lists.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Aarhus.