Paris of the North
And here we are at another great destination, the third largest city in Denmark, and slowly completing more and more points in this rather small European country. After all, cities over here are indeed small hence easy and quick to visit. It was almost 2 years ago when I was for the last time in the country with my family, and while in my case repeating Copenhagen, there was a new city too, Helsingor. And many years back, Aarhus. Too many years ago that I do not even have the travel guide for it here in my blog. Anyway into what now matters, the once called “Paris of the North”: Aalborg.
Such a nickname that stands today comes from the elegance in the architecture, the broad tree-lined avenues and streets and the somewhat refinement of the population. Unfortunately entire districts were torn down to create larger stone and brick houses, still, the city is well known for the large collection of half-timbered mansions built by its prosperous merchants. In similar resemblance, it’s second city in the country after Copenhagen’s in number of such constructions, and to my review, the second most beautiful in the country too after the capital.
Considering our very short time here since that was such flight deal at only 24 hours since landing until departure the following day, it all worked perfectly well. The city is very straightforward and easy to navigate where distances are short and all the sights concentrated near each others, therefore that actually, any longer than a day as a full weekend, would be too much if that’s what you are planning on doing. If that’s your case, consider spending the second day for visiting another city of villages nearby. This area is really beautiful all over and very picturesque, especially the small fishing villages by the coastline.
Not much more that I can think about for this brief introduction to the city other than warning you on the costs on everything, especially accommodation, restaurants and drinks at any bar. Denmark like all the Nordic countries are well known for this, hence be careful when going out at night. Dinner and some drinks can be a serious business! Like in any city in the world, check few places around before making up your mind, this will discard the unnecessarily overpriced places, however the average is pretty similar at one or another.
For more information about Aalborg check this Wikipedia site. Denmark’s currency is the Danish Krone (DKK). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Aalborg
- Riverside The northern edge of the old town is aligned with the river, recently revamped and redeveloped at some areas, although still very industrial right across at the north bank.
-Musikkens Plads (Music Square) The northeastern edge of the old town by the river, home to the House of Music, completed in 2013 in Deconstructivism style.
-Utzon Center Continuing towards the west along the riverside. Created by genius architect Jørn Utzon, same who designed the Sydney Opera House. It’s an art, architecture, design and exhibition centre; an unique building that has become one of the city’s landmarks.
-Aalborghus Castle This royal residence was built in 1550 by King Christian III for his tax collecting vassals, being the only remaining example of its kind in the country. Located side by side with the Utzon Center.
-Elbjørn Icebreaker Continuing west in the promenade, it is now working as a restaurant and culture ship.
-De Danske Spritfabrikker (Danish Distillers) To the west of the Limfjord Bridge continuing by the riverside, it is noted for its Neoclassical appearance even though it dates from 1931. Designed by architect Alf Cock-Clausen, it combines functionality with decorative classical symbolism and as such, considered a masterpiece of Danish factory design.
- Old Town Small yet very compact and easy to navigate. The best is to let yourself go through any street and wander around the beautiful architecture.
-Jomfru Ane Gade Once of the most central streets across the city, a small stretch north to south, home to the longest continuous stretch of restaurants and bars in the whole of Scandinavia.
-Aalborg Monastery At the southern end of Jomfru Ane Gade. Stablished in 1431 hence one of the oldest structures standing in the city.
-Gammeltorv The Old town Square. Meters east from the Monastery, is the most beautiful landmark in the city with all the surrounding historic buildings.
-Budolfi Church Now the city’s cathedral, dates back to the end of the 14th century, designed in Gothic style. After a fire destroyed the bell tower in 1663, a new one was completed in 1779 following the design of the Baroque tower of Copenhagen’s City Hall.
-Old City Hall Built in 1762 in Late Baroque style. Was in service until 1912 when the new city hall was built, but still used for ceremonies.
-Jens Bang’s House Located physically behind the Old City Hall, in Østerågade 9. It is one of Denmark’s best examples in Dutch Renaissance style house, dating from 1624.
-Jørgen Olufsen’s House Along the same street as the previous house, in Østerågade 25. This is Denmark’s best preserved merchant’s mansion in the renaissance style, dating from 1616.
-Aalborg Teater Two blocks south from the Gammeltorv, built in 1878.
-Nytorv Square Towards the east of the old town, is the second largest square, also surrounded with beautiful architecture.
- John F. Kennedy Square Marking the southern edge of the old town. This is the main transport hub in Aalborg.
-Railway Station A beautiful building dating from 1902.
-Kilde Park At the opposite side of the train station (take the underpass to reach it). Is the main park in the city.
The international airport is just few kilometres north of the city and easily linked to the centre via bus. Numbers 2, 12, 70, 71, 200 and night bus 22 take you to the centre for 22 DKK per way. This is by far the cheapest and very convenient option. Taxis will set the price dramatically high.
If coming overland, Aalborg is on the Copenhagen to Frederikshavn line calling at the major cities of Roskilde, Odense and Aarhus in between. The journey from the capital is 4 and a half, and the fare is 402 DKK . Trains within the area are easily available to Skagen, Fredrikshavn, Hirtshals and Hjørring. In the same way but with more frequencies and a bit cheaper you have buses criss-crossing the country, with similar travel times.
Once in the city, there is really zero need for taking any public transport to move around other than the bus from the airport if that’s where you are arriving from. Distances are very short with the old town core being pedestrian friendly at many streets.
In Denmark, no matter which city you are (and same applies to any country in Scandinavia region), the cost of a hotel night is way over the standard, and can result is a seriously expensive business. Sometimes finding such a great flight deals then turns into an expensive weekend counting with the accommodation, restaurants and drinks. As usual the most reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers. Then, if your budget is still not met, there is a good selection of properties through airb&b and the likes of course.
We stayed at the Milling Hotel Gestus, in Vesterbro 36-38, right by the city centre hence could not be a better location, in the middle of everything. It turned to be a really nice hotel, very well care, clean and comfortable with outstanding service from every member of staff. The room nicely decorated and quiet, and a great breakfast included, while the entire afternoon they provide some danish pastries, snacks and drinks (coffee, tea, chocolate) for free in the lobby. These drinks are anyway, provided 24 hours in the lobby, and are all complimentary which is a nice plus. We could not have asked for more, only sad we were here for just a night.