Morning was quieter. I got a coffee at La Cabra, a light-filled roastery worthy of Portland or New York City, and a pastry at Nummer 24, an organic bakery a few doors down. I visited ARoS, Aarhus’s flagship art museum, which has a huge collection of 19th- and 20th-centuryworks. In 2004, it added a building by Schmidt Hammer Lassen that’s topped with an iconic work by Denmark’s preeminent contemporary artist, Olafur Eliasson. Your Rainbow Panorama is a ring-shaped walkway cased in rainbow-hued glass that affords 36o-degree views of the city. With an hour to kill, I toured the nearby Aarhus Botanical Garden, newly renovated to include futuristic bio-dome greenhouses. The rainforest dome, filled with butterflies, duplicated the habitat down to the piranhas in a pond.
Not far away, Den Gamle By (‘The Old Town’) offered habitat creations of a different kind. Near the back of this reenactment village, mostly devoted to Aarhusian life in the pre- and early-industrial era, an array of storefronts re-created the year 1974. Had this been a particularly fine year for Denmark? I Googled it on my phone but found nothing. I started asking every reenactor I found. “I couldn’t tell you,” said the clerk in the 1974 record shop, which displays period hi-fi equipment and LPs. “Nothing special happened in 1974.” The woman in the 1974 grocery store was perplexed, too. In the 1974 reenactment apartment, which shows how normal Danes lived in 1974, the coffee-maker was mustard yellow.
A terrifying Grandpa mannequin made snoring noises on the couch. Whatever cause for national pride Aarhusians found in the age of macrame eluded me that day. (Later, I would learn that the year is economically significant to the Danes—it marked the beginning of more prosperous times.) But on that visit, it was raining, which is not exceptional—Aarhus has a coastal climate—so I went for tea at A C Perch’s, supplier to the Danish crown. By that point, I was hungry again.
People in Aarhus; they want to try something new every time they go out,” Soren Jakobsen, who cofounded the Michelin-starred restaurant Gastrome with William Jorgensen, told me. The two chefs decorated the romantically lit restaurant themselves. The tables, each bearing bouquets of local thistles, are pale oak and paired with Danish Modern chairs draped in animal skins. What Gastrome is trying is new in combination more than in substance: the restaurant shapes its menus through local sourcing but combines flavors in fresh ways.
At dinner, I enjoyed a late-summer gazpacho, prepared as a delicate sorbet, and heavenly northern-Danish langoustines with cauliflower and a brown-butter mousseline. Pre-dessert was an ingenious plum granita—a traditional Danish refreshment—with dill and Icelandic skyr.