Easily the largest and most varied of all Danish regions, central Jutland encompasses dramatically different features, from the calm beaches of the sheltered east coast to the wild and woolly west coast, battered by North Sea winds. Lying in between, offering visual stimulation among the flatness, are the rolling hills and forests of the Lake District. The real beauty of this region is that you can skip between themes depending on your mood. Fancy world-class art and top-notch restaurants? Aarhus, Jutland’s main city and Denmark’s second-largest metropolis, can provide. How about Viking history? Set sail for Hobro. Religious history? Off to Jelling. Want to explore the great outdoors? Head for Rold Skov or Silkeborg. Care to tackle nature’s forces? Let loose on the waters of Hvide Sande. And OK, you’ve suppressed that inner child long enough – make a beeline for plastic-fantastic Legoland, and beware the accompanying pangs of childhood nostalgia.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Denmark’s second city and Jutland’s main urban center, Århus has a thriving culture scene, with a major art museum, ARoS, and an annual summer arts festival, Aarhus Festuge. Århus divides clearly into two parts. The old town is a cluster of medieval streets with several fine churches. Den Gamle By, the city’s open-air museum, consists of 60 or so half-timbered houses and a watermill, transported from locations all over Jutland and carefully reconstructed. In the modern part of the city, the controversial Rådhus (City Hall) was built by Arne Jakobsen and Erik Møller in 1941. Its coating of pale Norwegian marble still provokes differing opinions to this day.
Ebeltoft has all the ingredients you need for a summer getaway. Cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered houses, white-sand beaches, and a classic warship attract large numbers of ice-cream-eating holidaymakers. The tourist office, Fregatten Jylland, and the harbor are along Strandvejen. From the harbor walk a block east on Jernbanegade to reach Adelgade, the main shopping street. Torvet, the town square, is at the southern end of Adelgade.
A purpose-built harbor complete with (captive) sharks, a historic old town of fine, sandy beaches is the defining attractions of Grenaa. The old town, radiating out from Torvet, is the economic and shopping hub of the district. It’s about 3km west of the harbor, where the waterfront is peopled by shark fanciers and Sweden-bound ferry-goers.
In a flat country, the modern town of Silkeborg is something of a black sheep, surrounded as it is by hills, sitting on an expansive lake and spaciously laid out. Modern-art lovers and history boffins will find cause to stop here, but nature lovers have the most to celebrate. It’s Silkeborg’s surrounding landscapes that draw tourists – not thrill-seekers but rather families and outdoorsy folk drawn to the lush forests and waterways that are perfect for cycling, rambling, and, especially, canoeing.
Mellow, more-rural Ry lies in the heart of the Lake District. It has a pretty duck filled marina, where you’ll find tourist boats to Himmelbjerget and nearby canoe hire. It’s surrounded by lovely landscapes and quaint villages perfect for exploring.
There’s something quite endearing about a country that names one of its highest points Himmelbjerget (meaning ‘sky mountain’), especially when that peak only hits 180 feet. It’s a mere hillock to non-Danes, but it does afford charming vistas of the surrounding forests and lakes and is a popular tourist spot, complete with icecream kiosks and souvenir stalls ringing the car park. It costs Dkr10 to park your vehicle. Once you’ve completed the brief pilgrimage from the car park to the mountaintop, you could climb the 80ft tower (another Dkr10), but the view from outside the tower is just as panoramic. There are a number of memorials in the vicinity, plus marked hiking trails.
A sleepy town with a big history, Jelling is revered as the birthplace of Christianity in Denmark, the monarchy, and all that is truly Danish. The town served as the royal seat of King Gorm during the Vikings’ most dominant era; Gorm the Old was the first in a millennium-long chain of Danish monarchs that continues unbroken to this day. The site of Gorm’s ancient castle remains a mystery, but other vestiges of his reign can still be found at Jelling Kirke. The town is a kind of spiritual touchstone for the Danes, Virtually all of them will visit at some point, to pay homage at the church, inspect the two rune stones and climb the burial mounds. The area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
If you’re in need of a fun family distraction, the place to go is the Givskud Zoo. It’s an entertaining safari park with plenty of African animals, and you can explore certain areas from the comfort of your own car or in the park-run safari buses (Dkr30). Walking trails take you past elephant and gorilla enclosures; for the smaller kids, there’s a petting zoo.
The Legoland Billund theme park celebrates the tiny plastic blocks that have become a household name worldwide. The park opened in 1968, and more than 45 million Lego bricks were used in its construction. Aimed primarily at 3–13-year-olds, Legoland is divided into different zones. As well as Lego sculptures of animals, buildings, and landscapes, there are many rides and stage shows. Highlights include Miniland, a collection of miniature Lego towns that represent places around the world, and a driving track where children can take a safety test in a Lego car.
Randers’ appeal lies predominantly in its most flaunted attraction – a triple domed zoo that mesmerizes families and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Industrial pursuits are still the heartbeat of the city but there’s also history and culture if you know where to look.
Rich in religious history and bordering two idyllic lakes, Viborg is a sweetly romantic getaway. During its holiest period (just prior to the Reformation), 25 churches lined the streets. Nowadays, only two can be found in the town center.
Hvide Sande (meaning ‘white sands’) owes its existence to the wind. The wind caused the sand migration that forced the construction of a lock here in 1931 to assure a North Sea passage for the port of Ringkøbing. And wind continues to be the big drawcard for the large number of tourists who come here to windsurf. Aside from the wind, it’s all about the fish. Hvide Sande has a busy deep-sea fishing harbor, with trawlers, fish-processing factories, and an early-morning fish auction. There’s also a small fishing museum/aquarium adjacent to the tourist office. Ask at the tourist office about fishing trips with local anglers, and the fish auctions (held weekly in summer for tourists).