If you were to stop off in the Danish city of Aarhus without doing any research, you would be forgiven for thinking it is not much more than a small harbour side town. But only a short walk or bike ride from the city centre you will find beautiful forests and beaches, perfect for a little peace and tranquillity. No wonder it is claimed to be Denmark’s happiest city.
On our two night visit to Aarhus, my boyfriend and I decided to spend the best part of our one full day away from the museums and other cultural offerings (which I’ll get back to in another post) to simply enjoy the summer air on a long walk along the coast.
Walking trails in Aarhus
Prior to the trip, I’d done some research on where to go walking. There are numerous areas and beaches one can visit. The best source I found was visitAarhus, which gives information on different areas, however the majority of detailed route information is only available in Danish. There is a link to the initiative ‘Sunbeams over Aarhus’ which gives a summary in English of seven main routes connecting the city to the surrounding area which can be found here.
I used ‘The Coastal Route’ through the Marselisborg forest as a rough guide for our walk. As it is mainly designed for cyclists, it is quite long and follows cycle paths. But as we discovered, there are separate paths making it easily accessible for pedestrians too. We used the help of Google Maps now and again during the walk to check our location, but following the steps below you could easily manage without it. Even if you are prone to getting lost, the walk heads in one direction, so you know that going the other way will lead you back to the city!
Although the original route is a round trip, the good thing for walkers is that you can finish the walk at Moesgård Museum, where a regular bus service runs back to the city. You will probably want to take up this option if you go.
Our coastal walk through Marselisborg forest
- Length: 11km
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Skill level: Easy (if you’re not used to long walks, your legs will probably get tired. But this is the perfect route to take at your own pace, as you can stop off and walk down to the beach for a break at regular intervals).
Our walk took us along the coastline, heading south of the city. We started in Aarhus central station where we picked up some food and drinks to take with us from 7Eleven (once in the forest there aren’t many opportunities to buy snacks, so take a lunch or picnic with you). We then cut through to the other side of the station (which turns into a shopping mall) and exited there.
Following your nose east, head down to the main road ‘Strandvejen‘ and follow this along. About 10 minutes on foot you will start to see the sea appearing on your left.
Here there is a large carpark, with a snack shop and small yacht harbour (called Marselisborg Lystbådehavn). Since we hadn’t eaten breakfast we sat and ate on a bench, looking out at this view:
Following the road down, you will see the entrance to the forested area, where a separate path runs from the main road.
Walking through the forest, you will see glimpses of the beach on your left through the trees, so you know you’re going the right way. In fact there’s not much chance of getting lost. Just follow the path south and enjoy the nature.
The first recommended point to stop is Marselisborg Dyrehavn (Marselisborg deer park). You should see the entrance to your right over the road as you are walking along the forest path. As we entered the park there were already a group of around ten deer milling around. The male looked straight at me and started walking towards me. After reading the warning signs about potentially ‘aggressive’ behaviour from males in certain seasons, I also started slowly walking away. Luckily a moment later, a family arrived with young children feeding the deer carrots, so I figured as an adult I was pretty safe to hang around.
We didn’t walk through the rest of the park, but if you wanted to spend more time here you could walk around and do some more deer spotting. We used the same exit to rejoin the path on our main route, but there may be another exit at the other side of the park.
Rejoining the path, we headed down to Ballehage Strand. This is a lovely little beach area with white sand, blue water and rocks, which are typical for this stretch of coast. The beach has a small promenade and changing area with toilets, making it an ideal spot for bathing. Although we were there in July, the wind made it a little too cold for that, but it was a pleasant place to sit and relax nonetheless.
We continued along the path through the forest, catching glimpses of the sea and beach through the trees. There are stairs and paths which lead down to the beach at different points, so you can stop off anywhere if you’re looking for something even more secluded.
At one point the path diverted inland slightly to move around a small gorge. Since the path is not sign posted, it becomes less clear which dirt path to follow, but following your nose it will eventually bring you back round towards the coast.
The path then runs past a caravan park (DCU camping Blommehaven). As we followed it along the outer fencing of the site, the path became narrower and more overgrown. But we were rewarded at the end with another small beach area, which guests to the camping grounds were also happily using.
From here, you will need to walk along the beach to rejoin the path, rather than walking into the caravan park which is private for guests staying there (although there may be an accessible path which cuts through too).
Rejoining the path we continued a little further before stopping for a break at another beach area.
As nice as the beach was, there were tons of Jellyfish which I had to try my best to avoid standing on. I have no idea if this is a seasonal thing, but be warned anyway. You can spot at least one in the photo:
We continued along the path and called off at our last beach stop.
We were trying to find The Beach Forest (Strandskoven), which we thought was further down. But continuing along the path it appeared we must have gone past it. So I’m not sure if our last beach stop WAS the Beach Forest, or part of it. But it was a nice spot nonetheless.
The area opened into a grassy plain with a car park. So from here we walked inland towards Moesgård museum. We had to follow the road along (which is signposted for the museum) as we couldn’t see a path. There were some unmarked paths along the way which led into the forest, but we only joined these once we were closer and knew they would indeed lead to the museum (and to avoid walking on a blind bend in the road). Although the road is quiet, be careful to walk on the correct side (against cars) and keep as far in as possible in case cars don’t see you and forget to slow down (mother safety lecture over).
Arriving at the museum we stopped for a coffee in the cafe before taking the bus back. We didn’t have time to visit the museum on this trip, as it is BIG and worth spending at least half a day in. But you can freely walk around the grounds.
The bus stop is signposted, with buses leaving every 15 minutes during the week and every 30 minutes on weekends. Times are given on the bus stop and they all run back to the city, so you can’t get on the wrong one. You pay on the machines on the bus. A single journey costs 20 DKR, or 10 DKR for children (as of July 2016) and they only accept coins. I didn’t see an English option on the machine, but it was a simple touch screen, where you first choose your ticket (single / 2 zone), ‘voksen’ (adult) or ‘barn’ (child), then put your money in and out comes the ticket! If you’re unsure, you can always let someone else go first and watch them. The journey back takes around 25 minutes.
All in all this was a pleasant relaxed way of seeing the nature around Aarhus. In hindsight it would have been nice to continue a little further down the coast to Moesgård beach, which is close to the area where the Viking Moot (Moesgård Vikingetræf) takes place. However this might be easier to access if you are walking or driving from the museum rather than via the route we took. We will surely go there next time, combined with a visit to the museum.