The past 12 months or so have seen Denmark's second city drawing the attention and accolades of the global press, from Lonely Planet naming it the second best place to visit in Europe to glowing references in British newspapers The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent, which dubbed it “Denmark's new capital of cool”. Then there was the feature article in the New York Times' travel supplement Travel and Leisure calling the city the “whirring mind” of Danish culture.
But while the world slowly woke up to Aarhus's charms last year, this year should see the city take up an even bigger place in the international spotlight.
See also: Why Aarhus is worthy of all the hype
On Saturday, Aarhus officially kicks off its year as the European Capital of Culture (a designation it actually shares with Paphos, Cyprus), promising a 2017 that is jam-packed with more than 350 cultural events.
At an autumn event previewing the Capital of Culture events, Aarhus Mayor Jacob Bundsgaard told The Local that he expected five million visitors to pass through the city through the course of the year.
“This is one of the most ambitious cultural projects ever in Denmark,” he said.
Under under the theme “Let's Rethink”, organizers have put together a list of cultural offerings so long that the programme distributed to international media including The Local was a whopping 484 pages long. To be fair, it's not just Aarhus. The events are actually spread out across 19 municipalities in the Central Denmark Region.
The lineup includes four so-called ‘mega events' like the Royal Danish Theatre and Moesgaard Museuem's collaboration on the Viking saga ‘Røde Orm', which organizers say “will be one of the biggest outdoor performances ever staged in Denmark”, and the expansive art festival 'The Garden', which will spread throughout the whole city.
Starting on Saturday, there will be things to do and see pretty much every day throughout the rest of the year, ranging from visual arts exhibitions to opera and theatre performances and a number of debates and discussions.
For those who might find the offerings a tad highbrow, Aarhus is also flexing its muscles as a music destination. The city's NorthSide festival pulled off an amazing booking coup in the form of Radiohead's first Danish appearance in eight years. The festival will take place June 9-11 and even though only about half of the acts have been announced, the lineup already boasts R&B sensation Frank Ocean and hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, to name just a few, cementing it as a worthy competitor to the much more established Roskilde Festival.
There is also a special focus on youngsters. Aarhus 2017 will be the first ever European Capital of Culture to kick things off with a special opening ceremony just for kids.
With everything going on in Aarhus this year it's no wonder that none other than Queen Margrethe herself recently asserted that the city in which she spent a large part of her youth is now firmly established on the international map.
“Within the past few years Aarhus has truly become a big city. Copenhagen is no longer alone. There is no longer talk of Denmark having just one single city – now there are two,” she told Jyllands-Posten in a recent interview.
More about the Aarhus 2017 European Capital of Culture events can be found here.