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Aalborg – a cozy little big city

Aalborg’s industrial heritage is a key element in its identity as an experience city – from the concrete in Musikkens Hus to the street art on old factory buildings and cruise ships on the waterfront. Aalborg never stands still and never forgets its past. 

A working and university city

Aalborg is a city full of contrasts. A working city that mainly feeds on research work. From cigars to satellites, from liquor to cyberspace, from shipbuilding to renewable energy sources. The past and the future live in perfect harmony in Aalborg.

The Aalborgian work culture was born of coal and steel but, today, “the city of smoking chimneys”, which Aalborg had become known as in the 1950s, is one of the world’s innovation hubs for the modern creative industries. It is a fabulous phoenix-story which, among other things, is presented at Aalborg Historical Museum.

This is especially reflected in the city’s architecture, where select structural elements from the city’s industrial era have been preserved and have been integrated into modern constructions for residential, office and retail purposes. One of the best examples of this is the Nordkraft power plant, which lent its name to Jakob Ejersbo’s well-known Aalborg novel. With utmost respect for the building’s cultural heritage, today, Nordkraft is a multi-cultural center for venues, restaurants, sports and club activities, education etc.

A young, historic city

Some cities are huge, vibrant metropolises. Others are small, quaint villages. And then there is Aalborg, which – just like in the fairy tale about Goldilocks – is just the right size. One would think that the Limfjord was some kind of fountain of youth, because Aalborg’s demography is becoming younger and younger. The 17 – 24-year-olds are the population group that is growing like wildfire in the fast-growing city, which is also very internationalized. This greatly influences the atmosphere and the experiences this city has to offer, where the restaurant scene, the venues and the nightlife are steadily growing in scope and diversity and is one of the many examples of how Aalborg is forever changing.

A bustling, easily accessible city

Aalborg is a great place to get around by bike. A bike is usually the fastest way to get around during rush hour. For example, you can use one of the many city bikes available at central locations and that can be easily reached and rented via an app. With everything within a few kilometers of each other, the city has a clear and well-thought out layout that easily takes you through the cycle paths or by public transport around the city. This way, you can give yourself time to soak up the atmosphere in some of Aalborg’s most eventful neighborhoods and areas:

Vestbyen: The old town, where the young people live

An obvious stop along the way is Vestbyen, with a real metropolis feel and recreational areas such as Vestre Bådehavn and Skudehavnen, Vestre Fjordpark as well as Aalborg Stadium and Væddeløbsbanen (Racecourse) all centrally located. Here you will also find the Cloud City quarter, where a huge urban development project is underway at the site, which previously housed the Danish Distillers. The points of interest Springeren and the Defense and Garrison Museum are also located in Vestbyen and provide a unique insight into Denmark’s maritime history.

The Limfjord: Connects the north and the south

The iconic Limfjord Bridge connects Aalborg with its sister city Nørresundby, and like real sisters, the two cities have a loving connection to each other characterized by rivalry and slight teasing. The Limfjord Bridge was inaugurated amid great attention from Prime Minister Stauning in 1933 and was an example of the finest engineering of the time. The bridge, which is a folding bridge, is known locally as the best excuse for arriving late to something, as the “bridge was up”.

Since 2017, pedestrians and cyclists have also been able to cross the Limfjord via the “Culture Bridge”, an extension to the railway bridge from 1928. The connection runs from Vestbyen to Nørresundby.

If you take the trip across one of the bridges to Nørresundby, you might want to take this opportunity to experience the largest Viking burial site in the Nordic region, with its museum, Lindholm Høje, where the Iron Age and the Viking Age will spark your interest. Every year, in the last weekend in June, the Viking Age springs to life again when the Viking market takes over the ancient burial site.

In the middle of the Limfjord is also the island of Egholm, where hiking trails provide access to unique bird, animal and plant life, and where salt marshes and forests allow you to actively experience outdoor living right in the heart of the city. Spot a harbor seal or watch whooper swans, goosander and great cormorants and enjoy the many nature experiences the island has to offer.

The Center: A modern medieval town

All throughout Aalborg’s historic city center you’ll find relics from the past, which all play a part in the modern city atmosphere. The beautiful Budolfi Church, Denmark’s smallest cathedral, is worth a visit. The church is closely associated with the Aalborg Monastery, which is hidden just behind the lively cafés on C.W. Obels Plads. It has been here since 1431 and includes a small monastery church and a small number of living quarters. You can visit the monastery on guided tours during the summer season or in groups, by booking.

Nearby you’ll find Hjelmerstald, one of Aalborg’s oldest and quaintest small streets. Here, just behind the shopping street are a row of old houses from the end of the 17th century.

Most unusually, the Franciscan Monastery Museum can be accessed via an elevator on the shopping street Algade. The Franciscan Monastery Museum is located three meters below ground of one of the busiest shopping streets. The story of the monastery, which was in this exact same spot from the 1240s to 1530, is told here. It was here that Aalborg as a city originated, and the museum therefore also tells about the marketplace that was located in the same place in the early 900s. At the museum, you can experience the ruins of the monastery along with skeletons from the cemeteries and many fragile finds from the Viking Age and medieval Aalborg.

One of the most distinguished experiences from Aalborg’s past is Jens Bang’s House, a very beautiful Renaissance house from 1624, with its staggering five floors. Jens Bang was an extremely well off merchant, and the house is believed to have served a dual role, since the posh house was to manifest Jens Bang’s wealth and influence, and together with the city’s church towers, for many years the house constituted Aalborg’s “skyline”. In the basement of Jens Bang’s House you will find Duus Vinkjælder (Duus’ Wine Cellar), where you can enjoy a beer or other refreshments in historical and cozy surroundings.

Vestre Fjordpark

Limfjorden: Forbinder nord og syd

Den ikoniske Limfjordsbro forbinder Aalborg med lillesøsterbyen Nørresundby, og som ægte søstre har de to byer en kærlig forbindelse til hinanden præget af rivalisering og smådrillerier. Limfjordsbroen blev indviet under stor bevågenhed af statsminister Stauning i 1933 og var et eksempel på datidens fineste ingeniørkunst. Broen, som er en foldebro, er lokalt kendt som den bedste undskyldning for at møde for sent til noget, idet ”broen var oppe”.

Siden 2017 har gående og cyklister også kunnet krydse Limfjorden via ”Kulturbroen”, en tilbygning til jernbanebroen fra 1928. Forbindelsen går fra Vestbyen til Nørresundby.

Tager man turen over en af broerne til Nørresundby, kan man passende benytte lejligheden til at opleve vikingecenteret Lindholm Høje, hvor jernalder og vikingetid bliver nærværende for alle sanserne. Den sidste weekend i juni vækkes vikingetiden hvert år til live igen, når vikingemarkedet flytter ind på den ældgamle gravplads.

Midt i Limfjorden ligger også øen Egholm, hvor vandreruter giver adgang til et unikt fugle-, dyre- og planteliv, og hvor strandenge og skove giver mulighed for et aktivt friluftsliv nærmest lige midt i byen. Spot en spættet sæl eller se på sangsvaner, skalleslugere og skarver og nyd de mange naturoplevelsestilbud på øen.

Centrum: En moderne middelalderby

Overalt i Aalborgs historiske bymidte finder man levn fra fortiden, som spiller op til den moderne storbystemning. Den smukke Budolfi Kirke, Danmarks mindste domkirke, er bl.a. et besøg værd. Kirken hører tæt sammen med Aalborg Kloster, som gemmer sig lige bag det livlige caféliv på C.W. Obels Plads. Her har det ligget siden 1431 og rummer bl.a. en lille klosterkirke og et mindre antal boliger. Der er adgang til klosteret på guidede ture i sommerperioden eller for grupper efter aftale.

Lige i nærheden finder man Hjelmerstald, en af Aalborgs ældste og hyggeligste små gader. Her, lige bag strøget, ligger en række gamle huse fra slutningen af 1600-tallet.

Som noget helt usædvanligt kan Gråbrødre Kloster besøges via en elevator i gågaden Algade. Gråbrødre Kloster Museet er et underjordisk museum, der ligger tre meter under den travle gågade. Her fortælles historien om klosteret, der lå præcis på dette sted fra 1240’erne til 1530. Det var her, Aalborg som by opstod, og museet fortæller derfor også om den markedsplads, der lå på samme sted i begyndelsen af 900-tallet. På museet kan ruinerne af klosteret opleves sammen med skeletter fra kirkegårdene og mange fine fund fra vikingetidens og middelalderens Aalborg.

En af de fineste oplevelser fra Aalborgs fortid er Jens Bangs Stenhus, et meget smukt renæssancehus fra 1624 i dengang svimlende fem etager. Jens Bang var en stenrig købmand, og huset menes at have tjent en dobbelt funktion, idet det fornemme hus skulle manifestere Jens Bangs rigdom og indflydelse, og sammen med byens kirketårne udgjorde huset i mange år Aalborgs ”skyline”. I kælderen af Jens Bangs Stenhus finder man Duus’ Vinkjælder, hvor man i historiske og hyggelige omgivelser kan nyde en øl eller andre forfriskninger.