Aarhus Story

Aarhus Story
The Ranger locomotive manufactured by Frichs Fabrikker in Aarhus is key to the story of the city's industrialisation

Aarhus Story is an underground time travel through 1200 years of history, where citizens of Aarhus, their guests and tourists of the city can get an overview of the history and also an understanding of the special features that have made Aarhus the city it is today.

Aarhus Story shows the city's chronological development - the Viking Age settlement, the medieval market town, when Aarhus expanded and blew the framework during the industrialization and culminating in the last 60 years of growth in all areas.

Aarhus Story tells the story in many ways. From accurate models to selected key items from cinematic effects to sounds and smells, from engravings to photos and movies and interactive games.

Once in the foyer, head for the lift. Once you are inside and the door closes, you are taken on a cinematic journey back through the ages.

The exhibition is made possible through donations from The Salling Foundations. 

Aarhus Story
The chronological story of Aarhus begins in the Viking age. You visit Aros as the city was called at the time.

Vikings’ Town 800-1100

Leaving the lift, you enter the Viking town of Aros. The name ‘Aros’ means ‘the mouth of the river’. A sensory urban environment greets you with houses, a well and a plank-road. The urban environment was created using authentic materials and historically accurate construction techniques.

The museum’s carpenters constructed the plank-road, on which visitors walk, in exactly they same way as they did 1,000 years ago, using split oak shaped with an axe.

Chickens and pigs are part of the Viking town
Get closer to the Vikings and their lives

Bishops’ Town 1100-1550

Two models of Aarhus as the city looked in 1200 and 1500 are the first features you encounter in the Middle Ages section. You then enter a whitewashed chapel with vaults and frescoes. This forms the setting for the story of Aarhus in the Middle Ages. Den Gamle By’s bricklayers constructed this subterranean chapel using medieval bricks, which were then whitewashed 17 times to achieve the right surface for painting frescoes on.

In the Middle Ages, Aarhus became a cathedral city, and the Catholic Church and its bishops played a crucial role for both the city and the entire area of East Jutland.

The altarpiece screens a cartoon film about Bishop Jens Iversen Lange who was a powerful figure in Aarhus in the 15th century (English subtitles)
The decoration in the church room

Townspeople 1550-1850

Following the Reformation in 1536, the dominance of the Catholic Church fizzled out. Instead, the merchant class gained power in the provincial market town of Aarhus, where trade and craftsmanship played a major role.

Aarhus did not develop very much during these years. The board fences surrounding the town limited any physical expansion, and plague epidemics and war brought development to a halt right up until the 19th century.

Aarhus Story
Stories from the market-town period are told by the Thestrup family, merchants who lived in Aarhus in the 17th century (English subtitles)
Aarhus Story
The oldest extant painting of Aarhus, which dates from about 1640

Growth 1850-1950

From the mid-19th century the development of Aarhus really took off.

By the 1880s it was already the second-largest city in Denmark with the railway and the harbour paving the way for new industry and a tremendous growth in population.

Aarhus Story
In the small cinema a film about Aarhus is playing (English subtitles)
Aarhus Story
On the side of the ship there is a unique series of pictures of life in the harbour at the time

Occupied 1940-1945

In a narrow, dark street with closed-off shop fronts and with the sound of explosions and shooting in the background you can experience the story of the German occupation of Aarhus during World War II. From mid-1944 the Germans and the resistance movement engaged in bloody duels, and fierce bombings and shoot-outs were common-place in the city’s streets.

Despite occupation and chaos, everyday life still went on, though adapted to rationing and a shortage of goods.

The name of the city

Aarhus was originally called ‘Aros’, which means ‘the mouth of the river’. It was here, at the mouth of the river, that the city was founded in the Viking Age. The oldest known mention of the city can be found in a written source dating from 948. On King Hardeknud’s coins from the 11th century, the city is called ‘Arosii’. It gradually evolved into ‘Arus’, ‘Aarus’ and ‘Aars’. Following the Reformation, these names were replaced, first by ‘Arhus’ and then by Aarhus.

Big City? 1950-

The first thing you encounter in this section is a large aerial photo of modern Aarhus. Aarhus in recent memory is divided into zones, which encourage you to explore. In the large, 20-foot container, you can delve into stories about the city’s harbour.

Aarhus Story
A large aerial photo of modern Aarhus
Aarhus Story
In the large, 20-foot container, you can delve into stories about the city’s harbour

In the room in the university hall of residence you can learn about Aarhus as a university and student city, while the sports section features the city’s many different sports and successes. There are stories about everyday and working life and about citizen-driven protest movements, and stories about Aarhus as a city of culture and success stories that started life here.

Aarhus Story
In the room in the university hall of residence you can learn about Aarhus as a university and student city
Aarhus Story
In the Big City? 1950- section you can have a go at cycling various routes through Aarhus on a city bike in the exhibition