A Look at What Life Was Like in Denmark
Step Back in Time at the Old City Museum
As an American growing up on the west coast of the United States, moving to Europe is like living in history every day. Especially in a country like Denmark, where their iconic red and white flag has been waving here for over a thousand years. That is a long time. And a lot of history. Want to learn more about how the Danes lived hundreds of years ago? Step inside the brilliantly recreated open-air museum known as Den Gamle By in Aarhus. Den Gamle By is Danish for the old city. Here you can take a walk back through time.
75 historical buildings from all across Denmark have been repositioned here in Aarhus. These are not replicas. They are the real deal. Step inside each building and see how people lived and worked in days of yore. Founded in 1909, the museum was the first of it’s kind in the world. Now, under the patronage of Denmark’s current reigning Queen Margrethe II, it is a bustling microcosm of Danish history and culture. Stroll with me and see a slice of what Danish life was like. Back in the day.
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Pre-1900’s | Danish Life in the Time of Hans Christian Andersen
Walk the cobblestoned streets amidst half-timbered houses and conjure a time when Danish fairytale master, Hans Christian Andersen would be creating such classics as The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Snow Queen and The Ugly Duckling. Houses and structures here have a history as far back as the 1550’s, although the bulk were built in the 1800’s when H.C. himself would have been alive.
Most of the homes and buildings are open and welcome you to wander through. Full of period pieces, it is easy to picture what life would have been like. Although, we noticed that the doors all seemed so tiny and the beds very, very small. My family certainly wouldn’t fit in a flat from the mid-1500’s.
Many of the workshops are staffed with volunteers in authentic dress who demonstrate historic techniques, tools and trades. Here you can meet the baker, the blacksmith and the candlestick maker. Don’t miss fresh bread and sweets from the bakery on this alley. Just like a Danish oldemor (great-grandmother) would have baked. Kransekage, citronkage, vaniljekranse and sukker kringle were all simple and tasty and worth the wait.
1920’s | Denmark Does Industrialization
Transition from the narrow alleys of the 1800’s into buildings of the modern era where sidewalks are lit under electric lamps. Meet the shopkeepers serving an increasingly urban and educated population. Talk to the telephone operator who connected your calls. Buy scented soaps, mass printed books and ironware for your 1920’s kitchen.
While most Danes rode bicycles, industrialization in Denmark also brought motorized vehicles to the streets. As a family who moved many times for jobs with Ford Motor Company, it was sentimental for us to see Carl Christiansens’ Ford Dealership in this section. As it turns out, in 1927, one in every two cars on the road in Denmark was a Ford Model T.
1970’s | Get Down Get Down and Discover Denmark in 1974
As a child of the 70’s, this was my absolute favorite part of Den Gamle By. Like a tiny tour of my youth from another country. The same. But different. And so darn authentic. Cigarette butts crushed out in an ashtray on the desk. Plaid upholstery. Avocado colored appliances. Classic cars.
Don’t miss Den Frie Købmand corner market shop with shelves stocked chock full of goods straight out of decades gone by. And next door, sit down in the salon and try the snap worthy mirror that gives you virtual hairdo’s of the day. Hilarious. My daughter deemed not one of the styles worthy of a comeback.
Fun for Kids in Any Generation
Ask my tween, almost teen daughter her favorite part of Den Gamle By? Besides the virtual Danish hair stylist from 1974? Definitely the festpladsen. The fairground. Full of 19th-century games and rides to try plus picnic tables nearby, it is a perfect spot to lunch or simply pause to let the kids play. Tiny tots will love the little mechanized swing carousel just for them. Bigger kids (and their kidlike adults) can swing to the skies in old-school boats meant to fly. Knock down wood pins, metal cans and toss rings in the carnival games. Or try your hand at toddling on wooden stilts. Not as easy at it looks, it turns out! Bonus points that everything is free for all to try.
Planning Your Outing to Den Gamle By Open Air Museum
Viborgvej 2, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Tel: (+ 45) 86 12 31 88
Opening Hours 2018
Den Gamle By is open 365 days a year, with varying hours by season.
Jan 2 – Feb 9 | 10.00 – 15.00
Feb 10 – Mar 23 | 10.00 – 16.00
Mar 24 – Jun 29 | 10.00 – 17.00
Jun 30 – Sep 9 | 10.00 – 18.00
Sep 10 – Nov 16 | 10.00 – 17.00
Nov 18 – Nov 29 | Monday – Friday 10.00 – 17.00
Nov 18 – Nov 29 | Weekends 10.00 – 18.00
Nov 30 – Dec 22 | Fridays 10.00 – 20.00
Dec 1 – Dec 22 | Monday – Thursday 10.00 – 17.00
Dec 1 – Dec 22 | Weekends 10.00 – 18.00
Dec 23 | 10.00 – 17.00
Dec 24 | Christmas 10.00 – 15.00
Dec 25 – Dec 30 | Every day 10.00 – 17.00
Dec 31 | New Year’s Eve 10.00 – 15.00
Free admission for children age 0-17
Low Season Jan 1 – Mar 31 2019
Adults DKK 110
Students DKK 55
Groups (Minimum 20 adults) DKK 90
High Season March 24 – December 31, 2018
Adults DKK 135
Students DKK 70
Groups (Minimum 20 adults) DKK 110
We loved visiting the museum during our Efterårsferie, or fall break. The leaves turning colors in tune with the old buildings. The clap and clop of horse-drawn carriages over cobblestones and crunching leaves compound the charm.But, if an old-fashioned Christmas is your cup of tea, then make use of extended hours and visit when the old city is bedecked in baubles and trees and lit up with lanterns. Extra stalls selling seasonal delicacies and goods will be set up in the squares. Sounds especially quaint.
WANT TO EXPLORE MORE OF JUTLAND, DENMARK?
LEARN MORE ABOUT HISTORIC DENMARK?
- Learn About Viking Life at the Trelleborg Museum | Slagelse, Denmark
- So You Want to be a Viking
- Day Out in Denmark | Explore the Fredensborg Palace Gardens