Walk the Streets of Danish History at Den Gamle By Museum in Aarhus

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.

1973 VW Beetle, only two years newer than my first bug


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

Ticket Cost:
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.





37 thoughts on “Walk the Streets of Danish History at Den Gamle By Museum in Aarhus

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      It was surprisingly fun. Sometimes historical museums can be a bit dry and dull – even for a history major! They have really done a great job of engaging visitors and making history come alive here.

  1. This is absolutely fantastic and I can’t believe I have never heard of it. We have something similarish in London called the Geffrye Museum. A big hello from London from a fellow American! Thanks for linking up with #CULTUREDKIDS, Erin.

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      It is a really well done authentic experience. If you make it to Aarhus, it’s a must do! Cheers from this Oregon Girl in Copenhagen!

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      They had another bakery in the 70’s section – but I liked the old fashioned 19th century one better! Ummmm.

  2. Denmark looks interesting, though it’s not been on my list of places I would like to travel, it may get added. I love history, so does hubby and when you travel outside the US, you realize history takes on a whole different feel.

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      You should definitely put Denmark on your list! A small accessible country with TONS of history from Vikings to modern day Royalty. AND a perfect jumping off point for exploring Scandinavia. Cheers from Copenhagen!

  3. bavariansojourn

    Denmark does this place so well. I lived up the road from the Frielandsmuseet in Lyngby and spent A LOT of time there! 😀 Thanks for joining in with #culturedkids

  4. This open air museum looks awesome. I think I could spend a lot of time here looking at how life progressed over the years / centuries. I wonder why things were so small in the 1500’s.

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      I seriously don’t know because I think of Danes as taller than average, so how could they have been so short then? I’d love to know!

  5. What an awesome outing! It looks like there is so much to do there, and the sights are so charming. I’m dying to return to Denmark! Pinning this so I can be sure not to miss it when I can finally return 🙂 Thanks for sharing! #farawayfiles

  6. This looks brilliant! I’ve taken my kids to a couple of open air museums, they are such a great way to engage children with history. My 4 year old has a habit of kicking things when he’s bored so museum visits can be a bit tricky, being outdoors is much safer! #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Haha! There is lots of plexiglass to keep little ones from doing any damage to historic artifacts here! And plenty of places to run off steam. Denmark is pretty accommodating to kids I’ve found!

  7. I would totally lose my mind here. It looks amazing! Meanwhile, I totally felt the same way as you when I moved from Australia to the UK. History was everywhere, and it was so beautiful. I’ll have to put Aarhus on my list and especial this museum. #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Aarhus has a great balance between feeling very old and very modern – helps that it is a University town! Cheers!

  8. Looks like a great museum, similar to the fab folklore museum in Oslo. I have never considered going to Aarhus and am ashamed to say that having visited Denmark 5 or 6 times for business & pleasure I have never ventured further than Copenhagen apart from taking the train up to Helsingor. I guess I should right this wrong? Wilbur. #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      So much to explore beyond Copenhagen! I think you would love Jutland – from Aarhus to Viking settlements to abandoned lighthouses to a wild west coast seashore – it is beautiful and different and delightful.

  9. This looks absolutely wonderful. I love the idea of being part of a museum. Such a an interesting idea and such a great way of learning and understanding history and previous generations. #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Yes – definitely more interesting way to learn about history than just seeing isolated artifacts in a room!

  10. What a great find! Immersive museum experiences are always a hit with kids. They learn so much more from experiencing the past than from just looking at it, like in a classic museum. The houses look like they come straight out of a storybook an those kransekage look delicious! #FarawayFiles

  11. Trish @ Mum's Gone To

    Avocado bathrooms! Wooden stilts! Like you, the 1970s experience would be a highlight for me.
    What is Aarhus like for a city break? I once read an article about it in a travel magazine and was curious.

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      I think it would be great – different vibe than Copenhagen and lots of nearby nature to explore! (Working on a post – stay tuned!)

  12. What a beautiful place! I love the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and would love to explore the places and era of his life. As you said, it’s amazing to an American to visit places with a history of more than a few hundred years. That’s one reason I want to keep returning to Europe. “Old” is the US is not really very old!

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      We do have VERY old in the US – indigenous sites are very amazing – places like Mesa Verde National Park where you can still see ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings – so epic. But the history in our modern American cities doesn’t feel “old” especially on the West Coast. It’s true.

  13. This museum sounds really interesting, fantastic that they have made it into a kind of village. Loved the classic cars, must have been great seeing the Ford Model T. #farawayfiles

  14. This is such a great idea, like a living breathing museum to Danish history. I love uncovering the history of a place when we travel and this looks like a great way to do it. You always have great idea of things to do in Denmark they don’t seem to be well known outside the country.

  15. What a wonderful way to get a taste of what life would have been like in different time periods. There’s nothing like immersing yourself in a place, and it looks like such a fun day out. You hardly realize its educational too! Your daughter looks thrilled with her new hairdo. ha ha! I agree with her that some things just shouldn’t come back. #farawayfiles

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