A cultural feast down by Aalborg's waterfront

A new concert hall crowns this Danish delight's regenerated shoreline, says
James Litston

Denmark may be synonymous with Vikings, designer homewares and
buttery breakfast pastries, but it's very much a cultural hotspot,
too. This weekend, the country's artistic landscape gains the House
of Music (00 45 60 20 30 00; musikkenshus.dk), which opened
yesterday in the northern city of Aalborg, at Musikkens Plads 1.
This extraordinary building – the centrepiece of Aalborg's
regenerated waterfront – is sure to put the city firmly on the
cultural calendar.

A 13-day extravaganza of concerts, performances, fireworks and film follows the launch, after which the House of Music hosts a varied schedule headlined by the renowned Aalborg Symphony Orchestra.

After a quick nose around the impressive atrium, exit on to the waterfront piazza and cast your eyes right. This was once Aalborg's industrial heart, but its shipyards and heavy industries had mostly died out by the 1980s. Thus began the waterfront's transformation into a cultural quarter. An earlier phase of this redevelopment stands on the House of Music's landward side. Formerly a power station, Nordkraft (nordkraft.dk) opened in 2009 as a cultural complex offering theatre, cinema, music and sport. There's lots to experience here, but for now, turn left along the promenade and head towards the bridge.

The waterway you're walking along – the Limfjord – separates northernmost Denmark from the rest of the Jutland peninsula. Long ago, this was a highway for Viking longboats. Aalborg's roots hail from this era; it was first settled, here at the Limfjord's narrowest point, around AD700.

Today, Aalborg's biggest business is its university – and the residential buildings you're passing must be Europe's fanciest student digs. Just past these lies another piece of impressive architecture at the Utzon Center (00 45 7690 5000; utzoncenter.dk; entry Dkr60/£7; closed Mondays). If the sail-topped structure calls to mind another, more famous building, that's because both this and the Sydney Opera House were designed by celebrated architect and Aalborg native, Jorn Utzon.

It's no coincidence that the Utzon Center occupies this spot. Jorn Utzon's father worked at the shipyards that stood nearby, and the future architect was heavily influenced by his childhood scenery. The soaring, aluminium rooftop sails are clear nautical references, while from within, these same structures, clad in curving pine slats, suggest the contours of a ship's prow.

Opened in 2008, this was Utzon's final structure (he died that same year). Inside, the exhibition space includes a permanent display of his technical sketches for the Opera House. There's also a gift shop selling Danish design classics such as Hans Bolling's wooden ducks and model architectural icons in another classic Danish product: Lego.

The on-site café makes a handy lunchtime pit-stop. Order the smorrebrod – open-topped, rye-bread sandwiches with traditional toppings such as egg, lobster or pickled herring (around £10 each) – and enjoy the waterfront views.

Things get more historic beyond the Utzon Centre. Continuing along the promenade, notice the white, half-timbered building to your left, across the street. This is Aalborghus Slot (Aalborg Castle), a 16th-century governor's residence that's now the local tax office. At the traffic lights, cross the road and pause at the grand façade of Jyske Bank. Built in 1902 as the Royal Tax House, its mix of Neoclassical, Modernist and Renaissance styles is typical of the National Romantic movement sweeping Scandinavia at that time.

From here, walk away from the water and up Osteragade. Aalborg is known for its many historic merchants' mansions and some of the best examples can be found along this street.

Turn into the pretty, cobbled square on your next right and climb the steps towards the Baroque bell tower of Aalborg Cathedral (aalborgdomkirke.dk). Peek through heavy wooden doors to admire the beautifully maintained interior and the vestibule's painted, vaulted ceilings. Then exit and head right, along Algade.

If you're not yet done with sightseeing, pop into the Aalborg Historical Museum at Algade 48 (nordmus.dk; admission DKr30/£3.50, free on Tuesdays) to further explore the city's past. Otherwise, turn right on to Gravens-gade and right again on to Bispensgade. Resist the boutiques that line these shopping streets and continue to the next left, Jomfru Ane Gade. Home to Scandinavia's densest conglomeration of pubs and bars, Jomfru Ane Gade is Aalborg's nightlife hub. It's pleasantly low-key by day, so pick a pub, take a seat and order a local schnapps or microbrew ale. Then raise a glass to congratulate yourself: you've just ticked off the best of Aalborg on this pleasant, waterfront stroll.

Fresh cuts

One of Aalborg's newest cafés, Abbey Road (00 45 9811 4243; abbeyroadcafe.dk) opened last summer, serving coffees, cakes, salads and sandwiches in a quirky, bohemian setting. Also new last summer, Hotel Jomfru Ane (00 45 9810 2200; hoteljomfruane.dk) is a 35-room, boutique-style property set among the bars and café culture of Jomfru Ane Gade. Rooms are simple, comfortable and modern and cost from DKr695 (£82), including Wi-Fi, a hearty buffet breakfast and free tea/coffee in the lobby. Given its location on Aalborg's rowdiest street, it's much quieter than you might expect.

Getting there

James Litston travelled as a guest of Norwegian (0843 3780 888; norwegian.com) which flies daily (except Saturdays) from Gatwick to Aalborg. Return fares start from £60.

Staying there

First Hotel Aalborg (00 45 9810 1400; firsthotels.com) is a budget property close to the House of Music, with doubles from DKr696 (£77), including breakfast.

Go guided

A self-guided Aalborg Beerwalk takes in five of the city's best pubs and a brewery. Costing DKr100 (£12), it includes detailed directions, a souvenir beer glass and vouchers for sampling at each stop. Available from tourist information centres and outlets across town.

More information

visitaalborg.com

visitdenmark.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future