Every period since the Middle Ages has left its own particular mark on Aalborg in Denmark. From the first many centuries there are still a number of awesome old buildings in various architectural styles preserved.
In recent times Aalborg has for decades been an industrial city in Denmark with cement plants, brickworks, shipyards, distilleries, foundries, as well as textile and tobacco factories. However, since the 1970s the city has undergone a development from an industrial city to a city prioritising culture (e.g. with an annual carnival), education, knowledge and science, in several cases making new use of former industrial buildings.
Today, a walk through Aalborg city will within a small radius reveal all the different sides of its exciting past: medieval architecture, facades in Algade dating from Christian IV’s time, 18th-century and 19th-century houses, later industrial buildings, modern street art and artwork in the cityscape, as well as everything in between – all easily reachable on foot!
Walk around the old Aalborg Monastery and allow yourself to take in the atmosphere of the past. It is a lovely place!
Aalborg Monastery, or the Hospital of the Holy Ghost (‘Helligåndsklosteret’ in Danish) dates back to 1431 when Aalborg had grown to an important trading town, conveniently located at the Limfjord.
In the beginning it was a monastery, run by the Order of the Holy Ghost and serving as a place for the sick, old and poor. It cared for the lepers in particular. In this way it can be considered Denmark’s oldest social institution!
During the Reformation, in 1536, the Hospital of the Holy Ghost ceased to exist. Instead the monastery was taken over by Aalborg Diocesan Hospital. Even later it became home of the cathedral grammar school, Katedralskolen, and remained so for more than 300 years. Anyway, the hospital continued to exist and operated here until 1953.
At some point in time the city concluded that it was too costly to have several churches in Aalborg, and therefore it was decided to demolish the monastery church here, thus leaving Aalborg with Budolfi Church as the city church!
Today, the medieval building has been converted into an attractive residential place, a retirement home, with modern apartments and with a top location in Aalborg!
Guided tours of Aalborg Monastery may be arranged.
Budolfi Church (Budolfi Kirke) is the majestic cathedral church in Aalborg. You cannot come to visit Aalborg without seeing it. No doubt it is a spectacular church since the exterior is painted with white ash, and the interior surprises with its gorgeous murals. Moreover, the church entrance is a remarkable triangular tower-like door.
In 1554 Budolfi Church obtained status as a cathedral since Aalborg became an independent diocese in Denmark.
This beautiful Aalborg church, also named St Botholph Church / Botholphus after an English saint and abbot, dates all back to the end of 1300s. Presumably, Budolfi Church was built over an older wooden church structure from around 1000-1100. Throughout the years the cathedral has been renovated and extended several times. The most recent larger renovation of the church took place 1941-43.
Architecturally, Budolfi Church spans over a range of styles due to the numerous renovations undertaken. Exterior elements and the spire from 1779 are built in baroque style, whereas other parts of the cathedral and its interior cover both gothic, renaissance and neoclassical designs. In particular, notice the pulpit and the organ with a baroque appearance.
Near the cathedral you will find Aalborg Historical Museum.
When strolling through the old alleys flanked by half-timbered houses and the more modern streets, you will sooner or later arrive at Jens Bang’s House (Jens Bangs Stenhus) at Østerågade. It is a 5-storey mansion in Dutch renaissance style, built in 1624 for the wealthy merchant Jens Bang.
Just next to Jens Bang’s House at Gammeltorv you will notice the Old City Hall, a remarkable yellow baroque building from 1762 that served as the city hall of Aalborg until 1912.
Jens Bang had a wish to become a member of the city council, but was never accepted by the nobles. As a revenge he carved a head with a tongue sticking out on the facade of the building towards the Old City Hall. The small sculpture is still there for passers-by to notice.
A historic wine cellar, Duus Vinkjælder, is still in the basement of the residence, just under the old apothecary shop on the ground floor having existed for several centuries.
Jørgen Olufsen’s House is another Aalborg 3-storey renaissance house, located in the same street, which is in fact the best preserved merchant’s house in Denmark. So many details are preserved here, for instance the hoist used to pull sacks up to the grain loft. This mansion was erected by Jens Bang’s half-brother who became mayor of the city a few years later.
Aalborghus Castle was built by by King Christian III in the years 1539-1555 as a fortification with ramparts and a moat. It was built as a half-timbered construction, containing both a dungeon and casemates.
However, it soon became clear that the castle was not so appropriate as a fortress and instead it became the seat of the royal provincial governors of North Jutland.
In 1633 a northern wing, used as a granary for grain and other food storage, was added, then a western wing followed for the storage of meat and fish, and finally a southern building was erected in 1809. The moat was filled around the mid 1800s, leaving the castle and grounds with the appearance it has today.
The park is open to the public and forms part of the green spaces in the city. Include it in your itinerary through Aalborg City and enjoy the views of the old Aalborghus Castle.
The Utzon Centre is a new addition to the family of great architectural structures in Aalborg. It was created by the famous Danish architect Jørn Utzon as his last work before he died in 2008. He was, in particular, known for his spectacular and unique construction of the Opera House in Sydney.
Likewise, the Utzon Centre in Aalborg is an architectural masterpiece in Denmark. It contains elements from a wide range of other exceptional works during his career and is given a prime location at the waterfront in Aalborg – which has in recent years been revitalised from its previous industrial character by the prestigious C.F. Møller studio.
Inside the Utzon Centre you will encounter exhibitions and activities to explore newer architectural trends, including sustainability and recycling ideas, from the entire world – and there is something for both children and adults! You may want to book a guided tour of the centre.
Near the Utzon Centre you will find the former electricity generating station Nordkraft, now turned into a popular cultural site in the city.
Inside an old power station from 1947 a vibrant cultural centre has emerged. Instead of tearing the old plant down, it was decided that it could be used for new inspiring purposes, a house full of activities for locals and visitors alike. This innovative approach resulted in it opening in 2009 as a new cultural opportunity for the citizens.
Nordkraft is today a cultural site in Aalborg featuring a theatre, a music venue, a cinema, food places, craft shops as well as a sports centre including a climbing wall. It includes a multipurpose hall with seating for up to 1,500 people. Pop in to see it for yourself and try out some of its exciting offers!
The activity house is located near another fascinating site with twisting architectural details, the House of Music, which opened its doors in 2014 as a music and event scene in Aalborg. It is also home of the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra.
Aalborg is a vibrant city with lots of cafés and restaurant options – both for visitors wanting to grab a quick bite and for fine dining. You may want to try the local street food in the old furniture factory at the waterfront, Aalborg Streetfood Køkkenfabrikken, which is at the same time a venue for cultural events with an amusement arcade, shuffleboard and much more.
A popular and iconic street which is a must-see in Aalborg is the long street Jomfru Ane Gade with restaurants and pubs lining both sides of the street. It is popular with the young people who fill it up in the evening and at night before moving on to maybe a disco.
The street dates back to the 16th century, and is likely named after the nun Ane Viffert who lived in Skavegade and was a nun at Ø Kloster. During the next centuries a number of merchants established themselves here and erected half-timbered houses in the street. Today, some of these houses can still be seen in Jomfru Ane Gade.
Kunsten is an outstanding art museum in Aalborg housing an exclusive exhibition of over 4000 works of art, covering various periods with a focus on post-1900. The artists are both Danish and worldwide recognised artists.
The museum building from 1972 was designed by the renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. It is the only museum outside Finland created by him. It is a beautiful white building constructed with the use of marble – both inside and outside. The building was refurbished in 2016 – improving the galleries and rooms considerably. Also the sculpture park was renewed, and the museum is today a topnotch art museum in Denmark!
The pieces of art are displayed in five galleries including the permanent collection. In addition to the exhibitions, Kunsten also arranges a variety of cultural events throughout the year such as lectures, concerts and workshops.
Aalborg Tower is Aalborg’s tallest landmark – and a great opportunity to get access to a 360-degree panoramic view of Aalborg.
You simply ring a bell – and an elevator is promptly sent down for you. It will take you the 55 metres up to the platform and bistro where you can enjoy a drink and amazing views of the city and harbour area.
Aalborg Tower was built for Nordjysk Udstilling, an exhibition in North Jutland, in 1933. Afterwards it was considered too expensive to tear down, and therefore it survived and was bought by Det Broderlige Skydeselskab for a modest amount. The tower was thoroughly renovated in 2005 and is today in top condition to take visitors to the top. However, in case of too much wind the tower is closed to the public for safety reasons.
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9 Things to Explore on Foot in Aalborg Denmark
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9 Things to Explore on Foot in Aalborg Denmark:
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