Aalborg, Denmark’s fourth-largest city, is the sort of out-of-the-way port of call that makes a wonderful discovery for cruise passengers. Set at the narrowest point of the Limfjord (the waterway separating northernmost Denmark from the rest of the Jutland peninsula) it’s a charming town of cobbled streets, cultural landmarks and Viking history.
Cruise port location
Aalborg Royal Cruise Berth could not be more centrally located: it’s right on the Limfjord opposite 16th Century Aalborg Castle. This puts passengers within an easy walk of key attractions. The port only ever accommodates one cruise ship at a time to ensure that the on-shore experience never feels crowded.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
Most of the city’s cultural big-hitters are adjacent to the dock along the Limfjord waterfront. The dock is also no more than 200m from Aalborg’s historic main square, which itself gives onto cobbled lanes of half-timbered homes leading up to a grand cathedral.
Aalborg is pleasantly compact, so getting around is a doddle. Most points of interest are accessible on foot, but easy-to-use city bikes (with convenient docking stations all over town) are brilliant for dashing around on two wheels. The level, traffic-free waterfront is particularly good for cycling, but go easy on those Old Town cobblestones. For exploring further afield, take a local bus to Lindholm (20 minutes away) for Viking history, or (for those with longer stays) it’s just over two hours to the artists’ colony at Skagen.
What to see and do
From Viking burials to gingerbread mansions and the waterfront’s avant-garde architecture, even a brief visit to Aalborg packs plenty of punch. Most of the historic centre’s cobbled lanes are closed to traffic, so discovering their cosy cafés and quirky shops is an absolute pleasure.
What can I do in four hours or less?
Lines such as Marella Cruises and Viking cruises offer walking or cycling tours, but passengers can just as easily see the key sights independently. Start by taking a stroll along the waterfront – which once thronged with Viking longboats – to check out its eye-catching architecture. This former industrial district has been reborn as a cultural quarter with the House of Music concert hall at its heart. Equally impressive is the sail-topped Utzon Centre, which celebrates the genius of Aalborg native, Jørn Utzon (of Sydney Opera House fame).
Refuel on street food further along at The Lighthouse (located in a former furniture factory), then hit the historic centre and tour its opulent mansions, merchants’ houses and baroque Aalborg Cathedral. Jyske Bank (built in 1902) has one of Aalborg’s grandest façades, while some of the half-timbered homes on Østerågade rank among Denmark’s best-preserved renaissance heritage.
The Old Town is also known for its proliferation of pubs. Those travelling with Azamara Club Cruises can sign up for an Aalborg Beer Walk excursion, but a self-guided version (including a map and samples at six different pubs) can be picked up from the tourist office at a fraction of the cost.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
To get to grips with Aalborg’s Viking history, you have to go further afield. Nearly all cruise lines that call here (including Noble Caledonia and Viking cruises) have immersive excursions into this fascinating past. Tours will generally take in Lindholm Høje (a Viking burial ground on the north side of the Limfjord) and Fyrkat’s well-preserved fortress and farmstead museum. While independent-minded travellers might easily take the public bus to Lindholm, Fyrkat is some way south of town – so those keen to experience both would be best served by signing up for a tour. The latter’s fortress is one of the oldest of its kind in Denmark, while the replica longhouse and costumed characters provide colourful insight into everyday life of the era.
Other day-trip destinations to consider include Voergaard Slot, Denmark’s most beautiful Renaissance castle. Children will enjoy visiting its supposedly haunted dungeons, while adults may prefer the property’s art collection (one of Denmark’s finest), which includes works by Raphael, Rubens and Goya. There’s more art to be found at Skagen, on the country’s far north-easterly tip, where the Skagens Museum houses more than 1,800 works depicting local characters and scenery.
Eat and drink
Local specialities worth seeking out include crayfish and Limfjord oysters, as well as smørrebrød – open-topped, rye-bread sandwiches with traditional toppings such as lobster, egg or herring. Also don’t miss trying aquavit (the Danish schnapps that hails from Aalborg) at one of the many pubs on Jomfru Ane Gade.
Don’t leave Aalborg without…
This being Scandinavia, there are plenty of stores selling beautiful homewares such as Holmegaard glassware and Marimekko fabrics. The Utzon Centre’s gift shop features a good range of Danish classics such as Hans Bølling’s cute wooden ducks and models of well-known buildings from another Danish design favourite: LEGO.
Need to know
Nonstop flights to Aalborg from the UK take around 90 minutes. Ryanair flies from London Stansted and Great Dane Airlines flies from Edinburgh.
Denmark is very safe to visit and Aalborg is no exception (though, as with anywhere, passengers should be cautious of pickpockets).
Best time to go
Summer – with its long daylight hours and temperatures that can be surprisingly high – is peak season for cruising the Baltic.
Most museums open six days a week: for example, the Utzon Centre and Kunsten Museum of Modern Art are both closed on Mondays. Many independent shops are closed on Sundays except for the first Sunday of each month, when they open from 10am-3pm.
Attractions that can be enjoyed admission-free include the Park of Music’s Singing Trees and Kunsthal Nord contemporary art gallery. The Aalborg Historical Museum is free on Tuesdays.