European Capitals Of Culture: The Inside Look At Aarhus And Pafos

Each year, Europe comes together as a whole to celebrate one of its very best, shining a light on the chosen Capital Of Culture. Given the length and breadth of the place, however, it’s little surprise that the task should be a difficult one, testing even the most objective of thinkers to their very limits. For 2017, the decision proved simply too difficult to make and those in power admitted defeat, honouring two cities with the temporary title.

First came Aarhus. Denmark’s second city, Aarhus boasts an impressive set of museums, galleries, and restaurants. While it might long have lived in the shadow of Copenhagen, this year the city is coming into its own, pulling in a wider range of tourists from all across the globe. 

But just what can you get up to in the city? A relatively compact space, Aarhus can be easily traversed by bike, giving you the chance to get a whole lot more out of your time there. If art is your thing, you can take in some of the best sites on two wheels, hopping from one cultural hub to another with the use of your bicycle. ARoS, for example, is easily accessed on the trail, giving you a glimpse into some of the city’s finest art. A sprawling contemporary art gallery, ARoS is kitted out with its very own rainbow panorama, created by celebrated artist Olafur Eliasson. A 150 m circular walkway crowns the space, taking in a 360° view of the world below.

If architecture is more up your alley, taking a trip down to the city’s refurbished port should be part of your trip. Named Aarhus Ø, the area is complete with cutting edge building design, harbor baths, hidden bars, and a huge urban garden space. On the other side of things, the city delves back into its past in Den Gamle By. An open-air museum, the space explores the lifestyles of the Danes across three periods of time, reconstructing life in the 1860s, the 1920s, and the 1970s. Unique and engaging, Den Gamle By is worth seeing up close.

Representing culture on the other side of Europe, Pafos in Cyprus is approaching the process in a whole other way. Once the capital of the country, Pafos has a history that is as rich as it is long, and across the city there are countless ways in which to get in touch with its past. Taking inspiration from that past, the city has modeled this year of culture on the idea of the Open Air Factory. Picking up on a practice used throughout its thousand-year history, Pafos will be presenting a number of cultural works in the open air, creating events that are open to all as they stroll through the city.

Away from the main events, there is a whole lot of history to feast your eyes upon in the Cypriot city. Strolling along the waterfront will put you in prime viewing position, giving you a close hand look at just what the city has to offer. You can walk along the waterfront right up to the Pafos Archaeological Park, a site in which the ruins of the ancient city still stand tall. Dating back to the 4th century BC, the park will no doubt give you a better understanding of the history of the place.

Elsewhere in the city, the Tomb of Kings is another place linking Pafos to its past, and it is well worth a look in if you’re spending a few days getting to know the area. The place is dotted with excavated tombs, sandstone caves, and burial chambers, all set in an environment that seems a world apart from the vibrant city. Dating back to the 3rd century BC, the place is a treasure among treasures, setting Pafos high on the cultural agenda.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.