The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION EUROPE -

Aarhus, and Pafos in Cyprus, are the two Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Culture hosts for 2017. More:; The four-star Comwell Aarhus fea­tures stylish con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors by Copen­hagen de­sign­ers HAY and ex­cel­lent fa­cil­i­ties. More: Restau­rant Sub­stans fea­tures Miche­lin-starred cut­ting-edge Scan­di­na­vian cui­sine. More: restau­rantsub­ Haer­vaerk is a Miche­lin Bib Gour­mand restau­rant serv­ing wildly ex­per­i­men­tal Nordic food. There is no menu; you eat what­ever is be­ing cooked that day. More: restau­ran­thaer­ Nordiske Spise­hus col­lab­o­rates with Miche­lin-starred restau­rants from across the world to re­pro­duce their sig­na­ture dishes in Aarhus; it’s fine din­ing as a world tour, and it changes each sea­son. More: nordiskspise­ • vis­i­

Not every­thing is con­tem­po­rary in Aarhus. I wan­der into the medieval quar­ter, a grid of cob­bled al­leys and half-tim­bered houses, lined with jolly cafes and up-mar­ket shops. On a cor­ner is Ho­tel Royal, from 1838, with a pil­lared fa­cade and mar­bled foyer. Down a side street is the clas­sic Me­fisto Restau­rant, where fam­i­lies graze tra­di­tional meals of fish soup and roast veal. In the cen­tre is the cathe­dral, built in 1200 above the grave of the son of King Canute V.

You can go back fur­ther in Aarhus. About a kilo­me­tre or so along the shore is Moes­gaard, a new mu­seum of an­cient things, in­clud­ing splen­did Vik­ing swords and an­cient bod­ies dug up from nearby bogs.

Here you can gaze into the face of Grauballe Man, a sac­ri­fi­cial vic­tim from 200BC, one of many found in north­ern Europe. This one in­spired a fa­mous poem by Sea­mus Heaney about po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in mod­ern Ire­land and the com­mon iden­tity of the North Sea peo­ples. With a nod to such con­nec­tions, the mu­seum’s big exhibition for 2017, called The First Im­mi­grants, is about an­cient mi­gra­tions across Europe.

Moes­gaard is an­other mu­seum with a walk­way on its roof. But this one leads to the fu­ture as well as the past. You can stand up there and watch the sil­ver wa­ters of north­ern Europe, pon­der the tides of time and place that link all these things to­gether, and won­der where we’re go­ing. Per­haps Aarhus 2017 will show us.

In Matthews’s words: “Culture has never been more important than it is now ... It’s the big­gest con­nec­tor we have — and we need to keep us­ing it.”

Jonathan Lorie was a guest of Visit Aarhus. TELEGRAPH ME­DIA GROUP

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