Den Gamle By: A True Timemachine


Photo: Den Gamle By

Walk in the footsteps of your ancestors, even your parents, as you travel back in time and experience what daily life was like in the past. Chat with the bakery maid, the farmhand, and the organ grinder at the market town museum, Den Gamle By (The Old Town).

At the Ceres intersection, at the bottom of the Botanical Garden in Aarhus, you’ll find the entrance to Den Gamle By. Facing downtown Aarhus is the modern main entrance from 2023, designed by the architectural firm Cubo.

With a floor of red bricks that extends both inside and out, you are welcomed into what feels like a large covered market square. Here, a warm wooden ceiling rises above, and on the walls, you can watch small videos depicting life as it once was. These videos are filmed in the old town, where volunteers of all ages dress up and act as ‘people of the past’ every day. If you need an overview, you’ll also find a model of the museum, giving you a sense of the town and all its neighborhoods.

Entrance to History

Like an entry portal to a time machine, the entrance building marks the transition from one era to another. Behind the modern entrance, you can experience 400 years of Danish history.

All the buildings you find in the museum town were once used in various locations throughout Denmark. They have been carefully dismantled and reconstructed in Den Gamle By, fitting into a context and period where they belong. This means you can taste, smell, and feel the history as you investigate people’s homes as they once were and strike a deal with the merchants in their shops.

A Fascination with What Was Disappearing

The story of Den Gamle By begins with a single house and a man named Peter Holm. He was fascinated by what was disappearing, and in 1909, he saved a mayor’s house from 1597 from demolition. It was first dismantled and reassembled as an exhibit at the National Exhibition in Aarhus. Later, in 1914, it found a place in the Botanical Garden, and became the starting point for what is known today as Den Gamle By.

From 7-Eleven to Stilts and Half-Timbered Houses

The town continues to grow, and more houses, streets, and shops have been added to the small market town over time. Today, you can visit four time periods: 2000-2014, 1950-1974, 1900-1927, and 1600-1900.

Walk past the tanning salon, a Blockbuster, and a 7-Eleven from 2014, or enjoy a Sarah Bernhardt cake in the 1970s café. Visit the hardware store, the fashion shop, or the car dealer, all signs of modern Denmark’s boom in the 1920s. And when the sidewalks turn to cobblestones and the apartments to half-timbered houses, you’ll know you’ve reached the old market town. Here, you can walk on stilts, take a ride on the swing carousel, and visit the geese wandering around by the pond.