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Viking Territory

I mentioned to a Danish friend that I might be popping over to his homeland for the weekend.

"Aalborg," I specified, swallowing the city's name in clumsy gutturals. "In Northern Jutland," I added as though I knew what I was talking about.

He smiled. It might have been the light, but it looked a little like bemused pity.

It turns out that Jutland is essentially the Danish Wales. Only bigger. In fact, in a kingdom which otherwise consists of an impressive 443 named islands and almost another 1,000 unnamed ones, Jutland is enormous.

"In Jutland," a Copenhagener colleague stereotyped fondly, "the men scrape manure off their boots before they go in for dinner, and if a girl isn't pregnant by the time she's 16, she's considered barren." Sounds like Cardiff.

As it turns out, he exaggerates grossly. Aalborg is hardly that backwards. It even has electricity. Not to mention a few excellent restaurants and designer boutiques. Okay, so it's hardly the finest drinking destination in the world, and I wouldn't advise ordering a Manhattan anywhere, but the beer's good, the schnapps warming, and it has a fjord. What more do you want for a weekend break?

To rest your weary head:
A 10 minute drive from the airport, Hvide Hus is a contemporarily designed hotel perched on the edge of a cute park, a mere 15 minute stroll from the city centre. In addition to its view, the 15th floor hotel bar also boasts an endearingly dry-humoured bar-keep sporting a fantastic walrus moustache.

Where to eat?
Morten Nielsen is apparently the Danish Gordon Ramsey, but with less shouting and, as one of the locals advised me, a little more swinging. A table at his Mayfair-worthy Mortens Kro may require booking, but the astonishing 7-course tasting menu is worth it. Lars Jeppesen's converted icebreaker, Elbjørn, is a very different eating experience, serving only the finest local, organic produce in its engine room restaurant. While you're there, remember to pick up a bottle of Lars's own delicious honey and anise-tinged schnapps, also called Elbjørn.

Where to drink?
With the most alcohol licenses per capita in Denmark, the answer is everywhere and nowhere. Most of the big bars lie on Jomfru Ane Gade, a singular stretch of drinking establishments that is best avoided. Stick instead to the restaurants, hotels and smaller bars that are dotted about, like Søgaard's Bryghus, Denmark's only combined microbrewery, restaurant and butcher's.

What to see?
If the Viking burial-ground and Schnapps distillery don't tickle your cultural taste-buds, make sure you pay a visit to the North Jutland Museum of Art. In addition to Alvar Aalto's stunning architectural design, the permanent collection of contemporary Danish art is excellent and the tours worthwhile.

When to go?
The local tourist board has a fetish for jazz festivals and even the odd Take That gig, so there's always something going on. Because of its Northern location, Aalborg gets good, cold winters, and with long stretches of beach only a short drive away, even the Jutland summers have their attractions.

Where to shop?
Wander down the stretch from Algade to Nørregade and you're bound to find something to catch your eye. Amongst the abundance of minimal homeware and Hennes-styled Scandi-wear stores, make sure to pay a visit to the bright, young design-collective The Cookie Factory, tucked in a courtyard off the main street.

Why Aalborg?
With an abundance of cafés and delis to rest those weary legs (highly recommended is the gorgeous, family-run Penny Lane) and a growing spread of independent design boutiques, exploring the city is a pleasure. It's not Copenhagen, nor is it Cardiff, but for a charming weekend escape with crisp, clean air, great Danish cuisine, and all the amenities of a quirky Scandinavian city, it doesn't get easier than Aalborg.

Sterling Airlines fly direct from London Gatwick to Aalborg from £115 return incl. taxes.
Visit visitaalborg.com for more information.

Hotel Hvide Hus
Vesterbro 2 - +45 98 13 84 00

Mortens Kro
Mølleå 4-6, Mølleå Arkaden
+45 98 12 48 60

North Jutland Museum of Art
Kong Christians Allé 50
+ 45 98 13 80 88

Cookie Factory
Nørregade 4 - +45 41 60 37 71

Penny Lane
Boulevarden 1 - +45 98 12 58 00

by AC
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