Denmark’s center of power for hundreds of years, Viborg served as a key trading post for the Jutland peninsula, a spiritual center, a crowning place for Kings and a decision-making stronghold.
Although Viborg’s status all but disappeared when absolute monarchy was introduced in 1660, the city retains many historic buildings that recall Viborg’s importance long ago.
While not somewhere to base an entire vacation, there are several things to do in Viborg that make it a good addition to a Denmark road trip, long-distance cycling trip or an easy day trip from Aarhus.
Viborg’s Cathedral Quarter
At the height of Viborg’s importance, bishops and noblemen ordered the construction of several monumental buildings across the city. The distinctive two-towered cathedral is the best known but the whole area is worth a visit even during the briefest stop in the city.
Although originally built in 1140, most of Viborg cathedral as it stands today dates from 1876 due to several devastating fires.
Paying the token entrance fee is well worth it to appreciate the 84 frescoes by Joakim Skovgaard, added in the early 20th century. The cathedral is only open for a few hours a day (typically 11am-3pm) but stays open a little later in high season.
It might not seem so grand today, but the small grassy area just north of the cathedral known as Stænderpladsen was once Denmark’s most important public square, home to the original governing assembly.
A granite stone erected in 1941 commemorates the 1241 Jutlandic law that was passed here, while a sculpture known as the ‘goddess of justice’ was a gift to the city on its anniversary in 1950.
Before you leave the quarter, it’s worth calling into Skovgaard Museum, housed within the 18th century old town hall. The main art museum of Viborg houses works by the Skovgaard family, including Joakim who was responsible for the cathedral frescoes, alongside ceramics and early Danish design.
Explore the Historic Jutland landscape
Southwest of Viborg, De Fem Halder is a collection of castle ruins and manor houses by the lake ‘Hald Sø’ in one of Denmark’s most picturesque regions. Many political and religious dramas in Northern Europe began here, most notably during the Reformation.
Even if you’re not interested in the history, the area is a pleasant one for walking or picnics. The area has been improved over recent years and is now more accessible than ever before. On the southern side of the lake, Dollerup Bakker is a top location for nature walks.
Around 11 miles north of Viborg, Hvolris Jernalderlandsby gives visitors an insight into life in Iron Age Scandinavia. A recreated Iron Age village sits alongside archaeological sites. The site is open year-round but the best time to visit is in July and during the October school vacation when actors bring the stories to life.
World’s largest minestone mine
Mønsted Kalkgruber is the world’s largest limestone mine. Just 10 miles west of Viborg, a trip here is a must for anyone with even a passing interest in geology. Around 2.5 miles of paths are open to guests, some of which are illuminated while others require a flashlight.
Experience underground lakes, streams and the habitat of several species of bat. A film about the pits plays on a screen by the largest lake. Above ground, the old limestone factory and museum tell the story of the mines and the lives of both the miners and the bats. Booking a ticket online in advance is a must.
How to get to Viborg
Viborg is within a few hours’ driving time of the ferries that call at the northern end of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. These include ferries from Gothenburg in Sweden, Oslo, Kristiansand and Narvik in Norway, and the long-distance service to the Faroe Islands and Iceland.
By train, Viborg can be reached in a little over 4 hours from Copenhagen with a change of train required at Aarhus.
By air, travelers can choose to fly into Copenhagen and take the train from there or take a connecting flight to Aarhus airport. From Aarhus, Viborg is about 1.5 hours by car. At the time of writing, there are very few international flights into Aarhus, although Ryanair does fly there directly from London-Stansted.