Visit Viborg: Snapshot into the Provincial Soul of Denmark
January 1, 1970
by Louise Barner
Embrace the Provincial Soul
Amidst a wonderfully hilly landscape, shaped by the remnants of the last ice age, nestled in some of the oldest oak forest in Denmark, Viborg sits in the place of the heart on the map of the Peninsula. Viborg is one of the oldest cities of Denmark, and it has much to offer in terms of history, culture, sights and the outdoors. Only approximately an hour drive from both coastlines and 60km from Aarhus – the second biggest city of Denmark – Viborg is worth a moment of your lifetime.
Walking through the old marking of a City Gate and into the pedestrian area of central Viborg, your sight is enriched by supreme architecture entertained by the vivid decorations of the shopping and café area. A rainbow of colored umbrellas hanging on a string are criss crossing the streets, handballs lined up along electricity posts, as a keen reminder of the pride its citizens take in Denmark’s national sports: Handball. As it shows, important team players and trainers originate from this city and have placed Viborg on the map of excellence nationally and internationally. Generally sports seem to have a central place among the inhabitants: runners, bikers and all types of ball games. Whether you’re the cultural explorer or the sporty, outdoorsy type; whether you drink your latte out of streamlined cafes or prefer the chilled, laidback couch surfing places, Viborg has it.
From Vikings to Royalty
Around year 800, the Vikings settled on farms around the area of Viborg, and in year 1000, the first official street is formed leading to the urbanization of Viborg and the creation of Jutland’s largest hub of trade and commerce. Strategically placed between waterways and the connecting landpoint between the northern parts and the coastal sides known as “Hærvejen”, leading down to Hamburg in Germany and the southern trade partners in Europe. The old part of Viborg is to this day intact and stands as an idyllic signature of times past.
During the early Middle Ages and until Absolutism in 1660, one of the Scandinavian country parliaments was located in Viborg. Next to the Cathedral of Viborg, a monument still indicates the place of coronation of kings. This was a place where citizens gathered to vote for the fittest prospect among the participants, usually the one with the greatest army and the most money, which would claim the highest level of national security, local food security and peace-making among dominant, local landowners. There were three such parliaments in the kingdom of Denmark, which included the southern parts of Sweden.
As it is, history shows, the triumphant king settles in his new kingdom, builds a fort perhaps, but must never have peace of mind. The opponents are always up for a plot of revenge or betrayal to become the sole ruler. Some of those famous battles have taken place on the moor outside the city walls of Viborg. Sven, Valdemar, and Knud – three mighty knights with a personal army came to Viborg in order to settle for an agreement. An alliance was made between Knud and Valdemar, and Sven escaped into Germany plotting his vengeful return to take the throne. In an attempt to walk the middle ground and consolidate peace between families, it was agreed that Denmark could be split between the three and they each would rule a division of the country. Sven, who upon returning to Denmark to vow to the peace proposal, immediately attempted to overthrow the rule of Valdemar and Knud with help from German allies. This day known in Danish history as the Battle of Grathe Moor is pivotal in Danish politics. While Knud paid with his life, Valdemar successfully managed to fight Sven’s army off the moor. Sven himself was caught by local peasants as he was trying to flee the moor and his head was cleaved in two. Valdemar, as the victor and sole survivor, became the only ruler, and settled the line of kings to come.
The Cathedral in Viborg
As a seat of the episcopate, one of ten cathedrals is located in downtown Viborg. The architecture and the splendid frescos portraying the Genesis beautifully from the Garden of Eden to the Fall and expulsion of Man, over Salome with John’s head on a tray to Noah with his pairs of all species.
The crypt is open to the public and beside the caskets containing the remnants of local nobility; it also holds space for many an interesting event, such as sound healing, mindfulness and story telling.
Right next to the entrance there’s a small, rounded and short wooden door with a huge iron knob leading to the tower. Climb the spiraled granite stairs and gain insight into the mechanics of the massive clockwork. Higher up, the passage narrows and granite is substituted by wooden ladders and hanging ropes as you reach above roof level and starts moving into the actual bell tower. You reach platforms underway, that allows your body to rest and provides your eyes some of the most beautiful views over the two lakes and the southern part of the city.
Walking down the tower, you might want to briefly check the basement for it’s tiny museum with designs and a few relics left from before the grand fire in 1726, where the previous cathedral burned to ashes. Walking around the structure, the old altars are still marked by thin stone lines.
The five “Hald’er”
One of the pleasures in coming to Viborg must be the surroundings. Just 10 km south of Viborg you’ll find what we refer to as the The 5 Hald’er. It is the only place in Denmark where five well preserved 1200-century forts, moats and manors are still bearing witness of 800 years of history connected in a small and easily accessible locality amidst beautiful hills, lakes and trees.
Besides the cultural-historical heritage available, the setting is one of Denmark’s oldest beech and oak forests with plenty of trails for a hike around or between the sites. A very gentle route will take you along the scenic rolling fields, heather and small bridges across the swampy areas place you right in the middle of local flora, fauna and birds.
Getting there is fairly easy. The site is reached by car or bus. If you arrive by car there’s plenty of parking at the manor, which is well sighted. If you choose to go by bus, line 711 to Dollerup, leaving from the train station in Viborg, will take you to the manor, Hald Hovedgaard in about 15 minutes. You can easily walk around between the sites before reaching the bus back to Viborg as they are close by one another.
You won’t find any stores out there so make sure to bring your water and snacks. For lunch, dinner or afternoon coffee, I highly recommend visiting Niels Bugges kro, which is located approximately 200m downhill from the manor. A pricey but delicate cuisine ready to serve Nordic miracles to your palate.
When to visit
As a medium sized provincial city, Viborg requires a few days time. Scandinavian weather will determine how your visit evolves. Engaging in the many outdoor activities and events in the surrounding areas, enjoying the splendor of parks and streets, the summer months are recommended to avoid rain, storm and snow of Fall and Winter. The last week of June is the annual, international event of Hærvejsmarch along with the city festival. While there are a ton of wonderfully entertaining happenings and live music going on all over town – finding a place to stay might be somewhat difficult. Learn more here: http://www.haervejsmarchen.dk/english
Where to stay
Oasen is a wonderful B&B, centrally placed in a quiet one-way street just a five minutes walk from the centric pedestrian area. http://www.oasenviborg.dk
Best Western also has a downtown hotel right at the lake side. For bookings:http://www.golfhotelviborg.dk/da/