Denmark’s fourth largest city, first built on the herring boom then, in recent years, on clean energy, Aalborg is a very much a one-club town. That club is Aalborg Boldklub, AaB, or as they’re known throughout Denmark, ’Aww B’.
The most successful club outside Copenhagen in the Superliga era, AaB won the double with a team of mainly Jutland locals in 2014.
But poor performances at home and abroad meant that 2014-15 was a season to forget for Kent Nielsen’s men.
For the 100 or so supporters of sixth-tier Aalborg Chang, however, there is more than one club in Aalborg – and one that appeared in the very first Danish Cup final, in 1955. Formed in 1912, Chang have always been lower-league, even third-flight during their 90 minutes of fame at the national Idraetsparken against AGF Aarhus.
In the 1980s, Chang began producing quality players, the likes of Danish internationals Jes Høgh, later of Chelsea and Fenerbahce, and Peter Rasmussen, also at AaB for many years afterwards. A decade later came Per Krøldup, around the time Chang made the second-flight First Division.
Strangely, centre-back Krøldup’s embarrassing failure at Everton – after only one match – proved to be Chang’s salvation. For the various transfer fees from Udinese to Everton, and then on to Fiorentina, his alma mater received a cut large enough to save them from disappearing altogether. While Krøldup had been carving out a Champions League career at Udine, Chang had been transformed into FC Nordjylland, a professional team financed by local entrepreneur Ole Bach Jensen. When Jensen decided to keep his money in Aalborg’s handball team and his IT company, Chang were left bankrupt.
Calling themselves ’Klubben i Centrum’, referring to their central location just along the railway tracks south of Aalborg station, Chang currently run a number of senior teams and have some 300 youths on their books.
AaB are based in the west of town, close to the Limfjord waterway that splits Jutland in two, and provides succulent shellfish for the many upscale restaurants of the Old Town.
Aalborg has its own airport, just over the water in Nørresundby, 6.5km (four miles) north-west of the city centre. Buses run every 15-30min to Aalborg station (22Dkr, 18min journey time).
Public transport consists of buses. A single journey in town is 20Dkr, pay cash on board. 24hr and 72hr travel passes (150Dkr/250Dkr) are more suited for use around the north Denmark region.
Aalborg Taxa (+45 98 10 10 10) should charge around 200Dkr between the airport and city centre.
Aalborg is served by just a handful of central hotels, the best-located of which for barhoppers is the Jomfru Ane, right at the end of the party strip. Not ideal if you’re here for a quiet time, but with rooms fixed at 695Dkr, it’s a basic little place with the party crowd firmly in mind.
Also convenient for nightlife, but with a harbour view as well, the more upscale Radisson Blu Limfjord can still provide rooms at under Dkr800 with advance booking.
Still downtown, basic and cheap but well run, the Cabinn Aalborg has rooms the size its name suggests.
A more comfortable, if slightly more expensive choice, would be the First Hotel Aalborg across the street.
No mention of Aalborg can be made without reference to ’Gaden’: downtown, bar-lined Jomfru Ane Gade. Narrow, 150 metres long and pedestrianised, this is the hub of north Jutland nightlife, as if a single street has been magically airlifted, in one piece, from Mallorca to Limfjord.
For TV football, if not for authentic Aalborg debauchery, the local branch of O’Leary’s (No.6) at the south end is your best bet. Games are also screened at the LA Bar (No.7), which has a disco feel after dark.
Close to ’Gaden’, Søgaards Bryghus (C.W. Obels Plads 1) is best known as a restaurant, an excellent one at that, offering an updated and ambitious upgrade on the Danish beer & beef tradition. But it also contains the Missing Bell Brewpub, with a big screen and plenty of punters in football tops on match nights. The furniture came from a church in northern England. In summer, there’s huge outdoor terrace serving this large complex.
If you’re downtown, but not quite ready for the frenzy of ’Gaden’, the pub-like John Bull is big, friendly and placed right on the waterfront. TV football, too. Conveniently, there’s a bus leaving for the stadium right outside.
If you’re walking from the city centre to the stadium, though, you’ll find one of Aalborg’s best bars. The Wharf is a British-style pub with a great line-up of beers, a Cask Marque rating, and international football on its big screen.