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With its theatres, symphony orchestra, opera company, performance venues, and museums such as Aalborg Historical Museum and the Aalborg Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg is an important cultural hub.The Aalborg Carnival, held at the end of May, is one of the largest festivals in Scandinavia, attracting some 100,000 people annually.

It was originally settled as a trading post because of its position on the Limfjord.The sites of what were two settlements and a burial ground can be seen on Lindholm Høje, a hill overlooking the city.These large settlements, one from the 6th-century Germanic Iron Age, the other from the Viking Age in the 9th to 11th centuries, evolved at the narrowest point on Limfjord as a result of the traffic between Himmerland to the south and Vendsyssel to the north.Despite the difficulties it experienced over the centuries, the city began to prosper once again towards the end of the 19th century when a bridge was built over Limfjord and the railway arrived.Aalborg's initial growth relied on heavy industry but its current development focuses on culture and education.Grey Friar Convent, on the east side of Østerå, was probably built around 1240; it was documented in 1268 when it was a Franciscan Convent of the Order of Friars Minor, but like many other Roman Catholic monasteries and convents was shut down in 1530 as a result of the Reformation.

Aalborg's earliest trading privileges date from 1342, when King Valdemar IV received the town as part of his huge dowry on marrying Helvig of Schleswig.

Aalborg Airport is just 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) northwest of the city centre, and the E45, a European route from Karesuando, Sweden, to Gela, Italy, passes through Aalborg.

The European Commission has concluded that the citizens of Aalborg are the most satisfied people in Europe with their city.

In Erik Pontoppidan's Danske Atlas (Danish Atlas) it was described as "after Copenhagen, the best and most prosperous market town in Denmark".

After Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden in 1814, Aalborg lost its important role as the country's centre for Norwegian trade.

Trænregimentet, the Danish regiment for army supply and emergency medical personnel, is also in Aalborg.