There is evidence that Copenhagen existed as a settlement more than 6,000 years ago, but its first written record dates back to 1043 AC. Copenhagen, in those days was called "Havn", meaning the harbour. It was of little strategic or political importance. Most of the people in "Havn" earned their daily bread by fishing for the plentiful herring in the Øresund. In the next two centuries fishing and trading turned the small fishing village into a flourishing town. In 1343, King Valdemar Atterdag, made Copenhagen the capital of Denmark. Today it is the seat of the government and the hometown of the Danish royal family.
YEAR 1000-1300 A VIKING AREA
Over a period of 300 years, from 750 to 1050, the Vikings set sails for the then far-away countries like Greenland, North Africa, the Caspian Sea and North America. Copenhagen was an important outpost from where the Vikings set out on their voyages in Europe and the rest of the world. As well as dramatically affecting the course of European history, the Vikings also left behind many indelible traces on the Danish landscape.
A 35 minutes train ride west of Copenhagen you will find The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. At the boatyard it is possible to follow shipbuilders working on the reconstruction of Viking warships. The ships are exhibited and their story is told with models, posters and films in the Exhibition Hall.
THE BISHOP'S TOWN
If we go back a thousand years, Copenhagen was still a humble town with a small trading centre where salted herring was sold and crossings to Scania were operated. In 1160 the Arch Bishop Absalon become an influential adviser to the king, Valdemar the Great. In the years that follow, the town grows tenfold in size, numerous churches and abbeys are founded. The town's economy blossoms thanks to the income from an enormous herring fishery trade, which provides larger parts of Catholic Europe with salted herring for Lent.
Archbishop Absalon is the man, who more than anyone, can lay claim to be the founding father of Copenhagen. Since pirates had ravage the coast of Denmark for years and years, a fort was built outside Copenhagen to repel them. Absalon and Valdemar the Great, used the victory as a launching pad for the foundation of Denmark's Baltic empire.
YEAR 1301-1600 THE KALMAR UNION
Queen Margrethe l was the most powerful woman in Europe during her reign from 1387-1412. By marrying the Norwegian king, Hakon Magnusson, she became sovereign not only of Denmark but Sweden and Norway as well. She set the scene for the founding of the Northern Alliance, formalised as the Kalmar Union in 1397. After her son, the crown prince Olof died, she appointed king Erik of Pomerania to be her heir-at-law. He was crowned 1397, but Margrethe ruled till her death.
THE KING TAKES OVER COPENHAGEN
The geographic position of Copenhagen with the approach to the Baltic Sea and the wealthy northern German trading towns of the Hanseatic League, was very important. It provided Copenhagen with power and wealth, but it also meant threat and vulnerability. Repeatedly, the town was besieged and ransacked by German traders. For a few years Copenhagen belonged to the Arch Bishop, but when King Erik of Pomerania inherits the throne, Copenhagen belongs to the Danish Crown.
COPENHAGEN - NORDIC TRADING CENTRE
Despite centuries of power struggles and fighting, the town grows increasingly rich. The Copenhageners do a brisk trade with friend and enemy alike. Foreign merchants come to the town. Craft guilds are established and a university is founded in 1478. By the time of Christian IV's coronation in 1596, Copenhagen is a wealthy and powerful city.
Following the penetration of the Lutheran Church in Germany in 1517, the Danish population began to turn against the Catolic church and in 1526 the Danish church split from Rome. Lutheranism became the country's official religion, and remains so to this day.
YEAR 1601-1939 KRISTIAN IV 1577-1648
Kristian IV became king of Denmark and Norway at the early age of 11. During his reign from 1588-1648, he lost parts of his kingdom to the Swedish crown. Despite this, Denmark became a prosperous country during his reign. Kristian IV founded a couple of cities, among them Kristiania, today's Oslo, the capital of Norway. He also established the first trading companies with sole rights to trade overseas.
THE PLAGUES OF MODERN TIMES
In the 18th century a series of disasters hit Copenhagen: first was the plague in 1711, then two fires ravaged the town in 1728 and 1795. The first fire started in a candle maker´s shop in Nørreport and destroyed 1,700 houses, the town hall and the university. The firemen could not find the keys to the pump house and do their job, and as a result the spire of St Nikolaj Church was destroyed. However, the fires gave the city an opportunity to layout a new, grander town plan. In 1740 Kristian Vl moved into his new royal palace Christiansborg.
THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURY
The 19th century begun with a great Battle of Copenhagen with the British navy in 1801, and the battle of 1807, when the enemy severely bombed the city. The "Kastellet" fortification turned out to be ineffective. Therefore, the cities defence-lines were abandoned and the barricades of the city were open, allowing new housing to be built around the lakes. After all the wars, bankrupt Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden in 1813.
In following years, the city slowly recovered. Copenhagen invested in education, establishing free compulsory primary schools and study of science. In 1849 Denmark became a democracy and the years to follow were fairly peaceful with stable economic growth.
In 1912, the first ocean going diesel-powered ship M/S Selandia was built in the city shipyard and in 1932 the air traffic at Kastrup airport exceeded 6,000 airplanes per year.
On April 9, 1940 German troops invaded Denmark and Copenhagen during WWII. The occupation lasted till the end of the war. Germany moved 200,000 troops into Denmark, as the country was considered as a useful source of agricultural products. The Royal family, with King Kristian X, Crown Prince Frederik and his wife, crown Princess Ingrid, refused to leave Copenhagen.
Despite the best efforts of the Danish resistance and the secret evacuation of nearly 7,000 of the country's Jews to Sweden, Denmark resigned itself and was ruled by Berlin.
Denmark was liberated by British troops under the command of Field Marshall Montgomery on May 4, 1945. The current queen, Margrethe II, was born shortly after the occupation began, on April 16 1940.
Today, Copenhagen is one of the most dynamic cities in Europe and the second largest city in Scandinavia. With 1.1 million inhabitants in the Greater Copenhagen area, the city definitely holds the position as The Glittering Capital of this part of the world.
Copenhagen is one of the world's leading destinations for international conferences and congresses. Since the Øresund Bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen opened in 2000, the two cities offer more than 22.000 hotel beds. Scandinavia's largest conference centre, the Bella Center in the outskirts of the city, is well known for its international fairs and other arrangements.
In the 17th century, king Kristian lV's vision was to turn the Øresund region into Northern Europe's leading economical and cultural centre. Today, we can say with confidence, that his dream has come true.
The Round Tower
Copenhagen City Hall
1. Tivoli Gardens
The famous Tivoli amusement park and pleasure gardens dating from 1843 . Here, you will find more than 20 attractions including a roller coaster; roundabouts; halls of mirrors; pantomime, puppet, and open-air theaters; a wealth of restaurants and cafés; flower gardens; and a Moorish-styled concert hall, which is particularly pleasing when lit up at night. The park is famous worldwide and appears in many movies. At Christmas, Tivoli becomes an extravagantly decorated wonderland.
2. Nyhavn Harbor
Nyhavn (New Harbor), which is flanked by a street of the same name. At the end of the harbor, an anchor serves as a memorial to Danish sailors who lost their lives in World War II. Nyhavn was once a disreputable quarter of the city, but now, with its brightly painted gabled houses, many containing restaurants or cafés, it's a particularly charming part of Copenhagen that features in countless images of the city. Idyllic museum ships lie at anchor, including a lightship (Fyrskib) dating from 1885. From Nyhavn, hydrofoil and catamaran services operate to Sweden, as well as sightseeing trips around the harbor and along the canal.
3. Kastellet and The Little Mermaid
You can not visit the Danish capital without seeing the Little Mermaid, so head along the waterfront from Nyhavn to Kastellet (less than two kilometers) and take in the iconic statue and surroundings. Kastellet is the former Citadel of Frederikshavn, the oldest parts of which date from 1625. The Citadel buildings are well maintained and well worth exploring.
The Little Mermaid (Den lille Havfrue), which you will see from the shore, is the official emblem of Copenhagen. The bronze sculpture, created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913, is based on a theme from one of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, which tells the tale of a mermaid who once came up out of the depths of the sea because she had fallen in love with a prince. Sadly, as the prince did not reciprocate, she was forced to leave the human world and return once more to the sea.
4. Rosenborg Castle
This is now home to some of Denmark's greatest cultural treasures, the castle was originally built by Christian IV as a pleasure palace. Inhabited by the royal family until 1720 and after that used as a summer retreat, the castle and contents became a museum in 1838. In the basement are the Danish crown jewels and royal regalia. Of particular interest are the Marble Room, a Baroque reception room, and the Knights' Hall with the Coronation Throne (used between 1871 to 1940), as well as the famous Rosenborg Tapestries, which have adorned the walls since 1693. Exquisite porcelain is also on exhibit, including the famous Flora Danica service.
5. Christianborg Palace
On the tiny island of Slotsholmen is the Danish seat of government and an attraction that should be top on any visitor's agenda. Christiansborg boasts more than 800 years of history and today, the palace is home to the Parliament, the Prime Minister's Office, and the Supreme Court. In addition, several parts are still used by the Royal House. Much is open to view to the public. Occupying the site where Bishop Absalon built the earliest fortifications of the city in 1167, the ruins of the bishop's castle and the medieval fortress were discovered when the present palace was under construction. They can now be seen by visitors.
6. The Round Tower
On Købmagergade is the Round Tower (Rundetårn), a 36-meter-high structure built as an observatory in 1642. It now also houses a small collection connected with the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. A particular treat is the platform, reached by a wide spiral ramp. From the top are magnificent panoramic views over the city. A new attraction is the glass floor hovering 25 meters above the ground where you can peer down into the castle's core. Kejsergade to Gråbrødretorv, one of Copenhagen's most charming squares with its brightly colored old houses.
7. Amalienborg Palace
Rosenborg's sister palace, Amalienborg, along with its serene waterfront gardens. The four palaces facing onto the square were originally built as homes for the nobility, but were taken over by the Royal Family after a fire at Christiansborg in 1794. The palace takes its name from Queen Sophie Amalie who had a sumptuous summer retreat on the site, which also burned down in 1689. The area was designed to be a model society with the King as focal point and the aristocracy (the four palaces) surrounding him.
Today, Queen Margrethe II and her family occupy the upper story of Christian IX Palace, and the Moltke Palace is used for official purposes. The soldiers of the Royal Guard with their bearskins and blue uniforms, are a unique symbol of the city. On festive occasions the soldeiers wear red, white, and blue uniforms.
8. Stroget Shopping Mile
In the bustling shopping area of Strøget you will find a wealth of boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. Strøget, a nickname from the 1800s, consists of several roads criss-crossing one another, beginning at Town Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen) and ending at Kongens Nytorv. Some adjoining streets on the north have also been pedestrianized. International brand name stores can be found here.
9. Town Hall
The busy Town Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen) is dominated by Copenhagen Town Hall (built between 1892 and 1905), which is based on a mix of Italian Renaissance and medieval Danish architecture. For marvellous views, you can climb the tower; at 106 meters high, it is the tallest in the city. The building itself is richly adorned with sculptures and paintings. Above the main entrance is a figure of Bishop Absalon in gilded copper, and in the Great Hall are busts of Danish notables such as Martin Nyrop, the architect who designed the building, the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, Hans Christian Andersen (1805-76), and the physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962).
The World Clock at the main entrance was designed and constructed by Jens Olsen in 1955 and shows not only the time and date, but also various astronomical constellations.
10. National Museum of Denmark
An easy ten-minute walk from Tivoli, along Vestergade, brings you to the National Museum (Nationalmuseet), a must see attraction for anyone with an interest in Danish history and culture. Some impressive runic stones are on display, and the Danish history collection includes a sun chariot that is more than 2,000 years old, Romanesque and Gothic church fittings, Danish porcelain and silver, and collections of antiquities and coins.
The ethnographical collection, including items from Greenland, gives an excellent impression of life among the Eskimos. Other areas covered include Asia, Africa and Oceania as well as the culture of the Indians. Here, you'll also find the Prince's Palace (1744), a Rococo building influenced by the French style of the period.
Equestrian statue of Frederick VII - Christiansborg Palace
Memorial to the Danish citizens who lost their lives during World War II.
The Gefion Fountain (Kastellet)
St. Alban's Church (Kastellet)
Soldiers of the Royal Guard
Equestrian statue of Frederick VII - Christiansborg Palace