Due to the economic downturn the notable architectural works of the first 40 years of the 1800’s were restricted in the projects undertaken by Christian Frederik Hansen like the Domhuset (Town Hall until 1900, later House of the City Council) at Nytorv, the Metropolitan School  on Nørrebro and of course his major reconstructions of the Cathedral of Vor Frue Kirke and Christiansborg Palace. All of his works followed the same lines of austere Neoclassical style that had become popular in Europe after the mid 18th century.

Industrialization that had shyly come to the fore with the introduction of the steamship in 1820 was intensified after 1840. In 1847 the country’s first railway opened between Copenhagen and Roskilde, Calrsberg Brewery and Burmeister  Machine Company were founded and the first steam engines were installed in Copenhagen’s clothing factory. By 1855 the use of steam engines and mechanical power in several industries was predominant. Economic recovery created new jobs and a further increase of population (120.000 in 1840, 160.000 in 1860) which led to stifling conditions and sanitary problems that resulted in a cholera epidemic in 1853 that claimed the lives of nearly 4.000 people.

The cholera epidemic became the catalyst for a more liberal urban plan that permitted housing beyond the narrow borders of the city’s walls towards the end of the 1850’s. There was an immediate building boom with new populous neighborhoods like Nørrebro, Vesterbro and Frederiksberg sprouting outside the ramparts that were completely removed towards the end of the 1860’s. New spacious parks like the Tivoli Gardens, Ørstedsparken, Botanisk Have and Aborreparken gave Copenhageners a quick way out to nature as did the capital’s first Zoo that opened its gates in 1859. New museums like Thorvaldsen Museum dedicated to the art of Danish  Neoclassicist sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844), the National Museum of Art and  Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek opened to the public. New theaters like Dagmarteatret, the National Scala and Folketeatret, new amusements like  Cirkusbygningen were developed. The Library of Copenhagen’s University moved into new premises at Fiolstræde. It was one of the most active periods in Copenhagen’s construction history.

By the year 1900 the extent of the municipality had tripled and the population had soared to half a million people. Copenhagen was now a constantly growing European metropolis, an administrative and industrial center with electric plants and trams, telephones, a new modern port (Frihavn), a grid of new roads lit by new electric street lights and roamed around by the first motor vehicles. It was a brave new world and Copenhagen was very much part of it.


Copenhagen’s growth and modernization continued well into the 20th century despite the intervals of a housing and banking crisis in 1908 and of course WWI which did not affect the city in a direct way due to the country’s neutrality but nevertheless created shortages in most goods and a spike in unemployment. In 1910 the first bicycle lanes are established in the capital and the first ever Bike Messenger Company (By-Expressen) sets up its first routes. Two years later the first ocean-going diesel-powered ship ever built the M/S Selandia starts her maiden voyage from Copenhagen to Bangkok. In architecture the first quarter of the 20th century was imprinted by the inauguration of the impressive new Town Hall and its surrounding square and the completion of the imposing Central Railway Station in 1917.

By the 1930’s the population had surpassed the number of 800.000 inhabitants. One of the first civil airports in the world (Kastrup) had started its operation, a public radio broadcast had entered the lives of Copenhageners and public transport had been expanded to include most areas of the capital. The new suburbs had formed market towns of their own while the housing market continued to have its ups and downs, as did the economy that fell in whirlwind of the 1929 crash during the first years of the 1930’s. The collapse of foreign trade had a serious effect in the city’s unemployment rates that were raised to a concerning height. The overall economic stagnation lasted until the occupation of Copenhagen by the Nazis that began on 9 April 1940.,_Deutschland,_Vereidigung_von_D%C3%A4nen.jpg

In the beginning the German occupation lacked the ferocity showcased in different countries due to the Nazi race ideology that categorized the Danes as “fellow Nordic Aryans”, along with Hitler’s hopes of running Denmark as a model protectorate and the support given by many Danes of German descent and far-right ideology. Denmark retained its own government and its king with the latter soon becoming a symbol of national sovereignty for the Danes and Copenhageners flocking to cheer and applaud every time he went on the streets of the capital with his horse.

Things escalated after 1943. Germany took complete control of the country and what followed was more or less what happened to all occupied countries. Censorship, curfew, strike ban, communist and Jewish persecution. Many buildings were destroyed by Germans or Allied bombings and occasional sabotage by the resistance. Nevertheless the overall damage to the city and its infrastructure was inconsequential compared to what happened in many European cities at the time. On 5 May 1945, Copenhagen was liberated by the English troops that liberated the country. The first weeks of freedom were celebrated with enthusiasm and exuberance. On October 30, the first post-war parliamentary elections were held with the left and Knud Kristensen forming the first government.

After 1947 the city entered a phase of innovative urban development with new schools, nurseries, sports facilities & hospitals established all over Copenhagen.  The 1950’s brought the inauguration of the first skyscraper and the first freeway and the 60’s the world’s largest pedestrian shopping street Strøget.


In the 70’s the population of the urban area of Copenhagen went above 1.250.000 people. In 1971, 150 people moved into the area of Christiania a former “Forbidden City of the Military” and established their self-proclaimed anarchist community. It was a diverse group of  hippies, artists, homeless and drug addicts flowing towards the area to realize a dream of a life based on freedom, creativity and community. The residents called the new district the Freetown of Christiania, and September 26th, 1971 was proclaimed its official birthday. In 1989 the anarchist district was legally acknowledged by the government , and in 2004 the Parliament passed a new law on the normalization and development of the district by a large majority. In 2012 about 900 people lived  at Christiania. The area is visited annually by up to half a million tourists.

From the 1970s to the 1980s, several conflicts arose between bicycle and car interests in Danish cities. One example was the wave of popular protests which followed in the wake of a proposal from the Copenhagen authorities to establish a motorway across the lakes which separate the inner city of olden times from the more recent suburban districts. There was an enormous outcry because, then as now, the lakes were some of the city’s loveliest open spaces. Gradually it became clear to most people that the solution to the problems had to be city planning that gave space to cars, bicycles, pedestrians and public transport. Out of this realization grew the Danish model with its extended network of cycle lanes along the roads, which continues to be further developed. (source In the 1980’s and 1990’s a large scale restoration work in the historic districts and an urban renewal took place with the concern for the environment being an integral part of those projects at a time when the environment was not a real priority in most cities. Car traffic subsided in favor of pedestrian streets, the metro was inaugurated and a new route of cycle routes increased the number of cyclists entering the inner city to a 40% of the overall entries by 2000.

In the 00’s Copenhagen entered a new era of growth with the construction of iconic new landmarks like the Black Diamond library, the 8 km (5 ml) Øresund Bridge that connects the capital to Malmö, (Sweden), the new Opera House (Operae) and the Royal Danish Playhouse.

In the 00's Copenhagen entered a new era of growth with the construction of iconic new landmarks like the Black Diamond library, the 8 km (5 ml) Øresund Bridge that connects the capital to Malmö, (Sweden), the new Opera House (Operae) and the Royal Danish Playhouse.

The City of Copenhagen is constantly within the first places worldwide in the various international rankings of urban quality of life, it has a constantly growing number of tourists and students, a vibrant cultural life and 1.3 million permanent residents. It is a bright example of an environmentally friendly capital, a model of sustainable megalopolis that raises the bar for the rest cities of the developed world, a city that has already transcended into the era of the green economy and climate change. Most of all the Danish capital is a city that beams with optimism and confidence for a future that will most probably be even greater than its past.

Christian IV’s son and heir Frederick III assumed his position as king in the end of 1648. A great book enthusiast and collector, Frederick established Copenhagen Royal Library during the first days of his reign. He made his life’s work the integration of private collections, manuscripts and new books that formed the basis of the new institution. With the help of his trusted librarian Peder Schumacher who scoured major European cities for new acquisitions, the collection had reached 20.000 volumes by the time of his death in 1670.

Of course Frederick III knew that in order for his reign to be remembered it would take more than a library. He had pretty big shoes to fill. In 1657, under the strain of a constantly growing Swedish dominance Frederick decides to throw down the glove in the hope that he would succeed where his father had failed. He too would fail and Denmark would lose all lands east of Copenhagen with the  Treaty of Roskilde in 1658 which placed the Danish capital on the edge of the realm instead of its center for the first time in history.

Victory whetted the Swedish appetite, a new round of warfare followed and soon Havners found themselves besieged in their own city (1659). With the king actively leading the defense of the capital the Danes managed to withstand a six-month siege and repel a crucial final assault. The kingdom was saved and the king’s popularity soared. Frederick III cashed in that popularity swiftly by converting his reign into an absolute monarchy instead of an elective one. He received the title in a celebratory ceremony witnessed by his fellow citizens in front of Copenhagen castle on 18 October 1660.

After 1660 Copenhagen was reasserted as the capital of Denmark and Norway. With the growing administrative and military institutions of the state being concentrated in Copenhagen the city had reached 42,000 inhabitants, by 1672, a population ten times higher than the kingdom’s second largest city, Aalborg. The city’s defense was reinforced by the completion in 1664 of Kastellet, which housed 2000 soldiers along with their wives and children and the addition, (1685-92) of the great bastion series around Christianshavn, known today as Christianshavns Vold. In the same time in order for  Slotsholmen (where the first Absalon Castle later Christiansborg Palace were located) to be better protected Frederiksholms Kanal was created in 1681.

Over-centralized governing did not leave any space for individual municipal policies so all eyes were on the 28-year-old Frederick IV who ascended on the throne right on the turn of the new century. Despite the auspicious credentials of the new king the first signs of 18th century were anything but. In the summer of 1700, in one of the first acts of the Great Northern War, a joint English-Dutch-Swedish fleet bombarded Copenhagen for six days, between 20–26 July. Although the damage and the casualties were not extensive the attack forced Frederick to withdraw from the war.

Well-schooled and well-traveled Frederick IV sought to introduce the architectural fad of his days in the capital, particularly the style of Italian Baroque he had grown so fond of in his Italian trips, with the construction of Frederiksberg Palace and its impressive gardens already in place by 1700. The greatest part of the Baroque palace was ready by 1710.  In 1711 a nightmare from the past came again with a vengeance. The dark cloud of the plague stayed over Copenhagen for about a year (June 1711 to March 1712) wiping off 1/3 of the city’s population (more than 20.000 people). The capital had barely recovered from the shock when another devastation struck. A small fire that broke out in the evening of October 20, 1728, near the town hall square, spread furiously through the wooden edifices of the medieval city, burning down thousands of houses, Vor Frue Cathedral, a great part of the university library, important archives and cultural treasures. An estimated 20% of the population became homeless and almost 30% of the city was consumed by the raging fire that lasted for three whole days.

The great task of the reconstruction was taken on by Christian VI who showed all the impetus of a new king starting from his inauguration year (1731) with the demolition of the outdated Copenhagen Castle to make way for Christiansborg Palace, the building of Hermitage Hunting Lodge in Dyrehaven three years later and the Rococo Prinsens Palæ Prince’s Mansion a bit later on. All of the damage by the destructive fire had been repaired by the end of his term in 1746.,_Copenhagen

European fashions continued to change and so did kings. Frederick V took over in 1746 and his term would be mostly characterized by the Rococo style. In 1748 the Royal Danish Theater  on Kongens Nytorv is inaugurated and the plans for Frederiksstaden, a sumptuous complex commemorating the 300 years jubilee of the House of Oldenburg are laid out. Works start a year later with the foundation stone for the imposing Frederik’s Church being set by king Frederick V on October 31, 1749. The prominent district at the waterfront was destined to house noble families and wealthy merchants of Copenhagen but would soon pass in the hands of the Royal family (it would evolve into Amalienborg Palace when Christiansborg Palace was destroyed by a fire in 1794).

In the beginning of 1749 the first issue of Copenhagen’s Danish Post-Times, the first Danish newspaper is published. In the same year the construction of the impressive spiral tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke (Our Savior Church) begins. Holmen naval base is modernized with the addition of Mastekranen, the first piece of industrial equipment of that scale in Copenhagen.

In 1752 Frederiks Hospital, Denmark’s first organized hospital is founded and the adjacent Oeder’s Garden constructed, financed by the earnings of the Norwegian Postal Service. The hospital would be fully operative by 1757 while the Garden was opened to the public in 1763. In 1754 the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts is founded and four years later Amalienborg and Frederiks Church are completed. In 1766 the greatest builder of Copenhagen after Christian IV was interred in Roskilde Cathedral. His equestrian statue , placed in 1771 at the center of the octagonal square of Frederiksstaden would cost more than the four palaces of Amalienborg combined.

Between 1770 and 1800 Copenhagen experienced a sharp economic growth that became known as the Florissante periode (the blossoming period). At the time major wars raged throughout the European and American continent. The fact that the Danish kingdom managed to stay neutral and abstain from the wars gave its merchant fleet the chance to take over the trade routes of the warring nations. With Copenhagen being the safest and most organised of all the Danish ports, the city’s economy boomed. Money circulated faster than ever, traders made more money than ever and more ships entered the Danish merchant fleet by the day. The creation of new industries was promoted with special privileges and new factories producing textiles, porcelain and sugar created new jobs. A new sophisticated bourgeoisie that had at its disposal newspapers, large mansions, scientific and scholar societies emerged. The city’s population exploded from 80.000 in 1770 to 100.000 in 1800. Up

Right before the beginning of the Napoleonic wars just like a bad omen two great fires spread destruction in the capital. The first destroyed Christiansborg Palace forcing the royal family to purchase and move into Amalienborg Palace. The second ravaged the western part of the city, burning down 1/4 of the city and turning 3.500 people into homeless.

The British Empire’s strong suit in the battle with Napoleon was its mighty navy. Having a strong fleet that could supply the French with everything needed under the blanket of neutrality was not something that could be tolerated by the Brits. In March 1801 a fleet of about forty British ships sets sail for Copenhagen.  Although the Danish fleet was caught off guard and the naval defense of the capital was partly manned by volunteers on April 2, 1801, the capital would manage to go through the Battle of Copenhagen, unscathed, despite the heavy losses in men and ships. Copenhagen’s firepower proved to be stronger than expected for the English who also suffered many losses.

History would not repeat itself six years later when the Brits came back again. With Napoleon’s navy being obliterated at Trafalgar in 1805, the British feared that the French would make use of the Danish ships in order to invade Britain. An ultimatum for the surrender of their fleet could not be accepted by the Danes. The first battle between the two armies was won by the English (Battle of Køge – August 29, 1807) who then laid a siege to the Danish capital. Between 16th of August and 5th of September 1807, Copenhagen was viciously battered with constant bombardment in one of the first blind attacks against both soldiers and civilians in modern history. The use of special incendiary bombs that could not be extinguished by the British military had devastating effects on the city. Almost all of the wooden structures that had been spared from the previous fires were burnt to the ground along with the recently rebuilt Cathedral of Vor Frue Kirke). 1600 Danes died and 1600 more wounded. On 7 September 1807, the city’s appointed commander Ernst Peymann surrendered the capital and the fleet to the English who took over most of the Danish ships and destroyed the rest. By the end of October, the British had fled Copenhagen with the entire Danish Navy. 80 warships and 243 transport vessels.,_the_night_between_4_and_5_September_1807_seen_from_Christianshavn.jpg

Without its merchant fleet and the warships protecting it, the Danish economy struggled to cope with the wake of the attack. To make matters worse the kingdom had sided with Napoleon after the attack on Copenhagen, so when the French were utterly defeated, the state was forced to declare a bankruptcy in 1813 and cede Norway to Sweden in 1814 after 450 years of a joint kingdom between the two.

Economic depression created dissatisfaction, criticism and protests. King Frederick VI‘s fears for a revolt led to a more autocratic regime marked by censorship and suppression. The growing need for decompression found a way out in one of history’s most common scapegoats. The pogrom against the city’s Jews lasted from September 3rd 1819 to January 1820. About 40 people were sentenced by the city’s courts in the following months of the unrest.

Despite the economic woes and political unrest of the era, sciences, art and culture seemed to have a momentum of their own. Cultivated by the teachings of talented and traveled painters like Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg and Christian August Lorentzen who initiated their students in the European trends, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen became a fruitful field that produced an array of exceptional painters and sculptors in the first half of the 1800’s.

The Royal Danish Theater also flourished based on its ballet performances orchestrated by the renowned August Bournonville (1805-1879) whose clearly defined style and unique training techniques are still being performed to this day. With his help the Royal Danish Ballet became a ballet institution unmatched by any other company in the 19th century. A fervent admirer of the theater, the 14-year-old Hans Christian Andersen came to Copenhagen right in the midst of the Anti-Jewish riots with the ambition to work in the Royal Theater as an actor, singer and ballet-dancer. He soon began writing his first plays that were however deemed as unsuitable for performing on stage. He would later become the most prolific and well known author and poet in Denmark’s history immortalized by his world famous fairy tales like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and The Emperor’s New Clothes.

A close friend of Hans Christian Andersen was a prominent man of science that contributed a great part to the addition of science in the so called Danish Golden AgeHans Christian Ørsted was a physicist and chemist who discovered electromagnetism in 1820 and  founded the Polytekniske Læreanstalt (College of Advanced Technology) in Copenhagen in 1829 with the first MSc programme in Engineering at a high academic level – to make use of scientific progress in the service of society by applying technology. He was also the founder of the Danish Meteorological Institute and the Danish Patent and Trademark Office.


Lutheranism became the state religion with a decree issued by the new king in October 1536. The rebels were given an amnesty, the city kept its privileges and the University was reestablished as a Lutheran institution in 1537. All priests were forced to convert to the state’s new religion or spend their lives in prison with their properties confiscated by the state. The first Lutheran superintendents (later bishops) in Domkirken (Vor Frue Kirke) were installed in 1539. Catholic Monasteries, abbeys and churches were closed down and their lands went to the crown, which managed to pay off its debts and increase its wealth considerably by 1550. Despite his flaming entry Christian III in general lines followed the path of a pacifist during his reign. He sought for new alliances, he pursued peace agreements he promoted trade and thus helped Copenhagen enter a new era of prosperity that would continue with his son and heir Frederick II after his death in 1559. Both kings avoided foreign complications but both were inevitably entangled in some sorts of warfare with the Swedes more like an exception to a rule of a generally peaceful and prosperous period that lasted until Frederick II’s death in 1588. The two kings were entombed together in Roskilde’s Cathedral.

When Frederik II died in 1588 his son and heir to the throne Christian IV was just 11 years old. Internal feuds had been long past, the treasury was full, the country had become a safe haven for educated middle class Dutch fleeing the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) in the Netherlands, that were contributing in a most beneficial way in the modernization of Denmark, Copenhagen was growing under the protection of a new set of reinforced walls.  A powerful governing council of four leading political figures was formed in order to keep things in order while Christian went on with his schooling. In June 1594 the Danish Chancellor that served as the head government (Niels Kaas) handed the 17-year-old Christian IV the keys to the royal vault from his dying bed. A few months later the council decided the transition and on August 29, 1596, Copenhagen became the stage of the biggest & most optimistic inauguration ceremony in Danish history with hundreds of guests, lavish linen and thousands of specially ordered drinking glasses, elaborately decorated streets, a fountain of wine that ran for hours in Amagertorv square, horse tournaments, fireworks etc.

The days of power of the new king proved to be as bright as his inauguration. His royal term one of the longest in Danish history (1588-1648). Especially for Copenhagen, Christian IV has rightfully earned the title of the most prominent architect in the city’s history. Christian knew that in order to realize his ambitions he had to rely heavily on his navy. The dominance over the Baltic sea depended on that. He laid out his plans for a new naval base at Slotsholmen next to Copenhagen Castle right away. The commission for a new harbor and a huge new arsenal had already been given by 1598. Six years later an entire complex consisted of an 163 meters long, 24 meters wide arsenal and walls three meters thick, a protected harbor basin with a canal connecting it to the coast, several auxiliary buildings were all in place. Even a brewery and a bakery were added later on, while an artificial islet bearing a tall column with a statue depicting the classical myth of Leda and the Swan on top, was placed just off the entrance of the arsenal. By 1610 the Danish navy would have tripled its fleet compared to 1596.

With his personal fortune following the growing economy of the state (part of the Øresund customs went directly to him) in 1606 the king acquires a massive piece of land outside Copenhagen’s East Rampart and establishes a Renaissance garden that would from then on be known as Kongens Have (The King’s Garden). At the time the king and his family resided at Frederiksborg Castle, the king’s birthplace, situated 40 km away from Copenhagen due to the poor condition of the outdated city castle. The construction of Rosenborg castle on the new estate started modestly as a sort of summer hermitage but it almost immediately (1610) became the royal favorite. It was continuously extended and beautified by Christian until 1634 when it hosted the lavish wedding of the King’s son Christian and Princess Magdalena Sibylla.

In 1602 Copenhagen is bestowed along with Malmö and Helsingør exclusive trade rights in Iceland and in 1605 the first textile factory is set up with prisoners and orphans being the first workers. In 1606 a major expansion and enforcement of the fortifications that would last 20 years started taking place. In the same time an area of 200 hectares of land outside the Eastern City Gate was purchased with an intention to be redeveloped into a new district referred to as Ny København (New Copenhagen). It would eventually evolve into Kastellet and would only be completed after King Frederick III succeeded King Christian IV.,_Copenhagen

In 1608 the famous Caritas Fountain is set up on Gammeltorv, where the Strøget pedestrian zone lies today. A year later the Cathedral of Our Lady is reconstructed and in 1610 the City Hall is adapted to Renaissance style with the area behind it cleared to make way for a grand new square named Nytorv (New Market).

Determined to make Copenhagen the greatest city of the North and inspired by the Dutch city planning, Christian proceeds in the construction of a whole new district, on an artificial bank of soil and rubble from the city that was erected across the inner harbor to the shores of Amager. The new district would use  artificial waterways just like Amsterdam and would protect the fleet of the Royal Danish Navy – which was docked at the harbor entrance (Holmen). In the same time it would produce extra tolls by foreign merchant ships passing through the narrow strait between Sealand and the Isle of Amager. The new Dutch quarter would be named Christianhavn after the king and would work as an independent market town dedicated to trade . Reclaimed land and laid out streets, squares and plots for merchant’s houses were all developed during the period 1618-1623.

The unmatched palette of King Christian IV’s transformations was completed only after the additions of Nyboder (1631), a new residential neighborhood near Østerport, built to house the growing number of skilled sailors in the royal fleet, of Rundetårn and Trinitatis Complex (1637), the astronomical observatory tower, the church and library of Trinitatis that were to be used by the University of Copenhagen and finally of the amazing Børsen, the Dutch Renaissance style building of the Stock Exchange completed in 1640. In 1644 Sweden would manage to stain Christian IV’s legacy with a grave defeat in Torstenson War, which resulted in the annihilation of the Danish fleet and the loss of several territories on the north. He was almost killed himself in one of the naval battles. His death in 1648 left the Danes with a bittersweet taste. For the citizens of Copenhagen he would always be one of their most beloved kings.


Although Havn had grown considerably by the latter half of the 15th century to about 5.000 residents and was considered to be the largest in Denmark, its difference with the rest of the Danish cities could still be counted in hundreds. In 1479 a new, grander city hall was built at Gammeltorv replacing the one located in Nørregade (current Bishop’s House/Bispegården). At the same time, the king managed to win a papal approval in order for parts of the cathedral to be turned into the city’s and one of Europe’s first universities. Professors were brought in from Cologne Germany and four major faculties, Theology , Law , Medicine and Philosophy were inaugurated.

The next king, John I or Hans in Danish was also crowned in Copenhagen in May of 1483. His efforts to keep Sweden in the Kalmar Union by force were only partly successful, as he was indeed recognized as king in Sweden but in reality all power in the realm was exercised by the Swedish regent Sten Sture and Hans was never allowed to set foot in Stockholm after 1501. In 1490 the first printing press is set up in Copenhagen by the Dutch printer Govaert van Ghemen and the first book is printed in 1493 under the title “Regula de figuratis constructionibus grammaticis”, a book about basic grammar rules. In 1510 new more modern shipyards are founded on a small islet between Zealand and Amager that would be named Bremerholm after the shipbuilders from Bremen brought in by King John’s son Prince (King in 1513) Christian II.,_King_of_Denmark

The city was growing and Christian II seemed to aim to its further progress by turning it into a Danish Stabelret, a staple port. That meant that all foreign and Danish merchants passing from Copenhagen would be obliged to unload their cargo at the port and display them for sale for a certain period of time. In essence that meant more money for Copenhagen. He also encouraged the arrival of Dutch settlers to Amager, himself being a true admirer of the Dutch model with personal trips to Flanders and personal acquaintances with Flemish artisans like Albrecht Dürer and Renaissance humanists like Erasmus.

Although Christian II’s ambitions coincided with those of the capital the rest of the country and many of the nobles did not sympathize. A rebellion broke out in Jutland and Christian’s uncle Frederik of Holstein was declared king on March 8, 1523. Two weeks later Frederik had the control of Denmark and Christian had fled to the Netherlands. Copenhagen and Malmö on the other side of the Sund were the only two cities that were still loyal to Christian but they both surrendered after a siege that lasted more than 8 months. Frederik was properly crowned in Copenhagen’s cathedral on 7 August 1524.

By the 1520’s the movement that had started with a letter of protest about the practices of the papal Church, sent by a teacher of theology and vicar named Martin Luther to the Archbishop of Mainz in 1517, had already become a tide that was sweeping through central European countries. The deposed king Christian II was one of the first to embrace Lutheranism and seek consolation for his woes in his personal correspondence with Martin Luther himself. When Frederik I, started to show signs of sympathy towards Lutherans, Christian reconverted to Roman Catholic faith. A crucial role for the expansion of Protestantism in Denmark was played by a young scholar and friar of the Order of Saint John named Hans Tausen, who in 1523 spent a year and a half with Martin Luther in Wittenberg and in 1525 started preaching back home inspired by the Lutheran principles.

King Frederik I, although a Roman Catholic himself had aptly and swiftly discerned the public’s need for a change in religious practices and adopted a policy of utmost religious tolerance. He ordered that Lutherans and Roman Catholics share the same churches, he encouraged the first publication of the Holy Bible in the Danish language, he gave his son his permission to marry a German Lutheran and took Hans Tausen under his wing to protect him from Catholic bigotry. In 1529 he brought Tausen to Copenhagen and thousands of people flocked to hear him preach the gospel in Danish language.

The contest between Catholics and Protestants started to take a dangerous turn when the bishop in Copenhagen’s cathedral refused to admit the heretics. On 27 December 1530 hundreds of Protestants stormed the cathedral, destroying all statues, altars and choir stalls. Frederik’s proclaimed neutrality seemed to tilt towards an open support for Lutheranism the more the wave of its supporters swelled. Starting from 1527 when he authorized the closure of several Catholic abbeys and monasteries, with his constant efforts to curtail the power of Rome in the affairs of his nation’s church, the abolition of the Catholic University and his refusal to persecute Protestants in effect Frederik became the best agent for the growth of Protestant faith in Denmark. Upon his death the country was plunged into civil war with the capital taking the side of the deposed former king Christian II (backed by the Catholic nobles, the State-Catholic-Council, the Hanseatic League and others) against Frederik I’s 30-year-old son Christian III who was a fervent Protestant. After winning the first battles Christian III managed to win the support of the Swedes and force a truce with the Hanseatic League. The road to the capital was open and its conquest would determine the occupant of the throne. The siege of Copenhagen that had already started from July 1535 took a fierce form. The blockade tightened and supplies stopped getting through. The prices of simple foods like bread skyrocketed, horses, dogs and cats became the primary sources of protein. On July 22, 1536 the city surrendered and on August 6th Christian III entered Copenhagen as its new king.

In June 1397 the union of the three kingdoms became official with the crowning of the new king in the cathedral of Kalmar in the southeast of modern day Sweden with Margaret continuing to be the de facto ruler of the Scandinavian Kingdom until her death in 1412. A year later Eric made himself master of Copenhagen which after the death of Valdemar VI in 1375 had passed under the control of the bishop of Roskilde, yet again. Eric forced Roskilde’s chapter to renounce its claims on Copenhagen, exactly as Valdemar had done before him. In 1417 King Eric officially took possession of the new castle (would later evolve into Christiansborg Slot) built on the ruins of Absalon’s first catle, sealing the primacy of the crown over the church in the city of Havn.

War with Hansa continued well into the 1420’s. When King Eric introduced a new toll for all foreign ships passing the Øresund in 1426, six Hanseatic cities (Hamburg, Lübeck, Lüneburg, Rostock, Stralsund, Wismar) declared war and put a naval blockade on Scandinavian harbors. The first naval battle in the Øresund in 1427 was won by the joint Dano-Swedish fleet but a year later, Hansa’s ships sailed towards Copenhagen where the fleet had anchored and the city was besieged. Eric fled the castle leaving back his wife Queen Philippa to manage the defense against 260 ships and 12.000 mercenaries. With a combination of land-based artillery and a counter-attack by the Dano-Swedish fleet the Hanseats were forced to retreat in April of 1428. In June of 1428 however the Hanseats returned to Copenhagen and this time, although their forces were cut in half, the attack was successful. Most of the King’s ships were sunk, destroyed or damaged. Only three ships were able to escape unscathed. It would be the starting of the end for King Eric of Pomerania. By 1439 all three kingdoms of the Kalmar Union had declared him deposed.,_1382-1459,_hertig_av_Pommern_konung_av_Danmark_Norge_och_Sverige_-_Nationalmuseum_-_15058.tif

Christopher of Bavaria ascended on the Danish throne in 1440. In 1442 he was proclaimed king in all three kingdoms. A year later his royal residence in Roskilde was destroyed by fire and Christopher moved his seat to the Copenhagen castle, making the city the official capital of the Danish kingdom in 1443. Christopher of Bavaria died in 1448 without natural heirs and the union of the three kingdoms broke up again. The Riksråd, a national council of magnates and nobles offered the throne to count Christian of Oldenburg under the condition that he would marry the widow of his predecessor. He became the first king of Denmark to be crowned in Copenhagen’s cathedral  in 1449. The first in a long line of rulers from the Oldenburg dynasty that would rule Denmark until 1863.

In 1350 the Black Death came to  Scandinavia paving in the most horrid way, the new king’s efforts for the recovery of lost Danish territories. The dead piled up in Copenhagen and since the knowledge for the nature of the disease was virtually non existent so did the donations to the church, the only institution offering a glimmer of hope to the people. Valdemar pursued his plan of territorial assertion by forming a new alliance. The alliance would secure his northern borders through the  marriage between Haakon VI king of Norway and his daughter Margaret in 1359. In 1363 the royal couple married in Copenhagen’s cathedral, the Vor Frue Kirke, which had recently been rebuilt in Gothic style. The marriage sealed the Nordic alliance and highlighted the rising importance of the city.

Valdemar‘s effort to clear the Sound from Hanseatic ships was a logical next step for the ambitious king but was also a move of high risk. The attack on Hansa’s fleet and cities, was followed by an open warfare and a conquest of Havn by Hansa’a army in 1368. The city was completely ravaged and its castle razed to the ground. Twenty stone masons came from the Hanseatic city of Lübeck alone, in order to dismantle the castle completely and annihilate its threat. Defeated and forced to flee from Denmark Valdemar finally had to sign a treaty in 1370 which acknowledged Hansa’s rights in the herring trade, inaugurated tax exemptions for the Hanseatic fleet and granted the league 15% of the profits from Danish trade.

After Valdemar‘s death in 1375,  his daughter Margaret, already serving as the queen of Norway stepped up, procuring the election of her 5-year-old son Olaf II Haakonsson as king of Denmark and herself as a regent with the hope her son would become the first ruler of a united Scandinavian kingdom when he would reach the age of 16. Despite the hopes Olaf died unexpectedly in August, 1387 at the age of 16 and Margaret who had already proven herself to be a competent ruler was proclaimed Denmark’s “all powerful lady” and regent of both Denmark and Norway. By the end of the 1390’s Margaret’s shrewd political moves had secured her, the control of the Swedish throne as well, but since the three kingdoms had no provision that enabled a woman to rule in her own right, Margaret provided the three kingdoms with a king, in the face of her adopted teenage nephew Eric of Pomerania.

Absalon founded new churches and monasteries, supported religious orders like the Augustinians and promoted the creation of schools. By the time of his death in 1201, Denmark had evolved into a powerful kingdom of the north, and København (Danish name of Copenhagen to this day) was a fortified town with a protective castle and at least two churches. The new church, Vor Frue Kirke built in 1200 outside the boundaries of the protective wall, became a focal point of a new town with its very own fortifications that would outgrow the initial core. Before his death Absalon granted the heritage of Havn to the Bishopric of Roskilde, in a time when the bishops of Denmark acted as kings in all but name in the territories that were under their control. The city grew rapidly based on the bishopric’s political stature, the protection provided by the castle, the defensive walls and its thriving economy of fishery. The town’s growing importance turned it into a bone of contention between bishops and kings, starting from 1245 when King Erik Plovpenning took possession of the city. In 1251 Bishop Jacob Erlandsen won it back. Three years later he gave his citizens their first city charter.

The grip contest between the two institutions intensified in the latter half of the 13th century, with the bishop’s men prevailing in the city of Copenhagen, after a series of battles and a suppressed rebellion in the 1290’s. Internal conflicts left Denmark vulnerable to external enemies like the Norwegians and the German Hanseatic League which started to dominate the trade in Baltic Sea. The League’s fortitude spurred the need for a new set of wall-fortifications for Havn, around the year 1290. The daily matters of the city at the time were handled by a council of 4 to 6 members appointed by the bishop, usually merchants who served for a lifetime while the bishop’s delegate was also the city bailiff, the alpha man in a one man rule.

In the beginning of the 1300’s things for Denmark looked rather gloomy. The powerful kingdom of the century that had just passed had been torn to pieces, the state was completely bankrupt, entire regions were mortgaged to German magnates and the king’ s powers were curtailed by Danish feudal lords and high rank clergymen. The 20-year-old Valdemar Atterdag (translates into a new/another day in Danish) ascended on the throne in 1340 and literally resurfaced a sunken ship. He immediately started paying back the kingdom’s creditors to re-establish the Danish rule in the mortgaged lands and claimed the city of Copenhagen from the church in order to use it as a base for the collection of taxes imposed on the trade through the Sound. He managed to assert his claim by 1350.

Situated on the west coast of ’Øresund’, the 118 km strait that separates Denmark from Sweden, modern day Copenhagen was nothing more than salty marshes & small islets that acted as berths for people we now identify as Vikings up until the 900’s. Evidence of small fishing settlements on the site of Kongens Nytorv and Gammel Strand, go back to the 700’s. The natural harbors on these locations were easily navigable and the strait provided an abundance of fish, especially herring.

In the 1040’s the first mention of a town, named Havn (merchant port) is recorded in an Icelandic Saga (knýtlinga saga) which refers to the story of the two contestants for the Danish throne at the time. The unearthed evidence of a proper settlement show a greater density after that point in history.

What actually put the small fishing village on the map was a decision made in 1157 by Valdemar den Store (the Great) who had just managed to establish himself as the sole ruler of Denmark. The young king gave Havn along with its surrounding villages to his trusted foster brother Absalon, who a year later with the king’s help once again, became the Bishop of Roskilde, the most important city of the Danish Kingdom at the time.

Valdemar the Great reorganized his kingdom that had just exited a ten-year civil strife. Absalon acted as his chief adviser and general. Most importantly he took over the royal campaign against the pirates who were ravaging the Danish coastline without opposition due to the ongoing civil war. In order to carry out and assist the campaign he started building a defensive castle around the town of Havn in 1167. The foundation of the castle was in essence the foundation of a new city that would later be known as Copenhagen.

The western edge of Nyhavn is attached to Kongens Nytorv – (The Kings New Square). Kongens Nytorv also known presently as the “King’s New Square” is historically the central old square. Its present location is at the pedestrian street Stroget. It is home to prominent institutions such as the Royal Danish Theater, the D’Angleterre Hotel, Magasin du Nord, Hvids Vinstue and the Charlottenborg Academy. The square was constructed in 1908. It is encircled by buildings on five sides, was paved with cobblestones in 1670, and the equestrian statue of Christian V on horseback was raised in 1688. It is the oldest equestrian statue and royal sculpture in Copenhagen. The four corners are figures symbolizing Queen Artemisia, Alexander the Great, Hercules and Athena.This area is used to be a medieval marketplace, and later made into a garden complex of cobbled stones.

The Royal Danish Theatre has been located at Kongens Nytorv in Copenhagen since 1748, originally designated as the king’s theatre but with public access. The first edifice on the site was designed by court architect Nicolai Eigtved, who also masterminded Amalienborg Palace. In 1774, the old theatre seating 800 theatregoers was reconstructed by architect C.F. Harsdorff to accommodate a larger audience. During the theatre’s first seasons the staffing was modest. Originally, the ensemble consisted of eight actors, four actresses, two male dancers and one female dancer. Gradually over the following decades, the Royal Danish Theatre established itself as the kind of multi-theatre we know today, home to drama, opera, ballet and concerts – all under the same roof and management. An important prerequisite for the theatre’s artistic development are its schools. The oldest is the ballet school, established at the theatre in 1771. Two years later, a vocal academy was established as a forerunner for the opera academy. A number of initiatives were considered regarding a drama school, which was established much later. King Frederik VI, who ascended the throne in 1808, is probably the monarch who most actively took part in the management of the Royal Danish Theatre, not as an arbiter of taste but as its supreme executive chef. The theatre’s bookkeeping accounts of these years show numerous endorsements where the king took personal decisions on everything from wage increases and bonuses to the purchase of shoelaces for the ballerinas. Indeed, the Royal Danish Theatre became the preoccupation of an introvert nation, which following the English Wars had suffered a state bankruptcy. “In Denmark there is only one city and one theatre,” as philosopher Søren Kierkegaard put it.

This was the theatre to which the 14-year-old fairytale storyteller Hans Christian Andersen devoted his early ambition. This was also the theatre that became the social and artistic focal point of the many brilliant artists of Denmark’s Golden Age. After the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1849, the Royal Danish Theatre’s status as “the city’s theatre” fell into decline. No longer enjoying a monopoly within the performing arts, the Royal Danish Theatre was now required by its new owner, the state, to serve the entire nation. The dilapidated building at Kongens Nytorv also found it hard to compete with the splendour of the new popular stage that were rapidly emerging across town. The solution was to construct a brand new theatre building. It was designed in the Historicist style of the times by architects William Dahlerup and Ove Pedersen and situated alongside the old theatre, which was subsequently demolished. The inauguration of what we today call the Old Stage took place on 15 October 1874. Here opera and ballet were given ample scope. But due to the scale of the building, the auditorium was less suited for spoken drama, which is why a new playhouse was required. The Royal Danish Theatre has over the past decade undergone the most extensive transformation ever in its over 250-year history. The Opera House in Copenhagen was inaugurated in January 2005, donated by the AP Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation and designed by architect Henning Larsen. And the Royal Danish Playhouse was completed in 2008. Located by Nyhavn Canal across from the Opera House, the playhouse is designed by architects Boje Lundgaard and Lene Tranberg. Today, the Royal Danish Theatre comprises the Old Stage, located by Kongens Nytorv, the Opera House and the Royal Danish Playhouse. In addition, the stagecraft workshops are housed in the old B&W shipyard close to the Opera House.

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On the south side of Nyhavn harbor lies one of the largest and most beautiful exhibition spaces for contemporary art in Europe. The art gallery is housed in a French-inspired Baroque palace, an extension to the historic Charlottenburg Palace. Here since 1883 contemporary art has been presented in a unique exhibition building designed for this purpose specifically.

The art gallery presents an ambitious exhibition program with the focus on artists of international appeal both breakthrough and well established talents, from Denmark and the rest of the world. Kunsthal Charlottenborg presents art that is uncompromising and sets the agenda but can still be relative to all. The showcase is complemented by a wide range of activities such as artist talks, performances, concerts and film shows. On Wednesdays after 17:00 there’s a free entrance to all. Under 16 years old there is also free entrance. More