Copenhagen, the capital of the Kingdom of Denmark, lies on the east side of the island of Zealand and on the island of Amager in the Oresund.
The conurbation of Copenhagen (Store Kobenhavn) is a municipal agglomeration which came into being through the incorporation of a number of places including Frederiksberg. With a total area of 570sq.km/220sq.mi and a population of some 1,700,000, Copenhagen is by far the largest city in Denmark. The seat of government, the Parliament (Folketing) and the residence of the Royal Family are all in the city.
Copenhagen is first mentioned as "Havn" in 1043. In 1167 Valdemar I made a present of the fishing and trading settlement to Bishop Absalon, who had the fortress of Slotsholmen built as a protection against Wendish pirates (remains can still be seen beneath Christiansborg). Around the fortress grew the place known as "Kobmandenes Havn" (merchants' port) which soon developed into a thriving trade center and in 1254 received its municipal charter. In 1416 control of Copenhagen passed to King Eric of Pomerania who made it his capital, and the town formed the center of the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, which had been united since 1397.
The Reformation came to Denmark in 1536 and the Lutheran doctrine was declared the State religion. From this time onward Copenhagen became the royal seat. The heavily fortified town was provided with some fine buildings during the time of the popular King Christian IV (1588-1648) and successfully resisted attacks by the Swedes in 1658 and 1659 and by the combined English, Dutch and Swedish fleets in 1700. The old town of Copenhagen was largely destroyed by fire in 1728 and again in 1795, and in 1807 suffered considerable damage from bombardment by the British navy.
Under Christian VIII (1839-48) the city was granted a comprehensive statute of self-government. After the absolute monarchy had been changed into a constitutional government Copenhagen became, in 1848, the seat of the new government and the function of the city as the political hub of the country was strengthened. Copenhagen then reached out beyond its defensive walls. In 1867 the fortifications were demolished and several parks were laid out where the ramparts had been. The opening of a free port in 1894 and of Kastrup Airport in 1924 gave a decisive boost to Copenhagen's economy and transport system.
During the First World War many refugees came to Copenhagen, especially after the Russian Revolution in 1917. At the beginning of the Second World War Denmark declared itself neutral, but was occupied by German troops in 1940. Resistance organizations were formed which were especially concerned with helping Danish Jews, living principally in Copenhagen, to escape to Sweden. On the evening of May fourth 1945 the German surrender was announced. The early post-war years were difficult for the city because of the heavy destruction it had suffered, but in 1948 the Marshall Plan brought relief. At the end of the 1950s there was a boom. In 1962 "Stroget", a pedestrian zone measuring 1.8km/2000yds in length, became one of the first traffic-free streets in Europe. In 1987 Kastrup Airport was declared "airport of the year" because of its newly-opened elegant shopping precinct.
Copenhagen is Denmark's largest commercial and industrial city. There are shipyards, motor works, textile and clothing factories, chemicals, and foodstuffs. The porcelain industry (Royal Porcelain Factory and Bing og Grondahl) grew from the discovery of large china-clay deposits on the island of Bornholm in 1755.
Copenhagen owes its importance as a transshipment port to its position at the entrance to the Baltic. The quays have a length of 44km/26miles. A bridge over the port (Knippelsbro) leads to the island of Amager.
Copenhagen is also the cultural center of Denmark. Of the many theaters the Royal Theater is the most versatile and mounts theatrical, operatic and ballet productions. Although most of the Theatrical performances are in Danish, the Mermaid Theatre at Ny Vestergade 7 puts on all its plays in English.
Every week concerts are performed in the hall of Danish Radio at Julius Thomsens Gade; these are given either by the Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Radio Concert Orchestra or the Radio Big Band. The Zealand Symphony Orchestra gives concerts in the concert hall in Tivoli. In Copenhagen there are also many jazz clubs and bars with music; Danish and foreign jazz musicians take part in an annual jazz festival.
There is ample provision in Copenhagen for those interested in art. Besides the four main museums - the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, the National Museum, the Thorvaldsen Museum and the State Museum of Art - there are a number of private galleries. In the "Latin Quarter" around the university and in Nyhavn there are many antique shops.
Sightseeing in Copenhagen
The busy pedestrian zone of Stroget forms the city center. To the south of this area lie Tivoli and "Castle Island" (an island surrounded by canals). On the far side of the harbor is the Christianshavn district. The northern part of the inner city extends as far as Langelinie at the entrance to the port. On the far side of the lakes which border the inner city on the west lie the districts of Frederiksberg, Norrebro and Bispebjerg.