Copenhagen

Short history

History of Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, dates back to the 10th century. Initially a Viking fishing village, the city evolved over the centuries into a significant Baltic trade hub. The 12th century marked its establishment as a fortified city under Bishop Absalon, and by the 15th century, Copenhagen had become the capital of Denmark and a center of the Lutheran Reformation. The 17th and 18th centuries witnessed the city’s expansion and the construction of iconic Baroque architecture. Despite suffering during the Napoleonic Wars and the bombardment by the British Navy in 1807, Copenhagen continued to grow. The 19th century saw industrialization and the development of its modern infrastructure, while the 20th century was characterized by the city overcoming World War II occupation to emerge as a global city with a focus on sustainability and high quality of life.

Geography

Copenhagen is strategically located on the eastern coast of the island of Zealand, with parts of the city sprawling over to Amager. This prime location at the Baltic Sea entrance has historical significance in trade and international relations. The city’s topography is characterized by flat lands with an average elevation barely above sea level, making it susceptible to flooding, yet offering a scenic landscape of waterways and green spaces. The climate in Copenhagen is classified as oceanic, marked by moderate temperatures throughout the year, with cool summers and mild winters, influenced by its proximity to the sea. Copenhagen’s urban plan is a mixture of historical and modern architecture, with the city divided into distinct districts such as Indre By, the historical heart, and Vesterbro, known for its cultural scene. 

Population

As of recent estimates, the city’s population stands at approximately 1.3 million people within its metropolitan area. The majority of Copenhagen’s residents are of Danish descent, but the city has seen a significant increase in people from other ethnic backgrounds, including Middle Eastern, Asian, and African communities.

The predominant religion in Copenhagen is Christianity, specifically the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which aligns with the national religion of Denmark. However, the city’s diverse population means that there are also communities practicing Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and other religions.

When it comes to language, Danish is the official language of Copenhagen. Nevertheless, due to its international populace and strong emphasis on education, a significant portion of the population is also fluent in English, and many speak a third language, such as German or Swedish.

Main sights

The Little Mermaid statue, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, sits elegantly on the waterfront, embodying the city’s literary history. Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, offers a blend of rides, gardens, and entertainment venues, presenting an escape within the city. The Nyhavn district, with its colorful 17th-century waterfront, historic ships and buildings, is a monument of Copenhagen’s maritime history. The Christiansborg Palace stands as a centerpiece of Danish political history, housing the Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Copenhagen Opera House and the Royal Danish Playhouse, with their modern architecture and world-class performances, are important elements of city’s cultural identity. 

Food

Among the city’s typical dishesSmørrebrød stands out as a quintessential Danish delight. This open-faced sandwich is layered with a variety of toppings such as pickled herring, shrimp, roast beef, and egg, all resting atop a slice of buttered rye bread. Another notable dish is Frikadeller, Danish meatballs made from a blend of pork and beef, seasoned with onions, garlic, and spices, then pan-fried to perfection. These meatballs are often accompanied by boiled potatoes and creamy gravy, presenting the coziness of Danish comfort food. Rødgrød med fløde, a traditional dessert, features a thick red berry compote, typically served chilled with a dollop of cream. 

Souvenirs

Visitors often find themselves drawn to the iconic Danish design items, which include beautifully crafted home accessories and furniture that manifest minimalism and functionality. These pieces are not just souvenirs but also functional art for the home. Another popular choice is Royal Copenhagen porcelain, known for its exquisite craftsmanship and timeless design. This fine porcelain makes a sophisticated memento of a visit to the Danish capital. For those interested in a more tactile piece of Danish culture, woolen knitwear from local markets offers both warmth and style, highlighting the quality of Scandinavian textiles. Lastly, licorice, a favored Danish treat, comes in various forms from sweet to salty, and even coated in chocolate, providing a taste of Denmark’s culinary diversity to take home.

Fun facts

  • Copenhagen is a capital of the oldest monarchy in the world, with historical roots tracing back over a thousand years.
  • The city is home to the Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest operating amusement parks, which opened in 1843 and has been a model for world-famous parks like Disneyland.
  • Copenhagen has more bicycles than cars, emphasizing its reputation as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. The city’s bicycle paths are extensive and well-utilized by locals and tourists alike.
  • The Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, is over 100 years old and is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, despite its modest size.
  • Copenhagen is aiming to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025, highlighting its commitment to sustainability and green initiatives.