The history of Copenhagen is very fascinating. It dates approximately a thousand years back, and a lot has happened in the Danish capital over the years.
If you are going to Copenhagen and interested in knowing more about the history of the city, you’ve come to the right place. We will guide you through Copenhagen’s history, along with some basic facts that are good to know.
The early history
We don’t actually know for sure how long the area of Copenhagen has been populated. It could potentially go back thousands of years.
However, the first historical records are from the 12th century – Copenhagen was officially founded in 1167. The name Copenhagen is ‘København’ in Danish, meaning “merchant’s harbour” – a habour with commerce and trade.
When the modern metro system was built in the city, archeologists found traces of a mansion, dating back to approximately 1020. So even though the official foundation was years later, Copenhagen functioned as a place of trade and commerce much earlier than that.
Absalon, the Bishop, is the most famous person in the history of Copenhagen. The year 1167 is significant because of him – he built a fortress on the place where Christiansborg Slot stands today. He is a mystical and fascinating character – one of the most important Danes in history.
We know Copenhagen’s early history from the writings of Saxo Grammaticus.
Copenhagen was reconstructed as a city several times, but the core of the city always remained somewhat the same.
It grew to become the capital of Denmark, taking over the role from previous capitals such as Roskilde and Aarhus – two other major Danish cities that are still significant to this day.
For most of its history, Copenhagen has been a part of Denmark. The only exception was during the Kalmar-years when all the Scandinavian countries joined together as one.
Copenhagen had a large growth during the reign of King Christian IV – one of the most famous kings in Denmark’s history. He loved the city, and under his reign (1588-1648), Copenhagen was supplied with new architecture, a lot of which still exist to this day – such as Rundetårn, Børsen and other landmarks.
During the 17th century, Copenhagen established itself as the most important city of the Nordic countries. It was the capital of both Denmark, Norway and Iceland, and it was home to the army and particularly the navy forces. It was a significant European city in all regards up until the Napoleonic wars. A British attack, along with Denmark losing Norway, weakened Copenhagen’s power, although the city remained strong in arts and finance.
Copenhagen saw a lot of growth throughout the 1800s and 1900s. It was home to famous artists, most importantly H.C. Andersen who lived there for many years. Financially, it generally grew, and so did the population.
As for today, Copenhagen is Denmark’s largest city by far. It’s a city that has influence world-wide, and while retaining much of its old architecture, it is a very modern city with great activities and sights.
If you are going to Copenhagen on a trip, or perhaps moving to Denmark, feel free to check our other articles here on CPH Travel. We have looked into many useful things such as 101 sights, a hotel guide, the airport, and much more. Browse around and see what you find. Also, feel free to comment below if you have anything to say or add.