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About Copenhagen

Canals, lakes and the sea form the backdrop to modern Copenhagen and are a reminder of the city’s heritage as a major Baltic port. This role is also reflected in the city’s name, København, a corruption of købmanne hafen or merchants’ harbour.

The city’s foundation dates back to 1167, when Bishop Absalon built a bastion on the island of Slotsholmen, today the site of Christiansborg Palace and the Danish parliament. In 1417, the city became the royal capital of a huge swathe of Scandinavia that included not just Denmark but parts of Sweden and Norway. Many of Copenhagen’s most impressive buildings were constructed during the celebrated reign of Christian IV (1588-1648). Existing monuments of the monarch’s grand building schemes include the Børsen (Stock Exchange), the Rundetårn (Round Tower) and the Palace of Rosenborg. Christian IV was responsible for Copenhagen’s canal network and for the development of Christianshavn – an island across the inner harbour – as a focus for trade and shipping in the city. In the following centuries, an outbreak of plague, two terrible fires, military attacks by the Swedes (in the 17th century) and the British (in the 19th century) caused widespread damage to the city. The central area of Copenhagen is therefore characterised by 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century architecture – buildings constructed on the foundations of the medieval streets.

Modern Copenhagen is the largest city in Scandinavia but nevertheless retains a disarmingly provincial, small-town atmosphere that is instantly appealing. Gabled houses, narrow streets and a skyline that is dominated by delicate spires rather than hulking skyscrapers are all typical of the city. Copenhagen is also, arguably, the greenest capital in Europe – much of the centre is reserved for pedestrians, strict anti-pollution laws are enforced and bikes often outnumber cars on the streets. Green spaces – including the world-famous Tivoli – abound and in the summer, while cafés and restaurants occupy the pavements. The citizens of Copenhagen seem justifiably proud of their attractive, well-kept city and enjoy a quality of life that they are keen to share with visitors from other countries.

Copenhagen boasts theatres, museums and a lively, surprisingly cutting-edge nightlife scene. Danish cinema is increasingly making its mark on the international film circuit and Danish furniture, technology and jewellery remain at the forefront of contemporary design. The best the country has to offer can be experienced in the capital city, where design studios rub shoulders with ultra-hip bars and modern architecture boldly occupies the space between 17th-century buildings, military installations and the sea. A road bridge to Sweden, completed in 2000, is helping to make Copenhagen a key focal point for Scandinavia, the Baltic and the rest of mainland Europe.

The climate in Copenhagen is a temperate maritime one and generally quite changeable. Winters are cold and cloudy but summers are warm and sunny. Snowfalls are common between January and March and the wettest season is over the autumnal months of August and October.


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