Copenhagen: History

The Paris of the North

Copenhagen History

The history of Copenhagen probably dates back over 6,000 years, but the city is best known for its Viking Age (7th to 11th century). The Vikings made a name for themselves travelling and conquering Europe by sea. The first record of the city is from 1043. During this time Copenhagen was called Havn which means harbour, and consisted of a humble fishing village. Over time, the city began to expand and became an important stop between the royal residence in Roskilde and the Cathedral in southern Sweden (which was part of the Danish kingdom at the time). In 1167 Bishop Absalon who is credited with founding Copenhagen, commissioned a work on the history of Copenhagen entitled “Gesta Danorum” or Deeds of the Danes. In this work Copenhagen is referred to as “the Trader’s Port” or København in Danish. Copenhagen continued to grow in prosperity from its fishing. In 1417, Erik VII came to power, after seizing control of the city from the Catholic Church; he made the city his permanent home, and paved the way for Copenhagen's expansion as Denmark's capital. The city quickly became a pivotal trading port and military/political centre. Christian I, Erik’s successor was the first king to be crowned in the city; he built Copenhagen Castle, and Denmark’s first university, in 1479.

During the Danish Reformation, Danes turned away from Catholicism and split from the Catholic Church. Lutheranism became the country's official religion.

In 1596, Christian IV, probably Denmark’s most famous king, came to the throne. He is responsible for many of Copenhagen’s famous buildings such as the Rosenborg Castle, the Round Tower, and the Stock Exchange. During this time, however, Denmark became virtually bankrupt after the country went to war with Sweden.

Copenhagen continued to suffer after a plague in 1711, and two fires devastating the city in 1728 and 1795. In 1801 and 1807 Copenhagen became victim to the British navy under Admiral Nelson in the first instance and the Duke of Wellington in the second, over allegiances to Russia, France and Sweden.

Copenhagen was occupied by Germany during WWII, and was used as a source of agricultural produce. Denmark’s present Queen, Margrethe II was born in 1940, shortly after the occupation. Denmark was liberated from Berlin in 1945 by the British. Since, Copenhagen has gone from strength to strength, opening its first Metro line and holding EU council in 2002.