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Copenhagen History: Unique Facts of Popular Sites in the Danish Capital


Copenhagen history is long, colorful, and illustrious, but so are the histories behind many of the buildings and attractions that make up the venerable capital of Denmark.

Copenhagen Denmark canal city
The old canal in the heart of the city of Copenhagen. Taken by S. Karvounis via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Copenhagen, the exciting capital city of Denmark, has had quite an interesting history in the past few centuries, and nowhere is that better shown than in the individual histories of some of the city’s buildings and architecture.

Below are some of Copenhagen’s most venerable institutions and buildings which have some interesting stories of their own.

Palace Hotel and The Golden Book

Palace Hotel Copenhagen Denmark

The Palace Hotel, built in 1910, stands regally erect on its side of Rådhuspladsen, or City Hall Square. Back over a century ago, as the newly-opened hotel began accepting guests, word reached its owner, Anders Jensen, that the Danish king, Frederik VIII, would soon pay the establishment a visit. Jensen rushed about to make sure everything was in order, finishing the decor by rolling out that timeless red carpet from the main front entrance. And the funny thing? Well, King Frederik VIII surprised them by coming in the back door.

Well, the famous Golden Book, a guestbook with which Anders wished to record its famous guests’ signatures, was displayed for King Frederik VIII to sign – on Page 1, of course. The other interesting story comes decades later, in 1958. The hotel was hosting the St. Andrews Ball, when two women went simultaneously aghast as they witnessed the unfolding of some inexcusable crime – a young lady guest went to sign the Golden Book on Page 1, the very same page as King Frederik VIII (I guess this is a no-no)! They both rushed to stop her from this irreversible act of defamation, only to realize that she was the heir-apparent to the throne, Her Royal Highness Princess Margrethe! (source: Palace Hotel History)

Related Read: 5 Things to Do in Denmark: Best Places to Go, Sites to See & More

Heidi’s Beir Bar

This unassuming little bar located at Vestergade 18 was once a hotel, the Garderngården Inn. In September of 1819, a young Hans Christian Andersen would first lay his head here after relocating to Copenhagen from his hometown of Odense. The world-renowned author of timeless fairy tales such as the Little Mermaid and the Ugly Duckling would stay here for weeks until moving on to other accommodations. He was 14 years old upon arrival. (source: 1,001 Stories)

University of Copenhagen

University of Copenhagen, Denmark

The University of Copenhagen is one of Denmark’s largest higher-learning institutes, as well as one of the oldest in Northern Europe, having been founded in 1479.

Today, it stands as a model of progressive ideals, being ranked annually in the top hundred universities in the world while somehow not charging tuition to any EU citizen. But this impressive bastion of education has some weird, and even dark, history in its past.

Tours can be taken which will lead you to a dungeon deep below the University’s Frue Plads buildings; should a student act up and disregard a particular rule, it was into these cellars they went, to be detained for time indefinite on nothing but bread and water. Also nearby are mazes of tunnels that can take you from under the Panum building all the way to the Rigshospitalet.

Coming back up from the depths, the secrets seem to brighten in mood, as well. You might be able to check out the office of Niels Henrik David Bohr, one of the foremost minds on quantum theory and atomic structure; though he last used it in 1962, the University has kept everything exactly as he left it.  (source: Uni Copenhagen Culture Night)

Related Read: A Danish Word the World Needs to Combat Stress: Pyt

De Kongelige Teater (Royal Danish Theater)

Hans Christian Andersen is a hero for the Danish people, and his story is told proudly wherever it’s relevant. At the age of 14, young Andersen relocated from his hometown to the great Danish capital; he held aspirations of becoming an actor. He first joined a youth choir at the Royal Danish Theater, which was fine, though he had to leave when his voice began to change.

A colleague of his at the theater told him that he could probably become a poet; he took this seriously and thus focused his time and effort on writing. For three years he struggled financially, until at age 17 he met Jonas Collin, the director of De Kongelige Teater. Collin had a deep affection for the young author and believed that his writing showed promise. He petitioned the king to help pay for some of his education, which was granted. (source: Danishnet)

Børsen, the old Copenhagen Stock Exchange

Copenhagen Stock Exchange Dragon Spire Denmark

The old Stock Exchange was relieved of its namesake purpose for more modern spaces in 1974, but its former, venerable home still stands. That spire on top, if you look closely, is actually made of four dragons, with their tails twisting all the way to the top.

Where the tails end at the top, three crowns were placed representing The Kalmar Union (Denmark, Norway, & Sweden) to symbolize the partnership and community between the three Nordic states. (source: Copenhagenet)

Skydebanehaven (The Shooting Range Gardens)

In the 1750s, the Royal Copenhagen Shooting Society (yeah, imagine?) decided to construct a shooting range for their practice and sport. At the time, the range was located outside the walled city, in today’s Vesterbro district of Denmark’s capital. The Shooting Range Gardens is now home to a children’s play park, but the range was originally tucked in behind some giant ramparts made of brick – placed such so that it would protect any passersby from stray bullets.

Christian Eilers
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Christian Eilers
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