An urbanist’s Copenhagen

Copenhagen, as in the municipality vs Storkøbenhavn/Hovedstadsområdet, made up of 18 municipalities. Københavns Amt, a county authority, existed from 1970-2006. It could all have been so different – see 1824 map. See also Copenhagen: becoming unrecognisable, or just growing up?



  • 1043: King Magnus the Good lands in Havn (mentioned in the 11th century Knytlingesaga)
  • 1167: Absalon begins to build his castle in Havn (according to Saxo; Latin ‘Mercatorum Portus’, ie ‘Købmændenes Havn’)
  • 1536-1660: Renaissance, James VI and Christian IV’s CPH (again)
  • 1870-1900: Det moderne gennembrud (walk | another) – byplan og bygninger af Ferdinand Meldahl, Voldkvarter med stuk på facaden og fine fornemmelser, fra kernen af det gamle ved Frue Plads, ud af de smalle gader, gennem Ørstedsparken og Voldkvarterets brede gader, gennem markedshaller og Botanisk Haves Palmehus
  • 1888: Nordic Exhibition of Industry, Architecture and Art
  • 1960s: How Copenhagen rejected 1960s modernist ‘utopia’
  • from 1989 aim was for CPH to be a driver for the whole nation; no more almene boliger, property sold off quickly, eg Kalvebod Brygge, Ørestad; Kulturbyen96, the extension of the airport and Øresundsbroen also contributed
  • 1994: CPH almost bankrupt in 1980s, bankrolled by the Home Office in 1993-94 (see Københavns genrejsning 1990-2010); causes inc the closures of eg B&W and the naval base on Holmen, leading to high unemployment, the decentralisation of industry, enabling growth in smaller towns, and the movement of people to the suburbs (families moved out of the city as soon as they could afford it – closer to nature, had their own villa, etc)
  • from around 2000 CPH began to be cool
  • population went from 760K in 1954 to 465K in 1990; 583K in 2014


Copenhagen’s 10 administrative bydele (map | map2) divide into four subgroups:

  • Indre By – includes Christianshavn (see separate page); see Københavneravisen
  • Østerbro, Nørrebro and Vesterbro/Kongens Enghave (aka brokvartererne) – see separate page
  • Amager Vest and  Øst – see separate page
  • the Vs to the west:
    • Valby – see separate page
    • Vanløse (2720 | walks | map (1780)) – another one which became part of CPH in 1901, smallest bydel and oldest village; lots of building in the first half of the 20th century: Bogen om…., Vandrefuglen
      • Kronen (2017) and Tagkronen (2017?): housing development by Sandberg; 1-4 room homes on 1-3 levels??; a mini-bjerglandsby on top of the shopping centre; ground floor 12m above ground, pedestrian-only paths
  • the Bs to the north/north west:
  • random bydele:
    • Bellahøj: it (and Brønshøj generally) between two fingers of the Finger Plan; a bit lost and forgotten
      • 1950-56; name Bellahøj comes from the house built by merchant Moses Levin Mariboe (1760-1830) in 1791, called after his wife, Isabella eller Bella Henriques (c1761-96)
      • Bellahøjmarken/ -parken and Degnemosen: CPH’s highest point, 37m above sea level
      • Restaurant Bellahøj: see above; formerly kro and gård; three Bronze Age burial mounds behind
      • flag pole, Bellahøjvej: akse gennem Rødkildepladsen med udsigt til Københavns Rådhus
      • Bellahøj Amfiteater: in modernist park
      • Bellahøj Vandtårn (1913): not fredet; at Bellahøjvej 50
      • Genforeningspladsen (1930-32): now known for the recreational area rather than the high density housing
      • Adventskirken: Sallingvej
    • Grøndal (pics | walks | map): spreads over parts of Brønshøj, Vanløse and Nordvest, from the slope down the ridge at Bellahøj to the valley Grøndal Å used to wind across; originally grassland between the villages of Vanløse, Brønshøj and Utterslev, never achieved administrative status
      • AF Beyersvej: oldest houses in the area (18th century), probably all gone now
      • Vendsysselvej: Vendsysselhus, Thorkild Henningsen (1924-25), reliefs by Svend Rathsack; Skagensbo (1936) by K Weidmann Pedersen
      • Morsøvej: dobbelthuse med en utraditionel udformning
      • Frederiksgårds Allé: Frederiksgårdskole (1951)
      • Grøndalsvænge Haveboligforening 1914-20: influenced by Carl Strinz from Bonn, who won Den Store Konkurrence in 1908
      • Grøndalsvænge Allé 7 and 9 – owned by vandvæsen, skolehaver ved siden af
      • Enebærvej 11: Ivar Bentsens forsøgshus (1929)
      • Randbølvej: western border; three different types of town planning; lots of funkisvillas
      • Katrinedalsskolen: 1934; funkis

Not forgetting Frederiksberg, the by i byen. Also, most of Amager is not in Copenhagen municipality (see separate page).

There are also ‘functional’ bydele:

  • easy enough to get your head round – Christianshavn, Vesterbro and Kongens Enghave (less so), and the reasonably well defined bits of Amager (link) such as Islands Brygge and Ørestad
  • things get more tricky when you hit the Vs and the Bs, aka sprawl:
    • Nordvest, also known as Nordlædervest and Nordværst, is generally taken as postnummer 2400 (pop: 45K; map) and covers the south west part of Bispebjerg and small bits of Vanløse and Nørrebro; VINK; gentrification fears, not least with the opening of galleries by Nils Stærk and Nicolai Wallner (comment | tour): see article by Linda Lapina
    • Grøndal spreads over Brønshøj, Vanløse and Nordvest
    • then there’s Bellahøj…
    • the redevelopment of Nordhavn and Sydhavn will surely also call for further reorganisation
    • and Carlsberg – Vesterbro, really??

Indre By:

  • Amalienborg: for Kolonnaden, built in 1794 by CF Harsdorff, conceived as a temporary construction and hence – famously – built of wood; offers the royals access between Moltkes (Chr VII’s) and Schacks (Chr IX’s) palæer, two of Amalienborg’s four palaces built by Nicolai Eigtved around 50 years earlier (today the latter is occupied by M II, with the former used for functions; Inden for Voldene | Arkark)
  • Christiansborg – smutvej alert! three connecting buildings, the oldest surviving entries in Peter Olesen’s guide, dating back to the construction of the first Christiansborg in 1733-40; seen from Slotspladsen there are two linking Christiansborg Slot with:
    • Den røde bygning (Finansministeriet) – left of Christiansborg; Folketingets formand and vice formand have apartments here, and there are further offices for MF’er and the press, all in all a well used space
    • Slotskirken – right of Christiansborg; not in regular use
    • the third is in Rigsdagsgården, connecting Christiansborg Slot with Rigsarkivet; closed to the public
  • Esplanaden
  • Københavns Byret (1815): two 10m by 2m walkways (sukkebroer) over Slutterigade lead from the arresthus (holding cells) to the retssælene (courtrooms)
  • Minefeltet – area of assorted pubs inc Hviids Vinstue, Skindbuksen, Toga, Café Nick and Slotskælderen/Gitte Kik near Nikolaj Kunsthal (event), frequented by writers inc Tom Kristensen
  • Strøget – issues! again | renovation of Illum
    • pedestrianised in 1962, not conceived as a shopping mall but as part of a central walking system; probably revolutionary at the time, but now everywhere has a ped precinct; all too often packed with tourists, Swedes and Danes from out of town
    • Jan Gehl: “Strøget is now roughly at its handling capacity on a summer’s day, given its width at 10-12 metres and space for roughly 145 people/minute”
    • Lonely Planet: “it has begun to stagnate…offering the same old international brand names at its posh, eastern end and a scrappy mix of budget clothing stores, tourist shops and kebab houses to the west…heading towards Oxford Street-style ‘national disgrace’ status”
  • buildings and other to-sees:
  • Metropolzonen (nomenclature no longer used) – area stretching west:east from Søpavilionen to the harbour and north: south from middelalderbyen to Kødbyen, with a kulturakse from Kødbyerne to Christiansborg via Tivoli; ie bordered by the Lakes to the northwest and the ‘harbour’ to the south east; according to DAC, whose 2017 Sunday walk takes in Axel Towers, Tivoli Hjørnet, Glyptoket and BLOX, the area is becoming transformed from a place you could use and pass through (or: et ingenmandsland de færreste har et forhold til) to a place to stop:
  • Middelalderbyen – afgrænses af Nørre Voldgade, Vester Voldgade, Stormgade, Holmens Kanal og Gothersgade
  • Havneringen/Harbour Circle – 2016 wheeze, “13km of waterside experiences through 12 unique areas” south of Nyhavn x; themes | map | another | inauguration -> look at discourse here
  • Kulturkvarter – another 2016 wheeze, between Indre By and the waterfront, with all the old Royal stuff; see also Slotsholmen museumsø (again | interview | walk | DACDAC urban trail)
  • sculptures: Lurblæserne (Rådhuspladsen) and Tycho Brahe bust by Siegfried Wagner
  • Sølvgade Kaserne (BaseCamp Sølvgade) – on Georg Brandes Plads, built 1765-71 by Nicolas-Henri Jardin; the building was occupied by DSB from 1927, who installed a two storey smutvej with the upper storey open to the elements in the courtyard; in 2013 the building was taken over by UCPH and converted into student housing, meaning an end to the shortcut from here to…
  • Geocenter Danmark – at Øster Voldgade 10, part of a large complex built 1929-54 by Oluf Gjerløv-Knudsen for Danmarks Tekniske Højskole and now part of UCPH, smutvej best seen from the back entrance on Rigensgade (Arkark | Inden for Voldene)
  • Tjæreborg (Slotsholmgade 12; pic) – government building from 1967 replacing a sugar warehouse pulled down in 1959, by Svenn Eske Kristensen and Thomas Havning; two smutveje can be seen from the back entrance or from the other side of the road, leading from the offices to the canteen (Inden for Voldene)

Nordhavn: Flickr | timelapse | webcam | Wikipedia | Vandringsløse Tidende | Havnekulturkontoret | metro station visions | The BOD Building (3D printing) | Orienten (affordable housing)

  • history (English) | Gåafstand (2007; English) | Jan Christiansen: the most dangerous S tog station at night, marking the end of CPH; #lookup experience destroyed by building a town the size of Roskilde in front of the view
  • Nordhavnsvej (2017): road linking the Helsingør motorway and Strandvænget, improving access to Nordhavn from north of CPH, and possibly also to the Amager motorway south of CPH, if the Havnetunnel (again) is approved
  • areas south to north:
    • FN Byen/Marmormolen
    • Århusgadekvarteret: Marina Park (Sundkrogsgade 2-4) | bottleneck with poor connections to both Lyngbyvej and the airport; cinema to be built on Hamborg Plads
    • Kronløbsøen: new islet; apartments etc over an underwater car park; more apartments on Fortkaj (2020)
    • Sundmolen: Copenhagen International School (By og Havn)
    • KalkbrænderihavnenPaustians Hus (Jørn Utzon, 1987; listed 2000) | Bruun Rasmussen (Kim Utzon, 2003) | Kaffebaren Havnelyst (Skudehavnsvej 6; dates from the 1960s
    • Levantkaj: currently the container terminal; with Skudehavnen and Skudeløbet; no bevaringsværdige bygninger here; masterplan to be developed
    • Fiskerihavnen/Fisketorvet: formerly Skudehavnen, at Østersøvej; the last commercial fishermen in CPH; moved here in 1995 from further in Nordhavn
    • Oceankaj

Copenhagen a-z: