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Copenhagen (kōˈpənhāˌgən, –häˌgən), Dan. København (köˌbənhounˈ), city (2021 pop. 799,033), capital of Denmark and of Copenhagen co., E Denmark, on E Sjælland and N Amager islands and on the Øresund. It is a major commercial, fishing, and naval port and is Denmark's chief commercial, industrial, and cultural center. It is also a rail hub. The Store Bælt Bridge, between Sjælland and Fyn islands, links the city to Denmark's mainland; the Øresund Fixed Link (2000) connects the city with Malmö, Sweden. Manufactures include ships, machinery, pharmaceuticals, processed food, beer, textiles, plastics, marine engines, furniture, and the celebrated Copenhagen ware.

Copenhagen is the seat of a university (1479), a technical university (1829), an engineering college (1957), a music academy (1867), an economics and business administration school (1917), and a college of veterinary science and agriculture (1856). Frederiksberg and Gentofte are Copenhagen's largest suburbs and, although independent, are intimately tied to the city. Frederiksberg is the seat of the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain factory (1651), a palace, and a zoological garden.

Points of Interest

The inner harbor of Copenhagen is the channel that divides Sjælland and Amager islands. From the harbor extends a narrow arm, the Nyhavn [new harbor], lined with picturesque old houses and closed off by Kongens Nytorv, an irregular square from which the arteries of the city radiate. The Charlottenborg Palace (17th cent.) and the royal theater (opened 1874) are on Kongens Nytorv. Other landmarks include Amalienborg Square, enclosed by four 18th-century palaces, one of which has been the royal residence since 1794; the citadel (c.1662); the city hall (1894–1905); the round tower, used by the astronomer Tycho Brahe as an observatory; and the Cathedral of Our Lady (c.1209; rebuilt in the early 19th cent.), with sculptures by Albert B. Thorvaldsen. The island of Slotsholmen, with a moat on three sides and the harbor on the fourth, supports an impressive complex of buildings, notably Christiansborg Palace (18th cent.; restored 1916), erected on the site of Archbishop Absalon's original castle and now housing the Danish parliament, supreme court, and foreign office; the Thorvaldsen Museum (opened 1848); and the stock exchange (17th cent.). On Holmen island in the harbor, opposite the royal residence, is the large modern opera house (opened 2005). Favorite spots in the city include the Tivoli amusement park (opened 1843) and the waterfront Langelinie Promenade, near which is the famous statue of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid.


Copenhagen was a trading and fishing center by the early 11th cent. It was fortified (1167) by Archbishop Absalon and was chartered (1254) by the bishop of Roskilde. The city was twice destroyed by the Hanseatic League but successfully resisted (1428) a third attack. Copenhagen replaced Roskilde as the Danish capital in 1443. The city exacted tolls from all ships passing through the Øresund until 1857. Having resisted (1658–59) a Swedish siege, Copenhagen was relieved by the Dutch. In 1660 peace between Denmark and Sweden was negotiated there. The city had expanded considerably in the 16th and 17th cent. as its trade grew, and it continued to develop in the 18th cent. as industries such as textile making and tobacco processing brought added prosperity.

Copenhagen became involved in the war between Napoleonic France and England in the early 19th cent. The news that Denmark, by a secret convention, was about to join Napoleon's Continental System and to join in the war on England led the British government to decide to send an expeditionary force to seize the Danish fleet, which already had been mauled (1801) in the battle of Copenhagen. When the Danes refused to surrender, the British landed troops in 1807 and severely damaged Copenhagen by bombarding it.

The city recovered quickly after the Napoleonic Wars, and its industrial base grew rapidly in the 19th cent. In World War II, Copenhagen was occupied (1940–45) by the Germans, and its shipyards were bombed by the Allies. The city itself was only slightly damaged, and it retained the charm and design that had resulted in its being called “the Paris of the North.”

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(København) the capital of Denmark, the largest economic and cultural center of the country. Situated on the western shore of the Øresund, the greater part of it on Sjælland (Zealand) Island, the smaller part on Amager Island; bridges connect the two parts of the city. The climate is temperate maritime, with a mild and unstable winter and a cool summer. The average temperature in January, the coldest month, is -0.4°C and in July, 16.7°C. The precipitation is 530 mm a year.

Copenhagen proper (area, 85.56 sq km; population, 601,200), with its suburbs and satellite cities, forms a vast conurbation, Greater Copenhagen, with a population of about 1.4 million (1972), which is about 30 percent of the country’s total population. Greater Copenhagen forms a separate administrative unit, or ami.

Administration. The city is administered by the city council, elected for a term of four years. The council elects the executive body, or magistracy, and the chief burgomaster. The jurisdiction of the council is limited; it handles only the local budget, the municipal economy, city improvements, health supervision, and a few other matters. The administrative unit of Copenhagen is headed by an amtmand (sheriff) appointed by the government, who controls the activity of the council. Greater Copenhagen includes 22 big municipalities (Copenhagen proper, Frederiksberg, Gentofte, and 19 suburbs), which have their own councils.

History. Copenhagen was mentioned for the first time in sources in 1043 as the village of Havn (harbor). In 1167, Bishop Absalon built a castle near the village and surrounded Havn with fortifications. In 1170, Havn was called K0benhavn (merchant’s harbor). Between 1186 and 1416, Copenhagen belonged with interruptions to the Roskilde episcopal see and was repeatedly ravaged by the Hanseatics (especially in 1369). It was declared a city in 1254. It came under the direct rule of the king in 1416 and was given broad privileges in 1422. In 1433, it became the residence of the king. For its courageous defense in the war between Denmark and Sweden in 1658–60, Copenhagen was given new privileges: the burghers were made equal in rights with the nobility.

Copenhagen reached the high point of its development as Denmark’s commercial center in the 18th century but declined in the early 19th century. The economic revival and reconstruction of Copenhagen began in the second half of the 19th century. At that time the ramparts, city walls, and old fortifications were torn down, and the building up of the city’s boroughs and suburbs was freely permitted. Copenhagen became an important industrial center in the 20th century.

It was occupied by the fascist German troops in April 1940, and it became the major center of the Danish Resistance Movement. A general strike in protest against the occupation of Den-mark took place in Copenhagen from June 30 to July 4, 1944. Copenhagen was liberated from the fascist German invaders on May 5, 1945, by detachments of the Danish Resistance Movement and the British armed forces.

Economy. Copenhagen is an important transportation hub at the junction of routes connecting the Baltic and North seas and Northern and Central Europe, and it is the center of the country’s foreign trade and industry. Its large port handled 10.5 million tons of freight in 1970. Railroads connect Copenhagen with other parts of Denmark and with Western European countries (by railroad ferries). Kastrup International Airport is on Amager Island.

A considerable portion of the enterprises of the Danish manufacturing industry is concentrated in Copenhagen. The most developed industries are machine building, especially shipbuilding (including ocean-going diesel ships, tankers, and whaling and other ships produced at the biggest wharf belonging to the Burmeister og Wain concern and elsewhere); the production of electrical equipment, refrigerators, agricultural machines, bicycles, motorcycles, medical and control-and-measurement equipment and instruments, and watches; and automobile assembly. Other industries include chemicals, paper, and cement, as well as various branches of light industry and the food-processing industry. The traditional production of porcelain and faience articles is still carried on. The industrial enterprises use mainly imported raw materials and fuels and produce for export. Copenhagen is Denmark’s financial center; the Commercial Bank, Danish Agricultural Bank, and other banks are located in Copenhagen, as well as the boards of big industrial and commercial companies.

Architecture and city planning. Old Copenhagen, which has retained traces of the medieval radial-ring planning and narrow winding streets, is located on Sjaelland and Amager islands, in zones directly adjoining the sound, and on small islands. The center of old Copenhagen, situated on the island of Slotsholmen, is the site of the palace and parliament of Christiansborg (1733–40, architect E. D. Häusser; restored after the 1794 fire by C. F. Hansen in 1800–20 and after the 1884 fire by T. Jørgensen in 1907–22; in pseudobaroque style), the Stock Exchange in the Danish Renaissance style (1619–40, architects L. and H. Steenwinkel), and Thorvaldsen’s Museum in the classical, style (1839–48, architect M. G. Bindesbø11). Sjaelland Island contains the Danish Renaissance Rosenberg Palace (1606–34, architects L. and H. Steenwinkel); a citadel (1661); the baroque palace Charlottenborg, now the building of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (1672–77, architect L. van Haven); the baroque palace complex Amalienborg (construction begun in 1750, architect N. Eigtved); the Nyboder residential quarter (1631–48); and the Town Hall (1892–1905, architect M. Nyrop, in the style of Danish national romanticism). On Amager Island, in the region of Christianshavn (founded in 1618), there is the Frelsers Kirke (1682–96, architect L. van Haven), as well as ancient and modern port and residential facilities and remnants of fortifications.

Since the early 20th century Copenhagen has been growing radially to the northwest and the south, merging with the suburbs, where residential complexes are being constructed. The main 20th-century structures are Grundtvig’s Church (1921–40, architects P. V. Jensen-Klint and K. Klint), the radio-center complex (1938–45, architect V. T. Lauritzen), and the SAS air-line building (1959, architect A. Jacobsen). The general plan for the development of Copenhagen, published in 1948 and drawn up by the architects S. E. Rasmussen and others, provides for building up the city in the shape of a hand with outstretched fingers and with green parks in the intervals.

Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions. Copenhagen is the site of the University of Copenhagen, the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, the Danish Engineering Academy, the Danish Technical High School, the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, the Danish Royal Academy of Music, and many other specialized educational institutions. The city’s scientific institutions include the Danish Royal Academy of Science and Literature, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and the Danish Academy of Technological Sciences.

Libraries in Copenhagen include the National (Royal) Library, the university library, the Municipal Library, and the Public Library, which has a large children’s library. The museums of Copenhagen include the National Museum, the City Museum, the Royal Marine Museum, the Danish Museum of Decorative Art, the New Carlsberg Glyptotek, the Danish Royal Military Museum, the Museum of the Danish Resistance Movement of 1940–45, the State Art Museum, the Zoological Museum, Thorvaldsen’s Museum, the Museum of the History of the Theater, the Museum of the History of Music, and the Danish Film Museum. Functioning theaters include the Royal Theater (drama, opera, and ballet) and the drama theaters the People’s Theater, the New Theater, the New Scala, the Youth Theater, and the Gladsaxe Theater. The Danish Royal Conservatory is located in Copenhagen.


Bruun, C. Kjøbenhavn, parts 1–3. Copenhagen, 1887–91.
Elling, Ch. Det klassiske København. Copenhagen, 1944.
Hzrtmann, J.B. København: Interiører og prospekter, 1800–1860. Copenhagen, 1948.
Bjerregaard, J. Det idylliske København: Historical Copenhagen. [Copenhagen] 1959.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the capital of Denmark, a port on Zealand and Amager Islands on a site inhabited for some 6000 years: exports chiefly agricultural products; iron and steel works; university (1479). Pop.: 501 664 (2004 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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