Copenhagen (Danish: København) is the capital city of Denmark and forms the moderate conurbation that one million Danes call home. This "friendly old girl of a town" is big enough to form a small Danish metropolis, with shopping, culture and nightlife par excellence, yet small enough still to feel intimate and be safe. Although mixed in its urban scene, the city is easy to navigate. Overlooking the Øresund Strait, with neighbouring Sweden just minutes away, Copenhagen serves as a cultural and geographic link between mainland Europe and Scandinavia. Copenhagen is where old fairy tales blend with flashy new architecture and world-class design; where warm jazz mixes with crisp electronica from Copenhagen's basements. You could feel you've seen all of Copenhagen in one day, but further exploration will have you discovering more for months.
If you had dropped by Copenhagen in the 11th century CE / AD you would have found yourself looking over a quite small fishing hamlet, with some lazy cattle gazing back at you while chewing fresh green grass from the meadows around the village. Looking east you would see a host of small islets protecting the small fishing harbour from harsh weather — really not the worst place to found a city. If you would rather trust the written word than the archaeologists, the earliest accounts date from the 12th century, when a bearded clerk (or a renowned historian if you will) called Saxo Grammaticus scribbled down a few lines about the place; Portus Mercatorum, he called it, which was really just a fancy Latin version of Købmannahavn. This has since been mangled into København in modern Danish, and even further mangled into Copenhagen in English, but all it really means is "merchant harbour."
Around 1160 CE, King Valdemar handed over control of the city to the archbishop of Roskilde, Absalon, one of the most colourful characters of the Middle Ages — a curious mix of great churchman, statesman, and warrior. As the country's only city not under the king's control, Absalon saw it thrive and erected a castle on what is today Slotsholmen (the remains are still visible in the catacombs under the present day parliament). As a man of religion Absalon also built a great church, and with those necessities taken care of, Copenhagen quickly gained importance as a natural stop between the two most important Danish cities, the old royal capital Roskilde and Lund in present day Sweden. Endowed with an enviable location on the banks of the important Øresund Strait, it slowly but steadily surpassed the old urban centers. Copenhagen's rise was greatly aided by entrepreneurial trading with friends and foes alike and by prosperous fishing which provided much of Roman Catholic Europe with salted herring for Lent. But with prosperity comes envy and in the years to follow Copenhagen was laid waste and pillaged time and time again, mainly by the members of the German Hanseatic League, which at one point completely destroyed the city. Read more