[ Christianshavn]


Christianshavn was once a market town in its own right, conceived by King Christian IV, and from the beginning was given over to trade and the military. The Dutch engineer, Johan Semp, designed a geometric layout for the town with a square, canals and straight streets. In 1618, construction got under way. The King handed over the building plots free of charge to citizens who would erect buildings befitting of a market town". In 1674, the district was incorporated into Copenhagen and ramparts were built. Over time, Christianshavn became a flourishing centre of commercial firms and factories. But this also created an underclass of paupers, who inhabited some of the most wretched houses in Denmark. "

Little Amsterdam in Copenhagen

  • Story written by: Jakob Seerup
  • Time / Periode 1618

In the heart of Copenhagen is a miniature version of Amsterdam; a town in the style of the Netherlands, complete with canals and warehouses and surrounded by ramparts as a living, breathing testimony to the close relations that existed between the Netherlands and Denmark in the 1600s. The 'Dutch quarter' was created by the Friesian town planner Johan Semp, who was summoned to Denmark in 1616 by King Christian IV. The King had grand plans for the muddy bank across from the capital, envisaging an independent market town where trade would flourish. Semp reclaimed land and laid out streets, squares and plots for merchant's houses, creating the quarter that came to be known as Christianshavn. The street called Strandgade in Christianshavn still shows how the original merchant's houses were built of brick and decorated with fine sandstone details. The finest gate on the street stands in front of the house of Admiral Cort Sivertsen Adeler. In 1637, at the age of 15, Adeler joined up to serve the Netherlands as an adelborst, or sea cadet. He was later in the service of Venice, fighting the Turks in several famous battles. In Denmark in 1663 he was made Admiral of the Fleet and took the Dutch-sounding name of Adeler when he was knighted. Many Dutch seamen were in the service of Denmark in the 1600s, and no doubt felt very much at home in Christianshavn.

Strange and curious parts

  • Story written by: Søren Bitsch Christensen
  • Time / Periode 1617 1973

The author Herman Bang had just returned home from a visit to a residential property in Christianshavn and was about to write up his impressions for Nationaltidende. The year was 1881. Overwhelmed by the sight and stench of the poverty, he wrote: There are strange and curious parts of society. Parts where perceptions are not those of our own, other laws prevail and lives are other than our own. They worship not the same gods, they do not comprehend us, as we do not them: the words they speak are the same, but their sense is quite another..." Now, four centuries later, the King's vision of a prosperous commercial district had become a nightmare. True, Christianshavn boasted merchant vessels, canals and lavish townhouses. But the living conditions of the most poverty-stricken industrial workers was what made the biggest impression on those who ventured into the district. "

Read more about Christianshavn at 1001fortællinger.dk