Copenhagen (Dan. Kjobenhavn, 'Merchants' Haven'), the capital of Denmark, is situated on the low-lying eastern shore of the island of Zealand, in the Sound, which is here about 12 miles broad. The channel forms a fine and capacious harbour, which is bridged over so as to connect the isolated suburb of Christianshavn and the main part of the city at two points. Pop. (1835) 120,000; (1880) 235,254; now 390,000, or, with suburbs, 600,000. Copenhagen is still defended by the old citadel of Frederikshavn and by forts on the seaward side; the old fortifications, removed since 1863, have been succeeded by exterior works. Amongst its few buildings of historical interest or intrinsic beauty, the cathedral, rebuilt after the bombardment of 1807, possesses statues of Christ and the Apostles, and a baptismal font, designed and in part executed by Thorwaldsen. Trinitatiskirke is remarkable for its round tower, which is ascended by a spiral incline instead of steps; and an English church, built at a cost of £10,000, was consecrated in 1887. The royal palace, called Christiansborg, was rebuilt between 1794 and 1828, but suffered greatly from fire in 1884. In the castle of Rosenborg (1610-24) are kept the regalia; the palace of Charlotten-borg (1624) is now used as an academy of arts. The university was founded by Christian I. in 1479, has 1300 students, and a library of 350,000 volumes; the royal library contains 600,000. Copenhagen is the centre, not only of Danish, but of northern literature and art, and is the seat of the unrivalled Museum of Northern Antiquities, and the Thorwaldsen Museum (1846). The exports include grain, rape-seed, butter, cheese, beef, cattle, wool, etc.; and porcelain, pianos, clocks, watches, mathematical instruments, chemicals, sugar, beer, and tobacco are manufactured. To counterbalance the prejudicial effect of the Baltic Ship Canal (see Baltic Sea) on the commerce of Copenhagen, the Danes established here in 1890-94 a great free port, fenced off from Danish customs territory, and designed to be an entrepot between Baltic lands and the outer world.
In 1254 the village of Copenhagen obtained the privileges of a town, and in 1443 King Christopher made it the capital of the kingdom. It was several times attacked by the Hanseatic League; was besieged by the Swedes in the 17th century; was bombarded by the English, Dutch, and Swedes in 1700; suffered grievously by fires in 1728, 1794, and 1795; witnessed a great sea-fight in its roads on 2d April 1801, when the English, under Sir Hyde Parker and Nelson, destroyed the Danish fleet; and (to prevent the Danish fleet from falling into the power of Napoleon) was bombarded by the English from the 2d to the 5th of September 1807, when hundreds of persons lost their lives.