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Your Copenhagen Free Walking Tour Guides' Favorite architects and architecture

Article by: Penny, CFWT Tour Guide
Photos: Rikke, CFWT Tour Guide and free license images from Wikipedia

Danish architects have a reputation for innovation and invention, and if you want to see how they've transformed our capital city, there's no better time to come to Copenhagen. Our tour guides have listed their favorite contemporary architecture in Copenhagen and what they love about it! Join one of our tours to see some of the must sees of Copenhagen’s cityscape along with the historic buildings, palaces and structures in what was a small fishing village 1000 years ago. Danish architecture and design are part of everyday life and it plays a big importance to how we live our lives and live together in the capital city. 

In the 20th Century, five different styles of architecture were the focus of Copenhagen architects from; Nordic Classicism, Expressionism, Functionalism, Modernism, and Postmodernism . It wasn’t until the 1960s however that Danish architects became prominent players in architecture with the highly successful Functionalism. Functionalism evolved, paved the way and influenced some of the world’s most famous structures including the Sydney Opera House designed by Jørn Utzon and the Great Belt Bridge connecting the islands of Sjaelland and Funen of Denmark, one of the largest bridges in the world. 

Our tour guide Wayne has an appreciation for the SAS building in Vesterbro. The SAS building was designed by Arne Jacobsen. This is not only considered the first skyscraper in Copenhagen, but it is a perfect example of Functionalism. The entire hotel was designed by Arne Jacobsen but has since been renovated since its completion in 1960. Today only one room maintains its original design by the designer and that is room 606. 

SAS Royal Hotel Copenhagen
SAS Royal Hotel Copenhagen

Another design by Arne Jacobsen is a favorite of our tour guide Daniel and this is the National Bank of Denmark. Denmark’s National Bank was established in 1818 by King Frederick the 6th. It was then renovated to its current design in 1965 to 1978 by Arne Jacobsen using Functionalism as a principle, focusing on rational design that meets the specific purpose and function of the building rather than aesthetic. 

Danmarks National Bank
National Bank of Denmark
Opera House Copenhagen
Copenhagen Opera House

Penny’s favorite architecture in Copenhagen is the Royal Opera House. The Royal Opera house sits among a cluster of islands that was once the shipbuilding yards for the Danish Navy. The opera house today was a donation to the Danish people by A.P. Møller and Chastine McKinney Møller Foundation. It was designed by Danish architect Henning Larsen and the opera house was completed in 2005 and inaugurated by Queen Margarethe the second. The opera house boasts highly advanced acoustics and sound quality. There was also controversy surrounding its construction, mainly a very public disagreement between A.P. Moller and the lead architect himself, Henning Larsen, primarily regarding the design of the opera house.  

CopenHill or Amager Bakke

A few of our guides, Rikke and Vivi, appreciate the buildings built by Bjarke Ingels. Ingels is the founder and creative director of BIG. One of the most iconic projects of BIG in Copenhagen is CopenHill. CopenHill is a recreational center including an artificial ski slope open all year round, hiking and running trails and a rock climbing wall on the facade of the building. Beneath all the fun is a waste to energy power plant, one of a myriad of efforts in Copenhagen to reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. Furnaces, steam and turbines convert 440,000 tons of waste to energy annually and deliver electricity and district heating to 150,000 homes in Copenhagen.

Harbor Swim
Harbor Swim

Last but not least, our guide Laura who is also an educated and professional architect doesn’t have just one building that she recommends but is more inspired by the overall influence of Danish architect Jan Gehl. Jan Gehl is a Danish architect and urban design consultant in Copenhagen. His mission is improving the quality of urban life by re-orienting city design towards pedestrians and cyclists, rather than cars and buildings. 

Join one of our tours to experience not only the historical buildings and palaces of Copenhagen but also the modern and contemporary structures that enhance the urban capital city!

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