Although there has been a harbor at Copenhagen since the 8th century, until the Middle Ages it was just a simple trading post called Havn (Harbor), albeit one with an important geographical position.
Havn was within easy access of Skåne (Sweden), then part of Denmark, across the Sound, and a handy halfway point on the trade route between the growing medieval cities of Roskilde and Lund.
Its fortune changed dramatically, however, in 1167, when King Valdemar I commanded the local bishop Absalon of Roskilde, to fortify Havn in order to protect it against Wendic pirates.
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Absalon built a fortress on the spot where the Parliament building now looms. Copenhagen was on the way to becoming Denmark’s biggest and most important town. The fortress became Christiansborg, borg meaning castle.
Centuries later, it remains the seat of Danish politics, housing the Folketing (Parliament).
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During the long reign of Kristian IV (1588-1648), Copenhagen solidified its role as the country’s seat of power. The visionary town planner strengthened the city’s overseas trade links, enhanced the city’s military might with a huge defensive fortification and made it the country’s economic center by buiding Børsen, said to be the oldest stock exchange in Europe – a Renaissance structure with a spire of entwined dragons, steep copper roofs, tiny windows and gables galore.
Historic Trading Post in Copenhagen, written by Tor Kjolberg