Latin Quarter Walking Tour, Copenhagen

Latin Quarter Walking Tour (Self Guided), Copenhagen

One of the most interesting, young-spirited neighborhoods of Denmark's capital, the Latin Quarter is well known for its hangout spots, alternative shopping, and 18th-century architecture.

Back in the Middle Ages, the area surrounding Our Lady's Square (“Frue Plads” in Danish), right in the heart of it, was considered a “ray of light” in the overall darkness of those times. A prominent landmark in the square is the church of the same name.

Following the establishment in the vicinity of Copenhagen University, in 1479, the entire neighborhood transformed, livened up by students avid for knowledge. Ultimately, it came to be known as the Latin Quarter due to the prevailing use of the Latin language both inside the university and around.

Saint Peter's Church (Saint Petri Kirke) is another notable religious site nearby. A short walk away, you will find Study Street (Studiestræde), a quaint and picturesque lane lined with charming shops and cafes, making it an ideal spot for leisurely strolls.

Hans Christian Andersen, the famous Danish author, once called Vestergade No 18 his home. This former residence is now a museum.

For those with a passion for literature and learning, the Copenhagen University Library is a valuable asset, while Paludan's Bog & Cafe and Arnold Busck, a bookstore, also offer plenty of opportunities to indulge in reading.

The iconic Round Tower (Rundetarn) is a must-visit attraction that provides breathtaking panoramic views of the city. This includes Kultorvet Square, a bustling hub inside the Latin Quarter, known for its vibrant atmosphere, restaurants, and cultural events.

The Latin Quarter of Copenhagen is a captivating blend of history, culture, and academia. We hereby invite you to take a step back in time and immerse yourself in its intellectual and cultural richness. You won't want to miss this self-guided journey through Copenhagen's past and present!
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Latin Quarter Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Latin Quarter Walking Tour
Guide Location: Denmark » Copenhagen (See other walking tours in Copenhagen)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: EmmaS
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Our Lady's Church and Square
  • Copenhagen University
  • St. Peter's Church (St. Petri Kirke)
  • Studiestræde (Study Street)
  • Vestergade No 18 – H. C. Andersen's Former Residence
  • Copenhagen University Library
  • Paludan's Bog & Cafe
  • Arnold Busck (book store)
  • Round Tower (Rundetarn)
  • Kultorvet Square
Our Lady's Church and Square

1) Our Lady's Church and Square

Situated next to the historic main building of the University of Copenhagen, Church of Our Lady is among the prominent religious landmarks in the city. While less dramatic than the typical Cathedral, its marble stations of the cross far better depict the suffering of Jesus than most and the large organ is an impressive sight. Outside, it looks a little like the Pantheon in Rome, with statues of David and Moses on either side of the doors.

Constructed in 1829, the present church was rebuilt in the then-modern neo-classical style following a British bombardment during the Napoleonic wars. Measuring a hefty 33 meters in width and 83 meters in length, it can seat at least 1100 people if all galleries are left open. There are four church bells housed in the tower, one of which is the heaviest in Denmark at 4 tons.

The interior is decorated with the twelve apostles (one in front of each of the piers of the central nave), the Risen Christ displaying the wounds in his body (in a niche above the altar) and the baptismal font in the form of an angel holding a large scallop shell, all in Italian carrara marble. All of these sculptures were completed in Rome by the famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, whose bronze bust is on display in the aisles along with many portraits of bishops and deans.

Why You Should Visit:
This church is of very severe exterior appearance but upon stepping inside, you become engulfed with the beautiful lighting and outstanding decorations, statues, altar, columns, ceiling and arches.

If possible, try to come during the jazz service on Sunday, as part of the yearly Copenhagen Jazz Festival – but come early. That's an event you will remember forever: informal and at the same time very inspiring.
Copenhagen University

2) Copenhagen University

The Latin Quarter is home to Copenhagen's University since the Middle Ages, when Latin used to be the primary language of education. Established in 1479 by a Papal bull, in close location to the Church of Our Lady, it had a predominantly theological focus up until the 18th century when, through various reforms, science and the humanities replaced theology as the main subjects studied and taught. Still, the first female student was enrolled here no sooner than 1877.

A number of prominent scientific theories and schools of thought are namesakes of the institution. The famous Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics was conceived at the Niels Bohr Institute, which is part of the university. Outside the main building, a busts honor Bohr himself, who won the the 1922 Physics Prize for his model of the structure of the atom and, some twenty years later, helped develop the atomic bomb.

If the doors are open, enter a colorful lobby, starring Athena and Apollo. The frescoes celebrate high thinking, with themes such as wisdom's triumph over barbarism. Notice how harmoniously the architecture, sculpture, and painting all combine.
St. Peter's Church (St. Petri Kirke)

3) St. Peter's Church (St. Petri Kirke)

Saint Peter's Church, located in the Latin Quarter of Copenhagen, serves as the parish church for the city's German-speaking community. With origins dating back to the 12th century, the church is first documented in 1304 and is considered the oldest building in central Copenhagen. It underwent significant reconstruction following a fire in 1380 and was one of four Catholic parish churches in the city during the Middle Ages.

Post-Reformation, the church was repurposed briefly as a canon and bell foundry before being presented to the German-speaking populace by Frederick II in 1585. Renowned architect Hans van Steenwinckel the Elder renovated the church, adding a gablet upper floor to the initially uncompleted tower. This was later replaced by a spire in the 17th century.

Throughout its history, Saint Peter's Church has been a focal point for Copenhagen's political, economic, cultural, and military elite. The congregation's growth necessitated multiple expansions, including the addition of northern and southern transepts by Christian IV in the 1630s and a further extension by Christian V in the 1690s.

The church features a distinctive complex of sepulchral chapels, started in 1643 and completed by Hans van Steenwinckel the Youngest in the late 17th century. These chapels house numerous tombs and epitaphs of notable German families in Denmark, with sarcophagi and coffins arranged in layers within underground crypts.

Severely damaged in the Copenhagen Fire of 1728, Saint Peter's Church was largely rebuilt by Johan Cornelius Krieger. The interior was redesigned, and a new copper-clad spire was added in 1756-57, which survived the British bombardment during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807. The church now sports a cruciform layout with significant portions dating back to the mid-15th century. Its main entrance, adorned with a Baroque portal crafted by Diderik Gercken in 1731, and a Rococo-style spire, reflects the architectural evolution and historical significance of this venerable institution.
Studiestræde (Study Street)

4) Studiestræde (Study Street)

Even though Studiestræde runs parallel to the busy shopping street Strøget, it's relaxed in a very pleasant way; a perfect place to relax with a drink at one of the many cafés after bargain-hunting at the equally numerous vintage shops located here. If Strøget is too mainstream for your taste, Studiestræde is where you might find whatever you are looking for.

It's also one of the streets of the Latin Quarter that still maintains the charm of Copenhagen's past. Have a look at the old buildings; they may not say much at ground level, but look up! Those colorful facades have not changed much, still keeping their uneven windows. They have been silent witnesses to student life for over two centuries!

The building at No. 6 was built as a professorial residence in 1795 and was home to the Technical College from 1829 until 1890. Its first director lived in the building from 1824 until his death. Most of the other buildings along the first section of the street (until Vester Voldgade) date from the years after the Copenhagen Fire of 1795 and many of them are listed.
Vestergade No 18 – H. C. Andersen's Former Residence

5) Vestergade No 18 – H. C. Andersen's Former Residence

When Hans Christian Andersen first planted his feet in Copenhagen on September 6th, 1819, he stayed at the Gardergården inn on Vestergade #18. In the autobiography of his youth, "Levnedsbogen" (not published until 1926), he describes how, after entering Vesterport, he followed some travelers through Vestergade into Gardergården, where he lived in a small room for the first couple of weeks until he had spent all his money and got on the move again. He was only 14 at the time and knew no one in all the great city, but felt certain he could accomplish his goals here.

Most of the buildings on Vestergade date from the years after the fire of 1795; however, the street has had a long history since the Middle Ages, when it linked Gammeltorv (once the most important city square) with the Western City Gate, serving as the principal entrance road for traffic coming from the west.

Several times in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, the Citizens' Representation tried to make the street wider and more traffic-friendly, but both private individuals and associations have put up a fight and it still carries its distinctive weak curve from Medieval times, having fortunately never seen the large traffic regulation that other areas of Copenhagen did.
Copenhagen University Library

6) Copenhagen University Library

The Copenhagen University Library, located in Copenhagen, serves as the principal research library for the University of Copenhagen. Established in 1482, it holds the distinction of being the oldest library in Denmark. The library's origins are tied closely to the university itself, which was founded just three years earlier in 1479. Its foundation was marked by the donation of a book collection by the university's vice-rector, Peder Albertsen. The library's first designated building was the House of the Holy Ghost, and in 1553, a dedicated library structure was inaugurated at the current site of the university's main building. This building facilitated the library's functions for a century.

The historical main building, located in Fiolstræde, is a celebrated example of Neo-Gothic architecture, designed by Johan Daniel Herholdt and completed in 1861. Herholdt, influenced by his travels and observations—specifically the Crystal Palace in London and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris—introduced a revolutionary structural system using cast iron to mitigate the risk of fire. His design also incorporated elements inspired by northern Italian cathedral architecture, notably the Church of San Fermo in Verona. Notable features include hive-like column terminations and a façade designed to complement the university's seven gabled fronts facing Frue Plads. The library's interiors were adorned by Georg Hilker, a prominent Danish decorative painter of that era.

Through its rich history and architectural significance, the Copenhagen University Library not only serves as a repository of knowledge but also as a landmark of Danish cultural and architectural heritage.
Paludan's Bog & Cafe

7) Paludan's Bog & Cafe

If you want a really filling breakfast/brunch without breaking the bank, stop by this restful place. Located in the Latin Quarter just across from the University Library, Paludan is Denmark's oldest book café. As per their website, "The café’s clear objective is to combine the traditional bookstore with a functioning eatery, where service is top notch in both places."

Paludan's sells both used and new books and has a wide selection of fiction/non-fiction books in English, Danish and other languages. Food-wise, there are options for everybody: meat-based or vegetarian, seafood, Asian, very simple dishes, non-dairy, gluten-free, low calories, etc. For those first timers, go to the left as you walk in and order at the counter. There are menus in English as well, making it easy to pick whatever it is you want. After placing the order, find a place to sit and they will bring the food out to you. Either eat inside and be surrounded by bookshelves or sit outside and enjoy the street views. Service is quick, and you get very good value for the price. Can't ask for much more!
Arnold Busck (book store)

8) Arnold Busck (book store)

Arnold Busck, a renowned name in the Danish book retail industry, was founded in 1896 in Copenhagen by Arnold Busck and J.L. Wisbech, originally under the name Busck & Wisbech. The bookstore moved to Gothersgade in 1901 and became solely known as Arnold Busck after Wisbech departed in 1902. Over the years, it expanded by acquiring Nyt Nordisk Forlag in 1922 and Det Schønbergske Forlag in 1965. The leadership of the company passed through generations of the Busck family, with Helge Arnold Busck taking over in 1941, followed by his son Ole Arnold Busck in 1969.

Located on Købmagergade, near the bustling Strøget—one of Copenhagen’s busiest shopping areas—and close to the University of Copenhagen, Arnold Busck became a cultural staple in the city. Initially catering to collegiate literature students, the store later broadened its audience to the general public, emphasizing a rich selection of art and architecture books, as well as a substantial collection of fiction.

The store remains a beloved fixture in Copenhagen, housed in a three-story building that has been part of the city's fabric since the early 1900s. It offers a vast array of books on various subjects including arts, architecture, photography, food, and wine, alongside children’s books, audiobooks, tourist guides, and maps. The store is also known for its extensive collection of books in both Danish and English. Adding to its charm is the famous Baresso coffee bar on the second floor, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. The yearly sale event at Arnold Busck is especially popular, drawing crowds eager for book bargains in a vibrant city atmosphere.
Round Tower (Rundetarn)

9) Round Tower (Rundetarn) (must see)

Located in central Copenhagen, the famous 17th-century Rundetårn – or Round Tower – was part of King Christian IV's architectural projects, having been built as an observatory for the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe. Tourists from all over the world come to enjoy the expansive view of Copenhagen from the top after climbing through its 7.5-turn helical corridor.

Astronomy grew to be very important in 17th century Europe and this led to the mushrooming of many observatories. The Rundetårn observatory, originally referred to as STELLÆBURGI REGII HAUNIENSIS, consisted of an academic library, the Trinitatis Church, and a university chapel where scholars spent their time. The tower's well-known spiral ramp was mentioned by architect Lauritz de Thurah as being "of such a strength and breadth that it is even possible to ride and drive up and down the tower on horseback or by carriage – an act that has been done, as is well known, by several of our kings, as well as the Russian Tsar PETER ALEXEWITZ in the year 1716, when His Majesty often rode up and down".

Walking along the ramp, your first stop is a museum/library hall with different installations from contemporary artists, followed by the bells room, and – last but not least – the astronomical observatory with its 360-degree overview.

Having once housed the University's entire book collection, the Library Hall was regularly visited by Denmark's famous writer, who sought inspiration for his work. If you love Andersen's fairy tales, you will definitely feel their spirit inside Rundetårn. The tower itself was mentioned in "The Tinderbox", wherein the main character – a poor soldier returning home from war – meets a witch, who asks him to climb into a hollow tree to retrieve a magic tinderbox. The witch gives the soldier permission to take anything he finds inside the chambers, but he must return the tinderbox. In the tree, he finds three chambers filled with precious coins guarded by three monstrous dogs, "one with eyes the size of teacups", who guards a vault filled with pennies, one with "eyes the size of water wheels", who guards a vault filled with silver, and one with eyes "the size of Round Tower", who guards a vault filled with gold.

Why You Should Visit:
Not just a tower offering great city views of the city, but a structure full of interest, with its slow increasing grade walkway, some good information as you go, and a gallery half way up. One of the alcoves, about ¾ of the way up, has a thick glass platform that visitors can stand on and look down the building's hollow core!

The little café above the church next door has a really cool vibe – perfect for a simple coffee with no crowds. There's also a clean toilet halfway through the tower, as well as a good quality souvenir shop right before accessing the outside balcony.
Kultorvet Square

10) Kultorvet Square

Kultorvet Square, nestled in the Old Town of Copenhagen, stands as a vibrant public space rich in history and culture. The name, which translates to "The Coal Market," evolved from its initial role as a hub for trading charcoal, firewood, and peat, strategically positioned near the Northern City Gate. This location was convenient for colliers, peat gatherers, and farmers from North Zealand.

Over the years, the square expanded from its original, smaller footprint through successive demolitions and new constructions. Its architecture reflects a timeline of rebuilding and stylistic changes, with surviving buildings like No. 14 on the corner with Sankt Gertruds Stræde marking its early post-fire reconstruction from the 1730s. Other notable structures include the 1810 buildings designed by Christian Frederik Hansen, and the Historicist Kultorvet Pharmacy built in 1895 by Valdemar Ingemann, noted for its dismantled spire.

Today, Kultorvet is a pedestrian-friendly zone that stretches from Nørreport station to Amagertorv along Strøget. It is a lively area lined with cafés and shops, renowned for hosting outdoor concerts during the summer. A standout feature is the 2013 renovation that introduced a circular water feature, serving both as a decorative element and a functional bandstand for events. Another point of interest is one of Copenhagen’s old telephone kiosks, adding a touch of historical quaintness to the area.

Art also plays a role in defining the square's character, exemplified by Hanne Varming's bronze statue "The Elder Mother" (Hyldemor), inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's tale and Varming's great grandparents. This statue depicts an elderly couple in contemplation, enriching the square with a sense of history and personal memory.

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