Latin Quarter Walking Tour, Copenhagen

Latin Quarter Walking Tour (Self Guided), Copenhagen

Back in the Middle Ages, the area surrounding Our Lady's square (Danish: Frue Plads), right in Copenhagen's old heart, was considered as the place to put some light in the darkness of those times. When the University of Copenhagen was established in 1479, it initiated a transformation of the streets around the square, crowding them with the vibrant activity of students avid for knowledge. The revolution on the streets was such, that led to name this area as “Latin Quarter” due to the prevailing use of Latin language in the University and its surroundings.

Still one of the most interesting, young-spirited areas of Denmark's capital city, the Latin Quarter is well known for its hang-out spots, alternative shopping and 18th-century architecture. Discover its history and culture on this self-guided tour!
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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 m in width and 83 m 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.

Opening Hours:
[Church] Mon-Thu, Sat: 8:30am–5pm; Fri: 8:30–10:30am / 12–5pm; Sun: 12–4:30pm
[Exhibition & Ruins] Mon-Thu: 11am–4pm; Fri, Sun: 12–4pm (from May to December)
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)

Holding the distinction of being central Copenhagen's oldest church, Sankt Petri suffered from city fires and the British bombardment of 1807. Probably founded in the 12th century, it first burnt down in the second half of the 14th century and was again rebuilt after suffering extensive damage in the Copenhagen Fire of 1728. Its current impressive copper clad spire was added in the middle of the 18th century.

Internally the church is largely painted white with a vaulted ceiling. There are some lovely chandeliers while the slightly elevated main altar has a lovely painting with two gold columns on either side and topped with a tympanum that has a sort of gold halo emanating from it. The grave chapels housing impressive memorials to important Germans from the 18th and early 19th centuries are interesting to visit, but only on guided tours. The cemetery outside is a delightful quiet oasis.

Services are in German.
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

This striking building, completed in 1861, became the most famous work of Johan Daniel Herholdt, a leading proponent of the "national" school in Danish architecture of the period as opposed to the "European" school. Designed as the Copenhagen University Library, it heralded a new trend during the second half of the 19th century, evident in most of Denmark's large-scale cultural and civic buildings, which came to be characterized by the strong use of red brick.

The library's four-centuries-old book collection had been originally housed in the adjacent Trinitatis Kirke, and Herholdt's building, with brick latticework and circular windows, has a church-like quality itself (similarities can be drawn to northern Italian cathedral architecture). The internal structure features the pioneering and elegant use of cast iron, required to prevent future fires. In 2009, the collection was absorbed into the Royal Library and the building became the university's Student Centre. Events are sometimes held here and the building is often included in tours of the city.
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!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 9am–10pm; Fri: 9am–11pm; Sat: 10am–11pm; Sun: 10am–10pm
Arnold Busck (book store)

8) Arnold Busck (book store)

One of the better and most well-known book stores in the greater Copenhagen, Arnold Busck is a family-owned Danish chain with its flagship location in the Latin Quarter. Not many businesses have as wide a selection of photo books from local and global artists as this one. It's also a good place to find English titles – including a large number in the field of art and architecture, fiction and science – as well as souvenirs, stationery, hobby and art products, toys, board games and more. If you're in trouble finding what you need, workers will gladly help you.

Due to its central location, the place is quite popular, and many visitors enjoy the cozy coffee shop on the second floor. To put it in a nutshell: if you like books, sweet cupcakes, and excellent coffee, this is the perfect place.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–6pm
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.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed: 10am–9pm; Thu-Mon: 10am–6pm
Kultorvet Square

10) Kultorvet Square

Once a place where Danes used to purchase coal for their ovens and stoves, Kultorvet – or Coal Square – is surrounded by many colorful historic buildings and is often frequented by college and school students. While the buildings' facades look amazing alone, the sidewalk cafes, along with several fruit and flower stalls, are helping to create atmosphere. There also are plenty of restaurants to choose from, many having specific cuisines like Italian or Middle Eastern, but also Danish.

Stop by at the square if you're looking for a bustling yet charming spot in the city and don't forget to click some terrific pictures when you visit. Notice the dark, almost black, stone paving pattern inspired by the 18th-century coal trade, as well as the 15-metre fountain and adjoining stage. The fountain is located on the main walking route through which pedestrians are guided in the direction of the shops and terraces. The square's surface slopes downward toward the center so that the fountain and events organised there can be seen from its edges.

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