Kongens Nytorv is the main square of Copenhagen and the prettiest square in the city. The name translates into the Kings New Square – which give you an indication it may not be all that old. And in fact the square dates back to the period where you were expanding Copenhagen city significantly outside the ancient walls. The city had outgrown its old walls and needed a much bigger area to accommodate the increasing population.
The square was laid out in 1670 by Christian V and there is an equestrian statue of him in the center of the square. The square took over from Gammel Torv (Old Square) as the main square in Copenhagen. And unlike Gammel Torv which at this time were home to a large market where the people of Copenhagen went to shop for supplies Kongens Nytorv was laid out with a garden complex and meant to impress.
The square is still the formal center of Copenhagen despite the new Rådhusplads – or City Hall Square is a bigger square Kongens Nytorv is still much more elegant. The streets in Copenhagen are also numbered in relation to how they are located towards Kongens Nytorv. When you are standing at a street facing towards Kongens Nytorv the number on the left side of the street will be equal and on the right you find the equal numbers on the street. The number starts in the end of the street closest to Kongens Nytorv.
The square has a special status amongst the high school graduates in Copenhagen – tradition has it on the day of your graduation in late June you will drive to all the parents’ houses. Preferably you should have a horse drawn wagon along shared along with all your classmates – but horse drawn wagons are in short supply in Copenhagen on the two days of the graduation festivities. So most graduating classes will have to make do with an old truck and drive around in one of those. Fortunately our class had managed to book a horse drawn wagon during the first week of the first year in high school. The first stop for the high school graduates after they leave the high school in their ride is the square of Kongens Nytorv where they will dance/run around the statue.
Around the square you find some of the prettiest buildings in Copenhagen. At one corner you have the beginning of Nyhavn which mean new harbor and used to be the main merchant harbor in Copenhagen. Today Nyhavn is a very pretty street with a lot of restaurants which attracts large crowds of mainly foreigners in the summer. From Nyhavn going counter clockwise you find an old mansion which is now the French embassy to Denmark. On the next side you find the most famous hotel in Copenhagen D’angletere which is also home to Marchal Restaurant which got one Michelin star. A block after the hotel you find the main pedestrian street in Copenhagen called Strøget which has a lot of brand name shops and other shopping options – another block after Strøget you see Magasin du Nord which is the biggest department store in Denmark. On the third side you find the large Kongelige Teater – the Royal Theater of Denmark. And finally just before you get back to Nyhavn you find an old mansion Charlottenborg which is now an art museum. On the middle of the square you find an old newspaper kiosk which is very well known and has appeared in several old Danish movies.
Fortunately you can now enjoy Kongens Nytorv in almost all its glory – this hasn’t been the case for many years since the square has been under reconstruction almost continuously for two decades. The square used to be surrounded by large elm trees – but these were removed in the wake of a Dutch elm disease which killed almost all the old elm trees in Denmark and other countries. The removal of the trees created a need to redo all the cobble stones on the square which lasted for years. Then they changed the way the roads around the square were laid out reducing access to the square for a long time and finally a new metro have been built with a new station under Kongens Nytorv which were a construction site for almost a decade until the metro was finally done last year.
Now the square is pretty again though the trees is still pretty small and during the Christmas there was actually the biggest Christmas market in Copenhagen at the square and hopefully there will be a Christmas market this year as well.