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City Hall Square, Copenhagen, Denmark - Famous City Squares
404    Dibyendu Banerjee    10/08/2023

Located in the centre of Copenhagen, the capital and most populous city of Denmark and named after the Copenhagen City Hall, which stands facing it, the City Hall Square is a large public square and a popular venue for a variety of events, celebrations and demonstrations. Locally called Rådhuspladsen, it is often used as a central point for measuring distances from Copenhagen. Apart from the City Hall, several notable buildings surround the square, which include the headquarters of the reputed national daily newspaper Politiken and the Industriens Hus, the headquarters of the Confederation of Danish Industry, Denmark’s largest business organization, as well as employers’ organization.

city hall square copenhagen
Rådhuspladsen, from the tower of Town Hall

The City Hall Square was created on the site of the city’s old Haymarket or Halm Torvet, where citizens could buy hay and straw for the cattle and horses that were then kept in the city, located at the Western Gate of the Fortifications of Copenhagen, developed to a final form in the 17th century and remained in use until the second half of the 19th century, when it was disbanded in the 1850s.


Most of the empty space of the area was set apart to be used as open parks, forming a green belt around the city centre still known as the Fortification Ring, apart from providing space for the construction of several public buildings. Initially, most of the available vacant land was marked to be used as an exhibition area to host the first Nordic Exhibition of 1872 and later, the Nordic Exhibition of Industry, Agriculture and Art of 1888, aiming to feature the best of art, industry and agriculture from the five Nordic countries, namely Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The building for the first exhibition, built from 1870 to 1872, was a two storey building with four wings, made of red brick. But later, the building was re-modelled in 1879, when a large domed exhibition hall was constructed in the centre of the complex.  However, the main venue of the Nordic Exhibition of 1888, was a different large structure made of timber, crowned with a huge dome, complete with a flagpole at its top, which was designed by a young and unknown architect, Martin Nyrop, who would later also design the new City Hall.

city hall square copenhagen
Palace Hotel and the City hall

The Plan to build a new City Hall on the site was conceived in the 1880s and after the expo area was cleared in 1888, an architectural competition was held in early 1889, for the selection of the design of the proposed building, which was won by Martin Nyrop.


While the design of the City Hall was greatly inspired by the Palazzo Pubblico, the seat of the government of the Republic of Siena, Italy, the design of the square, outside that building, was accordingly modelled on the shell-shaped Plazza del Campo, the main public space of the historic centre of Siena. Finally, the foundation stone was laid on 28 July 1894 and when it was inaugurated in 1905, the square in front of the City Hall became one of the most central and important spaces of the city, while the imposing building of the City Hall, with its richly ornamented façade and its slender clock tower dominating the sky of Denmark’s capital, became one of the tallest buildings in the city of Copenhagen, which is devoid of any highrise.

city hall square copenhagen

Constructed in the National Romantic style, the façade and the interior of the City Hall are trimmed with historic details from Nordic mythology. Dominated by its richly ornamented front, the gilded statue of Absalon, the foremost politician and the Church Father of Denmark in the second half of the 12th century, located just above the balcony and the 306 feet (105.6 m) tall, clock tower, offering a bird’s eye view of the city, the City Hall, intended to house both the City Hall and a court, is still in use as the Copenhagen Court House. However, today it is also used for Civic Council meetings, weddings and national celebrations.


In addition to that, the City Hall also houses Jens Olsen’s World Clock, one of the most accurate and complicated clocks in the world, designed and calculated by Jens Olsen, which took 27 years to build. In addition to time, it displays sunrises and sunsets, lunar and solar eclipses, firmament and celestial-pole migration, the revolution of the planets, the positions of the stellar bodies and a perpetual calendar.

city hall square copenhagen
Jens Olsen’s world clock

There are two fine traditional hotels in Copenhagen, located close to the City Hall, which include the Palace Hotel, one of the few buildings in the city constructed in the Jugendstil architectural style, the German counterpart of Art Nouveau. The other one, Hotel Kong Fredrik, is located further north, with the smart and pricey Gastro Pub Restaurant. Between the two hotels is the beginning of Strøget, one of the longest car free pedestrian shopping streets in Europe and a popular tourist attraction in the centre of the city, containing the kingdoms of wonder, namely Hans Christian Andersen’s Wonderland and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.

city hall square copenhagen
The Dragon Fountain
city hall square copenhagen
The Weather Girl

The City Hall Square is decorated with several sculptures, which include a fountain of about 23 feet (7 m) tall, depicting combat between a bull and a dragon, designed by Joakim Frederik Skovgaard, in collaboration with Thorvald Bindesbøll. While the edge of the basin of the fountain, with a diameter of around 11 feet (3.1 m), features three water-spraying dragons in sitting position, other decorations on the basin are inspired by Ancient Greek ornamentation. Perched high on the Richs Building, on the corner of Rådhuspladsen and Vesterbrogade is the Weather Girl, a gilded sculpture of a girl with a bike that tells the weather by rotating on rainy days to show her walking her dog with an umbrella.

city hall square copenhagen
The Lur blowers

The Lure Blowers, a bronze sculpture featuring two male figures standing very close together, wearing capes and helmets and each holding a raised lur, a type of long bronze Danish musical horn, set atop a 66 feet (20 m) tall terracotta column is located next to the City Hall. Apart from that, City Hall Square also contains a bronze statue of the famous author Hans Christian Andersen, a very important part of Danish culture, created by Henry Luckow-Nielsen, installed in 1965, facing H.C. Andersens Boulevard.

city hall square copenhagen
The Statue of Hans Christian Andersen

Located in the heart of the city with the famous shopping centre adjacent to it, the City Hall Square or Rådhuspladsen is the beating heart of Copenhagen, an attraction for the tourists and a favourite meeting place for the locals, decorated with shops, restaurants and statues dotting it all around. The huge square, one of the main squares of Copenhagen, with the capacity to accommodate more than 50,000 people, is frequently used for public demonstrations or hosting events like concerts, for collective watching and paying tribute to national sports heroes or as the place of choice for various other celebrations.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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