Vesterbro district

Vesterbro, from Danish "western bridge", is a special area of contemporary Copenhagen, located, as prompted by its name, in the western part of the Danish capital. Just recently it was considered one of the roughest districts in the city. There were lots of prostitutes, drug dealers, a lot of various youth subcultural groups lived there.

57 000 people permanently reside in this area of Copenhagen, according to the statistics as of the end of 2011. Today the area is considered safe, but it is rarely mentioned in guide-books.

Video about Vesterbro district:

Vesterbro is one of the central districts in Copenhagen. It starts from the City hall square and extends to the west of the centre. Four hundred years ago, here, behind the city wall, there was a small town with the same name on the road to Roskilde. At that time, due to the threat of epidemics, there was a prohibition to kill animals in the city. What could butchers do? So they moved to the suburb - Vesterbro. 

Inn owners and beer brewers started their activities immediately, making money on the butchers and peasants bringing their goods to the city, who, due to their poverty, preferred to stay outside the city for the night, in dirty and poor suburban shelters. Thus, the image of the central street in Vesterbro in those days was much more prosaic than today. However, the suburb grew and boomed economically.

Just behind the railway station there is a place called "Meatpacking town" (Kødbyen), because there used to be meat processing works. Today this is the area of popular night clubs, "creative offices" of the hundreds of start-up companies, art galleries and fancy restaurants.

In one of the lanes of Vesterbro you can see the New Theatre, firstly opened in 1908 and closed by the early 1990s as the building was dilapidated and abandoned. In 1994 it was reopened with fanfare, in the renovated and redecorated building. The theatre premises are a nice illustration to the history of Vesterbro, at least in the 20th century. More information about the New Theatre you can find here.

Near the New Theatre there is Elijah the Prophet church built in 1850 along with the central Vesterbro square, as well as the Copenhagen city museum devoted to the city history. Going away from the central railway station from Halmtorvet, you can walk down Sønder boulevard. Once poor and rough area, it was subject to one of the most successful modernization and upgrading projects in the history of urban planning. Today this spacious green centre of this district, especially in good weather, is a favourite meeting point for the locals and other Copenhagen citizens.

In the 19th century along with numerous tenement buildings, there appeared a variety of amusement facilities and spots, which made Vesterbro notorious. Owing to the great number of prostitutes, drug addicts and loitering individuals, this area was not popular with the locals. Therefore, people living here were mainly the poor and students, because it was the only district in the city they could afford. Anyway, as mentioned above, renovation of buildings, promotion of the district by the city authorities to improve the perception of Vesterbro in the minds of the local citizens, regular police raids, and the fact that the young more and more often opt for this area to live in, the image of the area is changing for the better.

Nevertheless, even today, if you turn away from the central street Vesterbrogade, you can see sex shops, tattoo studios, suspiciously looking cafés, guarded by street beggars. Just like it was 100 years ago, Istergade Street is full of prostitutes in the evening, and near Maria’s Church (Dan. Mariakirken) one can spot drug dealers, addicts and other suspiciously looking and behaving individuals. However, their number has decreased dramatically, and at day Vesterbro looks decent and even nice.

In 1853, when the old fortifications of the city centre were dismounted (the so-called inner city), Vesterbro turned from a suburb into a full-sized district of Copenhagen with quite respectful housing and offices. Today the proximity of this area to the central railway station attracts respectful dwellers and guests. The district looks comfortable and neat. There are many restaurants, cafés, fashion boutiques, fitness centres and other signs of wealth and welfare. 

On the western fringe of the area you can find Søndermarken park. Its symmetrical central paths remind of the baroque style, in which the park was created by the order of king Frederik IV (1699-1730). Further to the north, you will reach Frederiksberg palace and the park with the same name. Currently the palace is occupied by the military academy. Here, between the two parks, you can also see Copenhagen Zoo (Dan. København ZOO), opened in 1859, whose entrance is decorated with an observatory tower. To the southeast from Søndermarken park, the old Carlsberg brewery premises are located.

Other photos of Vesterbro district:

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