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Becoming a Copenhagener

The school of the "Vajsen House", 1908

Museum of Copenhagen presents the first exhibition that places immigration at the very core of Copenhagen's development.

Immigration - a permanent part of Copenhagen's history

All exhibitions close at October 10th 2015 due to the moving of the museum. Read more about the move to the city centre


The special exhibition focuses on immigration to Copenhagen, as the catalyst of, and pre-condition for, the town's growth and change. The physical traces left by the citizens of Copenhagen in former times, the urbanisation process and immigration are particularly interesting. Immigration is, and always has been, an important factor in the history of the capital. Not just as a curious feature in the life of the town, but rather as a key ingredient in the town's growth and development. While Copenhagen probably would not exist today had it not been for the continuous stream of immigrants that contributed to its development down through history, it most definitely would not have become the metropolis with which we are familiar today without their contribution.

Immigrants patch up the town

Down through history, whenever Copenhagen has almost been destroyed by the plague, fire or wars, immigration has repeatedly filled out the resulting demographic "gaps" within the town. Just like a vitamin booster, immigration has brought renewed prosperity, knowledge and professionalism with it.  That this is the case is clearly evident on examination of archaeological finds from Copenhagen's earliest years not to mention the earliest town- legislation which originates from the 13th century. This is also evident in demographic documents from the 17th and 18th centuries and of course in the statistics and history of the 19th and 20th centuries. That the proportion of foreign immigrants at the beginning of the 18th century was on a par with present-day immigration levels, i.e. 16-17% relatively speaking, is probably quite surprising for some visitors to the exhibition. Yet it is a proven fact that at any given point in time, the majority of the citizens of Copenhagen almost always originate from some other place - either some other place within the Danish empire's shifting boundaries or beyond these.

Culture clash or cultural exchange

In short, while immigration itself has remained relatively constant over time, the reception and treatment of immigrants has changed greatly. At some points in history, immigration has been actively stimulated and people from beyond the town limits have been lured to the town by promises of tax exemption and special privileges. At other points in history, a restrictive policy has been the preferred approach. Similarly, cultural meetings in different historical periods between immigrants and established citizens in the town have turned out very differently.

Being an immigrant in Copenhagen.

In the special exhibition, you will be able to experience the ways in which migration has placed its mark on the city, both qualitatively and quantitatively speaking, down through history. The exhibition takes a close look at the settlement and association patterns of the recently immigrated down through history. Following on from this the exhibition looks at the conflicts that have arisen between these groups and the established population.


Exhibition themes




Cosmopolitan Copenhagen

Urban Communities


Read more about the Museum of Copenhagen's previous special exhibitions.


The exhibition "Becoming a Copenhagener" is sponsored by the Municipality of Copenhagen and Bikubenfonden.

Københavns Kommune   Bikubenfonden