Humleby: Idyllic Working-class History
Worth checking out if you want to experience a bit of Copenhagen history that is unlikely to change much.
The little neighborhood of townhouses is a peaceful oasis nestled between colorful and lively Istedgade and Carlsberg Byen, a thriving new urban district under development. Especially on hot summer days, this area buzzes with peaceful life, proving that there is life to be found beyond the shops, cafés and parks.
The neighborhood was built to provide housing for the blue-collar workers at the giant Burmeister & Wain shipyard in the late 1800s. It was one of the earliest attempts to give light and fresh air to the working class, which otherwise had been relegated to dark rental apartments in the city’s various outer districts, known as brokvarterer. Each floor has an area of around 540 square feet, so the dwellings are densely packed on the narrow streets with their little front gardens. Back when the Carlsberg brewery around the corner was still active, the area often smelled of hops – humle in Danish, hence the name.
Today, the townhouses have all been converted into extravagantly priced owner-occupied homes, but the area owes a debt of gratitude to the Danish blue-collar workers. The buildings were erected by Arbejdernes Byggeforening – the Workers’ Building Society – and funded through collective contributions. Although similar neighborhoods are found throughout Copenhagen, not many have managed to retain their authenticity the way Humleby has.
You’re welcome to explore the neighborhood, just remember to greet the residents politely and try not to take pictures of their gardens. If you do find something that you can’t resist photographing, you can always ask permission.
- Humleby was designed by the architect Frederik Bøttger, who was passionate about building better housing for the working class. He created a total of 1,100 working-class dwellings. Although many of the houses are now occupied by only one family, there are some that comprise two separate apartments.
- This type of housing was originally designed by doctors in an effort to save the poor from sickness and death. Housing associations have since become an important part of Danish culture as a means of providing good housing to ordinary people.
Continue up Ny Carlsberg Vej until you reach the Elephant Gate. Here, four giant elephants carved in granite from 1901 mark the entrance to the former Carlsberg factory area. Today, an entire urban district is cropping up among the old brewery’s original buildings.
If you are looking for some peace and quiet, you can continue through the Elephant Gate. This will bring you to Søndermarken park with its beautiful old trees. Copenhagen Zoo is adjacent to the park.