The Opera House: Controversial Grand Architecture


Photo: Jules Gassot

There has been much debate about The Opera House, which was funded by and designed according to the wishes of Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller. Regardless of one’s assessment of the architecture, the experience of stepping into The Opera House is truly remarkable.

The Opera House’s stage is concealed behind an enormous, hovering dome resembling a golden maple shell that greets visitors in the foyer. From here, there is a striking view of the harbor and the city’s towers. 

Positioned directly across from Amalienborg in the harbor, The Opera House serves as a significant punctuation mark at the end of an axis extending from The Marble Church through Amalienborg and Amaliehaven, across the harbor, and through the glass facade to culminate right in the middle of the Opera House’s Grand Stage.

Throughout the inner harbor, from Knippelsbro to Kastellet, you can see the building’s monumental structure with its distinctive overhang. The Opera House was designed by the architects at Henning Larsen, donated by A.P. Møller and wife Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller’s Foundation.

1000 Rooms

With 14 floors, five of which are underground, The Opera House covers a total area of 41,000 square meters – equivalent to six soccer fields. The building comprises over 1000 rooms, including numerous rehearsal halls for opera and ballet, as well as a large orchestra rehearsal room located five floors underground.

The Grand Stage accommodates between 1492 and 1703 spectators, depending on the size of the flexible orchestra pit. Every element of the stage auditorium – from seat padding to carvings on the back wall – is meticulously calibrated to provide the most optimal acoustics.

Accessible by Water Bus

The pavilion is designed with attention to detail that harmonizes with its surroundings. The roof is clad in copper, which will age gracefully over time, creating architectural cohesion with the beautiful, listed bridge keeper’s houses on Knippelsbro, Langebro, and Sjællandsbroen. In the evening, cozy lighting is illuminated, signaling life, and creating a pleasant atmosphere for The Opera House’s guests leaving by water.

Crown Jewels and Harbor Life

The Opera House’s recent history began in 2000 when the Copenhagen Municipality, Copenhagen Port, Freja Ejendomme A/S, and the Ministry of the Environment and Energy invited Henning Larsen to produce a large-scale project proposal for the development of the inner harbor – a so-called ‘volume study.’

The architect firm’s volume study resulted in a vision to develop the area around the inner harbor, which over many years has gradually transitioned from an industrial port to Copenhagen’s new recreational area. The area was primarily intended to contain some large, public cultural institutions on the city’s most important sites, including Dokøen, Kvæsthusbroen, and Christiansholm – “the city’s crown jewels,” as Mayor Jens Kramer Mikkelsen called them in 2000.

Subsequently, an opera house and a playhouse were built on these sites, and the volume study also includes a vision to place a “city house” on Christiansholm – Papirøen, as it is called. All three cultural houses are envisioned as engines for city life around the inner harbor.

Near The Opera House

In 2023, The Opera House received a beautiful and lush outdoor area. The Opera Park is the green area that offers organic shapes, larger grassy areas, and plants to be enjoyed both in summer and winter.

From the park, there is a beautiful view, and if you are curious about what you can visit on the other side of the water, you can take the water bus and experience, among other things, Ofelia Plads, the Playhouse, and the National Bank.


Copenhagen, Inner City


Henning Larsen


A.P. Møller Fonden




E. Pihl & Søn A/S