Gråbrødretorv takes its name from a Franciscan friary, which was located at the site from 1238 to 1530 when it was demolished. In the middle of the 17th century, Corfitz Ulfeldt built a mansion at the site and the square became known as Ulfeldts Plads (English: Ulfeldt's Square). The mansion was demolished after his impeachment in 1663 and the subsequent confiscation of his property. Instead a pillar of shame was erected in the square to his disgrace, intended for people to spit on when passing it by.
At the Copenhagen Fire of 1728 practically all buildings around the square were destroyed. The area was rebuilt, but after the British bombardment of the city during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807 it saw new devastation. In 1841 the square received its current name. For many years most of the square was occupied by a bunker surrounded by parking spaces.
On 7 June 1968 it became car-free as part of first expansion of the pedestrian zone around Strøget; a number of air raid shelters left over from World War II were removed, as well as parking places. According to architects Jan Gehl and Lars Gemzøe the square was not initially very popular, but gradually became more and more popular, especially among students from the nearby University of Copenhagen. By the 1980s the square "was crowded almost beyond capacity throughout the outdoor season," although it has lost some of its popularity in recent years and is a comparably peaceful place now.
The square has a somewhat hidden location. Niels Hemmingsensgade connects it in opposite directions to Amagertorv and Skindergade, Løvstræde connects it to Købmagergade to the east and Gråbrødrestræde connects it to Klosterstræde to the west. It has a surface area of 3,510 m2.
The square is characterized by colorful house fronts and dominated by a large plane tree. There is also a fountain in granite, designed by Søren Georg Jensen and inaugurated in 1971. The square is lined by a number of restaurants with out-door service and is a popular venue for small out-door concerts, particularly during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.
Notable buildings and residents
The buildings on the southern side of the square were built in the years after the fire of 1728, while the houses to the west were erected after the British bombardment.
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