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This article is about the town in Denmark. For the music festival, see Roskilde Festival.
RD fra bispegaarden.jpg
Roskilde is located in Denmark
Location in Denmark
Coordinates: 55°39′N 12°05′E / 55.650°N 12.083°E / 55.650; 12.083Coordinates: 55°39′N 12°05′E / 55.650°N 12.083°E / 55.650; 12.083
Country Denmark
Region Zealand (Sjælland)
Municipality Roskilde
Established 980s
 • Mayor Joy Mogensen
 • Total 211.99 km2 (81.85 sq mi)
Population (2014)
 • Total 48,721
 • Density 230/km2 (600/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)

Roskilde (Danish pronunciation: [ˈʁʌskilə]), located 30 km (19 mi) west of Copenhagen on the Danish island of Zealand, is the main city in Roskilde Municipality. With a long history, dating from the Viking Age, the city is known principally for its UNESCO-listed Gothic cathedral which houses 39 tombs of the Danish monarchs and for its Viking Ship Museum.

With a population of 48,721 (1 January 2014),[1] the city is a business and educational centre for the region and the 10th largest city in Denmark.

Roskilde has a pedestrian street running down the centre of the city, with many restaurants, cafés, and shops. Several tourist attractions draw visitors from around Denmark and the world. The local university has an education program that invites international students to attend for a year.


Roskilde, which developed as the hub of the Viking land and sea trade routes over a thousand years ago, is one of Denmark's oldest cities. From the 11th century until 1443, it was the capital of Denmark.[2] By the Middle Ages, with the support of kings and bishops, it had become one of the most important centres in Scandinavia.[3]


According to Adam of Bremen and Saxo Grammaticus, Roskilde was founded in the 980s by Harald Bluetooth. On high ground above the harbour, he built a wooden church consecrated to the Holy Trinity as well as a royal residence nearby.[4] Although no traces of these buildings have been discovered, in 1997 archaeologists found the remains of Viking ships in the old habour on the Isefjord waterfront, the oldest of which is dated to 1030. At the time, there were also two churches in the area: St Jørgensbjerg, an early stone church, and a wooden church discovered under today's St Ib's Church.[5][6] Harald was buried in the wooden church he had built on the site of today's Roskilde Cathedral.[3]

Saxo Grammaticus and other early sources associate the name Roskilde (meaning "Ro's spring") with the legendary King Roar who possibly lived there in the 6th century.[7]

Middle Ages[edit]

In 1020, King Canute elevated Roskilde to a bishopric, giving it high national status.[4] Absalon, the Danish bishop, had a brick church built on the site of Harald's church in 1170. Today's cathedral was completed in 1275 after five of Absalon's successors had contributed to its construction. As a result of Absalon's influence, many other churches were built in the vicinity, making Roskilde the most important town in Zealand. Coins were minted there from the 11th to the 14th century.[4] In 1150, Sweyn Grathe built a moat around the city.[5] The Roskilde bishops owned large areas of land in the region including, from 1186, Havn on the Øresund which later became Copenhagen. By the time of the Danish Reformation in 1536, there were 12 churches and five monasteries in the city.[4]

Market town[edit]

The former city hall of Roskilde, completed in 1884

It is not clear when Roskilde became a market town but it was certainly enjoying trading privileges under King Eric II who reigned from 1134 to 1137. These privileges were firmly established when the Roskilde City Council granted market town status to other towns on Zealand on 15 June 1268.[8] By that time, it was probably the largest and most important town in Denmark. In 1370, the city owned 2,600 farms throughout Zealand.[5]

Post Reformation 1536-1850[edit]

The Reformation brought Roskilde's development to an abrupt stop. While the cathedral continued to be the preferred location for the entombment of the Danish monarchs, most of the other religious institutions disappeared. For the next three centuries, the city suffered a series of disasters including the effects of the Dano-Swedish War which terminated with the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658,[9] the plague in 1710 and 1711,[10] and a series of fires in 1730.[9] Conditions improved in 1835 when the city became the Assembly of the Estates of the Realm (Rådgivende Stænderforsamling) and in 1847 with the railway connecting Copenhagen and Roskilde.[4]

Industrial era[edit]

Maglekilde Machine Factory (completed 1865)

With the development of the rail network, Roskilde became an important hub for traffic with Copenhagen. In the 1870s and 1880s, the harbour was extended attracting industrial firms to the area. By the end of the century, there were tobacco factories, iron foundries and machine shops. At the beginning of the 20th century, Roskilde first prospered as a satellite community for Copenhagen but then, as ships increased in size, suffered from the fact that the harbour was too small and Roskilde Fjord too shallow for navigation. Industries began to move out of the harbour area but were still the largest source of employment, thanks in part to the spirits factory (De Danske Spritfabrikker) and the slaughterhouse (Roskilde Andelssvineslagteri).[4]

Recent history[edit]

In the 1970s, the city benefited from the Holbæk Motorway which linked it to Copenhagen and the establishment of Roskilde University in 1972. Since the 1980s, the service sector has prospered, replacing industry as the major employer (65% by 2002).[4] With the increase in population, several new districts have grown up, including Himmelev and Kongebakken. Some of the surrounding villages such as Svogerslev, Vor Frue, Vindinge and Veddelev have developed as satellite communities.[11]


Boserup Skov

Roskilde is located in northwestern Zealand at the south end of Roskilde Fjord which is itself the south branch of the Isefjord.[12] By road, it is 35.6 kilometres (22.1 mi) west of downtown Copenhagen, 25.8 km (16.0 mi) northwest of Køge and 39.8 kilometres (24.7 mi) northeast of Ringsted.[13] The city centre around the cathedral, 1,300 m (4,300 ft) south of the fjord, is c. 40 m (130 ft) above sea level.[13] On the slope down to the harbour, there are a number of springs, the most powerful of which is Maglekilde.[14] The historic centre of the town covers the area between the main streets Skomagergade and Algade including the squares of Stændertorvet and Hestetorvet. Two parks, Byparken and Folkeparken close to the fjord, are adjacent to the old town.[11]

Boserup Skov, a wood next to Roskidle Fjord 3 km (2 mi) northwest of the city centre, consists mainly of beech trees. In spring, its hilly slopes are covered with wild flowers, including white, blue and yellow anemones. Chaffinches, nightingales and other songbirds can be heard in the early summer.[15] Also of note is Hyrdehøj Skov, to the south of the stadium and just north of Route 23 in the southern outskirts of Roskilde.[13]


Old map of Roskilde

As early as 1070, Adam von Bremen referred to Roskilde as "Zealand's largest town".[5] At the time of the Reformation in 1536, it had some 6,000 inhabitants but as a result of war, fire and disease, by 1753 its population had dropped to only 1,550.[3] By the 1860s, it had grown to around 5,000 and by the 1900s to some 9,000. Thereafter it increased appreciably until 1970 when there were almost 45,000 inhabitants. The population dipped slightly to 40,000 in the 1980s, but thanks to improved connections with Copenhagen and the establishment of the university, it grew steadily to reach 47,117 by 2014 making Roskilde Denmark's tenth largest city.[16]


The Risø research facilities

In the 1890s, 37% of Roskilde's economy was in crafts and industry with only 15% in administration and services. By 1984, industry had dropped to 16% while services had risen to 57%. In 2002, services had reached 62%, leaving industry at 15% and trade and transport at 22%.[17]


One of the largest employers in Roskilde is BEC (Bankernes EDB Central) who provide IT services to the financial sector.[18] In July 2014, Novo A/S acquired Sonion, producing micro-acoustical components for hearing aids.[19] Top-Toy A/S with up to 200 employees is a major Scandinavian toy importer and retailer based in Tune near Roskilde Airport.[20] DLF-Trifolium A/S, a seed producer for the farming sector, has its headquarters in Roskilde with a workforce of over 50.[21] Rambøll, the international Danish engineering consultancy, has recently concentrated its Danish operations in Roskilde bringing 60 new jobs to the city.[22]

Among the city's smaller companies are GPI (Glim Plastic Industri) established in 1987 producing plastic piping,[23] Roskilde Galvanisering A/S, one of Denmark's leading galvanization companies,[24] and Mathiesen A/S, a wholesaler of office equipment.[25] Vestergaard Company A/S, an American firm which produces de-icing equipment and washing products for the aviation industry, has offices in Roskilde.[26] The new city district of Musicon has already attracted 29 businesses in the area of culture and the creative arts, providing over 1,000 jobs.[27]

Several food industries have their headquarters or production facilities in Roskilde, including: Chr. Hansen A/S, producing cultures for the dairy industry,[28] DanÆg, eggs,[29] the Scandinavian Pizza Company (Domino's Pizza),[30] and Stryhns, a cold cut meat producer with over 100 on the payroll.[31]

Research parks[edit]

There are a number of research institutes in the city including Risø, promoting sustainable energy, which is now part of Roskilde University.[11] The research facilities are being extended over an additional 50 ha (120 acres) to cover the clean technology area liable to provide up to 4,000 more jobs.[32] The CAT (Center for Avanceret Teknologi) research park is also part of the university working mainly in the areas of wind energy and biotechnology.[11] In the public sector, the Accident Investigation Board Denmark has its headquarters in Roskilde.[33]


An important component of the city's economy is tourism which currently accounts for DKK 1.2 billion (US$200 million) per annum. Provisional figures for 2014 show an increase of 16.6% in overnight stays in 2014. The cathedral and the Viking Ship Museum attract more than 100,000 visitors per year although 20 years ago there were some 200,000 visits to the cathedral.[34]

One of the oldest restaurants in Roskilde is the Raadhuskælderen, in a building dated to 1430. Frommer's cites its salmon steak with tartar sauce and grilled and marinated fillet of young chicken with sauteed vegetables and a cream sauce flavoured with ginger and citrus as its best dishes.[35] Also of note is La Brasserie on Algade, the Gimle Musikcafe on Ringstedgade, which is an English-style pub-restaurant with live music, and Restaurant Toppen at the top of a 84 metres (276 ft) water tower, built in 1961, with fine views of the town.[36] The 76-room Hotel Prindsen has foundations which date to 1695.[37] It has been a hotel for over 100 years and is decorated in the Nordic style with wooden floors and contains the large luxury Hans Christian Andersen suite. Scandic Hotel Roskilde is a 98-room chain-run hotel established in 1989, with a restaurant serving Danish and international cuisine.[38] The thatched-roof Svogerslev Kro is an 18-room inn dated to 1727 in the Svogerslev area, about 2.5 miles to the west of Roskilde's centre.[38]


Roskilde Cathedral

Roskilde Cathedral[edit]

Main article: Roskilde Cathedral

Located on the site of a 10th-century wooden church, the cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries when the Romanesque style was influenced by Gothic trends from northern France.[39] It was the first Gothic cathedral in Scandinavia to be built of brick, resulting in the spread of this style throughout northern Europe. With its 39 royal tombs, the cathedral is the burial site for Danish monarchs. Since 1995, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, encouraging some 100,000 tourists to visit it each year.[40] The cathedral houses a museum on its upper floor, tracing the building's history. A working church, it also hosts concerts throughout the year.[41]

Roskilde Palace[edit]

Roskilde Palace

Adjacent to the cathedral is Roskilde Palace, built from 1733 to 1736 on the site of the former residence of the bishops of Roskilde. It was used by members of the royal family when they were in the city or attended funerals. Today it houses the Museum of Contemporary Art.[42][43] During the English siege of Copenhagen in 1807, the mansion served as headquarters of general Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington. Built in the Baroque style, in yellow-washed masonry and with red tile roofs, the four-winged complex consists of a two-storey main wing, two one-storey lateral wings and a curved gate wing opening to the Stændertorvet. The four wings are connected by curving galleries. Facing the courtyard, the facade of the main wing has pilasters and a median risalit tipped by a triangular pediment decorated with the royal coat of arms.[44]

Roskilde Convent[edit]

Roskilde Convent

Roskilde Convent is on the site of the former St Catherine's Priory from the mid-13th century which belonged to the Dominican friars until it was dissolved after the Danish Reformation. A private manor house (Sortebrödregaard or Blackfriars Manor) was built on the site in 1565 which in 1699 became a convent for women of high rank, the first of its kind in Lutheran Denmark.[45] The building now houses a collection of 150 paintings from the 16th to 18th centuries as well as period furniture. The convent chapel has a carved altarpiece and pulpit.[46]

Roskilde Museum[edit]

The Sugar House

Roskilde Museum is a local history museum, run by the municipalities of Roskilde, Frederikssund and Lejre. The main branch in Roskilde, on the corner of Sankt Olsgade and Sankt Olsstræde, is based in two listed buildings, the Sugar House and the Liebe House, a former sugar refinery and a former merchant's house respectively. The Sugar House was built by a consortium led by Johan Jørgen Holst as a facility for the processing of raw sugar from the Danish West Indies.[47] Jacob Borch constructed Liebe House in 1804 on the site next to the sugar factory. It replaced a modest house with timber framing and a straw roof dating from the 17th century. The name of the building refers to the Liebe family that owned the property for two generations later in the century.[48] On the occasion of his death in 1900, Liebe left the entire building complex to Roskilde Municipality. In 1908, the Sugar House came into use as a fire station. Roskilde Local History Museum was founded on 12 November 1929 on the ground floor of the Liebe House. When the fire station moved to new premises in 1989, Roskilde Museum took over the Sugar House.[49] The museum has exhibits from prehistory, through the Viking Era and the Middle Ages to modern times.[50]

Viking Ship Museum[edit]

Viking Ship Museum

Another attraction in the city is the Viking Ship Museum (Vikingeskibsmuseet) located alongside Roskilde Fjord. The centrepieces of its collection are the well-preserved remains of five 11th-century Viking ships, excavated from the fjord some 20 km (12 mi) north of the city in the late 1960s.[51] The ships were scuttled there in the 11th century to block a navigation channel, thus protecting the city, then the Danish capital, from seaborne assault.These five ships represents several distinct classes of Viking Ships, such as the Longship, and Warship, and smaller fishing and ferry boats. The ships on display range from 10 feet (3 m) to 50 feet (15 m).[52] The museum also undertakes research in experimental archaeology centered on Viking shipbuilding and seaworthiness. The boatyard, which also forms part of the museum, safeguards the Viking boat-building tradition by reconstructing and exhibiting full-scale ships on site.[51]

Historic churches[edit]

Old Church of Our Lady

The Old Church of Our Lady (Gammel Vor Frue Kirke) is an 11th-century stone church on the southern outskirts of the old town. It is the only surviving travertine basilica in Denmark with a high central nave opening onto two lower lateral aisles.[53] Its carved altarpiece and pulpit from the 1620s are from Brix Michgell's Roskilde workshop. The church was attached to a convent for women of rank until the Reformation. It has been called the "Old" Church of Our Lady since 1907 when a new Church of Our Lady was built to the south of the city.[54]

There are two other historic churches in Roskilde. St Ib's is located below the cathedral plateau near the harbour. Built in travertine limestone around 1100, the Romanesque building was once richly decorated in frescos, remains of which can be seen on the rear wall. It is no longer a functioning church.[55][56] St Jørgensbjerg Church stands on a little hill to the northwest of the old town, overlooking the fjord. With a nave and chancel in travertine limestone dating from c. 1080, it is Denmark's oldest preserved stone building. It features a carved pulput from 1616.[57][58]

Roskilde Festival[edit]

Roskilde festival (2003)
Main article: Roskilde Festival

Since 1971, the Roskilde Festival, a rock music festival, has been held annually on the fairgrounds near Roskilde. It has grown to become one of the biggest music festivals in Scandinavia, with a turnout of around 100,000 in 2000.[59] It features a diverse selection of music, including rock, metal, hip-hop, electronica, dance, and world music. All profits from this festival are donated to charities. The fairgrounds are also the site of regionally popular agricultural and animal exhibitions, and large flea markets.[60]

Other Attractions[edit]


Roskilde University[edit]

Roskilde University (Danish: Roskilde Universitet, RUC) was founded in 1972. The university is in the eastern side of Roskilde, in the neighbourhood Trekroner (named after a signalman's cabin on the Roskilde-Copenhagen line). RUC hosts students from around the world. Roskilde University has on-campus dormitory style housing and apartments but many students commute from Copenhagen to attend RUC.

There are eleven public primary schools in the municipality split up between eleven school districts. Six gymnasiums offer Upper Secondary School Exit Examinations, Higher Preparatory Examinations, Higher Commercial Examination Programme and Higher Technical Examination Programme. There are many adult education, technical and trade schools in addition to the gymnasiums. Roskilde University Library (RUB) is a research library serving the students and staff at the university.[61]


Roskilde railway station from the Horse Market (Hestetorvet) 1849
The station as it looks today

Roskilde has a four-platform railway station. Its seven tracks serve as a central hub connecting western and southern Zealand, the islands of Falster and Lolland, and Jutland to Copenhagen. Also within the municipality is the Trekroner station, serving Roskilde University and the developing residential areas to the east of Roskilde. It is the oldest railway station in Denmark still operating and the first built of stone. The first train arrived from Copenhagen on 26 June 1847.

Opened on 1 April 1973,[62] Roskilde's small airport, serves light aircraft for training, taxi, and flight instruction.[63] There are existing plans to expand the airport for use by larger aircraft,[62] possibly including discount international flights.[64] The plans were approved, but lack of commitment from any carriers has postponed any development until further. The airport currently handles up to 100,000 operations (flights) per year, most of which are light aircraft operations associated with school flights.

The airport is also home to a small Royal Danish Air Force detachment, maintaining a helicopter based Search-and-Rescue readiness covering Zealand and the Baltic Sea. Military passenger services occasionally utilizes the airport for VIP flights and rotating personnel on international deployments.


The principal hospital in Roskilde is Roskilde Sygehus, founded in 1855.[65] The hospital currently has 437 beds for in-patients and several specialist wards, having been continuously modernized and expanded over the years.[66] Recently physics facilities have been established in medical and hematological outpatient units, while in 2010 the cardiology laboratory was expanded for CAG/PCI. In addition, in 2011 a haematological and a urological ward were modernized and re-equipped.[67] The hospital works in conjunction with Roskilde University in biomedical research, health services research, research assignments, direct research and pharmaceutical biology. It is also involved in a scientific co-operation with the Risø Research Centre.[68]


Notable people[edit]






See also[edit]


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External links[edit]