Discover the Round Tower in Copenhagen and what is it used for

round tower copenhagen denmark

Astronomy buffs, those who like to gaze at celestial bodies or even those who just want to take in panoramic views of Copenhagen know where the best place is to do these things: the Rundetårn, Rundetaarn or “Round Tower.” This 17th century cylindrical tower is one of the most popular and impressive sights in the capital city of Denmark. It was designed by architect Hans van Steenwickel by orders from Christian IV as part of the Trinitatis Complex – a church, library and an observatory all together in a single building.

Read on to learn more about this very special monument in Denmark.

The Round Tower Copenhagen Building History

One historical structure in Denmark worth your visit is the Rundetarn which literally means Round Tower. Situated in the central part of the Danish capital of Copenhagen, this building was built way back in the 17th century specifically in 1637 and took five years to complete.

The Round Tower was constructed during the time of Christian IV as an astronomical observatory. It features a helical corridor with a 7.5-turn spiral ramp that leads to the topmost part of the tower. And there at the top, one can experience breathtaking views of the Copenhagen city unlike any other venue.

It became an outdated astronomical observatory in the 19th century due to pollution and increased traffic that rendered observations inaccurate. This resulted to the decision to build another observatory.

The tower was decommissioned as a university observatory in 1860 but was reopened in 1928 to the public.

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A 17th-Century Danish Icon Known as the Rundetårn

The Round Tower is one of Denmark’s 4-centuries-ago icons that continue to be visited by travelers from all over the world. It is Europe’s oldest functioning observatory. It was built to continue the research of the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe after his death.

The importance of Astronomy Domain in Denmark

This structure also call to mind the great importance of astronomy during the 17th century during a time when many countries where involved in colonization. Astronomy was actively used for navigation purposes in oceans. Thus, history will say that Denmark was already famous for achievements related to astronomy even before this iconic tower was built.

The oldest Astronomy Observatory in Europe

To date, the Rundetaarn is Europe’s oldest astronomy observatory that is still being used for the purpose. Aside from towering over most of the buildings in the area, the Rundetaarn is most noted for its 210meter-long white-washed spiral ramp that winds around the hollow core of the tower 7.5 times, as mentioned above. This winding ramp is also the only connection from the tower to the other parts of the building such as the Library Hall and the Ringer’s Loft. It is said that the design was intended to allow a wide transportation device such as a horse and a carriage to move objects such as heavy loads of books and sensitive observatory instruments.

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Round Tower as part of the Trinitatis Complex

This Rundetarn does not stand on its own. It is actually part of the Trinitatis Complex which also houses the Copenhagen University chapel and its library. The library itself is a historical place having been built in 1482. The man behind the complex design is Hans van Steenwinckel, renowned for his Dutch Renaissance architecture in Denmark.

An historical University Library

Inside the building is also Denmark’s first big university library which used to hold over 100,000 books.

Located at the middle of the tower the magnificent Library Hall is also Denmark’s first big university library which used to hold over 100,000 books. The library was opened in 1657 and was restored in 1987. Now, it is an area where you can hold exhibits and concerts. Today, it also serves as an art gallery and a venue for musical performances.

A Bell Loft hidden in the Round Tower

Above the library is the Bell Loft, which is famous for its large wooden beams. In the past it was rented out for different purposes. At one point, it was used to dry laundry and store dried herbs, tanned hides, theatre sets and feathers for fine clothes and hats of ladies from high society.

In 1880 it became a peasant museum which later on became the Open Air Museum in 1901. It now houses artefacts from the Tower’s history including Christian IV’s wax seal, the big clock from 1731, a tin of medicine produced by Tycho Brahe and a piece of the bomb that exploded in the Library Hall in 1807. 

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Round Tower Observation Top Deck

Another feature of the Rundetaarn is the observation deck at the top of the building which affords visitors magnificent views of the older parts of the city along with many of its famous buildings. And in the spring, the Rundetaarn is the venue for the annual Unicycle Race.

The tower was once the highest point in Copenhagen. It towered most of the rooftops, thus making its observatory a great venue for astronomers to study the stars and planets. The platform outside the observatory also gives you a bird’s eye view of the old Latin Quarter –where most of the city’s famous buildings are located.

There is no elevator in the tower, so all the visitors must climb the winding, 209 meter spiral walk which is unique in European architecture.

From mid-October to mid-March, people can have an exciting view of the city at about 34.8 meter above street level while having the chance to see the interesting interiors of the Round Tower Copenhagen. During fair weather, for instance, the Oresund Bridge and Sweden can be clearly seen from the top.

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An amazing crowd-pleasing architecture

While the structure remains to be an observatory up until today which can be accessed by young astronomers and the general public as well, the library hall situated above the church has now become a cultural place where exhibits focusing on culture, art and science as well as concerts are being held.

What makes this historical landmark unique is its cylindrical shape and the materials – yellow and red bricks – used in the construction process. The observatory at the tower’s rooftop is in a dome shape. So if you’re into photography or just a visitor wanting to take a fantastic view of the beautiful city of Copenhagen, then the Rundetarn is indeed worth exploring.

It would also be a great experience if you happen to visit the Danish capital during the yearly unicycle race that takes place in the Round Tower. During this event, participants are required to go up and down the tower in the shortest time possible.

Visit www.rundetaarn.dk for more information. 

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