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One of the staples of Danish history, this Copenhagen attraction is a reminder of more violent times. Construction on the citadel began in 1606 under the reign of Christian IV of Denmark in attempts to fortify the city against attack. Since then it has become the sight of many famous battles throughout Danish history, and remains as one of the best preserved examples of the kinds of fortresses that used to be littered across the continent of Europe.
The Kastellet is a shimmering throwback right on Copenhagen’s busy harbor. Near the waterways that helped bring the city to prominence as a strategic port, the only thing it seems to guard now is the Little Mermaid statue that sits nearby. Reinvented as one of the most popular Copenhagen attractions, the star-shaped Kastellet is now more a park and museum than a military area.
The fortress is laid out like a pentagram, made up of five bastions surrounding a church and windmill and other interior structures. Constructed to be completely self-sufficient in times of war, it was initially going to protect a castle that was to be built nearby, but lack of funds resulted in that project never coming to fruition. Instead, the Kastellet continued to be renovated by the successors of Christian IV of Denmark, the first rebuilding coming after it took extensive damage after the Swedish siege of Copenhagen, which lasted from 1658-1660. Moats and additional battlements were created – the moats are now home to a bevy of birds and other innocuous wildlife quite popular with visitors. The rest of the grounds remain primarily unchanged since this time.
The Kastellet again proved advantageous when it came under attack of the British in the 19th century, during the Napoleonic Wars. Its final major military use cataloged into Danish history was more depressing, as it was the headquarters of the Nazis after they overran the city in World War II.
Since then, the fortress - like the Rosenborg castle – has been reinvented as a scenic and popular meeting ground, a cultural reference point whose power has little diminished as time passed. Though soldiers still guard the Kastellet, and are often seen milling about the parade grounds that serve as the busiest section of the citadel, it’s mostly an administrative center for the Danish Army and Home Guard in the city.
This Copenhagen attraction is located in the center of Churchill Park, near the busy center area of town, and the fortress is pretty hard to miss while on tour of the city. It has excellent views of the harbor and the entire Langelinie area, making it a favorite of most tourists in the city.
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