Top10 Danish cities and the Viking Age

Six of the ten largest cities in Denmark can trace their history and often their names to the Viking Age. Read about Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense, Aalborg, Randers and Roskilde below.

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  1. Copenhagen –  Archaeological evidence of human activity goes back several thousand years. Evidence of the oldest structure is from the Viking Age around 1020. First known written mention is by Saxo Grammaticus around 1200, where it is referred to as Købmannahavn (in Latin: Portus Mercatorum) – the merchant harbor.
  2. Aarhus – Known as Aros, derived from Aa (river or stream) and Oss (mouth or delta). Archaeological evidence dates back to the early Viking Age, around 700s. First known written mention by Adam of Bremen in 948.
  3. Odense – Derived from Odin (Norse god) and ve (sanctuary). Archaeological evidence of human activity goes back several thousand years. First known written mention is in a letter from German Emporer Otto the Third in 988.
  4. Aalborg – Known as Alabu, Alabur, or Alaburg, probable derived from áll (narrow stream or current). Archaeological evidence of human activity goes back several thousand years. The town that would evolve into Aalborg is thought to have been founded around 800. First written mention is found on coins, minted around 1040. Adam of Bremen mentions Alaburg in 1075.
  5. Randers – Known as Randaros, derived from Rand (hill top/crest) and Aros (river mouth). Archaeological evidence dates back to early Viking Age. Mentioned on coins minted in the town around 1080 by King Knud (Canute) the Holy (or Saint), the last Danish Viking Age king. Also mentioned by Latin form as Randrusium by Saxo Grammaticus around 1200.
  6. Roskilde – Derived from Ro’s (legendary King Roar) and kilde (spring). A river by same name may have been source for city name. Supposedly founded by King Harald Bluetooth around 980 (and that Harald was buried in a wooden church, which would be the start of the tradition of regent burials at Roskilde Cathedral), although some sources have it that it was his son King Sweyn Forkbeard. By 1020, Roskilde was a seat of a bishop.

Source: Compiled and written by AllThingsViking (May, 2015)


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