Storget and Gråbrødretorv, Shopping and Chilling in Copenhagen

Every city worth its salt has a shopping street, the difference is in how successful that street is. Whereas Singapore’s Orchard Road is struggling to bring in the crowds, and Stockholm’s Drottningatan is stimulated by tourists, Copenhagen’s Storget is positively thriving.

Stroget is the main shopping street in Copenhagen with a few arteries branching put from it that cater less to a mass market and more to the local consumers with local products.

This long stretch houses a few flagship stores of global Danish brands including Lego and Flying Tiger.

Lego was set up in 1932, in the carpentry workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen. Christiansen first produced these toys are miniature figures to help his clients visualise his products. It was the Great Depression that decreased his customer numbers and directed him to producing toys. So in a way, the Great Depression gave us Lego. The name of Lego was an amalgam of two danish words “leg godt” which meant to “play well”. It was also found that the word Lego translated into Latin to mean “I assemble”.

It is beautiful but it’s hard to be more enthusiastic about the street because its a normal shopperd street. I reckon that Storget’s popularity might be due to the fact that it doesnt have much competition for shoppers in the city (except among the shops themselves, practically all the major shops are lined along this stretch and the residential districts encircle it). It is today a global brand, children almost everywhere have heard of Legos and the company reported net incomes of 9.4 billion DKK (around 1.25 billion Euros) in 2016.

Flying Tiger is a much newer company, set up in 1995 in Copenhagen, but now has 805 stores in 30 countries worldwide. It sells a variety of products that I consider useless enough that you don’t think you want them, but cut enough such that you want them after you see them. Here are some examples, you’ll get what I mean.

Quite sure you didn’t know that you needed plushie puppies and pig shaped rubber gloves for food did you?

The strategy has, and continues to, work though; the company made 3.5 billion DKK in revenues in 2016.

If I’m being honest, that was what I took away form Storget, or perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood to shot. There was however another street that caught my fancy, if only because it looked really attractive – Gråbrødretorv.

Located at a sidewalk away fro Storget, Gråbrødretorv is a historic street. It takes its name from a former Franciscan Friary on this site, the Franciscans were called the Greyfriars which in Danish was Gråbrødrene. The friary was converted into a prison at the end of the 16th century. But the place was perhaps even more well known for being the place where Corfitz Ulfeldt lived. Ulfeldt was a 17th cenutry noble who rose to power to become the Regent of Denmark between the death of the then king and the election of the next one. Having tasted power he reluctantly handed it over to the new king but then found a king who was highly suspicious of him. The king sent him away to be an ambassador in the Hague but then on his return rumours of usurpation were raised and Ulfeldt’s mistress was sentenced to death on charges of perjury (which were false). Afraid for his safety, he fled Copenhagen and bade his time in Amsterdam for a few years before turning himself into a servant of the Swedish Crown so as to attack Denmark.

The Swedish and Ulfeldt won the war and Ulfeldt played a crucial role during negotiations in the Treaty of Taastrup, utterly humiliating his home country. He was seen as a immoral treasonous monster. This “monster” soon turned treasonous against his new master, but was caught by the Swedes before he could act and then later returned to Denmark where he was imprisoned in severe degrading captivity. Ulfedlt was not done yet, he wanted one more go and offered his services to the Prussian leader to overthrow the Danes. The Prussian having witnessed this man already betray two lords was in no mood to work with him and told the Danish king of this plot. Somehow Ulfeldt managed to escape leaving his wife Leonora to take the punishment instead. The headstone of his house was put in the hear of Gråbrødretorv where it was stepped on and spit upon by the people – perhaps the ultimate sign of disgust. The original staute was removed and put in the city musuem and in its place the brick of his house was put on the street – still located there today.

Gråbrødretorv was exceeding popular with students from the nearby University of Copenhagen in the 1980s and 1990s but has since lost its lusture with those folk and is now a small, colourful and charming little square.

ON THE MAP (Storget)

ON THE MAP (Gråbrødretorv)

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