Copenhagen’s graveyards

Updates…April 2014: the fab Slow Travel Berlin has just come up with a tour of Berlin’s cemeteries – rather more to work with there, but still, should revisit…Oct 2015; see photos of Mariebjerg Kirkegård (1926-33) in Gentofte, an example of Modernist landscape architecture and part of Denmark’s ‘cultural canon’…Nov 2015: Cathays Cemetery heritage walks and podcasts…March 2016: CPH’s graveyards – places for grief or recreation?

Most cemeteries in Denmark are managed by the Folkekirke, but 11 kommuner run their own, and Copenhagen manages five (plus two crematoria):

Guided tours led by leather jacketed kirkegårdsvejleder Stine Helweg are on offer during the summer. I went on a Kierkegaard walk on 11 September – this is what it is, a tour of a cemetery is probably never going to be very dynamic. Stine’s style tends to the deadpan and self effacing, with facts complemented by readings.

Assistens Kirkegård

Although Vestre Kirkegård is the biggest of the five it doesn’t attract the most attention – Assistens Kirkegård has the graves of two internationally famous Danes, plus the unique Kuturcentret Assistens, which offers a range of activities. It’s also part of the European Cemeteries Route.

Two Sunday afternoon tours on offer during the summer:

  • Den fortællende have – cultural geographer Christopher Jørgensen on people and events from the history of the cemetery (suspect same style as Stine above, but for DK 50)
  • Digterruten på Assistens – street poet Christian Kronmann borrows the voices of writers and poets, they lend their words (not for me)

See also the map, with four different routes around famous graves, plus the inevitable patchy blog and Facebook page.

Also used as a park in inner city Nørrebro – dogs on lead only! Building going on due to the metro – not sure of long term impact (here’s a 2017 update).

Update, May 2014: the graveyard has just been listed. The process caused a certain amount of controversy and debate around how to maintain a balance between preservation and progress, the old fashioned and the modern. (Did anyone say metaphor?) The listing has put a stop to a proposed super cycle path and should ensure that no more graves are moved to accommodate the new metro station, and that more voices are heard when any further alterations to the 1989 plan for the area are proposed. Plus there’s Captain Irishman.


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