A history of Odense

Odense - more than 1,000 years of fascinating history

According to legend, the Viking city of Odense was home to Odin  the chief god in Nordic mythology  hence the name of the city. The first written source that mentions Odense dates from as early as 988 A.D., so the city celebrated its millennium around 30 years ago.

In a rebellion in 1086, the Danish king, Canute, was killed in front of the altar of Sct. Albani Church in Odense and just four years later was canonised as a saint, Canute the Holy. His remains, which today are found in the cathedral in Odense, meant that the city became the centre of pilgrimage and religious worship.

Odense has a long history as a city. The city played a central role in the Middle Ages and Renaissance Denmark and became in 1805 the birthplace of Denmark's world-famous author Hans Christian Andersen.

Throughout the history of Odense, trade and craftsmanship have been key components of urban life and development. In the 20th century, Odense was the largest industrial area outside the capital region, with large and renowned companies and the home of Danish business pioneers such as C. F. Tietgen and Thomas B. Thrige. In 1966, Odense became a campus city with the founding of the university. The city hospital, whose history can be traced back to the founding of Gråbrøde Hospital in 1539, was from the beginning closely linked to the university and in 1993 was awarded formal title of university.

The financial crisis in the early 2000s, however, hit Odense hard, prompting the city to take matters into its own hands. Investment of more than DKK 34 billion will be spent on developing the city with light rail, rethinking the city centre, the entire port area and construction of a new campus area and university in the period up to 2030. Targeted investment in selected business clusters means that Odense is well on its way to establishing itself as a centre for robotics and computer technology, including an airport that is a leader in the testing of drone technology. Odense is also at forefront when it comes to welfare and health technology.

With its lively city centre, green areas and many active local environments, and by virtue of its ambitious growth policy, Odense is today very much on track to becoming a smart, open city with more than 200,000 inhabitants.