As part of a new city plan for ‘Carlsberg Byen’, the old Carlsberg buildings have again today come alive in an interesting mix with modern architecture, serving new purposes, for instance integrated in a top-notch hotel, yet preserving the old brewery charm.
Some of the other main points of interest in the Carlsberg district are Carlsberg Laboratory, the Boilerhouse, the Winding Chimney, Carlsberg Academy and the Carl Jacobsen House, as well as the two historic gardens: the Secret Garden and J. C. Jacobsen’s Garden, which reopened on his birthday 2 September 2017. Together with small boutiques, cosy cafés and restaurants all these sites make up the new Carlsberg Byen, conveniently located between the Copenhagen neighbourhoods Valby, Frederiksberg and Vesterbro.
Where to stay in Copenhagen? Hotel Ottilia luxury boutique hotel at the Carlsberg site next to the Carlsberg Elephants, Ascot Hotel in a charming 19th-century building near Tivoli, Copenhagen Island Hotel near Fisketorvet and Copenhagen Tivoli.
Many of the former brewery buildings have during the last years undergone a comprehensive refurbishment and now contribute to the special character of this new part of the city.
A visit to the area and the historic Carlsberg buildings will reveal a side of Copenhagen’s history which is important Danish cultural heritage. In fact the local brewing adventure was the beginning of a Danish industry that would later achieve worldwide acknowledgment and respect.
Entering the Carlsberg district from Frederiksberg at Ny Carlsberg Vej, you will immediately be met by the iconic Elephant Gate and Tower, supported by four enormous elephants, created by the sculptor Hans Peder Pedersen-Dan. The Elephant Tower was inspired by Bernini’s obelisk, carried by an elephant, in Piazza della Minerva in Rome.
The gate dates from 1901, designed by the famous Danish architect Vilhelm Dahlerup, and is the most famous landmark at Carlsberg. In addition to being an impressive entrance, the tower carried by the elephants also served as a herb silo, as well as a water & cooling tank for the beer brewing process.
On the tower you will notice the inscription and Carl Jacobsen’s motto: Laboremus Pro Patria – Let us work for the fatherland! The four large granite elephants symbolise strength and faithfulness. In one of the tower openings a double bust of Ottilia and Carl Jacobsen appears between the columns.
In recent years many of the old buildings here at Carlsberg have undergone renovation, some now serving new purposes. To experience the modernised structures from the inside you may for instance choose to stay right next to the impressive elephants in the new Hotel Ottilia, ingeniously built together with the old brewery construction. Combining the spectacular factory structures with the modern design of a top trendy hotel creates a unique hall and lounge experience for the hotel guests – with an authentic touch of the old brewery atmosphere.
Right behind the Carlsberg Elephants you will catch sight of the Dipylon – being Greek for ‘Double Gate’. The eye-catching gate was erected in 1892 by Vilhelm Dahlerup and marked the entrance to Carlsberg from Vesterbro. The two vaults served specific purposes, since malt mash from the malting floors above could be poured directly into waiting wagons under them.
On the inner side of the Dipylon building you will notice a frieze with paintings of important people to Carlsberg. Besides Carl Jacobsen and his wife, Ottilia, a number of collaborators are depicted, among these the architect Vilhelm Dahlerup and Carlsberg’s builder S. P. Beckmann.
The individual behind the foundation of the Carlsberg business, Jacob Christian Jacobsen (later mostly known as J. C. Jacobsen), was born on 2 September 1811 in Copenhagen. As an ambitious industrialist and the successful founder of the brewery, he achieved both fame and much recognition for his life-long efforts.
Presumably he caught interest in beer brewing from his father, who owned a small beer brewery in Brolæggerstræde. Although not formally taking part in any academic training, apart from a few classes taught by Hans Christian Ørsted, he enthusiastically took up the discipline by himself.
With his wife Laura Cathrine Holst he got a son, Carl (Carl Christian Hillman Jacobsen), born on 2 March 1842.
In 1847, after receiving a license from the King, J. C. Jacobsen established a brewery, Carlsberg, in a suburb of Copenhagen, Valby. It was named after his son, Carl Jacobsen, as well as its location, Valby Bakke (‘bakke’ meaning hill or mountain – ‘berg’, resulting in the name ‘Carlsberg’)!
The present Carlsberg main building, the Carlsberg Academy, was inaugurated in 1853.
As the industrialisation took off, J. C. Jacobsen began a more scientific approach to the beer brewing. This included the establishment of the Carlsberg Laboratory in 1875, enabling him through scientific work to introduce some absolutely high-quality products. In his laboratory he performed research within the pH concept, as well as protein chemistry.
Already the following year, in 1876, the Carlsberg Foundation saw the light of day.
Brewer Jacobsen had a true interest in and passion for arts and became a significant patron of arts with generous donations.
In 1879, Jacobsen earned another title as an honorary doctor of the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Science. Moreover, he achieved the rare Commander 1st class of the Order of the Dannebrog, a Danish order of chivalry.
Built in 1883 at Alliancevej (the current Pasteursvej), a remarkable Lighthouse (Fyrtårnet in Danish), also known as the Lime Tower (Kridttårnet) due to the building material limestone, became part of the new main entrance of the Carlsberg brewery. Additionally, the tower was used by ships for navigation, hence the name Lighthouse.
The architect behind the tower was P. C. Bønecke, who also designed the adjacent star portal, the new main gate. Originally, the arch was connected to the Lime Tower by a limestone wall. All the limestone used came from Faxe Limestone Quarries.
Sharing his father’s passion, his son, Carl, spent some years abroad studying beer brewing. When returning, he was ready to join the beer production!
A family dispute led to his son, Carl Jacobsen’s foundation of Valby Brewery in 1882, later renamed the Ny (New) Carlsberg Bryggeri. This resulted in Jacobsen senior renaming his brewery Gamle (Old) Carlsberg! However, they were reconciled with each other in 1886, the year before the old brewer died, and, eventually, in 1906, the two Carlsberg breweries merged.
Right next to the Carlsberg Elephants you will find New Carlsberg Brewhouse, the new brewhouse from 1901, designed by Vilhelm Klein in Florentine style with inspiration from the Palazzo Bevilacqua in Verona. At the time the brewhouse complex included a straw storage house, as well as a hops store. The finishing touch was the rooftop sculpture Thor’s battle against the Jötunns, a remarkable work by Carl Johan Bonnesen.
Carl Jacobsen had, just like his father, an interest in art, in particular Greek and classical arts, and had an impressive collection of antique art, which was later transferred to Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, the extraordinary and unique art museum that he founded in 1897.
For the construction of the Carlsberg Brewery, he appointed one of the leading Danish architects, Vilhelm Dahlerup, and the brewery structures were architecturally designed as masterpieces of art, for instance the Winding Chimney (‘Den Snoede Skorsten‘)!
The 56 m tall chimney, erected in brick and granite on an octagonal plinth, is today a landmark at the old Carlsberg plant. Completed in 1900, it was designed to show that an industrial chimney in fact could be a fascinating sculptural piece of art – despite its basic purpose. It features both replicas of Gargoyles from Notre Dame in Paris and has motifs of Egyptian lotus flowers on its upper part. Maybe a bit surprisingly, it served the brewery right until 1980.
Carl Jacobsen was in addition to being a brewer and an art addict also a proficient businessman. With success the local Copenhagen brewery was turned into an international business with overseas licenses for brewing, and the success continued after his death in 1914. Carlsberg merged with the Tuborg breweries in 1970.
Today, Carlsberg is a Danish multinational brewery. The overall brand is still Carlsberg, but in addition to Tuborg, it now also includes brands such as Kronenbourg, Somersby Cider, Wiibroe, Holsten, Neptun, Russia’s top beer Baltika, as well as Grimbergen from Belgium!
In 2006 it was decided that the main production in Valby would move to Fredericia, and only the headquarters and a small specialty brewery would remain on site.
In recent years some refurbishment has been going on at and around the old Carlsberg site in Valby. This is part of a larger remodelling project turning this neighbourhood into a new hip city district of Copenhagen, Carlsberg Byen.
Nevertheless, a tour around the old brewery buildings is today a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of and insight into the beer brewing history (maybe through a brewery tour – and a visit of the micro brewery with Jacobsen’s special hand-crafted beers!) and industrialisation in Denmark – a real time warp! Moreover, there is a museum and visitor centre telling the story of the Carlsberg family, the brewery, the historical buildings and the beer.
Today, the original buildings all blend with the modern architecture in the neighbourhood, and it is even occasionally built together with it. For instance the old Carlsberg silo is today well integrated into the amazing structures of the new hotel, Hotel Ottilia, named after Carl Jacobsen’s wife, Ottilia Marie Jacobsen. A stay here may complete your Carlsberg experience!
A luxury boutique hotel at the Carlsberg site next to the Carlsberg Elephants, New Carlsberg Brewhouse and the Dipylon. Enjoy the atmosphere in this modern hotel built together with some of the historic buildings at Carlsberg.
Check the price / book
Share ‘Stay at the Carlsberg Elephants in Copenhagen’!
Stay at the Carlsberg Elephants
Read more about Copenhagen Tivoli Gardens, Nyhavn, the freetown Christiania and Rosenborg Castle: 9 Cultural Things to Do in Copenhagen
Need inspiration for 3 days in Copenhagen? Then read Nyhavn, Tivoli Gardens, Christiania & Rosenborg Copenhagen 3 Days
Would you like to experience the culture in Aarhus? Then take a look at 9 Cultural Spots to Visit in Aarhus, Denmark