Aalborg Then & Now

Through the ages, Aalborg has developed from being a modest Viking village to a successful commercial centre and subsequently a traditional industrial city. Nowadays, Aalborg can boast of being a city of knowledge and education, which offers a host of experiences for people of all ages. From the medieval times and up until approximately 1900, Aalborg had a quite different look. The city was built around a number of streams, which all flowed into the Limfjord. These streams served as the conveyer belt and lifeblood of the city, and they have to a great extent been central in affecting the city and the buildings they flowed by.

With Aalborg Then & Now, VisitAalborg invites you on a virtual city tour along the streams and the fjord in the old Aalborg. Those who are interested can gain an insight into how the city used to look and get an impression of the everyday life of the inhabitants of Aalborg in the past.

Aalborg Then & Now is developed with the assistance of Aalborg Stadsarkiv (City Archive), which has assisted in finding the beautiful, old pictures and contributed to gaining an overview of numerous elements in the development of Aalborg. The city map of 1853 is depicted here by agreement with Aalborg Municipality. The new pictures are taken by Sisse Christensen.

Aalborg then and now

Back in the day, Østerå flowed under Danmarksgade. In the picture, one can see the bridge, which connected Danmarksgade. The old city map of Aalborg is from 1853, when Danmarsgade was still not constructed. This gives an impression of how limited the area of Aalborg was in these days.

In the beautiful building portrayed in the picture, it is nowadays possible to experience American food culture. But the history behind the building is rather Danish. The building served as a parish hall in the period of 1893 to 1973. Among other things, the parish hall made sure that the poorest children of Aalborg were fed. In 1904 alone, 19,746 portions of food were given out to the children. The food was, however, highly different from the food served in the building today.

Mølleplads has always been a vital element in the pulsing life of Aalborg. The square has developed from being an industrial centre to constituting the cosiness and hospitality of the townscape.

In the cadastre (also known as a land register) of King Valdemar from 1231, Gammel Mølle is mentioned. This was the mill, which was situated here at Mølleplads. In former times, the mill was the neighbour of the old Aalborghus Slot (Aalborg Castle), which was the fortification of Aalborg of that time. Since then, numerous factories were erected, and they were in need of the force and energy of the mill, along with the water of the stream. Today the square is famous for its lively and cosy café atmosphere on a sunny summer day.

The function of the Town Hall has not always been as joyful, as it is today. In the period of 1763 to 1860, the lower floor of the town hall served as a detention. The young Inger Olufsdatter is one of the persons who became acquainted with the detention – and at a later point, the axe of the executioner. On the 4th of March, 1770, she was decapitated after being convicted for secretly giving birth and subsequently killing the child and throwing into the stream. This was before terms such as puerperal psychosis were introduced and taken into judicial considerations. The sentence read: "Inger Cathrine Olufsdatter is to lose her throat by axe, have her head put on a spear and have the remains of her body buried at the gallows by the nightman".

A small sailing trip down Østeråen towards the fjord would probably have looked like this, when the boat sailed by Gammeltorv. In the old picture, the beautiful, late gothic Toldergård is portrayed in the background.

Unfortunately, the building was torn down in 1873, and it was approximately also at this time that this section of Østerå was covered. The horse carriage in the old picture is actually the contemporary version of a garbage truck.

In this picture, it is obvious that the covering of Østerå had reached a new stage. Here, only a small piece of the stream remains. It did look idyllic, but the many streams pestered the nostrils of the inhabitants of Aalborg – especially in the middle of the day and on warmer days.

Many unmentionable objects were thrown into the stream, which, in the subsequent years to an extensive cholera epidemic, caused the inhabitants to realise that the days of the streams were numbered. In the years around the turn of the century, the river delta appearance of Aalborg was completely outmoded. At the left side of the picture, one can see the rearmost corner of the town hall, along with the most famous building of Aalborg, Jens Bang's House, which has adorned the cityscape since 1624.

The Company House has always had a central placement in Aalborg, which is highly due to the fact that Østerå flowed right by. In 1833, the merchant corporation installed a water pump right in front of the building in order to make it easier for the citizens of Aalborg to access the water of the streams. After all, it was not all citizens who were privileged enough to have access to a private pump or well.

The Company House, which is seen from Nytorv in this picture, looked like this in the period of 1889 to 1936. For some unknown reason, it was decided that the building was to have a more neutral look, which resulted in the removal of the tower, projection and balconies. Beauty is, after all, in the eyes of the beholder.

Locally, Jørgen Olufsen's Estate has for many years been known as Ellen Marsvin's House. However, Mrs Marsvin has never lived in this house. She did admittedly own a residence in Aaborg, but it was located at Gammeltorv. Ellen Marsvin (1572-1649) was the mother-in-law of King Christian IV and hence an important character in the Danish society. The appellation, "Ellen Marsvin's House", has stuck with the building so well that it for many years accommodated a wine bar named, "Ellen Marsvin's Beer & Wine Bar". In 2002, the cosy and historical premises were assumed by The Irish House, where visitors now enjoy various and sundry beers, sports and live music.

The central location at the stream harbour of Aalborg made it attractive for merchant, Niels Christensen, to build his merchant's house here at the corner of Østerågade og Ved Stranden in 1602. When Aalborg Trade Guild assumed the premises in 1866, the wing, which was fronting Østerå, was torn down. The building, which was fronting north, was, however, still intact – although quite decayed. Fortunately, the capable people of the trade guild were able to recognise the historical value of premises, and they gently brought down the panels in order to preserve them. Today, the rooms can be seen at the Aalborg Historical Museum, where they constitute important cultural historical memories of the heydays of Aalborg as a commercial centre.

Due to the location at the Limfjord, there has always been a customhouse in this area. The current royal customhouse building was, however, not built until 1902. Just west of the present building, there used to be an inkeeping called "Snorren" (originating from the Danish words for "to boil"), which also functioned as a so-called "cooking house" for seamen.
As it was forbidden to use open fire aboard on the ships, it was necessary to build a house, where the men of the sea and fjord could cook their food. Large quantities of tar, which was used for maintenance of the ships, were also boiled here. Nowadays, there is a different kind of life on the square. Especially at 12:00, 15:00, 18:00 and 21:00, when the fountains will dance to the tones of Händel's Overture Water Music.

When Aalborghus Slot (Aalborg Castle) was built in the period of 1539 to 1553, it was a part of King Christian III's fortification plans for Northern Jutland. The recently ended rebellion, known as the Count's Feud, had a severe impact on the old fortress of Aalborg, which was situated in the outskirts of the town, close to the old mill, where the Public Service Center of Aalborg Municipality is situated today in Rantzausgade. Actually, the rebellion had had such a severe impact on the fortress that the construction was no longer suited for its original purpose. To protect himself and his new castle in the best way possible, the king decided to erect Aalborghus Slot at its current location.

Pontonbroen (the Pontoon Bridge) was located at Vesterå's estuary in the period of 1865 to 1933. So unless one travelled by train, this was the only permanent connection between Aalborg and Nørresundby until 1933, where Limfjordsbroen (the Limfjord Bridge) was inaugurated.

It could be a doubtful pleasure to cross the Limfjord via Pontonbroen, as it was easily affected the wind and weather. The current of the fjord challenged the existence of the bridge, and quite often, it would carry away the bridge's swing gate. It is reported that the bridge, during a particularly rough winter storm, was carried all the way to Hals with a score of people on board, including the mayor of Nørresundby.

Jens Bang's House in Aalborg

Renaissance in Aalborg

Aalborg's most famous renaissance building is Jens Bang's House from 1624, but in Aalborg and the surrounding area you can find other interesting historic buildings.

Lindholm Høje - viking burial grounds

The Vikings at Lindholm Høje

How did they live in the Iron and Viking age in Aalborg? What did they eat and drink? How was the everyday life and the celebrations, and what was the religion? All this is presented at the original burial site at Lindholm Høje and the Lindholm Høje Museum.

The Franciscan Museum

The Franciscan Museum

The Franciscan museum is situated under one of the busy shopping streets in Aalborg, Algade. Go underground with an elevator to see the well-preserved medieval ruins of the Franciscans in Aalborg, established around 1250.

Springeren - a Maritime Center of Experiences

Springeren - A Maritime Center of Experiences

Experience danish naval shipping up close and personal at Springeren - a Maritime Center of Experiences...