One of Copenhagen’s Most Iconic Buildings Has Been Destroyed by Fire—Here’s What to Know

Officials are vowing to rebuild the Old Stock Exchange, a 400-year-old landmark beloved by locals and visitors.

The spire of the Copenhagen Old Stock Exchange on fire with billowing smoke

The historic “Børsen” building dates to 1625 and was built in the Dutch Renaissance style.

Photo by Chris Christophersen/Shutterstock

One of Copenhagen’s most iconic buildings, the Old Stock Exchange, was ravaged by a massive fire on April 16 that destroyed much of the 400-year-old building—most notably, its iconic spire, a fairy-tale feature shaped like four intertwined dragons’ tails.

No one was injured in the fire, which broke out during the early morning hours and was still burning 24 hours later, various news outlets reported. The blaze destroyed approximately half of the historic building, according to the BBC, but as of press time its cause remains unknown.

The disaster has stunned residents of Copenhagen, where the building—known locally as Børsen—was beloved for its historic significance and as a proud symbol of Danish heritage. Dating to 1625, it was built on the orders of King Christian IV in the Dutch Renaissance style, with a trio of crowns at the top of the spire symbolizing the Scandinavian empire of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

“I woke up to my WhatsApp feed going crazy with everyone sharing their own photos,” says Brooke Black, a public relations director who lives near Copenhagen’s city center. “For Danes, it’s a shock. They feel a lot of pride for a key building in their landscape. Everyone was talking about it, and everyone just couldn’t really believe it.”

Police on Wednesday launched an investigation into the incident, according to several media outlets, including Reuters. Initial but unconfirmed speculation is that the blaze could have started in an area undergoing extensive ongoing renovations, a fire official told reporters.

City officials have already publicly committed to rebuilding the beloved landmark, while expressing their sadness and disbelief at the tragedy.

“Terrible pictures from inside the Stock Exchange,” Danish Chamber of Commerce director Brian Mikkelsen wrote on X. “It is completely unbearable. Our beautiful building is smeared in black ash and water. I can’t believe my eyes.”

But Mikkelsen also reiterated a vow to rebuild the Old Stock Exchange “no matter what.”

Old Stock Exchange in Copenhagen, before the fire, with its trademark spiral spire with dragons wrapped around base

The Old Stock Exchange, known as Børsen, had been undergoing renovation at the time of the blaze, which consumed its trademark spire.

Photo by Shutterstock

Artworks were rescued

The building housed Denmark’s stock exchange until the 1970s, then served as the headquarters of the Danish Chamber of Commerce. It’s also a popular tourist attraction, but was listed as “temporarily closed” on Google following the fire.

As the blaze erupted on Tuesday, news footage and social media accounts showed a chaotic scene of massive plumes of black smoke billowing from the building, which was undergoing renovation and surrounded by scaffolding. Black said the charred building was still smoking as of Thursday morning and smelled of “burned wood and chemicals.”

Some observers noted eerie similarities to the devastating fire that broke out in Paris’s Notre-Dame cathedral, which occurred on April 15, 2019—nearly five years to the day before the Old Stock Exchange fire. Like Børsen, Notre-Dame also had been undergoing renovation at the time of the outbreak, and its distinct spire also collapsed in the blaze.

On X, Denmark’s deputy prime minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, described the Børsen fire as “our own Notre-Dame moment.”

One bright spot in the disaster: Some of the building’s historic paintings and other artworks were rescued by both workers and onlookers.

Denmark’s culture minister, Jakob Engel-Schmidt, wrote on X that it was “touching” to see staffers, emergency services personnel, and passersby “work together to rescue art treasures and iconic images from the burning building.”

Decorative dragons with tails climbing up the spire of the Old Stock Exchange building

The Old Stock Exchange’s spire featured dragons whose tails twisted up its length.

Photo by Shutterstock

Rising from the ashes

According to Visit Copenhagen, the city’s tourism organization, local legend has it that the dragon-tailed spire was believed to guard the building against fires and enemy attacks. Over the years, it had been somehow spared when fires damaged neighboring buildings.

However, local officials have vowed that the iconic tails will one day rise into the capital city’s skyline again.

Journalist Blane Bachelor regularly contributes to outlets including CNN, Conde Nast Traveler, and Garden & Gun. Her main specialties are travel and aviation, but she especially loves offbeat topics (like anything spooky or haunted!). Blane was born and raised in Florida and has lived in four countries abroad. Her current base is Amsterdam, where she resides with her husband and son.
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