The city of Odense is the third largest city in Denmark. Odense City has a population of 168,798 (as of 1 January 2012) and is the main city of the island of Funen. The city is the seat of Odense Municipality, with a population of 191,610 (as of 1 January 2012), and was the seat of Odense County until 1970, and Funen County from 1970 until 1 January 2007, when Funen County became part of the Region of Southern Denmark.
Odense is roughly in the centre of Funen, which lies between the larger Zealand island & the Jutland peninsula. The first recorded reference to the city dates back to 988 AD in a letter from the German Kaiser Otto III.
Up until the middle of the 17th century, Odense enjoyed the position as a main trading-centre for the people from the surrounding areas. Local produce & livestock were exported from the city. However, a war with Sweden in the 1600s weakened the city's economy. This economic downturn continued until 1803 when a canal linking Odense & the Baltic Sea was opened. This swiftly changed Odense into a port city & over the next 100 years Odense quickly developed into the modern industrial city which it is today.
Odense is the birthplace of the world famous fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen & the city proudly displays statues, parades & monuments in his memory. Andersen was born on 2 April 1805, in a tiny house on Munkemøllestræde, quite close to the cathedral. During his lifetime, Andersen created many famous fairy-tales which today are internationally famous. For example 'The Little Mermaid', 'The Ugly Duckling' & 'The Snow Queen'.
In the 16th century, the town was the meeting-place of several parliaments, and down to 1805 it was the seat of the provincial assembly of Funen. Odense's most famous landmark was Odinstårnet (The Odin Tower) constructed in 1935, as the second-tallest tower in Europe, only surpassed by the Eiffel Tower. Odinstårnet was blown up by a Danish Nazi group in 1944 and has never been rebuilt. However, a miniature model of it now stands in the residential area Odinsparken in the area where the original tower was.
Until the beginning of the Danish industrial revolution, Odense was also the second-largest city in modern Denmark, but has in recent times been overtaken by Aarhus.
- St. Canute's Cathedral, also known as Odense Cathedral, is named after the Danish king Canute the Saint, otherwise Canute IV. It is a fine example of Brick Gothic architecture. The church's most visited section is the crypt where the remains of Canute and his brother Benedict are on display. St. Canute's Church in one form or another has stood on Abbey Hill in Odense for over 900 years. The earliest known church on the present location was a travertine church which was reported under construction by Aelnoth of Canterbury, a Benedictine monk at the nearby St. Alban's Priory in 1095. The foundations of the travertine church can still be seen in the crypt of the present building. The church was built in Romanesque style with semi-circular arches supporting a flat timber ceiling. The present church was constructed in several phases to replace the aging and inadequate stone church in about 1300 by Bishop Gisico (1287–1300). The new cathedral was built in Gothic style with its typical pointed arches and high vaulted ceilings. The building material of choice for the time was over-sized red brick which was cheaper and easier to work with than the porous stone available. Portions of the stone cathedral were taken down and the new building expanded around the old.
- Hans Christian Andersen Museum, A museum dedicated to the city's most famous son, author and poet Hans Christian Andersen, most famous for his fairy tales and in particular The Ugly Duckling and the Little Mermaid. Part of the museum is located in the house where Andersen was supposedly born (though he would never confirm it). The impressive collection is mainly documents from his life and times, period furniture, and many drawings and paper clippings he is famous for.
- Odense Zoo, One Denmark's biggest tourist attractions is the Odense zoo, covering almost 4 hectares on both sides the Odense River. The Oceanium opened in 2001, is the main show-piece featuring a tour though South America, including a very impressive aviary and indoor rain forest.
- Egeskov Castle, One of Europe's best preserved Renaissance water castles, dating back from 1554, about 30 km south of Odense. The current owner, Count Ahlefeldt, has added numerous features, including a maze, walk-among- the treetops and a veteran auto museum, toy museum, kitchen garden, and more, all in a scenic park.
- Danish Railway Museum, A museum dedicated to the Danish railways. Contains dozens of old trains, carriages & rail road memorabilia over 10.000m2. There is also a large model train landscape and a ride-on miniature railway and playground for the children. On public holidays and during the schools summer vacation the museum also arranges train rides in old vintage steam trains to various destinations on Funen - call ahead for dates and reservations.