40km (25 miles) S of Copenhagen; 24km (15 miles) SE of Roskilde
The best-preserved medieval town on the island of Zealand lives in infamy as the town that "barbecued" old ladies suspected of witchcraft. "You had your Salem, Massachusetts, and we Danes, regrettably, had our Køge," a Danish historian once told us. The witch burning took place during the 17th century at the Torvet, the market square.
In about 3 hours, you can explore this old port city on Køge Bay, lying on the east coast of South Zealand. The city was granted a charter by King Erik VI in 1288, but its fame is of another day. The area grew up and prospered because of its natural harbor, becoming a bustling hub of seafaring trade with Germany and a thriving fishing center, exporting its fresh catches to feed the hungry masses of Copenhagen.
Every Danish schoolboy (or -girl) knows the story of the Battle of Køge Bay, fought here in 1677, one of the major conflicts in the eternal wars with Sweden. The Danish admiral Niels Juel defeated the attacking Swedish navy, thwarting their attempt to conquer Denmark. This made him a national hero, like Admiral Nelson to the British.
Køge, a bustling city of 40,000 with a modern commercial harbor, is visited mainly because it has preserved the narrow, historic streets of its inner core. A fire in 1633 leveled many of the buildings, but others were spared to greet visitors today -- and still others were restored to their original appearance.