In the second half of the 19th century this was one of the first major areas that developed outside the city ramparts with new houses, apartment buildings, shops and churches that were built on either side of the roads running out from the old west gate to the royal palace and gardens on the hill at Frederiksberg. Streets and small squares were laid out on either side of what is now Istedgade.
The streets of Vesterbro seem relatively narrow, when compared with other districts of Copenhagen, and most of the buildings are five or six storeys high so it can seem to be darker and gloomier than other parts of the city.
It is fair to say that the area had earned a reputation for prostitution and drugs: it is close to the railway station - often the most likely place to find a red-light district in many large cities - and it was hemmed in by both the large area of Kødbyen, a wholesale food market, and by the railway lines.
Close to the centre of the city, and with a substantial number of slum dwellings, this might have been a potential area for large-scale demolition and massive redevelopment, particularly in the period of growth for the city in the 1950s and 1960s, but in fact the city’s planners made the decision to retain and restore the buildings of Vesterbro with demolition of the worst properties and with significant improvement to the streets and squares.