The story of the world's oldest tattoo shop

Tattoo Ole is the world's oldest still functioning tattoo shop​


Most people are not aware of it. But just under the cobblestones at Nyhavn 17 in Copenhagen K, you will find a small piece of world history. This is where Tattoo Ole is located - the world's oldest, still functioning tattoo shop. An honor that must first and foremost be attributed to the people who over the years have fought for the store. Next, they frame it is created in and last but not least, the time of its birth.

This is the story of these people, their shop and the little pocket of time where they found their place in history.

The king's tattoo artist

Nyhavn was built in the period 1671-1673, and has functioned as an active and enterprising port since its construction. In the wake of the opening, a wealth of pubs, brothels, ship suppliers, etc. sprang up naturally over the years. in the neighborhood around the harbor.

When you sit in the chair at Tattoo Ole in Nyhavn, you join a motley crowd of bone-hard sailors, easy-going ladies, nervous light sailors and even a single king. Nyhavn 17 has a long history in tattoo art and Danish culture.

The Danish King Frederik IX, was tattooed here a few times and that is why you will find the following text on the door: ´The king's tattoo artist - the king of tattoos´.

Tattoo Ole is the world's oldest still functioning tattoo shop, with 2 very small rooms in the basement, in Nyhavn 17 in Copenhagen K. The building Nyhavn 17 is a listed building and the shop Tattoo Ole, has been declared extremely worthy of preservation, by the Copenhagen Museum.

​(Crown Prince Fredrik shows and tells about one of the tattoos his grandfather Fredrik the IX got made at Tattoo Ole Nyhavn 17)Photographer: Brian McClair Fogh

Throughout the ages, Nyhavn 17 has housed all types of people. In the old days, Nyhavn was the hard part of Copenhagen filled with sailors, girls of joy and those you would rather not hang out with. The shop has back in time been frequently visited, by, among others, crew members from various cruises with the school ship and the royal ship, who wanted to perpetuate their trip.

Tattoos since 1884

We know that in 1884 the tattoo was done in the basement, by Gustav Bechmann. At that time there was a small tobacco shop, which housed a small table in the corner, for tattoos. The stories tell that Gustav and perhaps others before him, also tattooed long before this time in the small rooms and that the same thing happened up in the bar, at Nyhavn 17.

Here you can see Cigar shop on the left side and Tattoo in the Right where you can see the tattoo drawings on the right side the picture is from the beginning 1900s.

It was not difficult to be allowed to practice his art, at one of the tables, in the bar Nyhavn 17. But now you also have to keep in mind that it was not easy to get hold of tattoo equipment then. Therefore, one was really something special if one possessed this equipment. Since 1919, the basement room was used exclusively as a tattoo shop, by Hans Hansen. After this, the store has gone from hand to hand, without having been closed at any time, other than when improvements have been made, have been illness, weekend or holiday.

The tattoo artists who have been in Nyhavn 17, who we know:

​Gustav Bechmann

Stikke Frederik

Tusch Hans

Hans J Hansen

Poul Pedersen


Tattoo Holger

Tattoo Jack

Tattoo Ole

Danny og Bimbo


Majbritt Petersen

​inden 1884 og frem

inden 1900

1901 og frem

Ca. 1919

Ca. 1925'erne

Ca. 1925'erne

1930'erne - 1939

1939 - 1947

1947 - 1988

1988 - 1995

1988 - 2010

2010 og hun er stadig ejer 

During Tattoo Ole's time, the following have been with him.

  • Jhon Larson 1960'erne.
  • Freddy 1960'erne.
  • Thus Peter/Tato Peter 1970.erne.

​From the late 1970s onwards

  • Søren Kempf.
  • Danny Hansen.
  • Andy Larson.
  • Arno Sweickhart.
  • Henning Jørgensen.
  • Andy Larson.
  • Micke.

​Jack in his young days while he had Nyhavn 17

1939 A legend takes over the shop

After Tattoo Holger, the store is handed over to Tattoo Jack. He was a man who, even at that time, was a bit of a legend, in tattoo circles. Jack was ahead of his time and is known to this day for his extremely beautiful and colorful drawings. A style that at the time was peculiar and difficult to succeed with. But as the artist Jack was, he did not let himself be stopped by conventions and went his own way, in his art.

Jack lived in the store with his wife and their 3 children. It was cramped conditions, the shop is no bigger than 30 sqm! Nevertheless, Jack performed his profession so well that he got a collaboration with a high-ranking doctor. The doctor took his cancer patients down to Jack after breast reconstruction so they could have their nipple tattooed.

​A super nice picture of Jack, however, taken in Nyhavn 37 which he kept until his last days.

1947 the store gets its name

In 1947, Jack goes to prison. The reason is unclear, but we do know that there was no question of a longer sentence. However, long enough that Jack could no longer get a business to stick together.

In doing so, Jack reaches out to his good friend Tattoo Ole and asks him to look after the store while he sits inside. We know that Ole has had his regular walk in the shop, perhaps worked there on and off and already at that time had a reputation for being professional in a class of its own.

Picture of Ole in the Corner when he was quite young.

However, Ole has no desire for the title of manager and initially rejects the offer. However, he would like to take it over and after some deliberation, Jack agrees, albeit reluctantly. Ole then takes over the store. Then the store gets its contemporary name: Tattoo Ole. This has now adorned the facade for more than 70 years!

It could not be more appropriate. Ole was like Jack, a fantastically skilled tattoo artist who could technically compare himself with the best in the world. He also became world champion several times in his time. He became best known for his maritime motifs, especially the ships, which almost looked as if they were leaving the body.

If you knew Ole well, you also knew that he had a habit of hiding his initials in the waves - a true artist.

Tattoo Ole was the first to make designs for Bubli Gum tattoos. The current proprietor, Majbritt, can remember them from his childhood. Majbritt has often thought about how annoying it was that she did not get to save some, but then one day she received an email from London, from Magnus Grimond. 

He had saved his collection and wanted to hear if the store wanted it, Majbritt quickly agreed and shortly after, the collection arrived by post.

1988 Ole passes away, Danny takes over with Jørgen ´Bimbo´

After 41 years at the helm, an era is over. Ole passes away at the age of just 62, after being diagnosed with lung cancer. From here, his protégé Danny Hansen takes over in collaboration with Jørgen ´Bimbo´, who previously worked in the shop in no. 37, which Tattoo-Jack opened after he was released from prison in 1947.

Bimbo had had his walk in Nyhavn and tattooed since a very young age. He was shop trained and had sailed around the world. He was our good friends with Tattoo Ole, Søren kempf and Henning Jørgensen.

Søren Kempf and Henning Jørgensen opened Royal Tattoo in Elsinore in 1983 (Henning is today one of the world's leading tattoo artists in the field of Japanese tattoos). Bimbo was supposed to have been a co-owner here, but Nyhavn had become the child of his heart and he chose to stay, which we can look forward to today. Søren Kempff later withdrew from Royal Tattoo and opened Danish Tattoo in Hamburg, which is still there today and is run by his 2 sons Stephan and Joseph Kempf.

Up until Ole passed away and Danny and Bimbo took over, they had often talked about making their own shop. Despite great grief, they seized the opportunity. The two were a good partner and they worked closely together for the following years. In 1995, Danny chooses to travel to Germany and try his hand at new challenges. From here, Bimbo runs the store on its own.

Bimbo did not look like a tattoo artist, he did not have many tattoos, but he had been to many Convention’s around the world. Right after he came to Tattoo Ole for approx. 1989 Henning Jørgensen lures him to the USA and here he gets a nice tattoo, by Kari Barba.

A legend looks past and the store gets its baptism into the literature

In the early 00's, the world famous author John Irving is researching for his new book 'Until I Find You'. The book is about four-year-old Jack who travels with his mother, the tattoo artist Alice, around Scandinavia in search of Jack's father. The journey starts in Copenhagen and here Bimbo and the shop are mentioned.

If you are writing a book about a traveling tattoo artist, where part of the action takes place in Copenhagen, Nyhavn is hard to get around.

As dictated by fate, John Irving and Bimbo met for long conversations about the history of tattooing in Nyhavn and the tattoo profession in general. The tattoo artists in Nyhavn were a close-knit group, here the jargon was raw too u-sweet. Although they all had their own interests for the nose, they loved making amber for each other. This agreed love, respect and jargon is not to be found today.

​The meeting between the two men must have made an impression. Because in 2006 when John Irving, under great media attention, arrives in Copenhagen in connection with the publication of the book, John Irving insists on visiting Bimbo in the store. This is despite the publisher's, tightly planned program. At this meeting, Bimbo will be presented with a signed copy of ´Until I find you´ with a very nice and personal thank you greeting, from the author himself. Irving in particular was very enthusiastic about the age and cultural history of the business and has, without a doubt, had great sympathy for Bimbo.

The tattoo shop today

​In the spring of 2008, the door to the store will open. 28-year-old Majbritt Pedersen, a young female tattoo artist who is looking for work at Bimbo, enters. This first meeting was to prove to be a meeting of destiny. Not only do the two develop a close friendship, Majbritt would later turn out to be the store's next owner and not least the rescue woman.

​Bimbo is impressed by Majbritt's talent and drive. He agrees to hire her, provided she agrees to learn old school technique and drawing styles. It was and still is an artistic style that not only reflected Ole, but also the spirit of the store. Majbritt accepted the terms and a new partnership, ran the store further.

The collaboration goes smoothly between the two in fact quite impeccable, until a fateful day in 2010 when Bimbo, without prior illness, suddenly passes away 60 years old.

At the age of just 30, Majbritt now takes over the store. She can now call herself a store owner, tattoo artist and single mother. As the very first female tattoo artist, she has since run the store with glamor and passion. There is enough to look at and the gods had not intended to leave the takeover without trials. Majbritt is also the first professional tattoo artist from the Faroe Islands.

Now begins a period in the store's history, where it is promoted like never before and where a lawsuit from the building's owner threatens the store's existence.

Read more about Majbritt here​

Read about the store's and its colorful history both at home and abroad

  • ​Hanky ​​Panky's Tattoo Museum in Amsterdam
  • The Seamen's Museum at Kronborg in Elsinore​

At Hanky ​​Panky's Tattoo Museum in Amsterdam, there are a lot of things and stories from the store. Also in Denmark at the sailors' museum, at Kronborg in Elsinore, there is a lot about the shop with the old Nyhavn and the life that has been here through the ages. The story is about a small shop, but in reality about quite large tattoo artists in Nyhavn, who not only made a name for themselves in the small Kingdom.

​Tattoo Ole's best friend Harald Happiness, opened the first tattoo shop in Santos, Brazil. Ole and his wife Lis came there a lot. Ole and Harald always referred to each other as brothers and in time the story became that Ole was Harald's Father, There was a journalist and museum owner who visited the shop in Nyhavn 17, who proudly told about Harald Lykke's Father, Ole. It was a fun story to hear and testify about how words can wander over time. However, he was very happy that he could go home, with the more correct version.

Ole also once brought a Parrot home from Brazil and as we know they are monogamous and Ole´'s wife, got a competitor on the home wing. The parrot lived after Ole's death and may still be alive, but it did not like Ole's wife, so she had to get rid of it. It must be said that Ole was a very colorful man, with strong opinions and he could be something of a mouthful, but those stories will come later.

Bimbo won Best old school In Oslo 2016 and the fine prize was brought to the Shop by the fantastic Søren Lind some owner Enter The Dragon.

There was Convention in Santos 2018 in honor of Harald Lykke in Honor for his name. The store was invited, but it was too much for Majbritt with the trial, but their soul was with and a T-shirt was designed which is paid tribute to Brazil from Tattoo Ole.

Santos Tattoo Festival

There is so much history associated with the store, both with the old and the new that has happened. Everything humanly possible has been done to continue to perpetuate the story, after a long and tough battle with the landlord. Had the landlord won, a unique cultural heritage would have disappeared from Denmark and an era would have passed. Had it succeeded, the world's oldest still functioning tattoo shop would have been in Long Beach California but luckily the court was on Majbritt's side. After the trial dates were pushed a few times, the store won in the City Court. Then the case was appealed and the store came to the High Court where it also won. Tattoo-Ole and its unique history won and can continue to make future stories from the basement, in Nyhavn 17

2 days after the answer came from the High Court, Corona closed the country down, so Majbritt and the store have not been able to celebrate the phenomenal result in true Nyhavn manner. It comes, however, when it is reopened and they have landed back on their feet.

It has taken her a long time to find peace, to sit down and look at things, after this adventure. In the meantime, a new adventure begins when Tattoo Ole gets a "little sister" in the Faroe Islands which opens until May 2021. Here there will be a tattoo shop and museum.

We have had many who have been confused regarding the Razzuk family in Jerusalem, they have the longest family ties as tattooists and not the world's oldest still functioning tattoo shop.

Søren has been a great support for Majbritt in connection with the trial.

Majbritt thanks everyone who over the years has supported the store and not least to the artists who have helped make the story. A big thank you must also go to everyone who has sent support letters, as well as everyone who signed, at the signature collection. Finally, thank you so much for all your beautiful words, they gave energy when there was nothing left.

Read the support letter here

Signature collection

Contact information

Copenhagen department

003-maps-and-flags  Nyhavn 17, 1051 København K​

002-phone-call  +45 33 15 90 86​​

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Faroe Islands department

003-maps-and-flags  Tròndargøta 29, 100 Tòrshavn​

V-tal 651966​​

002-phone-call​  00298775050

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Welcome to Tattoo Ole. The world's oldest tattoo shop

- A true connection to history.

Opening hours


12:00 – 20:00​


12:00 – 20:00​


12:00 – 20:00​


12:00 – 20:00​


12:00 – 20:00​


12:00 – 20:00​


12:00 – 20:00​

Changes in opening hours are taken into account.

Closed Monday and Sunday in the Faroe Islands. Open 12-20.

CVR​: 37776610

®All Rights Reserved Tattoo Ole - Nyhavn 17