Esbjerg developed quickly with the population rising to 13,000 by 1901 and 70,000 by 1970.

With an urban population of 71,618 (as of 1 January 2016 it is the fifth-largest city in Denmark, and the largest in west Jutland.

Before a decision was made to establish a harbour (now the second largest in Denmark) at Esbjerg in 1868, the area consisted of only a few farms.

Once Denmark's principal fishing port, the Port of Esbjerg is still a driving force for the town's economy.

While it has a long history of ferry services to England, the town is by no means a tourist destination.

More recently, it has become a centre for shipping offshore wind turbines.

In addition to handling 65 percent of all Danish wind turbines, which supply 3 gigawatts (4,000,000 hp) of offshore wind power, components have been shipped to various British wind farms.

The market square (Torvet) was positioned at the centre, midway between the harbour and the railway station.

In 1893, Esbjerg became a municipality in its own right (initially known as Esbjerg Ladeplads), receiving the status and privileges of a market town in 1899 and incorporating the parish of Jerne (east of the centre) in 1945.

Established in 1895 by nine local dairies, the butter-packaging factory, Dansk Andels Smørpakkeri, employed some 150 workers until 1920, packing and dispatching butter for the London market.

It was later extended to include egg marketing under the name Dansk Andels Ægeksport.

Lonely Planet remarked that "nobody comes to Esbjerg for a holiday, in fact, as with many industrial ports, most visitors rush through as quickly as possible".