While Copenhagen has quite a bit to offer, like beautiful strolls at dusk, remarkable architecture, and just general hygge (hue-gah), the rest of Denmark is obviously not something to miss. Just a train ride away from downtown are two great attractions that definitely deserve your undivided attention. One is the Kronborg castle, located in Helsingør.
Originally a 16th century castle, Kronborg has been rebuilt and built upon for hundreds of years. It is also the inspiration behind Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This makes Kronborg one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe.
You may ask: how did Helsingør become the setting for Hamlet? Shakespeare never laid eyes on Kronborg, however traveling actors who performed in the area told him of this castle in great detail. Shakespeare modeled Elsinore off of those very descriptions.
The town of Helsingør is a typical seaside town, but one that has obviously seen perhaps better days. The name Helsingør is derived from the word hals meaning “neck” or “narrow strait”. This refers to the narrowest point of the Øresund strait between what is now Helsingør and Helsingborg, Sweden. So yes, Sweden is just a ferry ride away!
Back to Kronborg, the interior of the castle is actually nothing to write home about. In 1629 there was a massive fire which destroyed the entire castle except the chapel.
During the Dano-Swedish War of 1658-60, the Swedish army besieged, attacked and conquered Kronborg . As a result of the Swedish occupation, Kronborg was deprived of many of its most precious art works, including the richly decorated fountain in the castle courtyard, Frederick II’s canopy and a number of the large ceiling paintings commissioned by Christian IV for the ballroom.
From 1688-90, an advanced line of defence was added and despite its weak history, Kronborg then became the strongest fortress in Europe.
Kronborg’s royal and political days were over when in 1739 Kronborg began use as a prison. From 1785 to 1922, the castle was completely under military administration. The army left the castle in 1923, and after a thorough renovation it opened to the public in 1938. While it is a shame that so much has been lost, it is still an incredible monument and you do learn a lot about some history that perhaps I would have never heard of in the first place.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
After a couple hours exploring Kronborg, we made a quick stop at a delicious Danish café. We then made our way to Humlebæk. There was an incident when we got off the train when my friend Shally realized she had lost her cell phone. A lot of panic and confusion ensued as you might imagine. Eventually we located it by calling the cell phone and tracing back to an electronics store back in Copenhagen. After all the stress, and such gracious help from the museum staff, we were finally able to enjoy the Louisiana Museum. Read more about my adventure here.
The reason I mention this awesome museum again is because it makes a really nice day trip combining it with Kronborg. Since Kronborg closes around 4pm and the museum at 10pm, it made sense for us to start with Kronborg. From Copenhagen Central Station, you can take a direct train to Helsingør. It is about a 45 minute train ride. From the station it is just a 15 minute walk to Kronborg. After Kronborg, take the train from Helsingør to Humlebæk (back south), which is just 10 minutes. The Louisiana Museum is then a 10-15 minute walk from the station.
And there you go! Seeing the Renaissance and some Modernism all in one day.