There are a lot of castles spread all over Denmark – but one is clearly more famous than the rest. The Kronborg Castle is the best known castle thanks partly thanks to Shakespeare old play about the Danish prince Hamlet – but also because it is just the most magnificent castle from its age in Scandinavia and the only castle in Denmark which has been included on UNESCO world heritage list.
The current castle was built by King Christian IV who is known as the building king of Denmark leaving behind more memorable buildings than any other kings through the history of Denmark. He claimed the castle was financed by him privately and not by the Danish tax payer. This is partly true since the castle was financed by the proceed from the Øresund tariffs which he considered as is private income not belonging to the general population of Denmark.
The Øresund tariffs were levied on every ship sailing to or from the Baltics passing down through the narrow sound just outside the castle. If the ships didn’t stop to pay their due tariff they would be fired upon by the canons standing right outside the castle walls. As you can see by the impressive castle the income from the tariffs were quite significant.
Today the castle is the highlight on a daytrip to Helsingør from Copenhagen. If you head north to the castle you should try to leave from Copenhagen Central station a bit before 9 in the morning. This way you will arrive at Helsingør before 10 so you can slowly walk from the station to the castle and get there in time for the opening for the public at 10. It is best to arrive early so you are the first inside the castle so you can really enjoy the royal apartments without a lot of tourist blocking your photos. I was certainly happy I made sure to rush to the royal apartments so I could get my photos before the crowd arrived a few minutes later.
The royal apartments are one of the highlight of the castle and you should go and enjoy the rooms for sure. After you have seen these you can go and have view of the outside of the castle from a tower on the castle. From the top of the tower you get a good view of the buildings around the main castle which is also some nice old buildings.
There are also other rooms which are furnished with old furniture and several also have tapestries on the walls. The most important tapestries are a collection of many tapestries of the Danish kings through the ages. There are many tapestries with the different kings telling the history of Denmark through the different kings.
Other interesting attractions are the royal kitchens which you can go and have a look at and the chapel of the castle.
Down below the castle you find the casemates and you can go down and explore the dark rooms. The most important attraction down in the basement is the statue of Holger Danske – he is a legendary Danish worrier who is sleeping in the casemates of Kronborg. According to the old legend he will wake up if Denmark is ever threated by enemies. During the German occupation of Denmark in the Second World War Holger Danske did wake up – as one of the most important Danish resistant groups used his name for their group.
So what is the story about Holger Danske? According to the legend he was a Danish knight in the service of the French king Charlemagne. He participated in the wars against the moors in the northern part of what is now Spain. So where exactly in Denmark was he born? Well probably somewhere in Hungary – so the original Danish hero who will come to the rescue of Denmark in case of distress isn’t Danish at all.
Now what about the story of Hamlet and Kronborg – any truth to the story. Not really – no connection between Hamlet and Kronborg. In the oldest history of Denmark there is a story of a Danish prince called Amlet who sounds a lot like Shakespeares story of Hamlet – but prince Amlet lived in Jutland far away from the present day Kronborg – and the legendary prince Amlet probably lived around year 700 which is about 700 years before the first castle was built at the current location.
Despite there being no connection between Hamlet and Kronborg there might be a connection between Shakespeare and Kronborg. A few years before Shakespeare wrote the play Hamlet there was a British acting group visiting Kronborg – and Shakespeare had been connected to this group – and some suspect he actually visited the castle. He certainly had heard a lot of the lavish parties the king of Denmark were throwing at the castle during this period. The castle was actually a military location until a bit over a century ago – and it was used as a military stronghold for centuries. Unfortunately it never had any success as a military fortress during its history. The castles was easily conquered by the Swedes during the war of 1658-60 and when the British navy was heading down the narrow sound just next to the castle they didn’t manage stop a single ship from reaching Copenhagen and bombarding the city into submission.