Chasing Hamlet Through Kronborg Castle

Why Should You Visit Kronborg Castle?

Chasing Hamlet Through Kronborg Castle

Kronborg castle commands the narrow passage in the sound between Denmark and Sweden.

Hamlet might have felt he’d been exiled from civilization when he was called back to Castle Elsinore after his father’s untimely death and his mother’s even more untimely marriage, but, come on, it’s only an hours drive from Copenhagen. That’s not isolation, that’s what I like to call a “day trip!”

Kronborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Click here to find out more.

The renaissance facade is richly decorated and functional too!

Kronborg Castle is located right on the sea, and at the narrowest point of the sound separating Denmark and Sweden. This strategic location, gave Denmark control over the passage between the North Sea (and the rest of Europe) and the Baltic. Despite it’s strategic importance, and military use, Kronborg castle was built to be both a fortress and a palace. Its richly decorated facade, with colorful stonework and carvings popular during the renaissance era, counterbalance its formidable defensive system of casemates, moats, and angular earthen works.

Chasing Hamlet Through Kronborg Castle

Enter the castle through the massive bastion wall. It would have been much harder for invading armies.

Kronborg Castle aka Elsinore Castle

Chasing Hamlet Through Kronborg Castle

The tragic duel scene unfolds in the great hall.

Of course, Shakespeare’s Hamlet has led to it’s modern day popularity as Kronborg Castle is widely recognized by all as the famous Elsinore castle in the play. Naturally then, any visit to the castle will have a decidedly Shakespearean element to it. In fact, the castle serves as the setting for a variety of performances that take place throughout the summer months. On our visit we discovered there were a number of reenactments of various scenes from Hamlet taking place in various parts of the castle.

Chasing Hamlet Through Kronborg Castle

Various rooms in the castle are used to set the stage for different scenes in Hamlet.

We followed Horatio and the guards down into the dark, crypt-like casemates and encountered the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Later, we witnessed the death of Polonius as he hid behind the curtains in the queens chamber. Finally, we saw the end of the tragedy as Hamlet and Laertes dueled while Claudius watched on with wicked anticipation. Of course, everyone dies at the end (except Horatio) and we were left in the great hall to make plans for further adventures around and through the castle on our own.

A beautiful tapestry hanging in Kronborg Castle, Denmark. Click here to find out more.

Could this be the tapestry Polonius was hiding behind when Hamlet impaled him?

If you visit Kronborg Castle outside of the summer months, don’t worry, you can still immerse yourself in all things Hamlet. Horatio, Hamlet’s one and only friend at Elsinore, is uniquely well suited to describe the events that unfolded. I know, it sounds a little hokey, but this is the perfect way to put some perspective on the play and also get an understanding of Kronborg’s real significance in the history of Northern Europe.

From the Highest Tower to the Lowest Dungeon

Chasing Hamlet Through Kronborg Castle

Climb the tallest tower and gaze out over the rooftops.

There’s more to Kronborg Castle than Hamlet, of course. You can climb the tallest tower and walk out onto the rooftops for a birds-eye view of the spires and gargoyles. Or delve deep into the underground casemates where you’ll find Holger the Dane encased in stone as he waits patiently for Denmark’s darkest hour. Then he will burst forth from his rocky throne to defend her! One of my favorite parts of the castle was going through these underground passages. The way is lit with occasional kerosene lamps so you are left with little more than your imagination as you wander through the labyrinthian darkness.

Deep in the dungeon of Kronborg Castle sits this guardian. What else can you find at Kronborg, click through to find out.

Holgor Danske waits stolidly to come to Denmarks future defense.

If you work up an appetite while exploring Kronborg Castle you can always grab a bite at the small cafe near the entrance. Small meals and snacks are available but if it is a hot day, I recommend the soft serve ice cream. It was creamy, delicious and refreshing cool on a warm, sunny day. Looking for more than a quick snack? Head out of the castle grounds and across the parking lot and into the marina. Here you’ll find a dockside fish house serving fried fish and hamburgers. We had the fried cod and calamari with french fries and tartar sauce. Just keep an eye on the sneaky seagulls that will swoop in for a free french fry if your not careful!

Chasing Hamlet Through Kronborg Castle

Order the fish and chips, you won’t be disappointed.

Important Information

  • Krogen Castle was built on the site in 1420, remnants of the old walls can still be seen
  • King Frederick II constructed a renaissance castle on the old castle site in 1574
  • The castle burned down in 1658 and the current Kronborg Castle was rebuilt along the same plans.
  • Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, was set in a Danish castle that could only have been Kronborg
  • Kronborg Castle was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000, “as an outstanding example of a renaissance castle…”
  • The castle opened to the public after lengthy restoration works in the 1930s.
Kronborg Castle in Denmark is said to be the inspiration for Shakespeare's Hamlet. Click here to find out more.

Practical Information for Your Visit To Kronborg Castle

  • The castle is open year round with an expanded program in the summer (closed Mondays in winter months)
  • Entrance is free with the Copenhagen Card, or 90 DKK (13 USD) for adults, children under 18 are free.
  • Parking is plentiful and close to the entrance, about 1.5 USD per hour.
  • The grounds and castle courtyard are wheelchair and stroller accessible, but the buildings are not.
  • Trains from Copenhagen central station to Helsingor station leave every 20 minutes for the one hour journey.
  • Kronborg castle is a short walk from Helsingor station. 52 DKK one way (free with Copenhagen Card).
  • Drive on highway E47 to Helsingor in less than one hour on the well signed and very well maintained motorway.
  • Eat lunch at the marina right on the docks at the Cafe Kronborg.
  • Spend the night in Helsingor at one of these prime hotels.

Have you been to Kronborg Castle and seen the final scene of Shakespeare’s Hamlet?

Pin Kronborg Castle for Later!

Kronborg Castle in Denmark is said to be the inspiration for Shakespeare's Hamlet. Click here to find out more.

30 Comments

  1. Such a fascinating place. Thank you for sharing. I’m ready to explore Denmark already, and this sounds like a must visit. Hamlet is one of my favorite plays… cuz I love drama.

    1. Rob, Then I think you will have to go in summer. I would email them and find out when they do the productions. Well worth it, especially since it’s included in the entry price.

  2. I have actually never read Hamlet (nor watched it) so most of those references just passed me by. Nonetheless it looks like an interesting place to visit

  3. This would be a fun trip for Shakespeare lovers. I like how they retell the story of Hamlet as you walk through the castle. Is this a specific tour you go on, or does everyone go through the same story? I’m just wondering because if you haven’t read Hamlet before you probably wouldn’t really get it 😛

  4. I’ve been to Copenhagen twice but never made it out of the city aside from going to the Louisiana museum (which was so good). I like how they use the Castle to put on Hamlet – cool concept.

  5. I’ve never been to a castle, but I so badly want to go!!I I’m sure the view from the tower was amazing!! I’ve come across so many flight deals from Copenhagen. Whenever I decide to purchase that flight, I’ll be adding this to my to-do list!

  6. What a cool historical site to visit! Are the humans staged on site as well? That might frighten me a bit if I just stumbled into the room and a human looking figure was lying on the floor. I’d love to visit this castle one day.

  7. If I go to Copenhagen, I will not miss this place. I remembered reading Hamlet and thinking that everything took place in a place imagined by Shakespeare. Later, I discovered the castle in the play was real. I have wanted to visit since then.

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