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A Fun Visit to Hamlet’s Castle – Kronborg a World Heritage Site

Why should you visit Kronborg castle? Denmark’s premiere tourist attraction and world heritage site, Hamlet’s castle or Helsingor Castle is much more than a museum. Each summer, Shakepeare’s Hamlet comes alive and the whole castle is the stage.


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 is called by many names relating to Shakespeare’s most popular king, Hamlet’s Castle, Helsingor Castle, or Kronborg…and really it’s one of Denmark’s most famous castles.

In this article you will learn these four things:

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Kronborg Castle, Hamlet's Castle, or Helsingor Castle all names for Denmark's most famous castle.
Kronborg castle commands the narrow passage in the sound between Denmark and Sweden, and it’s an easy day trip from Copenhagen.

Where is Kronborg Castle?

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.

Bastion wall gateway entrance to Hamlet's Castle in Denmark.
Enter the castle through the massive bastion wall. It would have been much harder for invading armies. Hamlet would have felt very secure with these gates!

Helsingor or Elsinore Castle from Shakepeare’s Hamlet

Chasing Hamlet Through Helsingor Castle - a reenactment of the Shakespeare play.
Shakespeare’s 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.

Kronborg Castle, Denmark and a reenactment of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
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.

Interior courtyard of Hamlet's Castle, Kronborg - Denmark.
The renaissance facade is richly decorated and functional too!
Interior of Kronborg Castle, Denmark.
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

The view of the harbor from Hamlet's Helsingor Castle (Castle Kronborg).
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, Holgor Danske.
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!

Cafe Kronborg - the best fish and chips restaurant in Denmark.
At Cafe Kronborg order the fish and chips, you won’t be disappointed.

Kronborg Castle Facts

  • Krogen Castle was built on the site in 1420, remnants of the old walls can still be seen. (source)
  • 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.

Conclusion

An easy day trip from Copenhagen, you won’t want to miss the world heritage site of Kronborg Castle. Made famous by Shakespear’s Hamlet, there are often actors performing throughout the castle, especially in summer.

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

Sophie | Delightful Plate

Tuesday 17th of October 2017

My sister's family used to live in Helsingor, so I went to Kronborg whenever I visited them. I also think after visiting Kronborg, it's a good idea to walk into Helsingor and spend some time there. It's a small and beautiful city with a lot of charming houses, alleys and shops. Another castle I really love in Denmark is the Frederiksborg castle which is very beautiful, especially in summer.

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 17th of October 2017

Sophie, Yes, I agree. Helsingor is just a beautiful little city; we loved it.

Tanja

Saturday 18th of February 2017

such a beautiful castle!

Jim Vail

Saturday 18th of February 2017

Thank you Tanja!

Jim Vail

Saturday 18th of February 2017

Thanks Tanja!

Travelwithtarah

Friday 10th of February 2017

Never had much desire to go here before, but I do now! Love that you put practical and important information at the bottom, so helpful!

Jim Vail

Friday 10th of February 2017

It is a great day trip out of Copenhagen.

Ruth

Thursday 9th of February 2017

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.

Corinne Vail

Thursday 9th of February 2017

Ruth, If you go, check on the Hamlet production. I think you would love that!

Carmen's Luxury Trvl (@carmensluxtrvl)

Wednesday 8th of February 2017

It's the perfect day trip from Copenhagen! I love visiting castles in Europe, I just can't get enough of them. Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing :)

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 8th of February 2017

Carmen, It is. We had so much fun at this castle, Hamlet show and all! Have you been?