Why Should You Visit Kronborg Castle?
Hamlet might have felt he’d been exiled from civilization when he was called back to Castle Helsingor 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 Castle, Helsingor Castle, or Kronborg…and really it’s one of Denmark’s most famous 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.
Kronborg Castle is Helsingor Castle from Shakepeare’s Hamlet
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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!
- 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.
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.