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Kronborg Castle: Day Trip to Hamlet’s Castle

Kronborg Castle, Denmark
Kronborg Castle, Denmark

On my first full day in Copenhagen, I hopped a train for the hour-long ride north to 600-year old Kronborg Castle, the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Strategically located in Helsingør (Elsinore) at the eastern edge of Denmark, the castle overlooks the Sound, a stretch of water separating the country from Sweden.

Kronborg's resident royalty grew incredibly wealthy by levying a toll on the estimated 1.8 million ships that passed by in route to the Baltic Sea from 1429 to 1857.

As a result, Kronborg became one of the most important castles in Northern Europe during the Renaissance.

In 2000, Kronborg Castle was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Got Denmark on your bucket list for 2022 or beyond? Now's the time to familiarize yourself with the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, or ETIAS, a visa waiver program for citizens from 60 countries, including the United States, to enter the Schengen Area.

Let's take a closer look at the castle so grand it was featured in one of William Shakespeare's most famous plays.

Exploring Kronborg

Entrance to Kronborg Castle in northern Denmark
Entrance to Kronborg

Entering the Castle

It was a chilly, overcast fall morning when I arrived at Kronborg Castle. The steely-grey sky set the mood for a trip back in time.

Entering Kronborg Castle grounds happens in stages. First, there's the two small bridges over a wide moat leading to the main gate.

Then, there's a short walk around a smaller interior moat (pictured above) before passing through a thick exterior wall (below) where tickets are purchased.

Kronborg's exterior fortifications
Kronborg's exterior fortifications

The cost of admission ranges from $15 in the low season to $22 in the high (summer) season.

Free 30-minute guided tours are available from September through March; however, I was too excited to wait for one.

Kronborg Castle courtyard

Instead, I walked through to the spacious courtyard, which has hosted more than one live performance of Hamlet over the years.

The tragic play was first performed here in 1816 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

During my first trip to Europe after college, I have fond memories of attending Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing in Kilkenny Castle's courtyard in Ireland.

If you have the opportunity to see Shakespeare performed at Kronborg, or any other European castle, I highly recommend it.

Courtyard at Kronborg Castle

Kronborg Castle's grandeur is all but apparent in the courtyard.

Tall towers, sandstone walls, and copper roofing have been beautifully restored and kept in pristine condition.

King's Chamber at Kronborg
The King's Chamber

The Royal Apartment

I began my exploration of the castle's interior in the Royal Apartment, where the King and Queen lived, on the north wing's first floor.

The King's Chamber is one of the castle's most important rooms, as it was here that the King would meet with noblemen to discuss how to run the realm.

The room was also used for entertaining, such as hunting dinners, which King Frederick II enjoyed greatly during his reign in the late 16th century.

An accidental fire in 1629 led to the near complete destruction of the castle.

The exterior was rebuilt almost the same by Christian IV. The interiors, however, were rebuilt with less of a likeness to their original form.

Queen's bedroom
Queen's bedroom

Two tiny bedrooms are on display, one for the King and one for the Queen.

At the time, having one's own bedroom, warmed by a fireplace, was seen as a sign of wealth and privilege. Smaller rooms were easier to keep warm.

By comparison, those of lesser means may have had an entire family sleeping on a single bed.

The Queen's Chamber at Kronborg Castle
The Queen's Chamber

Like the King, the Queen had her own chamber for dining and entertaining guests.

Kronborg Castle chapel

Church Chapel

Opened in 1582, Kronborg's chapel was the only structure not significantly damaged by the fire of 1629.

It's a modest space, richly decorated with original religious art and furniture.

View from Kronborg Castle
View from the castle

The Cannons

One of my favorite scenes at Kronborg was not of the castle itself but the view out toward the Sound.

From the vantage point shown above, it's easy to see how well defended the castle was from attack by sea.

Berms, walls, moats, and cannons offered layers of protection for the royal family.

Castle defenses
Castle defenses

Today, the castle can be rented for private and corporate events, such as weddings and concerts.

It's even possible to fire the cannons!

Castle staircase
Spiral staircase
Castle toilet
Castle toilet

Quirks of Castle Life

As you move around the castle, there are small glimpses of what it'd have been like to live there, such as the steep spiral staircases and basic toilet.

The Little Hall with tapestries
Tapestries in Little Hall
Kronborg tapestry

Little Hall

In Little Hall, you'll find seven tapestries from a series of forty depicting Danish kings.

The tapestries were made around 1580 at the behest of King Frederick II.

Holger the Dane
Holger the Dane


“According to a legend linked to Arthurian myth, a Danish king known as Ogier the Dane (Danish: Holger Danske), was taken to Avalon by Morgan le Fay. He returned to rescue France from danger, then traveled to Kronborg castle, where he sleeps until he is needed to save his homeland.”


Toward the end of my visit, I went below ground to walk through the cellar, which once housed everything from the King's wine collection to prisoners in shackles.

In the casemates, passageways within the thick castle walls, rests Holger the Dane, a Danish national hero.

The original bronze sculpture was created in 1907 by Hans Pedersen-Dan for Hotel Maienlyst.

Despite the used plaster mold being placed under the castle, it became more popular than the bronze sculpture itself.

In 1985, the plaster mold was replaced with a concrete sculpture to ensure Holger the Dane would safely live on for centuries.

Kronborg Castle
Departing Kronborg Castle

Getting There and Away

Kronborg Castle is easily accessible from Copenhagen by train or car.

If traveling by DBS train, as I did, it's a 45-minute ride from central Copenhagen Central Station (or any other downtown station), plus a 15-minute walk from the Helsingør Station to the castle.

If driving, it's about 45 minutes to an hour north via the E47 highway.

Whichever way you choose, I highly recommend a stop at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art on your way back to Copenhagen.

It's about a ten-minute walk from the Humlebæk Station, and taxis are available should you need a lift to the museum or back.


This story is brought to you in partnership with ETIAS.

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Friday 26th of February 2021

Denmark is a wonderful country for traveling. How many places we can find out while following spots there? I would love to visit Hamlet’s Castle and I hope I will gather my friends to make my trip fantastic and unforgettable !

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