If you read Shakespeare in high school, there’s a good chance you read “Hamlet” and learned that it took place in Denmark (“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” anyone?). Kronborg Castle, or Elsinore, is where “Hamlet” takes place and it actually exists, and you can visit it in Helsingør! Helsingør is just a quick trip from Copenhagen (just take the regional train and the Helsingør train station is right in the middle of the city!), and along with visiting Hamlet’s castle, there are lots of historic things to see in one day in Helsingør 🙂
I first visited Helsingør on a class trip when I studied abroad in Copenhagen five years ago, and we went on a really cold and snowy day in February. The town was really grey and empty then, so it looked a lot different when I went back the past spring! This time I got a tour of the town by Matt’s host grandfather, and he also took us to a few places outside the main part of the city.
Helsingør has a cute downtown area with lots of colorful buildings! (If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that colorful buildings are my absolute favorite!) The town was founded in the 1420s by Eric of Pomerania, and the town got rich from tolls paid by foreign ships sailing through. Kronborg was built soon after, and it was expanded in the 1580s.
The Maritime Museum of Denmark used to be at Kronborg, but they recently moved it into a dried out dock on the harbor
The Carmelite Priory is one of the few surviving monasteries in Denmark! It was built in the 1400s and it was abandoned in the 1500s during the Reformation. Instead of being torn down, it was used as a hospital and almshouse over the years until the local church took it over recently and started restoring it. St. Mary’s Church is attached to the monastery, and they are restoring some of the frescoes that were painted over during the Reformation.
Kronborg was built as a fortress in the 1400s, but it was renovated and built up into a Renaissance castle in the 1500s by King Frederick II. They would hold feasts there for foreign diplomats, which may be how Shakespeare learned about Kronborg. Kronborg takes pride in being “Hamlet’s castle,” and they actually perform live performances of “Hamlet” throughout the castle! We got to see a few scenes and talk with some of the actors.
Kronborg is also known for being the home of Holger Dankse, or Holger the Dane. In King Arthur’s stories, Holger was a king in Denmark, and he was taken by Morgan le Fay and escaped to rescue France from danger. He returned to Kronborg, and he will sleep until Denmark needs him to save them. Holger has become quite famous and you can see his picture on moving trucks in Denmark!
The famous Ophelia!
Sweden is right across the water!
You can get some authentic smørrebrød at the cafe at Kronborg
Right outside Helsingør is Esrum Abbey, the second Cistercian monastery founded in Denmark. It was built in the 1100s, and it became the “mother house” of several abbeys in Denmark. After the Reformation in the 1500s, many of the monks were actually allowed to stay for a number of years (which was apparently a rare occurrence in Europe) until they moved to another abbey, and Esrum Abbey was mostly dismantled for building materials. A few of the buildings were left alone, and the rest of the abbey was built back up in the 1900s. They have a museum inside the abbey about the monastery and Reformation, and there are lots of fields and wooded areas around it to go for a walk or a bike ride!
From Kronborg Castle to monasteries, there are so many historical sights to see in one day in Helsingør! If you’re rushed for time, you can easily do this in half a day, but I definitely recommend spending the whole day (or more!) in Helsingør to really see everything this cute, historic town has to offer 🙂