‘Today is only one of the few days of the year that Helsingor Castle is open?!’
In Copenhagen in Denmark, I stared down at my computer screen first thing in the morning while I was having my breakfast in the Generator Hostel.
Helsingor Castle (also known as Elisnore Castle) is based on the northern coast of Zealand Island (where Copenhagen is also based on) only 40 minutes train ride from the capital. It’s most famous for its setting for the Shakespeare tragedy, Hamlet, where multiple plays and films have been made there.
But it’s so secretive that it’s only open a few days a year. And today was one of them.
So, high tailing it with a friend made at the hostel, we arrived in Helsingor at 9am to blue sky, sun and a sense of fresh sea air giving life into our lungs.
We were initially confused at the train station as it also served up as the ferry terminal for sea crossings across the Oresund strait to Scania…which is Sweden.
Both my friend and I looked at each other. Should we? Cross over to Sweden for the day?
But a sign captured our attention marking the way to Helsingor Castle and so there we went, snaking along the colourful harbour, to rival Nyhavn in Copenhagen, to fortified land upon stood the castle.
The castle wouldn’t be open until 11am but it didn’t stop us frockling on the boulder strewn shore to watch large ships pass through the Oresund strait with Scania’s coast visible along the horizon.
Looking out, it was proper stunning, the power of the strait coursing through and nature warning is not to get swallowed up by the strong currents. It was the perfect shot to feel part of this world, laid majestically on one of the boulders feeling like a Disney princess. Yes, I was Ariel, the little mermaid.
But then another stunning moment just happened as I turned round from the shore to look at the castle.
Could this one of the most beautiful and fairytale castles I’ve ever seen?
However you want to call it whether it’s Helsingor, Elisnore or the Danish Kronborg Castle, this truly belongs to Hamlet. The 16,000 m3 wide castle area covers many attics, basements and even palace rooms fit for a King. Guess what, Danish royalty lived here, counting the money gained from shipping taxes on boats crossing the Oresund Strait.
Soon, the palace opened its red wooden doors on one of the only few days of the year that is opened and I whooped gladly as I rushed through the Dark Gate that soon opened up from its tunnel to reveal a perfect majestical splendour.
So, you’re grinning in the four-gate courtyard before the main entrance. No, I hadn’t had my token Danish pastry of the day yet, Kronborg Castle is utterly the perfect castle I laid eyes on. And that’s saying something after seeing myself in a mirror. With statues of Neptune with his trident and Mercury, both gods of the sea and trade, it really reveals to you that Denmark’s history was forged on the seas surrounding the Peninsula islands and its prime connection in central Northern Europe. The gateway to the continent from the North.
Feeling like royalty, I tried to stride with importance (actually shaking with delight like a pooing dog) through the main entrance to reveal a charming Castle courtyard showcasing its current appearance when King Frederik II converted it from its medieval origins in 1574-85. In the middle of the courtyard, a lone well was all that was left from a magnificent fountain that sprayed watery wonders before it was carried away by the Swedes as spoils of war after capturing Scania and the castle in 1658. Those pesky villains!
From the courtyard, you’re pretty much spoilt for choice where to go. You can either go to the chapel, the Royal apartments, the ballroom, the little hall or the Casemates. We had all day so we were determined to eke out as much exploration as we could:
The Royal apartments
Of course, the resident of the King and Queen when they visited Helsingor. The famous ones of them all are King Frederik II and King Christian IV, particularly the latter who enjoyed high popularity even as he lost Danish battles and land.
I was pretty much surprised by the modesty of the apartments. I was expecting glitz and glamour but really, it was homely. I remarked a loud to this to my friend but before he could answer, a Danish grandfather, with his grandchild, snorted with derision and claimed the Swedes pillaged everything. I would have asked more but he had to grab his grandson as he leapt into the Royal bed.
Meh. Once you’ve seen a chapel, you’ve seen them all.
‘Oh my god, I want to get married in here!’ I gave a muffled girly scream as I twirled in the middle of possibly one of the biggest ballrooms I’ve ever seen in my life. My friend pretended he didn’t know me and went to stare at a painting for much longer than he would.
I didn’t care, it was truly tremendous! The floor stretched to the horizon and I felt small, thinking I’ve drunk a size reducing drink from Alice in Wonderland. It was the largest royal hall in Northern Europe (62 x 12 metres). Its walls featured a series of large paintings that were made for the Great Hall at Roseborg Castle in Copenhagen during the years between 1618-31.
But no, I think they should have Helsingor’s Castle out rented for weddings.
The Little Hall
If you’re looking for the history of Denmark, look no further than Helsingor’s Little Hall. Tapestries chronicling the ages of Kings in Denmark are strewn across the room detailing a golden age, a bloodthirsty period and a time of huge change. Seven of the 40 tapestries are originals with the portraits of 100 kings. They were commissioned by King Frederik II (he keeps popping up) around 1580. Another seven is on tour in Denmark but sadly the others have been lost. Could it be those pesky Swedes again?
Looking to be scared? Like to wander around in the dark? Ever want to feel like you’re lost? Then let’s go head down deep in the basements of Helsingor Castle to visit the gloomy caves that served as soldiers’ quarters during time of war. What a horrific place, I thought, as I headed down feeling the damp creep up my legs to strike deep into my heart. (dark, much?) Big enough to hold 1000 men with enough supplies to withstand a six-week siege.
But wait? Did I hear that a sleeping giant lived here? Yes! The sleeping hero, Holger the Dane, sits dormant, its mighty persona and its eyes raking into your very soul as you walk pass him with a torch. He waits ready to stir into action the minute Denmark is threatened by an enemy. Well, sure, Sweden is just over the strait!
After a few hours of exploring the castle, it’s well worth to check out the town of Helsingor for a spot of late lunch. But only if you’re hungry after visiting the ice cream hut at the entrance of the castle. That’s ONE beautiful ice cream. Just try it.
So looking to visit Helsingor Castle on the only days is open, check out their opening times here and simply book your flight and hotels in Copenhagen for your perfect day out in Denmark!
Stay tuned for a great video of Copenhagen I made through Snapchat next!
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