In and around Copenhagen, you’ll find plenty to explore. Denmark has a long, rich history and there’s nowhere better to delve into it than in its beautiful and striking royal palaces. On a recent visit to Copenhagen, I saw visitors of all ages and nationalities enjoying this trio from the Royal Danish Collection.
In the heart of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, lies the small yet exquisite gem of Rosenborg. Set in its own park—-the King’s Garden, this little palace is Instagram-perfect. Be sure to buy a ticket to see inside also—-you won’t be disappointed. Tip: tickets are timed, and I recommend picking an early slot. I was there at 9:20am and often had rooms to myself. When I came out an hour later, there was a crowd in line.
Rosenborg is home to the Danish crown jewels—-which are a big draw. Don’t miss climbing the small step ladder on both display cases to get the full sumptuous effect. My favorite exhibits came earlier, on the second floor. (Do take a paper brochure by the door, or use the free Wi-Fi to read about the exhibits on display.) Look high up at the gleaming white ceiling of the Great Hall. It’s like a Netflix mini-series with the super-sized figures playing out vivid stories. And the tapestries on the walls are like a boxed set: “King Christian V and His War with Sweden.” And yes, that was me gasping at the Glass Cabinet. Who knew you could collect—-and beautifully display—-so much Venetian glassware in such a small space? The Porcelain Cabinet across the hall is equally breathtaking, with an exquisite collection of Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica porcelain.
Just a 10-minute walk away lies your next adventure: Amalienborg.
After the intimacy of Rosenborg, be prepared for the immense scale of Amalienborg. Home to the current Danish royal family, here you’ll find four identical palaces grouped around a grand central parade ground. Visitors gather early around this cobbled courtyard for prime spots to see the daily noontime changing of the guard.
Save money and time by buying a reduced rate combo ticket for both Amalienborg and Rosenborg. At both palaces, if you’re carrying anything more than a small purse you’ll be politely directed to the coin-operated storage lockers by the gift shops.
Sitting majestically on a bluff above the narrow stretch of water separating Denmark from neighboring Sweden and just one hour north of Copenhagen, Kronborg is a blank canvas compared with Amalienborg and Rosenborg’s rooms crammed with treasures. Danish public transport makes it an easy to visit if you don’t have a rental car. (Tip: a 24-hour tourist ticket is the best value.)
From June to August, the ancient fortified castle rings with the sounds of professional actors entertaining visitors exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site. With puppet shows, dancing and even spy stories, the actors enthusiastically play out scenes based on “Hamlet,” one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, which he set here. The British playwright called Hamlet’s castle “Elsinore,” which is the name of the real-life town where the castle lies (Helsingor in Danish). Stay tuned for more about Helsingor in our upcoming Fall/Holiday Travel Issue.
Kronborg was the sight of a true love story between the royal couple Frederik and Sophie. During the first years of his reign, King Frederik II was preoccupied with leading his country in war. Aged 38, he realized it was time to find a bride, and chose Margrethe of Pomerania. The hopeful princess traveled to Denmark with her entourage, which included the Duke and Duchess of Mecklenburg and their 14-year-old daughter, Sophie. When Frederik saw the teenager, however, he fell immediately in love, and Margrethe was sent back to Pomerania. Frederik and Sophie were married in 1572, went on to have seven children, and a long, happy marriage.
Kronborg is also home to what remains of a hugely expensive set of ornate tapestries ordered by Frederik to outdo his arch rival, the Swedish king Erik XIV. In 1586, after five years work, 43 beautifully embellished silk tapestries were produced. Today, you’ll find seven of the surviving 15 in a dimly lit room high above the castle courtyard. They’re past their best, but it is still worth spending a few minutes and contemplating this act of hubris that left a legacy we continue to admire 500 years later.
Kronborg Castle cover photo by Thomas Rahbek, SLKE/Visit Denmark
Julie Tereshchuk is the editor-in-chief of Texas Lifestyle Magazine and frequently travels to Europe.