One of the trips I was most looking forward to in Denmark was to visit Kronborg Castle, the castle on which Hamlet‘s Elsinore Castle is based. Hamlet was one of the only texts we read in school that I actually enjoyed and would re-read. Granted, it’s been years since I was in high school and I’ve forgotten chunks of the play, but I thought it would still be a missed opportunity if I didn’t check out a castle that was still standing and that Shakespeare wrote about.
Since the ticket machine at Copenhagen Central Station shut down while I was using it and I had to ask for help, I learned that Helsingør, the Danish name of the city known in English as Elsinore or Helsingor, can actually be accessed using a cheap tourist ticket. The train trip was only about 45 minutes along rolling fields with the Øresund in the distance.
I headed out on the second Pinsedag, the Monday of a long weekend in the middle of May. I brought my earmuffs and gloves and was I ever glad I did. There have only been a few occasions where I’ve felt wind like I did that day on the tip of Zealand.
Getting off the train, there were immediately signs pointing to the popular Kronborg Castle. You could see it as soon as you walked out of the station.
There are a couple of other notable sights on the walk along the waterfront to the castle. Helsingør is home to the male Little Mermaid, Han.
There is also currently a huge fish statue made of garbage.
For the life of me I cannot remember what was written on the accompanying sign, and there doesn’t seem to be any information online about it. In any case, it was a nice bright spot on the harbour.
At this point in my life, after a few different European travels, I’ve seen my share of castles and palaces. But Kronborg Castle is unique in its own way. For one, it is very imposing as you are approaching it.
There are a few different sections of the castle that are open for visitors. I headed into the royal apartments first.
As the castle was made famous by Hamlet, there is an entire area dedicated to interpretations of the play. Every year Kronborg hosts a Shakespeare Festival, and for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this year they are doing “Hamlet Live”, where characters will be wandering the castle all summer.
You can also visit an area full of royal tapestries in the Little Hall, as well as an old chapel.
The most terrifying area in Kronborg has got to be the Casemates. These underground passages have low ceilings and remain unlit just like in the olden days, although nowadays we don’t walk around with lanterns anymore. They also house Holger Danske, the Danish national hero. As stated on Kronborg’s site, “According to an old legend, Holger Danske will wake up the day Denmark is threatened by enemies. Only then will his eyes open. He will then get to his feet and raise his sword.”
After escaping the darkness of the Casemates, I tried to go for a little walk around the castle back into town. Of course, the wind made that much more difficult than I hoped – and the size of the flag that was flying that day can prove it.
I did brave the wind for a bit. It was a nice view, after all.
With another thing crossed off my to-do list, I headed into Helsingør to explore the little town a bit. As it was a holiday, nothing was open, but there was still plenty to see from the street.
One of my roommates had suggested taking the ferry over the Helsingborg, in Sweden, a city so close you can actually clearly see it from Helsingør. The ferry was only 57 DKK for a round trip so I figured I might as well pop over to Sweden yet again, even though I had no idea what there was to see in Helsingborg. (I later read about Sofiero Castle, which I am definitely interested in checking out next time.)
I set out rather blindly from the Helsingborg port, but quickly came across the city’s beautiful city hall.
Just up the street was a set of elegant stairs leading to Kärnan, the remains of a medieval castle, and Slottshagen park, where I spent the rest of my evening walking through gardens and watching rabbits.
After a couple of hours watching the sea from the top of Helsingborg, I headed back down to practice my Swedish at Pressbyrån, rode the ferry back to Denmark, and took the relaxing train ride back to Copenhagen.
The whole day was beautiful and I’m tempted to go back again soon to check out Hamlet Live. Maybe I should re-read the play first.