Kronborg Castle (a.k.a. Elsinore) is located in Helsingor, a pleasant, salty Danish seaside town that's often confused with its Swedish sister, Helsinborg, just across the channel. The history of Kronborg is inextricably linked to that of Shakespeare, who set here the drama of Hamlet. Naturally, my interest was piqued when I found out that just a short train ride from Copenhagen is the castle where Shakespeare’s Hamlet is set.
Helsingor is a 45-minute train ride from Copenhagen Central Station. The train ride itself is gorgeous — I passed quaint Danish towns and lush forestland. At the Helsingor station, the Kronborg Castle is just within 10 minutes of walking distance. Most of the "Hamlet" castle you'll see today was built long after the historical Hamlet died (more than a thousand years ago), and Shakespeare never saw the place. These days, various Shakespearean companies from around the world perform Hamlet in Kronborg's courtyard each August.
Kronborg Castle was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in year 2000. To see or not to see? Although a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a lot of people come to the castle without going inside. Whether this is the right decision is really dependant upon which aspects of Kronborg are most interesting to you. You don’t need to have read the play to appreciate a Kronborg Castle visit. In my view, the castle is most impressive from the outside. The free grounds themselves are lovely to walk around and between the walls and sea are great, with a close-up view of the strait between Denmark and Sweden.
Kronborg has many different parts and areas. Although you'll often move naturally from one area to the other as you walk through the castle, no particular order is better than another. What all visitors will see first, though, is the walk from the harbor, crossing it via two bridges and then turning left to walk around the castle with its wall to the right and earthen defenses to the left.
Just a few steps from the Helsingor train station, I could already clearly see the Kronborg Castle, built where the city's port area is now located.
There is no mistaking the majesty and significance of Kronborg as you walk through the gateway into a fully enclosed courtyard. From this courtyard, signposts direct you to all of the attractions within the castle itself.
The castle grounds at Kronborg are laid out on a map at the entrance.
Approaching the castle, pretend you are an old foe of the king, kept away by many layers of earthen ramparts and moats - just when you think you are actually at the castle, you find there is another gateway or waterway to pass.
Though the castle is now a heritage site, it is not hard to imagine what it was back then, with the view of the sea, the Swedish town of Helsingborg from afar and the numerous ferries crossing in between.
I have to agree with Shakespeare about Kronborg Castle, it is the best location to immortalise the agony, paranoia and tribulation of Prince Hamlet.
There is something intriguing and mesmerising about the castle- the towers and spires of poetic Renaissance medieval appeal, the strong angular bastions isolating the castle inhabitants secrets, the tall ramparts protecting from outside enemies and the location by the sea symbolising its strategic importance, it is suffice to say it is a castle built to depict a story.
Immediately upon exiting Kronborg Castle, the structure of the Danish Maritime Museum (M/S Museet for Sofart) comes into view. Access to this museum is via a shiny ramp that descends to the harbor walls of Helsingor. The entire museum is located below street level, but the glass walls still give ample light to all rooms.
History and literature aren’t all Helsingor has to offer. If you are there, do check out some of the intriguing street art installed along the dock.
Bronze statute of Hercules and the Hydra, figure of mythological here.
On my way to the old town of Helsingor, I found the statue of Han. Han is the male counterpart of the Little Mermaid (will blog about that separately in due course) in Copenhagen, and is installed right on the harbour pier. It was inaugurated in 2012.
The pose that Han sports is the same as the Little Mermaid and, like her, was installed on a boulder. Unlike the original statue, however, this one is totally constructed of a shiny, reflective metal, which is dazzling on bright days.
No matter where I go, one thing that’s always on my itinerary is time to walk about. Helsingor is perfect for a wander as the city centre has quite a few pedestrian streets. The city’s main streets are lined with narrow cobbled alleyway of shops and restaurants and don’t particularly stand-out, but the side alleys are a different story.
Whenever possible, duck down they side alleys as that is where Helsingor’s charm shines through. You’ll see some of the city’s historic character. You don’t have to worry about getting lost either, Helsingor is not that big.
The tower of St Olaf's Church is hard to miss among Helsingor's low-lying buildings, making it quite easy to find.
Once you are there, you'll find a relatively normal brick church before you. Much of the character of this 16th century church is instead found inside. There you'll see some ornate frescoes, an immensely pretty pulpit and other Baroque touches. It is a Lutheran church after all.
Seeing the UNESCO World Heritage site from afar and walking the castle ground made the trip a worthy endeavour, to visit a small town that is more laid-back and to see a different side of local life.
Helsingor is a charming town which manages to keep its historic appeal of being a royal outposts. While strolling along the harbour side, with the presence of Kronborg Castle from afar, is a great way to appreciate the sublime beauty of this town. I relish that feeling of having a mini vacation within a vacation, it is fulfilling and relaxing, and I have to say, by simply walking around Helsingor, I was able to achieve this !
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