The area north of Copenhagen is not only home to beautiful landscapes, but to three magnificent castles and a wealth of royal history.
The area of north of Copenhagen is home to rolling landscapes, sandy beaches, picturesque harbors and a wealth of history. Danish kings showed their love for this idyllic countryside, an ideal retreat for hunting and relaxing, by doing what any self-respecting monarch does and building castles. North Zealand is home to three major castles, as well as several castle ruins. These castles were used for defense, as royal residences and official state venues.
The North Zealand castles of Frederiksborg, Kronborg and Fredensborg are today open for visitors to discover the history of an area, which is sometimes called Royal Denmark.
Frederiksborg Castle and the Museum of National History
The magnificent Frederiksborg Castle is surrounded by a beautiful lake and Baroque gardens, in the North Zealand town of Hillerød. This Renaissance castle was built by Christian IV at the beginning of the 17th century in order to signify his position as a powerful North European ruler. The castle, with its ornate fountains and marble galleries, was used as a royal residence until the 18th century. Thereafter it was used primarily for official royal functions and coronations.
After a fire gutted much of the interior of the castle in 1859 and the founder of Carlsberg Brewery proposed that the renovation of the castle should include making it a museum for national history. Today, the castle is home to paintings, portraits and furniture representing over 500 years of Danish history.
Frederiksborg Castle and the Museum of National History are open every day all year round. A special exhibition on “Absolute Monarchy in Denmark 1660-1848,” marks the 350th anniversary of the absolute monarchy in Denmark and runs from October 2010 to January 2011.
Kronborg Castle, Helsingør
Kronborg Castle in the port town of Helsingør began its life in the 1400s, as a fortress. During the reign of Frederick II (1574-1585), it was rebuilt as a Renaissance castle with royal chambers and banqueting halls. Strategically located on the sound separating Denmark from Sweden, it was used primarily as a means of collecting tax revenue from ships passing by. The castle was also used as a military stronghold and barracks for soldiers and slaves.
Named as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000, Kronborg Castle has been undergoing extensive renovations. The old castle ramparts have been restored to their former glory and authentic cannons have been placed back in their strategic positions. Visitors will find an interactive experience at Kronborg, with the noises and sounds of military marches, horses and music greeting their arrival. Several models showing Kronborg at different times in history have been placed around the grounds to help visitors learn about the history and øgrowth of the castle.
Many of the old barracks surrounding the castle have been converted into art studios and workshops. The castle also hosts outdoor theater (including a production of Hamlet) and opera. Kronborg Castle is open all year round and hosts guided tours every day.
Fredensborg Palace, the Danish Versailles
Known as the Danish Versailles, the Baroque castle of Fredensborg was built by Frederik IV to commemorate the end of the Great Northern War, in 1772. Fredensborg actually means the “Palace of Peace”. The palace was used as a retreat, where the royal family could relax and hunt away from the crowded confines of Copenhagen.
Fredensborg has been the setting for royal wedding receptions, wedding anniversaries and birthday parties. Leaders from around the world are received at the palace during official state visits. The current Royal Family still use the palace as a holiday retreat.
The gardens surrounding the palace are open to visitors all year round. These fine historic gardens include the popular “Nordmandsdalen” or Nordic Community in Stone, a series of 68 stone sculptures depicting real people, from farmers to fishermen, from Norway and the Faroe Islands. The private Royal Gardens and Orangery adjacent to the palace are open to the public in July, as well as parts of the palace and chapel.
Castle Ruins in North Zealand
The castle ruin of Søborg dates back from the 12th century and was once of Denmark’s strongest fortified castles. It was used as a prison for enemies of the Crown.
Asserbo was one of the first Christian fortresses in Denmark. It was abandoned and gradually fell to ruins in the 15th-17th centuries. Gurre Castle is the largest of the castle ruins in North Zealand. It was the favourite castle of Valdemar IV, who loved hunting there. The ruined stone tower is the oldest part of the fortification and dates from the last half of the 12th century.
Visiting the Castles of North Zealand
Visitors can find out more about the castles and North Zealand area by visiting the Visit Nordsjælland website.