Danish City Possesses Old World Charm
Helsingør is best known as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This charming former port town offers many opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and relaxing. Helsingør, or Elsinore, is probably best known as the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It is one of the larger cities on the island of Zealand in Denmark, located around 30 miles north of Copenhagen.
Helsingør is home to Kronborg Castle which one of the finest example of Renaissance architecture in Northern Europe and the most popular attraction of the city. The city of Helsingør itself is a charming former port town that has retained much of its medieval architecture and character. Walking through the streets of the city is like stepping back in time where picturesque half timbered buildings line winding cobblestoned streets. There are many opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and relaxing in the city.
Sightseeing in Helsingør
The main attraction of Helsingør is of course Kronborg Castle. Overlooking the port of Helsingør on the Øresund strait, this imposing and well fortified structure provides a fitting home for Shakespeare’s tragic hero. The castle is now a World Heritage Site which attracts thousands of visitors from around the globe.
The city is home to several museums including the Helsingør Bymuseet, or city museum, which is housed in a former hospital for sailors built in 1520. The museum is devoted to the history of Helsingør with exhibitions on the Øresund, the archaeology of the city and life during the Second World War. There is also a detailed scale model of Helsingør from 1801 on display. The exhibitions and displays give an insight into the city and its seafaring heritage.
The Handels and Søfartsmuseet, or Danish Seafaring Museum, is located on the grounds of Kronborg Castle. It houses Denmark’s largest and most impressive maritime collection and traces the history of Danish trade and shipping. The Helsingør Vinmuseum, or Museum of Wine, tells the story of how wine merchants in the old days used the tools of their trade to bottle the wine they purchased in large casks for sale. It is located in the basement of the Helsingør Wine Shop.
Helsingør is home to several beautiful churches. Helsingør Domkirke, or Cathedral, was completed in 1559 though its history dates back to the 1300s. This beautiful building houses a baptismal font from 1579 as well as monuments, tombstones and a large impressive altarpiece.
Sct. Mariæ Kirke, or the Church of St Maria, was originally part of the Carmelite Monastery that was built between 1430-1500. Situated around a garden and cloister, the grounds are a peaceful and quiet place to stroll or relax. The church itself houses some very beautiful frescoes. There are other attractions in Helsingør as well. Though the building is closed for renovation, Marienlyst Castle stands on a beautifully landscaped park where you can see Ophelia’s Well and Hamlet’s grave.
The Øresundsakvariet, or Aquarium, is located on the harbour and is part of the University of Copenhagen’s Marine Biological Laboratory and has displays of marine life from the Øresund.
Shopping in Helsingør
Helsingør has a picturesque and pleasant town centre and the pedestrian streets of Stengade and Stjernegade are lined with many tempting shops. The Helsingør Bycenter is the main shopping mall in Helsingør and contains 33 shops selling everything from clothing to groceries. In addition to the regular Danish chain stores, there are many small boutiques selling clothing, art, antiques and home wares. Axeltorv, the main city square, hosts a market on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and during the Christmas season, the square is transformed into a bustling Christmas Market.
Dining, Drinking and Relaxing in Helsingør
Relaxing is something the Danes do well and Helsingør is no exception. In the summer months, you will find them drinking and dining al fresco on Axeltorv, the main town square and the heart of the city. The square is home to several pubs and restaurants, as well as the usual beer and pølse (sausage) stands and most have outdoor seating in the summer. Quite often, live bands entertain the sun worshipping crowds on the square.
Located on Axeltorv, Gæstgivergården is the oldest pub in the town and offers many English and Irish beers on tap. Helsingør also boasts Denmark’s oldest conditori, or café, Møllers Conditori which serves delicious cakes and bread, as well as coffee, tea and light meals. The Hotel Marienlyst hosts a fine international restaurant that offers a stunning view of the Øresund. The Casino Marienlyst is part of the hotel complex and is the oldest casino in Denmark.
There are numerous restaurants and cafes in the city serving everything from traditional Danish fare to Thai and Indian cuisine. The city also has its share of pubs and bars. For sightseeing, shopping and just relaxing, Helsingør possesses an old world charm that is difficult to resist. Whether you are a history buff, a fan of literature or just enjoy having a pleasant day out taking in the sights, it is a fascinating place to visit.
Information on Visiting Helsingør
Helsingør is located around 30 miles (50 kilometres) north of Copenhagen. The city can be reached by train from Copenhagen on the Coast Train (Helsingør Station is the end of the line). If arriving by car, take the E47 to Helsingør or take the more scenic Strandvejen or Coast Road.