Tue-Do #11: Kronborg Castle aka Hamlet’s Castle

Hamlet, one of (if not the) most famous play Shakespeare ever wrote is loosely based on a story about the Prince of Denmark where the main character Hamlet decides to seek revenge on his uncle who recently ascended to the throne after killing his brother, the former king. I’m sure almost everyone reading this post has either read Shakespeare’s play, seen a production of it, or maybe even experienced a modern adaptation of the story. But in case you haven’t you can visit Kronborg and receive a tour from Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend and the only member of the play that survives the entire tragedy.

 

Following Horatio on this guided tour of the castle was a great time because it was part historical, part theater, and totally fun despite the terrible weather we had. When my parents and I visited the castle it was raining with a bitter wind and even started to snow at one point. But fear not! We too survived the tour and experienced one of Denmark’s most popular landmarks.

Even if you hate Shakespeare because your high school English teacher made you read it every year and you just don’t get olde English, visiting Kronborg doesn’t have to revolve around the story of Hamlet. The castle is impressive and has existed in some form in this location since the 1400s. It has served as part of Denmark’s coastal defense system for centuries, notably because this area of Denmark is less than three miles from the coast of Sweden. As we walked along the coast in Helsingør, Denmark, we could see the Swedish city Helsingborg just across the water.

 

After serving as a medieval fortress, it was transformed into a spectacular Renaissance castle in the late 1500s complete with a church and huge banquet halls. Though a fire in 1629 destroyed much of the castle, King Christian IV of Denmark had it rebuilt and was used as a royal residence until 1785 when it was converted into an army barracks. After more than 100 years of use by the army, Kronborg was renovated and opened to the public in 1923. There was also a time when Sweden attacked and conquered the castle and when it was used as a prison, but you can read more about that here.

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Parts of the army barracks at Kronborg

 

Since its renovation, it has been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts more than 250,000 tourists each year. Hamlet has also been staged live at Kronborg Castle since 1816, the bicentenary of Shakespeare’s death, and each summer since 1937. Laurence Olivier, Vivian Leigh, Christopher Plummer, and Michael Caine are just a few actors who have graced the stage at Kronborg with their performances in Hamlet.

Visiting Kronborg and walking around the small city of Helsingør is the perfect day trip if you’re looking to escape Copenhagen for a few hours. It’s less than an hour north by train and the view of the coast from the train ride is just as beautiful as walking around the cobblestone streets and exploring the castle. No matter the weather, it’s a great place to visit knowing that Shakespeare was inspired by this castle and its story.

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