Kronborg Castle

Kronborg – the castle and home of Hamlet

Photo: Lasse Bruhn

On the northeastern tip of Zealand at the narrowest point of the Øresund, you’ll find Kronborg Castle. The impressive building used to be the headquarters for Sound Dues. Today, the castle is most famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. 

Kronborg Castle in Elsinore was a strategically important site to Denmark and the first sight for ships passing through the narrow strait between Denmark and Sweden. It was built to be the headquarters for the toll that ships had to pay to the Danish Crown – the so-called Sound Dues – and it remained so for 400 years, with canons facing the strait making sure that the ships paid their tolls. The castle’s story date back to the 1420’s, when King Eric VII built a fortification called Krogen, which became the headquarters.

The strait is only four kilometres wide at this location, and the fortress controlled the entrance to the Baltic Sea along with a fortress on the opposite coast of Øresund. The Sound Dues created a significant revenue for the king, and around 150 years later, the fortification was transformed into the renaissance castle we know today with spires, sandstone and copper roofs. In 2000, Kronborg Castle became a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

The Legend of Holger Danske  

Deep down in the casemates of Kronborg Castle, you will find a mythical figure known as Holger Danske or Ogier the Dane, as he is also referred to. He is an important national symbol for the Danes, but the myth actually derives from Chanson de Roland, a principal work in French medieval literature.   

The legend has it that Holger Danske is asleep deep down in the underground passages of Kronborg Castle’s casemates. He has been so for hundreds of years, and he will only wake up if Denmark is threatened by enemies, and he will wake up to defend his country. A Bronze statue was built in 1907, and the plaster model was based on the casemates of Kronborg, which became a very popular sight. In 1985, it was replaced by a concrete statue due to the damp climate in the casemates.   

Facts about Kronborg Castle

  • You can visit Kronborg Castle daily from 10-17 between May and October and from Tuesday to Sunday at 11-16 from November to April. Children and young adults under 18 are free.  
  • 325,000 people visit the castle every year, and English language tours include ‘Hamlet’s Castle’ and ‘The Secrets of Kronborg’.  
  • Solve all the mysteries of Kronborg with Mystery Makers. 
  • Enjoy an organic lunch at Kadetten or a freshly brewed coffee or ice cream at Strandvejsristeriet next to Kronborg Castle. You can also bring your own lunch and have it in ‘the lunch room’ on the castle grounds.    
  • Kronborg Castle got accepted on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.  
  • Amateur actors started performing Shakespeare’s Hamlet for the first time at Kronborg Castle back in 1816, and from 1937 the performances became a recurring event in the surroundings of the castle.  
  • Kronborg’s 27 canons are only used for special occasions today. The Danish Queen’s birthday, if a new prince or princess is born or other unique celebrations.  
  • Every year the Danish Queen Margrethe II visits Elsinore as part of her summer cruise with the royal yacht Dannebrog.  

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Giuseppe Liverino

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