The Hamlet castle: Kronborg Slot in Helsingør, Denmark
Visiting Denmark in the summertime means there are many hours of daylight, providing more opportunities to explore. A daytrip train from Copenhagen north to Helsingør takes you through the Danish lowlands next to the sea, but the goal here is a visit to Kronborg Slot (Kronborg Castle).
Does the place, Helsingør, sound familiar?
How about the Anglicized version of the name – Elsinore?
Elsinore is the setting for one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, “Hamlet”.
Since its designation in 2000, Kronborg Slot (Kronborg Castle) in Helsingør, Denmark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is commonly known as “Hamlet’s castle.”
Hamlet castle over the Øresund
The Øresund strait (known also as the Öresund or Sundet) is a narrow strip of water separating the Danish island of Sjælland (Zealand) from Scania in southern Sweden; only four kilometres separate Helsingør, Denmark from Helsingborg, Sweden. The Øresund has always been an important busy passage for shipping, and is one of three channels connecting the Baltic Sea with the Atlantic Ocean.
The “Krogen” was established at this spot in northeastern Denmark in the early 15th-century to guard the strait’s entrance, to control the sea lanes in and out of the “The Sound”, and to collect shipping tolls called “The Sound Dues”. After Krogen came Kronborg Slot with renovations, fire, sacking, and conversion to barracks, altering its shape and use since the 16th-century. The present-day restoration of Kronborg Castle reflects the Renaissance and baroque stylings from the 16th- and 17th-centuries.
Written in the 12th-century by Saxo Grammaticus, “Gesta danorum” (History of the Danes) contains the first reference to the character of “Amleth“. The name appears again in 1514 when Christiern Pedersen published a story based on the legend recorded within “Gesta danorum”. François de Belleforest wrote a French version in the 16th-century, and by 1590, English writer Thomas Kyd wrote his own version as drama complete with the elements of revenge.
It’s not clear whether Shakespeare ever visited Kronborg Slot, but actors from England from Shakespeare’s company toured Denmark in the 16th-century because of Helsingør’s importance as trading port. Based on visiting actors’ accounts and Kyd’s English version, Shakespeare wrote by 1601 the play “The Tragedy of Hamlet, prince of Denmark“, which honours Saxo Grammaticus’ prince Amleth.
Above on the castle ramparts under bright sunlight or below in the underground caverns in dim light, the spirit of Amleth lives on in the Gesta danorum. Who knows – you just might hear the whispers of a man in quiet soliloquy …
On the way into Kronborg Castle, you’ll go through the new Maritime Museum of Denmark (M/S Museet for Søfart) which opened in October 2013.
William Shakespeare, Tycho Brahe, Dame Judi Dench
The following is an interesting connection among Shakespeare, passage of centuries, and my physics education.
Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) made night-time observations of the sky, leading to Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) formulating his three laws of planetary motion, which in turn were described elegantly by Isaac Newton’s (1642–1727) universal law of gravity. I learned all about Brahe, Kepler, and Newton in various physics courses.
Brahe was directly related to the Rosenkrans and Gyldenstjern families, whose modified names, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, appear prominently in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet.” Erik Rosenkrans (1427–1503) and Sophie Gyldenstjerne (-1477) were parents to Kristine Rosenkrans (-1509). The latter was grandmother of Beate Brahe (née Bille, 1526–1605), noblewoman and lady-in-waiting at Helsingør and who later give birth to son Tycho.
Dame Judi Dench is a renowned English actress on stage and screen. She learns one of her ancestors was Beate Brahe, and about the same time, stage troupes from England toured Denmark. One of the visitors included actor William Kempe (Will Kemp), who performed in several staged presentations of works written by a certain English playwright by the name of William Shakespeare. One of Judi Dench’s earliest stage performances was the portrayal of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet“. Tycho Brahe’s motto seems especially fitting: “Non haberi sed esse” (Not what seems, but what is). This 7-minute video excerpt with Dench is illuminating.
Frequent DSB trains run between Copenhagen’s central station (Københavns H) along Zealand’s east coast to Helsingør station (Helsingør st.) with a one-way trip lasting about 45 minutes. From Sweden, visitors from Helsingborg can take a passenger- and vehicle-ferry across the Øresund strait to Helsingør.
( View map location on OpenStreetMap )
I made all photos above on 30 June 2008 with a Canon EOS450D/Rebel XSi. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins DOT com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-w7. Last major edit: 20 Mar 2023.
9 Responses to “The Hamlet castle: Kronborg Slot in Helsingør, Denmark”
I went to Denmark on a whim. I absolutely loved it there. So cool.
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Hi! How long were you in Denmark? Where did you visit? Did you also say hi to the ghost of Hamlet in Kronborg Castle? I only managed to visit Copenhagen, and while expensive, it’s a great place to visit, although I lean a little more towards Stockholm because of my visit there the week before.
I was there for about 8 days. I went to Copenhagen, Odense, and Namo, Sweden. I didn’t get into the castle though I did walk the grounds. Went to the Louisiana instead. Loved Copenhagen.
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Hi! What were your favourite highlights from your 8 days? In a way, my all-too-brief visits to Stockholm and Copenhagen served as “appetizers”. There’s a lot to both countries I’d like to see, and I definitely would include those two cities again.
-The Louisiana Art Museum
-Han’s Christen Anderson’s House/Odense in general was cool. Try to make it to one of the islands.
-the Torso in Malmo is kind of cool and there’s a beach within walking distance. Plus, we wandered into a really good gelato place.
-The canals. Super pretty.
-I would say to avoid LegoLand. It took way too long to get there and only makes sense if you really, really like legos.
-The Opera House in Copenhagen
-I had drinks at the library. It’s a super cool looking bar with floor to ceiling books.
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Wow, that’s really cool. I regret not going to Malmö, even though I’d already heard good stories from a friend who spent months there; I attribute my not going as a “brain cramp”. I hadn’t expected a detailed response, but you went all out – thanks for listing your highlights! 🙂
Sure, anytime. That’s what I’m here for.
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[…] Hamlet’s castle: Kronborg Slot, Helsingør, Denmark […]
[…] In the Danish town of Helsingør (Elsinore), Kronborg Castle keeps watch over the narrowest portion of Øresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden, and is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, which gives this castle its unofficial name of “Hamlet’s castle”. […]