Castle in Helsingør in the North Zealand
A millennium of royal history has left the Copenhagen Region with an impressive legacy of historic buildings. Many of these imposing buildings, once reserved for the nobility alone, are today open to the public as museums, hotels and restaurants. Here are some of the region’s best places to experience the elegance and grandeur of Copenhagen and Denmark's royal past for yourself.
Copenhagen has been the home of the Danish monarchy (the oldest monarchy in the world) since the 15th century and, as you'd expect, a wealth of royal attractions is on offer for visitors to the city. The first stop on most royal tours of the city are of course, the four Rococo palaces of Amalienborg Slot, the home of the current Danish Queen, Margrethe II. Today guided tours operate in Christian VII's palace (where visiting heads of state stay) during July and the autumn half term. As well as this, a museum, housed in Christian VIII’s palace, features royal private rooms and objects. Behind the four palaces lies Amaliehaven, a small, contemporary garden that opened in 1983 adjacent to the harbour. The changing of the guards takes place daily at noon and you might even see the Queen or her husband, Henrik, the Prince Consort, out and about walking their beloved daschunds here!
The current Christiansborg Slot houses the Danish Folketing (parliament) and the Supreme Court. You can take a guided tour of the parliament or the Royal Reception Rooms, where you will find Queen Margrethe II’s tapestries, a series of 11 tapestries that recount the history of Denmark including the Viking Age, the Middle Ages, The Absolute Monarchy, The Teformation WW II, the present and even the future. Underneath the palace lies an atmospheric museum dedicated to the excavated ruins of the previous castles that have stood on this site. Nearby are the Royal Stables.
Daily changing of the guard at Amalienborg Castle
Christian IV is among the best remembered of Denmark's monarchs. The buildings that he commissioned still dominate both the landscape and tourists’ itineraries. Chief among them has to be his summer residence, Rosenborg Slot, completed in 1624. Rosenborg is a Renaissance jewel of a palace, which lies right in the heart of Copenhagen surrounded by a moat and beautiful gardens. Today it is open to the public as a museum of royal treasures dating back over 400 years, most notably the crown jewels, which are displayed in the basement and still in use!
If you head north on Sealand you will find some of Denmark's finest and most famous royal buildings. Kronborg Slot, overlooking the northern entrance to the Øresund, is known for its association with Hamlet and many visitors come each summer to see the outdoor performances of Shakespeare tragedy that take place in its courtyard. But this Renaissance fortress is a major tourist attraction throughout the year, thanks to its royal and maritime museums.
Castle in Helsingør in the North Zealand
Another spectacular Renaissance castle is Frederiksborg Slot in Hillerød. Now run by the Danish Nationalmuseet, Frederiksborg is one of the most visited castles in the whole of Scandinavia and today it houses a priceless collection of historic paintings, furniture and art objects. Beyond the castle lake (on which you can take boat rides during the summer) lies one of the most impressive Baroque and Romantic gardens in the region.
Since the 18th century, the Danish royal family's spring and autumn retreat has been Fredensborg Palace, beside Lake Esrum. And since their wedding, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary have their home in the Chancellery House, an adjacent wing to Fredensborg Palace. Despite this, parts of it are still open to the public during July and the idyllic gardens and beech forest are open year-round. Visitors can also take boat trips on the lake during the summer. In 1723 King Frederik IV built Fredensborg Store Kro (inn) nearby as accommodation for guests visiting him at Fredensborg, but today the inn is open to all and boasts a highly acclaimed restaurant serving exquisite Franco-Danish food. The inn boasts a large art collection and lies just 35km from Copenhagen.
Charlottenlund Slots Have (castle garden), to the north of the city, is rather less visited but equally enchanting. The castle is not open to the public, but the Romantic gardens, famed for their floral riches, are open all year. Adjacent to the entrance is an excellent aquarium.
For companies looking to hold meetings or conferences in a lavish royal setting, the Royal Shooting Society at the historic 18th century palace of Sølyst is the perfect venue. But once a month it is also open to the public, with its vast waxed wooden floors, oriental carpets and views across the sound of Øresund. The chef, Jesper Vindingis, was once the cook to none other than Queen Margrethe.
Sauntehus Slotshotel on this popular stretch of coastline, boasts a swimming pool, billiard table, tennis court and access. It is highly recommended as an activity-rich getaway. Finally, Selsø Manor House museum, in Skibby on Sealand offers a fascinating insight into how the Danes have lived over past centuries. The estate dates back to the 1170s and was last rebuilt in 1734. Today it boasts Denmark’s oldest working kitchen; perfectly preserved, lavish 18th century interiors and an art collection. Its short concert seasons are an added attraction – this year will be their 19th.