Visiting Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark was a highlight of my recent trip to Denmark. It is most well-known as being the setting for Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Today I am sharing with you my Kronborg Castle travel guide, including what to expect when you go, the best time of year to visit and why the interactive show Hamlet Live is a must-see at the castle.
What is Kronborg Castle?
Kronborg Castle is Northern Europe’s biggest Renaissance castle. It was built in the 1420s by King Eric VII. In the 1500s, King Frederick II transformed the medieval fortress into a Renaissance castle. The castle burned down in 1629, and King Christian IV had it rebuilt. In 1785, the castle was converted into barracks for the army. The army left in 1923, and after renovations, it was opened to the public in 1938.
Where is Kronborg Castle?
Kronborg Castle is located in the town of Helsingør (also called Elsinore) in Denmark, about 45 minutes north of Copenhagen by train.
Connection to Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Apparently Shakespeare did not actually visit Kronborg Castle, he just heard stories about it and its reputation for the high life. He then used Kronborg Castle as the setting for his play Hamlet. Actors first performed Hamlet at Kronborg Castle in 1816, the 200th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Now, the play is an integral part of Kronborg Castle.
Hamlet Live is an interactive play, put on by professional actors throughout the castle. A schedule posted on a chalkboard in the courtyard tells you exactly what times each scene will be performed and where it will be. For example, some of the scenes are in the courtyard, some are inside the castle in the King’s room or the ballroom, etc.
It is so much more fun than just watching a regular play! Instead of the actors being up on a stage while you watch from below, it is such an immersive experience. You are standing right there in front of them, and truly feel like you are part of the action.
Hamlet Live, was by far the best part of our visit to Kronborg Castle. I highly recommend visiting when it is on! We arrived at Kronborg Castle right when it opened at 10am (there are different hours at different times of the year, so be sure to check on their website in advance). Pretty much as soon as we got into the courtyard of the castle, the first scene of Hamlet Live began between Hamlet and Laertes.
When is Hamlet Live?
It runs from June 1 to August 31 every year. A schedule posted on a chalkboard in the courtyard tells you exactly what times each scene will be performed and where it will be. For example, some of the scenes are in the courtyard, some are inside the castle in the King’s room or the ballroom, etc. All of the scenes are performed twice in a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
The castle puts on free tours in Danish and English, including an introduction to the castle and a tour of the Casemates.
The English “introduction to the castle” tour was starting at 11am, around the same time as the puppet show scene. (The times of the tour vary depending on the time of year. Check the Kronborg Castle website for more info) We didn’t mind missing the puppet show, so we went on the 30-minute tour. The tour begins in the courtyard and takes you through the chapel. The tour guide taught us about the history of the castle and the royals who lived there, and it was very interesting.
There are also daily 30-minute tours of the Casemates, which are underground passages where soldiers hid when Kronborg Castle was under attack. We did not go on this tour, so I can’t say what is is like. Have you gone on this tour? What did you think?
Is it worth the trip from Copenhagen?
I absolutely think visiting Kronborg Castle is worth the trip from Copenhagen. However, I believe our experience was greatly enhanced by Hamlet Live, and if we had visited another time of year when it was not on I don’t think it would have been as memorable of an experience. I definitely think the best time of year to visit is between June 1 and August 31, when the performances are on.
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