Embracing grand castles like Amalienborg and the incredible Viking royal site at Jelling, Denmark’s historic sites are varied and fascinating. Travellers to historic Denmark can visit Copenhagen’s famed Assistens Cemetary and the city’s Museum of Danish Resistance, or explore the country’s Viking history at Ladby. Here are 10 of the best historical monuments and attractions in Denmark.
Frederiksborg Castle was originally built in 1560 by Frederik II and later expanded by Christian IV. Situated in Hillerød, Denmark, the palatial complex today incorporates incredible architecture visible in the Knight’s Hall and Baroque gardens, and a museum about Denmark’s history since the 15th century.
A fire in 1859 ravaged the castle, but a full restoration led to its opening as the Danish Museum of National History in 1882. The museum’s collection is mostly made up of artwork relating to Denmark’s past, including portraits of former monarchs and paintings of historic events. Visitors can also tour the castle’s state rooms and areas spared by the fire.
The Viking Ship Museum is located in Roskilde and is Denmark’s national ship museum for medieval and prehistoric vessels. The Viking Ship Museum offers an incredible insight into the world of the Viking people and their era. The five Viking ships displayed at the Viking Ship Museum are known as the Skuldelev ships. They were excavated nearby in Skuldelev, perhaps deliberately sunk to blockade enemy vessels.
The Viking ships range from a 30 metre long warship known as “wreck 2” to an 11.2 metre fishing boat. Each one has been carefully reconstructed. The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde has an exhibit describing a Norwegian attack, while it also has a large collection of authentic historic boats and reconstructions.
The first iteration of Kronborg Slot or Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark was constructed in the 1420’s by Erik of Pomerania. Known as Krogen or “the Hook”, this was a heavily fortified structure. Kronborg Slot was renovated by successive royal owners, notably Frederik II who transformed it into a Renaissance masterpiece. It featured towers, sculptures, columns and an imposing spire, symbolic of royal power.
Burned down in 1629, rebuilt by Christian IV and then ravaged by Swedish forces in 1658, Kronborg Slot has changed purpose over the centuries. It served as a royal residence until around 1690 and in the 18th century as an army barracks. Today, Kronborg Slot is one of the most famous castles in northern Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Restored to its 16th and 17th century appearance, Kronborg Slot is now open to the public.
Amalienborg Slot in northern Copenhagen is a Rococo style palace originally constructed under the orders of King Frederik V. Made up of four buildings built around a central courtyard, Amalienborg Slot was completed in 1760. Today it is the home of the Danish royal family, though the first residents of the palace were wealthy families.
The four buildings are divided into Christian IX’s Palace, Christian VII’s Palace, Christian VIII’s Palace (now the Amalienborg Museum) and Frederik VIII’s Palace. Today, Amalienborg Slot is the winter home of the Danish royals. Visitors can tour parts of Amalienborg Slot, viewing royal collections and objects as well as enjoying the palace’s Rococo architecture, including the ornate Knight’s Chamber.
Jelling served as a royal seat for Denmark’s early kings including Gorm the Old, and is the site of a large stone ship, two large burial mounds and the Jelling Stones. Jelling’s remains are a vital part of Denmark’s history. Gorm and his son, Harald I Bluetooth, erected several monuments at Jelling, including a pair of enormous grave mounds, which are the largest in Denmark.
There are also two runic stones at Jelling, the larger one thought to have been built by Harald and the smaller by Gorm. The runic stones stand before Jelling Church, which dates to around 1100 AD. This was the third such church to have been built on the site. The Jelling site has a visitor centre with a series of exhibits telling the story of the monuments.
Kastellet in Copenhagen was constructed in 1663 under King Frederik III, after the original fort on the site was compromised by a Swedish attack in 1658. It was partially rebuilt again in the 19th century when the distinctively star-shaped building, flanked by a moat, served as a prison.
During World War Two, Kastellet was used as a base by German forces when they occupied Copenhagen. Today Kastellet is a military base. Its grounds have been turned into a park which is open to the public although there is no access to the inside of the fortification.
Aalborghus Castle, translated as ‘Aalborghus Slot’, is a castle and former fortification in the city of Aalborg in Denmark. Built by Christian III between 1539 and 1555, it was intended as the home of the local governor. Today, visitors can tour Aalborghus Castle and its dungeons.
Assistens Kirkegard is a cemetery in Copenhagen, Denmark, which was initially built in the 18th century following an outbreak of plague. Copenhagen’s other cemeteries were unable to cope with the demand for burial plots and so Assistens Kirkegard was created for this purpose.
In the latter half of the 18th century, plots at Assistens Kirkegard became fashionable and today it houses the burial places of many of Denmark’s most prominent figures, including Hans Christian Andersen and Soren Kierkegaard. Assistens Kirkegard is also a park, containing many leisure facilities.
Frihedsmuseet or “The Museum of Danish Resistance” is a museum in Copenhagen dedicated to the Danish Resistance movement against Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1945. Recently reopened, the museum concentrates on how five years of warfare and the German occupation affected the Danish population.
From home-made weapons and photographs of resistance fighters, Frihedsmuseet explores the events of the Resistance through original artefacts, documents and films. An exhibition explores to how the Resistance undertook the covert evacuation of Denmark’s Jewish population to Sweden while another exhibit describes Denmark’s cooperation with the Germans.
The Viking Museum at Ladby houses the Ladby Burial Ship, a Viking ship grave found there in 1935. Dating to around 925 AD, it is believed that the ship is the burial site of a prince or leader. The Ladby Burial Ship was filled with burial goods such as valuables and even animals.
Displaying the Ladby Burial Ship amidst a series of other excavation finds, the Viking Museum at Ladby offers an insight into the history of the Vikings and their lives in the area.