Immortalized as Elsinore in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Kronborg is one of the most renowned castles in Northern Europe. With tall ramparts and strong bastions, it commanded the strategic Strait of Øresund and thus symbolized the power of the Danish royal.
Kronborg’s history dates back to the 15th century when the Danish King, Eric of Pomerania built a stronghold at the northeastern tip of Zealand. He wanted to control all navigation through the Øresund – a strategically important stretch of water between Denmark and Sweden. The king insisted that all ships entering or leaving the Baltic Sea passing through this strait had to pay a toll, bringing an immense fortune to Denmark.
In the next century, King Frederik II transformed the fortification into an outstanding Renaissance castle with sandstone ornaments, spires, towers, and copper roofs. The building resembles a king crown with four wings surrounding a spacious courtyard. That’s why it was named Kronborg, which means the “Crown Castle”.
The Impregnable Fortress
From the 16th century to the end of the 19th century, Kronborg was admired for its beauty as a royal castle and feared for its strength as a seemingly impregnable fortress. The only occasion that the castle fell was the assault of the Swedish army in 1658. Afterward, the defenses were strengthened with a new series of ramparts, loopholes, and cannons, making it the strongest fortress in Northern Europe.
By controlling the Øresund, Kronborg played an important role in the history of this region. During this period more than 1.8 million ships passed through this strait and all of them had to pay a toll at this fortress. The Øresund tax was not only a huge source of income; it was also considered as a political instrument. For this reason, Kronborg became a symbol of Denmark’s power.
Tips for visiting Kronborg
- Kronborg is accessible by trains from Copenhagen (Central Station or Nørreport Station). Station: Helsingør St. During the day, trains run every 20 minutes and take approximately one hour.
- The surrounding area also boasts some attractions, including the silver Merman, the Øresund aquarium, and the M/S Maritime Museum of Denmark. Built on an abandoned shipyard, this modern museum covers Danish trade and shipping from the early 15th century to the present day. Even if you are not a fan of those things, the world-class architecture is reason enough to visit.