“In Denmark lies an old castle … and deep down in its cellar sits Holger the Dane. In his dreams he sees everything that is happening in all of Denmark.” – Hans Christian Anderson, from “Holger the Dane.”
North of Copenhagen, overlooking the sea stands a great fortress whose massive fortifications contrast with its elegant copper roofed pinnacles. Kronborg Castle has been used as a royal residence, a garrison, a prison, and lastly a museum. But the castle’s fame chiefly rests on its connection with two great figures of legend.
One is Hamlet, prince of Denmark, immortalized in the play of the same name by William Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare called the castle Elsinore, an Anglicized form of Helsingør, this name properly applies only to the town below the castle. But the world still knows it as Elsinore.
The other Danish hero who brings visitors to Kronborg is Holger the Dane, one of the twelve knights, or Paladins, of Charlemagne. Holger is a sleeping hero who is said to sleep underground until the hour of his country’s greatest danger, when he will rise and fight to defend it.
The castle can still evoke the Elsinore of Shakespeare.
Know Before You Go
Be sure to find the arrows to the right of the statue of Holger and follow the path all the way through the underground casements. They lead into complete darkness (use your cellphone light) in and out of the storage areas under the castle. It takes you back out near the entrance from the moat.
There is a very large coastal map in the grass between the moat and the yellow buildings on the southwest side of the castle. It shows the coastline from Copenhagen to Helsingor and the coastline of Sweden across the sound from Helsingor. Once you find the metal plate showing Copenhagen you get the idea of what it is. Otherwise, it looks like concrete strips in a winding pattern on the grass.