When it came time for planning my brief visit to Copenhagen, I knew that I wanted to visit a castle. The problem was deciding which one since in the Danish capital there is no shortage of them (okay, technically Christiansborg is a palace but for the sake of this post, it’s being lumped in the slot or castle category). While I would have loved to visit Kronberg Castle (it was used as the inspiration for Elsinore in a certain Shakespearean work), it’s not located right in the city center and as my 24 hour itinerary was already ambitious enough, I couldn’t possibly add an excursion OUTSIDE of the city onto it. So that left Amalienborg (the winter home of the Danish royal family), Christiansborg (seat of the Danish Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court), and Rosenborg (a Dutch Renaissance castle).
I ended up going with Rosenborg because if you see pictures of it, you’ll be blown away by its unique and striking beauty. As opposed to extending outward, its lines go straight up and its colors are reminiscent of the English countryside. Even though the castle is located right in Copenhagen’s downtown, at the time it was built (the early 17th century) the area WAS the countryside. King Christian IV built (and designed) Rosenborg as his summer house and between the lush gardens and waterways found right there, I’m sure it was quite the retreat.
There are a total of 24 rooms to visit in the castle, spread out on three floors. Following the reign of Christian IV three generations of kings lived at Rosenborg until King Frederick IV erected Frederiksberg Castle in 1710. From that point on Rosenborg was only used for occasional visits and certain official functions. But a benefit of it not being a lived in castle meant that it became a sort of storehouse where royal family heirlooms, including everything from regalia to thrones, were kept. This is quite significant considering the Danish monarchy can be traced back more than 1000 years.
In addition to its architectural style, Rosenborg also enjoys a rather unique history in Denmark. As early as the 1830s, the royal collections found at Rosenborg were open to the public, which at the time was quite unheard of. The rooms of the kings who had lived at Rosenborg were preserved, while the rooms from the times of later kings were recreated using the various objects stored at Rosenborg and other royal castles. And Rosenborg even broke the mold some more-instead of arranging the castle’s collections thematically (either by furniture, artwork, etc), they did so chronologically which meant castle visitors could be given a complete picture of the country’s royal past.
In terms of what’s inside the 24 rooms, well, it’s a historic royal castle. So yes, if you’ve been to other European castles before, some of the royal porcelain and tapestries may look familiar at first glance. And yet, pay attention to the unique things found here-the blood-stained clothes of Christian IV (from a naval battle), the amber chandelier in Frederik V’s Cabinet (amber is huge in Denmark as I would find out), and even the early 18th century, INDOOR toilets.
And for anyone who has seen the 2012 Danish film, A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære) which was about 18th century life at the court of the mentally-ill King Christian VII and his British-born wife Caroline Matilida, it was really neat to see his room. It’s interesting when you can put Hollywood into actual historical perspective by seeing things first-hand.
Also located on the grounds of Rosenborg is the treasury, where everything from the royal jewels to a mind boggling display of historic firearms can be found. As an American and lover of Abraham Lincoln, it was particularly special to see an ornate gold inlaid Colt flintlock pistol that the president had given to Frederik VII.
Normally I’m not too bedazzled by jewels and even though this area was ridiculously mobbed with people vying for the perfect picture, I was extremely impressed by them all, but especially the crowns and emerald gems. Although I simply can’t imagine having that much weight upon my head, not that I’ll most likely ever have the chance to try.
As I’ve already said in previous Denmark posts, I loved everything about my brief time there and can’t wait to return one day. But on my first visit to there, I was thoroughly impressed with Rosenborg Castle and am glad that that’s the one I opted to visit. It did not disappoint.
Tips for visiting
-Visits are self-guided although there are guided ones that must be arranged in advance
-Literature provided by the castle on the contents of each room is sparse so I recommend going with a guidebook for more detailed descriptions
-Bags bigger than a small purse must be stored at the lockers inside the ticket office. These cost a nominal fee (about 20 Kroner). However, when you return the key you are given the money back. There is no exception to the bag rule
-Photography is allowed inside the castle and no extra fee is involved (I was told they no longer do this when I inquired). I didn’t see any rules about no flash photography. However, I took most of my photographs without flash out of respect for the hundreds of years old artifacts I was photographing.
-If you have the time, make sure you visit the gardens. This was something I didn’t have the chance to do and wish I could have. They looked beautiful and are the country’s oldest royal gardens.