Helsingor, Denmark: Hamlet’s Home Town
By Jennifer Wattam Klit
Copenhagen to Helsingor, also known as “Elsinore” is about 45 kilometers (28 miles) to the north.
It has 60,000 inhabitants and is surrounded by The Sound (Oresund) — the stretch of water between Denmark and Sweden. Helsingor is the closest Danish city to Sweden. The Cities of Helsingor, Denmark, and Helsingborg, Sweden are separated by a mere 4,000 meters (2.5 miles) of water and a short ferry ride of twenty minutes.
The Country of Denmark itself is small and relatively flat with approximately 5.4 million inhabitants. It is located in northern Europe – southwest of Sweden and north of Germany. It consists of a mainland, “Jutland”, and over 400 small islands.
Denmark is surrounded by the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the east, west, and north. No matter where you are in Denmark, you will never be more than 52 kilometers (32 miles) from the sea.
Helsingor is a very historical place with richly colored, well-preserved architecture and cobblestone streets. It has a small-town charm with big city benefits. There are castles, museums, churches, woods and golden, clean beaches to see.
There is a world-class 18-hole golf course. If you are an adventurer interested in hiking or cycling, Helsingor is the best. There are user-friendly bicycle paths over most of Denmark. Opportunities for sailing and swimming abound. Don’t be surprised if you see Danes swimming in the autumn months. Brrrr!
Once the home of Vikings, today’s Danes resemble little of their forefathers – only in stature. They are modest, reserved and straight-at-you sort of people. Danes are very helpful to tourists and most speak proficient English. They are strong believers in equality and fairness. In order to understand the Danes and where their belief system originates you should be familiar with the Law of Jante: It is frowned upon to appear to elevate oneself or claim to be better or smarter than others.
The City of Helsingor’s history can be traced back to 70 AD. For about the 12th century, the first settlers arrived at the narrowest point of the Sound. Prior to the Middle Ages, it was a marketplace where people sold goods. In ca. 1200 its first church (St. Olai Church) was founded and still stands today on St.Olai Street, a minute’s walk from the center of town. In ca. 1601 Shakespeare wrote Hamlet with Helsingor’s Kronborg Castle as its setting and in 1816 Helsingor Theatre opened.
WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit Helsingor would be in June, July or August. Denmark has a temperate climate. This means that it never gets extremely cold or extremely hot. Denmark’s coldest month is usually February, with an average temperature of 31 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 degree Celsius). The warmest month is July, with an average temperature of 62 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius) degrees. A breeze blows clean salt air almost every day.
Most major airlines fly to Copenhagen Denmark. Delta, American Airlines, Air Canada, British Airways, Air France all offer flights. There are trains that run every twenty minutes from Kastrup Airport, Copenhagen directly to Helsingor. Travelling to Helsingor by train takes about an hour and costs about 60 crowns. There are also car rental agencies at the airport of course.
Scandlines sails from Denmark to Sweden.
TEL: 45 3315 1515
Open: 24 hours/day
COST: Ca. 500 crowns/return with vehicle.
HH-Ferries sail between Helsingor and Helsingborg.
TEL: 45 4926 0155
COST: Ca. 30 crowns/return without a vehicle.
Or ca. 260 crowns/return a day with vehicle
WHAT TO SEE
A statue of King Erik of Pomerania, founder of Helsingor and builder of the castle ‘Krogen’, later known as Kronborg Castle stands in the heart of Helsingor (Axeltorv) within walking distance of Helsingor train station.
Also centrally located are The Church of St. Mary and the Carmelite Monastery – a great example of late medieval architecture. It has cathedral ceilings and an organ that is a replica of the one played there from 1660 to 1668 by the resident organist, composer Dietrich Buxtehude, who greatly influenced the younger composers of his time.
Sct. Anna Gade 38,
TEL: 45 4921 1774
Open: May to September, daily 10:00-15:00 tours Monday to Friday from 14:00
Admission: Adults 20 crowns, Children 5 crowns
Helsingor Cemetery is beautifully situated with a view of the Sound. There are lovely monuments and the graves of French soldiers from the First World War.
The interior of Marienlyst Palace and Park royal palace is done in Louis XVI style. It houses a collection of paintings closely associated with Helsingor and silver items made by the master craftsmen of Helsingor.
Marienlyst Alle 32,
TEL: 45 4928 1830
Admission: Adults 30 crowns, Pensioners 20 crowns, Children under 16 are free.
The park is always open
The National Museum of Science and Technology, in the south end of town, demonstrates the advancement of science, industry and technology. There is a large collection of steam engines, bicycles, motorcycles and antique cars. A display of developments in aviation is also on display and includes an airplane built in 1906. Included are more than 30 airplanes.
TEL: 45 4922 2611
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00
Admission: Adults 65 crowns, Children 35 crowns
Group rates are available.
On the outskirts of Helsingor towards the town of Tikob, lie the ruins of Gurre Castle, a royal castle, which was built in the 12th century. It once was the residence of King Valdemar Atterdag. (It takes a half an hour by bus at a cost of 17 crowns)
Open: entire year
Just west of Helsingor lies Lake Esrum. It is Denmark’s second largest lake, with a surface area of 17.3 km2 (6.7 m2) and 22.3 metres (73 ft) at its deepest point. There are stunning natural surroundings with a bird sanctuary, barbeque sites and bathing areas. It’s a great place for sailing, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
BEST MAJOR ATTRACTION
Kronborg Castle in Helsingor (Elsinore) is one of northern Europe’s most significant Renaissance castles. It is the most famous castle in Denmark and is visited each year by about 200,000 people.
Strategically located overlooking the Sound, the Royal castle of Kronborg is of immense symbolic value to the Danish people and played a key role in the history of northern Europe in the 16th-18th centuries.
Work began on the construction of this exceptional castle in 1574, and its defences were reinforced in the late 17th century. It has remained intact to the present day. Some of the historical rooms, house collections of Renaissance and Baroque interiors, and one of the most breathtaking attractions is the 62-metre (203-foot) long ballroom.
A sculpture statue of “Holger the Dane” – a fictional Danish hero – sits in the gloomy dungeons and was erected in 1907 at Kronborg and Hotel Marienlyst. The first performance of Hamlet at Kronborg was staged in 1937 and starred Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
Kronborg 2 c
Telephone: +45 4921 3078, fax: +45 4921 3052
Open: May to September 10.30 to 17.00
October through April they are closed on Monday and opened from 11.00
Admission: Adults 50 dkk, kids 6 til 14 15 dkk. Children under 6 free
Many activities and events happen in the summer months, from plays for children, musicals and concerts in the town and, of course, performances of Hamlet at Kronborg Castle. There is also a vast array of musical entertainment on the weekends. Several pubs around Axeltorv play Irish music while others pulse with rock, country, rhythm and blues or jazz. There are jazz performances at Axeltorv every Thursday and Friday between 16.00 and 18.00.
Denmark has one of the largest selections of children’s theatre in the world. Helsingor Theatre is the oldest stage that is still used in Denmark. It presents professional children and adult theatre and runs from May until October. Helsingor Street Theatre Festival occurs in early August.
For theatre and concert, festival tickets contact Helsingor Ticket centre – just across from Helsingor Station at Havnepladsen 3, Helsingor, TEL: 45 4920 0811 or 45 4928 2222.
If you wish to go bowling and maybe see a movie as well, there is a bowling centre at Ronnebaer Alle on the south side of town. There is also a newly renovated movie theatre and a McDonalds just around the corner.
Ronnebaer Alle 110, Helsingor
TEL: 45 4926 6715
Admission: 70 crowns/person
BEST ACTIVITY AND TOUR
Bicycling in Denmark is fantastic. There are separate lanes made especially for cyclists so there are no real worries with fighting traffic. Request a free map from the Helsingor Tourist Office for interesting cycling routes. Cycle Route 9 along the Strandvej Road to Espergaerde and Humlebaek.
Need to rent a bike?
Kongevejen 17, Helsingor
TEL: 45 4920 0844
COST: 80 crowns per day or 500 crowns per week
There are also many beautiful woods for walking and jogging. Pick up a brochure at the Helsingor Tourist Office showing marked trails for walks in the nearby woods of Teglstrup Hegn, Hornbæk Plantage and Gurre So.
Helsingor has some of the best golden, brown beaches in Denmark and unlike many other European countries, they aren’t overly crowded. Helsingor’s beaches start at Kronborg and stretch from Nordhavnen towards Hotel Marienlyst.
Marienlyst Hotel & Casino is located by Oresund and has a beautiful view of Kronborg Castle and Sweden’s coast (Helsingborg). It is a four star hotel with beautiful and modern interior. There are many vacation apartments and luxury suites that include a livingroom, bathroom with spa and modern kitchens. All apartments and suites have a terrasse or balcony with a view of the woods or the hotel’s garden and fountain. A sculpture of Holger the Dane is erected at Hotel Marienlyst.
Marienlyst Hotel & Casino
Ndr. Strandvej 2, DK-3000
TEL: 45 4921 4000
COST: a single room starts at 945 crowns and up per night.
It also has Denmarks oldest Casino.
Open all day 19:00 to 04:00 a.m. (remember photo ID to use the casino, minimum age 18 and dress code)
Danhostel Helsingor NDK
TEL: 45 4921 1640
COST: starts at 150 crowns/night per adult and is not your typical hostel. It’s clean and well maintained.
Hotel & Casino Marienlyst,
Ndr. Strandvej 2,
Phone: +45 4921 4000, Fax: +45 4921 4900
COST: 375 crowns/person
Restaurant Ophelia offers traditional Danish meals located centrally in Helsingor. The meal of the day could be pork with parsley sauce or cabbage. It’s best to reserve ahead.
TEL: 49 21 05 91
Open from 12.00 – 23.00.
Kitchen closes at 21.30.
COST: meal of the day 58 crowns.
There are many quaint stores in Helsingor all within walking distance of one another between Stjernegade and Stengade streets. The downtown area is very harmonious and charming. “The Bycentret’ shopping centre has approximately 33 shops. Fotex, Netto and Fakta are discount grocery stores. (Try “melt in your mouth” Lurpak butter.)
Don’t forget the marketplace at Axeltorv especially on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings with stands selling flowers, vegetables, cheese, fish, handicrafts etc. Many Danes take the ferry over to Helsingborg where they enjoy a 20% discount on most items.
Alcohol is cheaper in Denmark though and that’s one of the reasons you’ll see many Swedes visiting Helsingor. In the mood for ice-cream? Try Brostraede Ice on Brostraede Street, open from April to October.
Sturups Plads 1,
Telephone: 49 21 26 40 Fax: 49 21 26 08
Monday to Friday 10.00 – 19.00
Saturday 9.00 – 16.00
VISAS AND DOCUMENTS
A valid passport only
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Emergency telephone numbers
Police Provestensvej 1,
TEL: 45 4927 1448
SOS TEL: 112
The only hospital in Helsingor is located at Esrumvej 145,
TEL: 45 4829 4949
MONEY AND COMMUNICATIONS
The native language is Danish, however most Danes speak proficient English. Denmark still uses Danish crowns although some shops take Euros as well. (1.00 Euro= 7.5 DKK)
ATMS are located in many areas Stengade, Bjergegade, Klostergade and at the Post Office on Stjernegade 15. TEL: 45 8020 7030. Denmark has one of the fastest and most efficient postal sytems in the world.
There are many computers and free internet access is available at the local library, “Helsingor Bibliotek,” however it’s a good idea to book in advance. There is also a nice pond where you can feed the ducks or relax on the benches.
Like most things in Denmark, public transportation is orderly and efficient.
TEL: 45 3613 1415
COST: varies – ask about a “clip card (klippekort)” to save up to 50% on a ticket. It can be used on both bus and train. Trains run to Copenhagen, Kastrup Airport and Malmo, Sweden every 20 minutes.
Tel: 45 7013 1415
A vehicle rental can cost about 500 crowns a day and rules vary as to how long you’ve had your driver’s license etc.
Want to rent a boat?
Faergevej 2, Helsingor
TEL: 45 4921 4255
COST: To 4 persons (minimum 2 hours) 80 crowns per hour, includes lifejacket and gas
OPEN: March to November from 8:00 to 16:00
SOME HELPFUL LINKS AND ADDRESSES FOR VISITING HELSINGOR:
wikipedia.org/Jante_Law (The Cultural Code in Denmark)
visithelsingor.dk Helsingor Tourist Office
kultunaut.com Denmark’s largest electronic culture calendar
helsingor-teater.dk Helsingor Theatre
hamletsommer.dk for information on summer performances at Kronborg Castle.
rejseplan.dk for train, bus information, maps, cost etc.
postdanmark.dk Post Denmark
cinema-center.dk Helsingor’s movie theatre
newbowl.dk Helsingor’s bowling centre