For many people, a visit to many European cities usually involves exploring castles and palaces. Luckily, Denmark had plenty of those and many more during our visit last summer. Amalienborg Palace is the official residence of the Danish Royal Family since 1794 and is located in the central area of Copenhagen.
The palace is actually made up of four identical Danish Rococo style buildings laid out in a cobblestoned, octagonal courtyard. The palatial buildings were very grand looking but there was also a simplicity to it.
At the center of the courtyard was an imposing equestrian statue of King Frederik V which took 12 years for the French sculptor, Jacques Saly, to complete in 1771. King Frederik V ruled Denmark and Norway in the mid-1700s for 20 years.
Our main reason for the visit was to see the changing of the guards having missed similar ceremonies in other cities. We enjoyed seeing the guards in their red uniforms the day before which increased our desire to witness their traditional ceremony.
We saw the Danish Royal Life Guards this time in their black, regal uniforms and bearskin hats as we left Rosenborg Castle. Once again, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of the steadfast tin soldier came to mind as we watched them assemble.
The Royal Guards’ main task is to protect the Danish royal family but they are also part of the army. They belong to three teams and each team is on shift for 24 hours changing at noon in the Amalienborg Palace courtyard. They leave the Gothersgade Barracks by Rosenborg Castle everyday at 11:30 AM and march through the streets of Copenhagen for the ceremonial changing of the guards everyday regardless of weather.
We walked the few blocks to Amalienborg and saw them marching down the streets with police escorts and tourists following them like the paparazzi. There were already hordes of visitors lined up to watch this ceremony when we entered the courtyard but we didn’t have any issues finding a spot. It helped to have kids along and some made way for them to go in the front.
When the Queen is in residence, the guards are accompanied by the Royal Guards music and marching band. Unfortunately, she was away at her summer home during our visit. I can only imagine how lively this whole event is with music and was a bit disappointed not to have witnessed that version.
Unlike some of the other European palaces, there were no fences that separated the guards from the viewing public. Formed in 1658, the royal guards have been carrying on the proud tradition of serving the royal family and show much dedication with this daily ritual.
It was formal and quiet. The only sounds we heard were occasional marching orders and many sounds of camera shutters. Despite the lack of pomp and circumstance, it was still a wonderful ceremony. There were really no bad places to stand since the whole process could be seen from many vantage points.
As the guards marched from one end of the courtyard to the other, the crowds followed their every move. There were police officers that ensured nobody was within touching distance of the guards. Some people got really close including a couple of familiar and curious kids below.
The guards were not allowed to talk to anyone but we found one who did make an effort to smile. It was amusing to watch other visitors try to get as close as possible to get a picture with them before they got admonished. It makes one wonder if the guards find posing tourists(like us) entertaining or annoying or they’re just used to it after the seeing it everyday.
Each palace door was watched by a guard or two but it still felt a bit strange to be so close to the royal family’s quarters. The whole area felt very relaxed and open. Seeing the changing of the guards was entertaining especially for the kids. It was a delight to watch many of the kids’ faces and see the looks of amazement and wonder throughout the ceremony.
Inside Amalienborg Palace
The changing of the guards kept going well past 20 minutes so we decided to venture into one of the palaces. Two of the palaces are open to the public. One is Christian VII’s palace used by the Queen for public audience and functions and the other is a museum of the royal family.
Inside the museum, the rooms were reconstructed to showcase periods between 1863 to 1947. This is the latter part of the Royal Danish collections with the earlier years at Rosenborg Castle. Less than 10 period rooms were on display all behind glass. It was a bit of a surprise to find that only a limited number of rooms were open to the public with a few of them similar to each other and all located in one floor.
A couple of the rooms were studies or libraries of kings in this era. It was very personal with many documents, memorabilia and photographs.
There was also Queen Louise’s salon in a Victorian style with many personal and sentimental items.
The main attraction seemed to be the costume gallery of clothes worn by the royal family through the ages. This special exhibition during our visit was Queen Margrethe II’s fabulous collection of gala dresses from the 1960s to the present.
My daughter and I were excited to see exquisite gowns worn by real life Princesses and the Queen. It was stunning to see some of the gowns up close. It was also interesting to find out that the Queen was often very involved with the creation of her dresses and even contributed some of the fabric from her travels. Needless to say, my husband and son couldn’t wait to get out of these rooms.
There was also a small TV set up near the gowns showing how to properly curtsy in a Royal reception line and how to behave if you find yourself meeting the royal family. We covered all the rooms available in less than an hour and that was taking our time and reading some of the signs.
If you have time, are a history buff or interested in modern Danish royalty then Amalienborg Palace is for you. Having explored Rosenborg and Frederiksborg Castles earlier, those museums were much more historical, extensive and impressive with more ornate decorations and comprehensive artifacts and collections. The highlight here though was definitely witnessing the changing of the guards outside.
Visiting Amalienborg Palace Tips and Basics
- If you want to be in front of the crowd to watch the ceremony, get there early.
- Explore the gardens behind the palace for a beautiful view of the opera house and the water.
- Ticket Prices: Adults 65 DKK($11 US); Seniors (65+) 45 DKK ($7.60 US); Kids (0-17) are Free; Admission Free with Copenhagen Card;
- Combo ticket with Rosenborg Castle: 110 DKK ($18.75 US).
- Try to visit Rosenborg Castle before visiting Amalienborg on the same day to get a more comprehensive view of the Royal Danish Collection.
- Picture taking inside costs 20 DKK($3.40 US). If you paid for the photo permission at Rosenborg, the same sticker can be used here.
- Bulky backpacks and bags must be checked into a locker (20 DKK) which is returned after usage.
- Don’t miss the Marble Church across the palace courtyard.
*Have you seen any of the Changing of the Guard ceremonies?