Grandeur of Frederiksborg Castle Denmark
Castles and palaces transport us to the world of fairytales and back to our childhood dreams of wanting to be princesses and knights (for some of us anyway). Home of one of the oldest monarchies in the world, Denmark certainly had plenty of castles worth exploring. Frederiksborg Castle or Frederiksborg Slot was one of the finest and most memorable during our visit last month.
We first caught a glimpse of the castle upon entering the main square in the town of Hillerod. There it was – radiant despite the ominous dark clouds hanging over it. With the shimmering lake surrounding it, we all let out a huge gasp in amazement. Its spires and turrets rising high above just added to its majestic look.
Known as the Nordic Versailles, this was built on three islets by King Christian IV as his royal residence in the 17th century. It was later occupied and renovated by Frederik VII. Unfortunately, a heating appliance caused a fire in 1859 and burnt a large part of the castle’s interior.
It was rebuilt after the fire and became Denmark’s Museum of National History in 1878. Frederiksborg Slot though is still considered one of the finest Renaissance palaces in Scandinavia.
Before entering the building, it was hard not to spend time admiring all the architectural and ornate details in the building’s facade.
We did the self-guided tour using their free audio guides on iPods and available in various languages. Numbers above the doors (60+ of them) corresponded to the audio guide. The first room we entered was the Rose Room displaying knight armory and fancy dresses. This once served as the dining hall for the young royals.
Moving up the stairs adorned with various knights’ coat of arms, we entered the incredible castle church, Slotskirke. It was stunning! With the sunlight streaming through the windows, it was almost magical to see the gold accents shining.
This was one of the few rooms that wasn’t harmed by the fire and kept in its original form. The intricate ceilings were just amazing. Many coronations were held here for 200 years. Today, it serves as a parish church where services are held every Sunday.
If I was a parishioner, I’m not sure if I could concentrate while surrounded with all these glorious decorations.
While we were there, we were graced with the lovely music playing on a 17th century organ using its 1,000 wooden pipes. The walkways on the top floor were decorated with even more knights’ coat of arms. This window full of colorful stained glass panels was one of the few lined up behind the organ.
One of the most mesmerizing things I found with this castle was the abundance of intricate and lavish ceiling paintings. They were magnificent pieces of art. It seemed as if every room was trying to outdo the next one.
Fancy chandeliers were also hung in the middle of many rooms. I can’t imagine living here surrounded by all this opulence.
The royals had such fascination with elaborate ceilings and here’s another example of extravagance gone wild.
The largest room in the castle is the Great Hall once known as the ballroom. This was rebuilt and modeled to its original state after the fire. The marble floors, the musician’s balcony and walls of tapestries exhibited luxury at its finest.
Three large and shiny brass chandeliers were also hanging from the ceiling to brighten the room. This was one of the detailed ceiling panels with numerous carved and painted figures at the Great Hall.
For castles like these where the ceiling is an attraction in itself, I sometimes wish they would set up a chaise lounge or a recliner chair to lay down and admire and scrutinize the details. It beats lying on the ground or getting a neck strain. My kids couldn’t get enough of this ceiling and took quite a few pictures.
Many colorful, detailed tapestries, in almost pristine condition for its age, also covered the walls. The various portraits hanging on the wall were of the current Royal Danish house.
The museum’s underlying purpose was to strengthen national pride. As a national portrait gallery, it used the various paintings of the royals and noble citizens to show 500 years of Denmark’s history. It was a bit overwhelming with so many items and every space occupied with objects to feast your eyes on. Not a bad thing when visiting with children since my kids dashed from one room to the next looking at the many shiny objects.
Its vast collection of furniture, glass and silverware and porcelain were shown in exhibits in chronological order. It was designed with the feeling of a “comfortably furnished, lived-in” castle.
The informative audio guide was a wonderful way to learn more about each room and emphasized the important pieces. Things like this portrait of Frederick VI with a red chair to the side and how that same chair still exists and was displayed alongside the painting.
There were also portraits and paintings of Denmark’s famous poets, artists, scientists and those who made vast contributions to the country. One of the last areas we saw inside was this small nook dedicated to Denmark’s native son, Hans Christian Andersen, author of many beloved fairy tales.
Of course, every castle has its garden and Fredericksborg Slot didn’t disappoint. A lakeside pathway perfect for strolling and biking led us to the castle gardens.
The splendid Baroque garden was filled with neatly trimmed hedges and flower gardens. This was recreated in the mid-1990s based on the gardens that were once here in the 18th century.
A terraced canal and fountains provided soothing sounds while strolling through the gardens.
Frederiksborg Slot offered something for everyone in my family. The history fascinated my husband and me. My daughter excitedly admired the jewels and fancy bedrooms and there were enough knights and armory to entertain my son. It’s always a challenge taking kids to museums or places involving a lot of walking. But, this castle satisfied everyone and with hardly any complaints. That alone was worth the day trip from Copenhagen.
Frederiksborg Slot Basics
- Getting Here: Take the E line of the suburban S-train to the town of Hillerod. Journey takes 40 minutes from central Copenhagen. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk to the castle from Hillerod station.
- Admission and transport on the boat across the lake is Free with the Copenhagen Card.
- Admission Prices: Adults 75 DKK ($12 US); Kids (6-15 yrs) 20 DKK ($3 US) ; Family Ticket (2 adults/3 kids) 150 DKK ($25)
- Get the iPod audio-guide for self-guided tours (for kids too). There were hardly any signs and labels throughout the castle. Guided Tours are also available.
- Backpacks and large purses must be checked in to the provided lockers.
- Visit the Museum of National History website for more details.
*Have you explored Frederiksborg Castle? What fascinating castles have you visited in your travels?