Denmark is known for its splendid castles and royal palaces and if you’re planning a trip to the Danish capital, Copenhagen, there will be plenty to choose from even just in the city centre. During our recent visit to Denmark there was one royal palace that stood out for us: Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod. This is a fantastic place to explore and somewhere that should definitely be on your itinerary!
Frederiksborg and The Museum of National History
So first, a super quick history lesson. The castle was built by the Danish King Christian IV in the 1600s but royal residences on the site can be traced all the way back to the 1500s. The castle was named after Christian’s father King Frederik II and designed and constructed in a Renaissance architecture style. Sadly, much of the castle was destroyed by a fire back in 1859 but since then it has been rebuilt and restored and since 1878, the castle has been the home of the Det Nationalhistoriske Museum or the Danish Museum of National History.
While that may or may not seem that interesting, the key thing to take away is that when you visit Frederiksborg Castle you are technically visiting two attractions in one. The external castle and the internal museum collection! The two merge seamlessly together and visiting the site you will experience 500 years of Danish history, amazing art and furniture collections and an overall a sense of grandeur you have probably never seen before. And fun fact – J.C. Jacobsen who founded the museum was also the founder of another great Danish institution – Carlsberg.
Things to see at Frederiksborg Castle
If you opt for a day trip to Federiksborg Castle, one thing is for certainly you won’t run out of things to see. With so many things going on both inside and outside this historic royal castle you might struggle to fit everything into one visit!
Exterior Splendor and Renaissance architecture
As soon as we arrived in Hillerod we were immediately impressed by Frederiksborg Castle. We chose to walk from the train station and got some stunning views of the buildings and gardens sitting on the edge of Slotssoen Lake. When you arrive at the castle, it might take a while before you go through the gates because there’s so much to see right from the get go. Crossing a cobbled lined bridge and the first gatehouse make sure to look around for stunning views back over Hillerod as well as taking in the stable buildings on either side.
The area then opens up into a large courtyard and you’ll get your first view of the castle close up and it’s one you wont forget. Ornate brick work, arched windows and fairy tale turrets will fill your view and it’ll be hard to know where to focus your attention.
Make sure to also get a close up look at The Neptune Fountain found in the courtyard which also has an interesting story. The sculpture depicts Denmark as a leading nation and was created in the 1600s but during a later war with neighbouring Sweden the fountain was captured and taken to Stockholm. What now sits in its place is a replica of the original which was commissioned in 1888 while the original can still be found at Drottningholm Palace in Sweden. Both are beautiful masterpieces and well worth a look.
When taking photos (and you’ll probably be taking a lot) just be careful of the entrance route as this is also an access road so be aware of delivery and staff vehicles appearing behind you. Those with mobility issues can be dropped off in the courtyard so do be courteous to those simply trying to get into the attraction.
The Grand Interiors
When you’ve made it past the beautiful exterior of Frederiksborg, it’s time to discover the museum itself. There are so many beautiful rooms to explore, so much art, ornate furniture and ceiling decor it can be overwhelming. I don’t think I have ever said “wow” so many times in my life. My top tip is to take is slow and don’t try to read the information for every single room there is just no way you will get through everything on one visit.
While every room is amazing, those sold as the main attractions include the Main Hall, the Rose and the Audience Hall. These are the epitome of extravagance and show not only the wealth and exuberance of the royalty but also the truly awe-inspiring craftsmanship of the time.
As you progress from room to room, it will be hard to know where to look but I recommend looking up when you enter a new room and each time you will be astounded by the work that has gone in to making each ceiling more impressive and more elaborate than the last. And of course there is the odd chandelier to boot! Even the staircases are filled with painted shields and historic artifacts so there really isn’t a nook or cranny that doesn’t ooze extravagance. If you’re looking for Disney princess ball room then the Main Hall is just the ticket! A spot where the royals and nobility of the past wined, dined and danced.
If you are into art history and the various forms of art expression then the contents of the Det Nationalhistoriske Museum are perfect location for you. Exploring the various rooms and levels there is a wealth of works from Danish artists such as Jens Juel, P.S. Krøyer and Laurits Tuxen as well as other international painters. Every room brings more and you could certainly get lost in many of the fantastic works on display.
If, like us, you know nothing about art you can still be amazed at the number of portraits and historical depictions in the museum’s collection, there are lots of different styles and if you really can’t take anything else from the art collection – look out for the unusual royal painting by Niels Strøbæk in the Main Hall.
Frederiksborg Slotskirke or Chapel is accessed through the main section of the castle but is located just off of the courtyard and is certainly not a humble place of worship. Dating back to 1617, the chapel is just as elaborate and full of pomp and splendour as everywhere else. The views over the aisles below are spectacular and walking around the balconies you will see hundreds of coats of arms and family crests representing both Danish and international royalty and nobility. Dramatic stained glass windows and ornate columns highlight that this is not a place for the common worshiper.
If you haven’t picked your visit date yet it’s worth noting that there is a free organ performance in the Frederiksborg Chapel at 1.30 pm every Thursday, so this might be nice little bonus to consider.
The Photographic Gallery Exhibitions
If you need a break from all the splendour, the Det Nationalhistoriske Museum in the castle also contains a large photography exhibit space with new collections of work on a regular basis as well as permanent pieces. You’ll find images from world-class photographers and portrait photography of famous faces such as well as local celebrities such as Danish Olympic medal winners
The Castle Gardens and Lake
The gardens are located just behind the castle and contain just as much grandeur as the buildings. You’ll find immaculately kept paths, ornate hedge displays and beautifully kept lawns. The most impressive feature of the main garden section is a large cascading fountain which runs down toward the castle and provides fantastic photo opportunities. Make sure to leave enough time to walk around the royal gardens and enjoy the outside. There are a number of different landscape styles in the garden areas including a Baroque Garden and English Garden and you will also find the Bath House Castle also known as the Badstueslot.
Unfortunately, we visited in the winter season so there wasn’t much out in bloom but it was still very impressive to see the perfectly kept shrubs and tree-lined avenues and even in the midst of winter, the royal gardeners were busy tending to beds and keeping everything tidy.
A big draw of the gardens is, of course, the views down over the castle with the lake in the foreground. These really do make for fairy tale photos and so it’s worth a quick wander around to get those postcard shots if you can. To find out more about the Frederiksborg Castle Gardens, make sure to visit the Danish Royal Palaces online pages.
Walking around the Lake is also a popular activity and can take around 30 minutes back to the centre of Hillerod or around 40 minutes to walk the entire circuit. There are various photo stops along the paths and plenty of great views to be found.
Frederiksborg Castle for Children
If you are planning a family visit to Frederiksborg Castle there are a few things on offer during the peak season and at selected times. During summer months, the basement level houses a children’s activity area where kids can see what life was like living in the past including dressing up in Renaissance-style clothes and trying out arts and crafts from the time.
Castle hosts are another addition that can help engage the younger audience. Dressed in historical costumes which have been made specifically for the Det Nationalhistoriske Museum, these staff and volunteers are all able to answer an array of questions about the art on display in the castle, the history of the site and the outfits they are wearing and are happy to get photos taken as well.
It’s worth noting that both these elements do seem to only be during the summer season and during Danish school holidays so it’s worth checking directly with the museum to see if there are planned children’s activities or events during your scheduled trip.
How to get to Frederiksborg Castle from Copenhagen
Located in the Hillerod area, the castle is an easy trip from Copenhagen city centre and we visited during a three day trip to the capital. Driving from Copenhagen to Frederiksborg Castle takes around 40 minutes and there are a number of public car parks within walking distance of the site.
If you’re using public transport then the journey also takes 40 minutes by train. There are regular trains from Copenhagen Central to Hillerod – look for the S-trains and line E, disembark at Hillerod station and then there is 10 -15 minute well sign posted walk from the train station to the castle. While both car and train take the same amount of time, we would certainly recommend the train as it’s a quick and easy pleasant journey, you get a nice view of the local area including some of the pretty, more traditional suburbs of Copenhagen and transport is free with a Copenhagen Card. The walk from the train station is also a pretty one through the town centre and then around the lake giving some pretty epic views of the castle. There is also a bus station right outside Hillerod train station so, for those who may been a little help, there are also several bus options to Frederiksborg Castle as well.
When walking or driving it is worth noting that there several variations of the castle name so on maps look out for alternative names. In Danish you will see Frederiksborg Slot, occasionally the site is noted as Frederiksborg Palace but often The Museum of National History or Det Nationalhistoriske Museum which is actually the collection housed inside the castle, so technically all the furniture and paintings are the museum while just the building is the castle. If you’re using a sat nav or map system other than Google Maps, the castle recommends entering your destination as “Frederiksborg Slot” or “Møntportvejen” to ensure you end up in the right place.
Other things to know about visiting Frederiksborg Castle
Frederiksborgs admission fee is 75DKK per adult and 20DKK for children (Aug, 2018) and there are reduced prices for those over 65 or with a current student card. The site is also a Copenhagen Card attraction so those with a card can visit as part of this tourist scheme.
The castle and museum are open every day of the year but make sure to note seasonal times. In peak season entrance is from 10 am – 5 pm, however, during the winter season between November and March Frederiksborg Castle is only open from 11 am – 3pm each day which means you can’t fit as much around a trip but still well worth the excursion.
Guided tours are also available if you want to learn more about the history and interiors of the building. These are available in English and are free of charge during certain times and run most frequently during the summer season so make sure to check ahead of time if you plan to join a tour.
One of the main rules onsite is that you cannot take bags into Frederiksborg Castle. This seems to apply to anything bigger than a small camera bag. There are lockers at reception which are free to use but do require a 20DKK coin to operate so make sure to have some change on you if you can.
Other attractions in Hillerod
If you want to make a full day of it or just want explore the local area a little more here are a few other things to do in Hillerod to add to your Frederiksborg Castle day trip.
The Museum Nordsjaelland has a number of sites in the area. Covering the local history of Hillerod right back to medieval times Hillerød Town Museum has a working historical printing press, street recreations through the ages and industry workshops. Admission is 20K and free for kids. You can also visit the local power station, Elværket, which has a small exhibition on the engineering and unique architecture which is 25K. If you visit on a Friday there is no entrance fee at either attraction!
This pop up food market takes place in the city centre at Helsingørsgade and Slotsgade each Saturday afternoon and has plenty of local produce as well as arts and crafts to check out.
The Danish Pharmaceutical Collection
Something of an oddity but an interesting museum, this covers the history of medicines and chemists and how medicine has progressed over the last 100 years. The site houses a large photographic collection and does guided tours by arrangement but is only open to the public on Tuesdays. Admission is 30K per person.
While there isn’t a cafe directly inside the castle, Frederiksborg’s affiliated eatery is located within the former palace stables and is found just at the castle gates and a further cafe is available at the end of the gardens during summer. There are also plenty of other places for snacks, lunch and dinner surrounding the castle and around Hillerod town square. Look for places with good views of the castle and lake!
The Frederiksborg Ferry
If you want to get some different views of the castle, why not try the Frederiksborg Little Ferry boat trip across the lake for some stunning views of Frederiksborg Castle and the Baroque Gardens behind. Trips on the ferry take 25 minutes and it leaves twice every hour in peak season. The excursion costs 30DKK for adults and 10DKK for children but if you have a Copenhagen Card the boat tour is included. Catch the ferry from the town square and either do a loop or depart at one of two landing spots at the castle.
Have you every visited somewhere as beautiful at Frederiksborg Castle? Tell us in the comments below.
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