Home of Hamlet Kronborg Denmark

To paraphrase Shakespeare “To visit or not to visit, that is the question”. Hamlet may or may not have uttered words similar to those, but if he did say them, it would have been in Kronborg Castle, which is situated in the town of Helsingor, North Zealand, Denmark.

Kronborg Castle, or Kronborg Slot as it is also known, is certainly an imposing sort of place, particularly as it guards the Sund, a stretch of water which divides Denmark and Sweden. The castle itself was built not so much to defend North Zealand from invasion, but to act as a tollhouse, to extract payments from the cargo ships which plied the narrow waters of the Sund.

Shakespeare changed the name slightly to Elsinore, and his Hamlet was not a real historical person, but was based on a Scandinavian folk tale that was written around about 1200ad. There is the possibility too, that Hamlet was also based on James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England, as there are similarities in his life to those written into the plot of Hamlet.

The real Kronborg was built in the 1420s as a medieval fortress, but it was converted into a magnificent Renaissance castle by 1585, and it burnt down in 1629. Afterwards it was rebuilt in the Baroque style and then enlarged and rebuilt in 1785, until it was substantially the building that still exists today.

The castle is still very imposing, featuring tall towers, a great banqueting hall and impressive casemates, and today is a popular tourist attraction in Denmark.

No one really knows why Shakespeare based Hamlet at the castle, but historians guess that it would have been well known in England because of its size and prominent position, so would have been considered an ideal place to house a royal family, especially one as dysfunctional as Hamlet’s.

One of the favourite attractions is a statue called Holger the Dane, which looks like a Viking having a well-deserved nap. Legend has it that Holger turns into flesh and blood when the country is attacked and rises up to defend his country.

The casemates are spookier still, and are dank, dark rooms in which soldiers could safely hide when the castle came under attack. With four metre-thick walls, defenders could hide in the casemates for months at a time, although in simply horrible conditions.

Opening times vary depending on the season, and one of the best ways to appreciate the castle is to join a guided tour of the facility.

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