The History of Kronborg Castle
The history of Kronborg begins long before the castle’s founder Frederick II in 1574 decided to build his modern renaissance stronghold in Helsingor. It begins with the medieval fortress of Eric og Pomerania.
In fact, the history of Kronborg goes back to the 15th century when the Danish king Eric of Pomerania sited his medieval fortress ‘Krogen’ where Kronborg is today.
The king built his fortress to take control over the Danish waters and to enforce the Sound Dues, a new tax imposed Eric.
The Sound Dues meant that all merchant ships going through the strait had to pay a tax of one English nobel – a golden coin - to the king. If the ship’s crew decided not to obey the king’s commands, Kronborg fired its cannons, forcing them to do so.
Frederick IIs Kronborg
Over time Krogen became outdated and lost its persuasive powers and status as the king’s stronghold.
Many years later the king by now Frederick II visited the medieval fortress and decided to build his new and modern renaissance castle – Kronborg – on top of the medieval predecessor.
The contruction of Kronborg took about 11 years and Kronborg was finished in 1585.
With its beautiful white walls in sandstone and the glittering cobber roofs, the castle was an impressive sight to the many foreign guests visiting Frederick and queen Sophie at the Danish court.
The castle became a display of power for the royal couple. Here they would show their greatness, wealth and power, symbolized through luxurious and extravagant parties and dinners with up to 24 main courses, liters of wine and beer, dancing and theater performances by some of Europe’s best actors.
A famous castle and a Danish prince
The castle got famous fast because of the grandiose architecture and the wild nights at the court.
It actually got so famous that the English playwright William Shakespeare – even though he never set foot on the castle – heard about the life of the royal court.
Actors from his troupe in London had performed at Kronborg, telling Shakespeare about the life at the court.
Here they would have seen the monumental Dance Hall with its staggering 62 meters with no columns supporting the loft – a brand new architectural landslide at the time. In the hall the actors could witness the King Tapestries – 40 massive tapestries depicting 100 both real and – for the occasion – made up kings of Denmark.
One of these mythical kings looking down from the walls was prince Amleth. The tale of prince Amleth ended up laying the foundation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and his rotten kingdom of Denmark.
In the area surrounding the castle you’ll find Kronværket – a small town of old military buildings and barracks.
As artillery evolved, new defenses became necessary. During the centuries ramparts and moats were added to landscape and the area was named Kronværket.
Today the old military buildings and barracks serves different purposes –as ticket sales office and administration for Kronborg but also as cafes, restaurants, workshops and private local businesses have moved into the beautiful buildings in the yellow and orange colors, characteristic for the Danish military of this period.
In the expanded ramparts you can also go for a walk along the beach, look to Sweden on the other side, enjoy the sight of the many ships still passing through the sound or the playful porpoises frolicking in the water.