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Hamlet's Elsinore (Kronborg Castle)

Listed under Literary Locations in Copenhagen, Denmark.

  • Photo of Hamlet's Elsinore (Kronborg Castle)
  • Photo of Hamlet's Elsinore (Kronborg Castle)
Photo of Hamlet's Elsinore (Kronborg Castle)
Photo by flickr user Riktov
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Hamlet was already a legend when Shakespeare immortalised his story in around 1600 but during Hamlet’s lifetime there probably wasn’t much more than a fort on Kronborg’s site, so real Hamlet probably didn’t lived here. Most people who know about these sorts of things think Shakespeare chose Kronborg as the setting because the castle was at the peak of its grandeur during Shakespeare’s own lifetime. The magnificent castle Shakespeare describes isn’t what visitors can expect today, even though as you walk through it numerous people will exclaim “How did he get it so perfect without ever having been here - the man is a genius!” etc. Much of the current structure is part of a re-build which took place after a fire in around 1620, though Shakespeare didn’t see this version either, he got his information from touring actors who visited the seaside castle in around 1585.

Despite this oversight there is still a Hamlet section to the castle for tourists taking up some of the rooms of the Royal apartments, with a synopsis of the story and details about the man himself. Like in Hamlet, the castle is supposed to be haunted so although Hamlet may have not lived here the ghostly character of Shakespeare’s invention may have.

To be fair the play has been performed here many times so it may be that people are responding to images they may have seen from the dramatised on location versions, John Gielgud (1939), Michael Redgrave (1950), Richard Burton (1954), Derek Jacobi (1979), and Kenneth Branagh (1988) have all played Hamlet at Kronborg.

Though it looks pretty graceful as you approach it when you get closer you can see it’s well fortified, with thick walls and chunky gates. Inside some of the castle is still richly decorated with belongings of the Dutch Royal Family, the apartments have some, my mother would say glorious, tapestries of you olde days and the dinning hall is huge almost beyond belief.

As well as it’s standing in literary history, Kronborg is also important in history history, in a strategic position between the Baltic and the North Sea lots of significant events have taken place here including a dramatic double castle two sided siege which took place between Kronborg and the castle two miles across the bay in Sweden. Part of Kronborg is now used as a maritime museum.

Written by  Sophie Edgerton.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Elsinore castle looks over the sea in its majestic glory. This castle was made famous in Shakespeare's Hamlet. The castle is large and beautiful and definitely worth a visit for Shakespeare lovers or history buffs alike. It is also a great place of beauty for any lover of architecture.

Helsingør

It’s speculated that Helsingør has been inhabited for nearly two thousand years, since the year 70 AD. Today, it’s home to a number of great museums, churches, and beaches, but the highlight of the city has to be the notorious Kronborg Castle. A World Heritage site, it was made famous by William Shakespeare who set his play Hamlet there. In the real world, Frederik II built the renaissance castle in the late 1500s as his stronghold, after which it withstood centuries of battles and foreign occupation. It was the residence of Denmark’s royal family until 1785.

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