Nordsjælland, or North Zealand, is the area of Denmark just north of Copenhagen and Roskilde. This area is popular with day trippers from Copenhagen as there are a number of famous and important attractions. We visited Nordsjælland’s three H towns, Hillerød, Helsingør, and Humlebæk for castles, history, and art.
A self-guided tour of the castle begins in the grand Royal Chapel. As soon as you walk into the chapel you know Frederiksborg Castle is going to be something special. The Great Hall is another beautiful room that sneaks up on you. While walking through a castle room you’ll look to the left, up a few stairs, and through a doorway, and see one of the most impressive and expansive halls, with wood-carved panels and ceiling, tapestries, portraits, and sculptures. There are countless rooms in the castle open to visitors that are filled with furnishings, and it is easy to get lost and miss something. The top floor has modern art and special collections.
Set aside at least three hours to thoroughly explore Frederiksborg Castle and the grounds.
Helsingør’s Maritime Museum of Denmark is housed in a new underground boat-shaped museum, designed by starchitect Bjarke Ingels, which won the international architecture award. The museum houses a plethora of maritime history in a unique and modern fashion that keeps visitors entertained. Even if you’re not terribly interested in maritime history, the setup of the displays makes for interesting perusal, plus there are some fun interactive exhibits.
An inaccuracy in my guidebook almost caused us to miss the unmissable experience of visiting the Museet Skibsklarerergaarden. Museet Skibsklarerergaarden is a well-preserved shipping agent’s house with a shop that remains roughly the same as it was in the 1820s. The guidebook states that the 50-minute tours of the house are only given in Danish, but that beer brewed in the backyard can be purchased in the shop. Neither statement is true. Luckily, we went to Museet Skibsklarerergaarden looking for locally brewed beer but ended up taking the most informative tour of our time in Denmark, in perfect English. Peter Andreas Kjærgaard Amtoft leads the tour through the house in any language that he can speak, including English, Swedish, German, Norwegian, and of course Danish.
A tour of the shipping agent’s house and shop not only provides a peek into what life was like, but also a history lesson thanks to Peter’s historical knowledge. Helsingør used to be one of the most powerful and richest cities in Denmark. Helsingør’s position on the narrow straight allowed the king to impose a toll on all ships passing through in the early 1400s, providing Denmark with most of its wealth for centuries. To learn more you’ll have to join one of the tours, which start on the hour every hour.
Helsingør is also the location of Kronborg Slot, or Hamlet’s castle. Kronborg Slot was actually a toll house and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Helsingør’s churches are also worth a visit, and since Helsingør has so many well-preserved houses from the Renaissance period, it’s fun to just walk around town looking at the old buildings and taking a break to eat a Danish hotdog from one of the stands in the square.
Peter also does tours of the town, including Segway tours. If you are interested in booking a tour with him, you can contact him directly via email. Peter Andreas Kjærgaard Amtoft at firstname.lastname@example.org.
East of Hillerød and south of Helsingør is the town of Humlebæk, the location of the acclaimed Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The Louisiana is one of Denmark’s most important museums filled with modern art. I love museums. I don’t like modern art. Except for installation art. I do like installation art. So to be perfectly honest I wanted to get through the museum as quickly as possible. Rome isn’t much into modern art, but he found more to enjoy than I did. Luckily there were a few exhibits that appealed to me. One is Gleaming Lights of the Souls by Yayoi Kusama, a permanently installed work of a space where the walls and ceiling are mirrors, the floor is covered in water except for a platform, and hundreds of changing color lamps hang from the ceiling.
Another exhibit that caught my fancy was the abstract art of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint. Klint was trained at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in landscapes and portrait paintings. But on the side she created abstract art in pastel watercolors. While her abstract art wasn’t necessarily to my taste, the surprise was that what looked like paintings perhaps from the 60s were actually created from 1906-1915. Klint painted to seek insight into a higher coherence, a spiritual dimension. Knowing her pieces were far ahead of her time, her will dictated that these pieces not be shown to the public until at least twenty years after her death.