Travel Destinations

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Three H Towns of Denmark’s Nordsjælland

Travel the World at Frederiksborg Castle Hillerød Denmark

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. 


The main attraction of Hillerød is Frederiksborg Castle.  There are a number of castles in Denmark, but Frederiksborg Castle is the most ornate of them all.  Frederiksborg Castle was built in the early 17th century by the builder king Christian IV and has rightly been called the Danish Versailles.

Frederiksborg Castle Hillerød Denmark

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.

Great Hall Frederiksborg Castle Hillerød Denmark

Set aside at least three hours to thoroughly explore Frederiksborg Castle and the grounds.


Maritime Museum of Denmark Helsingør Denmark

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.

Maritime Museum of Denmark Helsingør Denmark Maritime Museum of Denmark Helsingør Denmark

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.

Museet Skibsklarerergaarden Helsingør Denmark

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.

Museet Skibsklarerergaarden Helsingør Denmark

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.

Helsingør can easily take an entire day to explore.  Also, starting this year on August 23, Helsingør will hold Sundtoldsmarked where more than 150 actors in period costumes, including Peter who is an organizer of the event and playing a quack (his words, not mine), will recreate 18th century Havnepladsen in Helsingør.  The plan is to continue these customs market reenactments yearly.

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 


Gleaming Lights of the Souls by Yayoi Kusama Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Humlebæk Denmark

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.

Hilma af Klint Exhibit Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Humlebæk Denmark

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.

Thoroughly exploring the three H towns of Nordsjælland, Hillerød, Helsingør, and Humlebæk, takes more than one day, so try to plan at least two days for day trips from Copenhagen or Roskilde.   

Travel the World: Nordsjælland’s three H towns, Hillerød, Helsingør, and Humlebæk; Denmark destinations for castles, history, and art north of Copenhagen.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.