Kronborg is world-renowned as Elsinore, the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

The Royal Castle of Kronborg at Helsingør (Elsinore) is located on a strategically important site commanding the Sound (Øresund), a narrow strait between Denmark and Sweden. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, the castle played a key role in the history of Northern Europe. Work began on the construction of this outstanding Renaissance castle in 1574 and its defences were reinforced in the late 17th century.

Header photo by Jon Nordstrøm, VisitDenmark


Riddersalen – Photo: John Sommer, VisitDenmark
Riddersalen – Photo: John Sommer, VisitDenmark

The Great Hall (the banqueting hall) is one of the most exquisite rooms from this time – and the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. Kronborg Castle is also world famous as the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.


Photo: Jon Nordstrøm, VisitDenmark
Photo: Jon Nordstrøm, VisitDenmark


The Sound is the gateway to the Baltic Sea and from 1429 to 1857, Denmark controlled this passage thanks to Kronborg Castle, positioned at the narrowest part of the Sound, only four kilometres wide. Around 1.8 million ships passed through the Sound during this period and all of them had to pay a toll at Kronborg Castle. For this reason Kronborg Castle and its fortress became a symbol of Denmark’s power.

The Sound toll was not just a source of income; it was also a political instrument. By favouring the shipping trade of selected nations or by allowing their navies free passage, Denmark was in a position to create important alliances.

In 1574 King Frederik II began the construction of the outstanding Renaissance castle and the surrounding fortifications, which would eventually be known as Kronborg Castle.

The castle itself is a Renaissance building with four wings surrounding a spacious courtyard. The bright sandstone facades are characterized by horizontal bands and the front walls are balanced by towers and spires. The castle is extensively and richly decorated with sandstone ornaments in unique and imaginative designs.

Kronborg Castle was admired for its beauty as a castle and feared for its strength as a fortress. The castle was protected by tall ramparts and strong angular bastions.


World Heritage

Kronborg Castle was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2000 for being an outstanding example of a Renaissance castle, and one which played a highly significant role in the history of this region of northern Europe.

All photos courtesy of VisitDenmark
Text source UNESCO description (CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0)