View to Sweden from Kronborg castle

Elsinore (Danish: Helsingør, no one is quite sure what the official English name is) is a city of just under 50,000 residents, in the north eastern corner of the island of Zealand in Denmark. It is the closest city to Sweden, with frequent ferry connections to its twin city across the strait; Helsingborg. It is known for the impressive Kronborg castle (world heritage site), its historic city centre and as the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet.



Until the Middle Ages, Elsinore was nothing but a small trading post. But endowed by the proximity to Sweden, a mere 5 kilometers (3 miles) across one of Europe's most strategically important straits, Øresund, Elsinore since grew into one of Denmark's most important cities. During the 15th century, when Denmark controlled the lands of Southern Sweden, King Eric of Pomarania build two fortifications; Krogen in Elsinore, which would later develop into the famous Kronborg castle, and Kernen (Kärnan) across the strait in Helsingborg to guard the entrance to the strait, and subsequently introduced the oft hated Øresund tolls for all passing foreign ships. These ships had to pay the tolls at the docks of Elsinore, and hence used the city for provisioning as well. The history of the toll lasted until 1857, even though Denmark lost the southern Swedish provinces in 1658. With the loss of the toll, Elsinore plummeted into poverty, but Denmark's subsequent industrialization had a positive impact on the city, for example the city developed an important ship building industry in line with its maritime heritage, the ever growing ferry traffic to Sweden also had a positive impact, with many Swedes day tripping to Elsinore for shopping, above all for alcohol taxed much less in Denmark than across the strait. While the ferry traffic has faded somewhat since the building of the Øresund bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö, it still bring life to the city,


While any Danish student can recite the history of the Øresund tolls (even held upside down and blindfold while being tickled by a feather and forced to listen to loud death metal), internationally Elsinore is above all known for its part in Shakespeare's Hamlet, prince of Denmark, one of the most celebrated plays in the English language. Elsinore's prominent place in European history in the age when the play was written (ca. 1600), is by some claimed to be the reason Shakespeare chose Elsinore and Kronborg as the setting, rather than the Danish capital.

Tourist information

Get in

By train

The coastal railway (Danish: Kystbanen) runs along the Øresund coast from Copenhagen and various places in southern Sweden (though it will often be faster to take a train to Helsingborg and catch a ferry across the strait from places in Sweden). The trains are operated by DSBFirst, the journey takes 45 minutes from Copenhagen central station with trains every 10–20 minutes during the day and every hour during night time. Single tickets are very expensive (108 Kr in 2011), so consider using a 24 hour ticket, or if in a group an All Zones klippekort, with 10 trips for 455 Kr (2011 prices). If you are considering visiting the Louisiana art museum, it's both feasible and much more economical to lump them together into a single day trip.

The Lille Nord (Little North) railway leaves once or twice an hour for Fredensborg and Hillerød, the sites of North Zealand's two other great palaces. Journey times are 25 and 33 minutes respectively; there is an S-Train back to Copenhagen from Hillerød if you plan on seeing the palaces as a day trip. Finally Hornbækbanen runs along the coast north west from the city to Gilleleje on the northern tip of Zealand, for access to the region's excellent beaches.

The train station in Elsinore, which has direct access to the ferry terminal, is actually something of an attraction in itself. It hails back from 1891, and is built in the same style as the Rosenborg Palace in central Copenhagen. It was thoroughly renovated in the early nineties and subsequently listed. When arriving it's worth taking a bit of extra time to drink in the atmosphere of the richly ornamented and decorated foyer.

By boat

Take the ferry from Helsingborg. The trip takes about 20 minutes and the ships run at least every hour 24/7. Daytime there is a departure every 15 minutes. Single passenger tickets costs a reasonable 20-25 kroner per adult, while car tickets are much more expensive, 280-375 Kr, internet discounts often available. Unless you are bringing a car, reservations are never necessary, and even with a car, you'll rarely have to wait more than 20 minutes without a reservation, and most times you can drive straight on board.

The grand railway station of Elsinore, the tourist information is located in the lower building behind it

By car

The motorway E47/E55 from Copenhagen ends in Elsinore, it's a 50 kilometer (30 miles) drive, taking around 40 minutes outside of rush hours. Route 6 takes you to Hillerød, in about 30 minutes.

Get around

While the city is quite expansive, most sights of interest - besides the technical museum - lies within the compact city centre, so walking is really the best way to get around. Though the city does have a network of local bus lines, and two of the small local railways has several halts within the city. Most attractions are well signposted.


While most of the Hamlet hungry crowds head straight for the castle, the old city centre north-west of the station surrounding the church, is well worth a visit in itself. The enormous wealth that flowed through the city in the old days, is highly visible with many grand, often colorful, old houses flanking the narrow streets, a few of them have preserved the old cobblestone pavement. The lively harbour can also be worth a look if you need to kill some time.

Kronborg Castle

  , Kronborg 2, 3000 Helsingør (Most people walk the 15 minutes north along the harbour from the station),  +45 49 21 30 78, e-mail: . November–March 11AM-3PM; April, October 11AM-4PM; May–September 10:30AM-5PM. A combined ticket is 95 Kr.

Holger Danske

According to legend, Holger or Ogier the Dane, son of King Godfred (king of the Danes 804-810), is a great warrior who served Charlemagne and led his troops to victory against the Arabs, he was then taken to Avalon by the sorceress Morgan le Fay, from where he returns after two hundred years to save France. After the battle he walks away, and sits down at his current location in the dungeons below Kronborg to rest, his petrified body only to wake and come into flesh and blood if Denmark is in mortal danger. On that day he will gather all the remaining men of the land, young and old, and fight until blood reaches their knees, victory only assured when there are no more Danes than can be seated around a table, but then peace will last many a year.

Originally build by King Eric of Pomerania in the 1420s at the narrowest point of the Øresund strait, it was originally called Krogen (or the hook in English). Kronborg attained its current name when it was rebuilt by King Frederik II into a grand renaissance palace, unrivaled anywhere in Europe. All but the exterior walls were destroyed in a fire during the 17th century; it was rebuilt in only 10 years, but the interiors never attained their former glory. Only 20 years later, another disaster struck the castle when Swedish troops bombarded and conquered Kronborg, taking with them many priceless treasures as spoils of war, many of them now on display in various Swedish museums. Following the Swedish conquest, demonstrating its reputation as impregnable was all but a myth, the Danish king ordered the defenses strengthened, with a new advanced line of defense and ramparts around the castle, to keep the myth alive. Subsequently the castle was used as a prison, until the army took and used the castle as barracks until the 1920s. It was finally opened to the public in 1935 following nearly 10 years of renovations. In 2000 Kronborg was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, citing Kronborg as "an outstanding example of the Renaissance castle, and one which played a highly significant role in the history of northern Europe."

Within the castle there is access to the royal chambers, the casemates with the statue of Holger Danske, the chapel and an exhibition about Shakespeare.

Culture Harbour Kronborg

The city administration is spending huge amounts of money trying to create a cultural powerhouse at the disbanded shipyard directly adjacent to the castle; this includes extensive renovations to the ramparts bringing them closer to the original layout, new public spaces, broad-walks and new museums and cultural venues designed by some of the country's top architects, including the superstar Bjarke Ingel's new Maritime Museum in the old dry dock opening in 2012. It all looks very exciting and innovative, but will also entail large scale construction obscuring the site, and Kronborg in general, for the next couple of years. You can check up on the current status of the works at the project's website .

Other attractions

The old narrow streets of the old city centre is a lovely place to breeze around


One of the best experiences of the city is the grand Shakespeare at Hamlet's Castle-theater-festival at Kronborg held every August, which involves multiple theater-troupes - both Danish and international - performing a variety of Shakespeare's plays, usually including Hamlet.

You can use the warm summers to hang out on the Beaches; Snekkersten Strand south of town, Grønnehave Strand in town - just north of the castle, or pretty much the whole stretch of coast going north. Just west of town is the Teglstrup Hegn forest, which is especially lovely in early spring when the Anemone flowers are in bloom.

The Marienlyst palace which the city's casino is named after


The waters around Elsinore are extremely popular with anglers, all year round they can be spotted on the piers and bulwarks of the city, but during May–July when the garfish (Danish:Hornfisk) season is in swing, it's more like a bonanza! The rest of the year it is mainly herring and good size cod that end their life on the evening table. Fishing equipment can be rented at Helsingør Bådudlejning listed below. The harbour also hosts a large collection of fishing tour boats and charters, and the harbour has been kind enough to provide a list on their website (It's in Danish only, but phone numbers are pretty self-explanatory). In the summer it is often possible to just show up at the harbour and find one, but it's not the norm, and you may be out of luck some days. Note Carrying a fishing license is compulsory for all fishing found around Elsinore and nearly all fishing in Denmark. It can be bought at all post offices or at the tourist information for 30 Kr per day or 90/124 Kr for a week/year.


Part of the old city with the cathedral in the background

The City of Elsinore proudly boasts with 250 stores, both retail and grocery. The Downtown core of Elsinore, also referred to as the Pedestrian Zone, is home to many fabulous and cozy stores where you can find almost anything for anyone. There are several Bakeries/Conditories, Banks, Beauty Salons, Bookstores, a Butcher's shop, Electronics and Appliance stores, Footwear and Accessories stores, Fresh Produce shops, Home Decor stores, Jewellery stores, quite a few Liquor stores, a Post Office, as well as plenty of boutiques catering to those shopping for Women's, Men's and Children's Apparel.

  The Axel Torv Market (on Bjergegade and Sudergade in Elsinore's core). (Apr-Nov W & Sa 8-14, F 11-17). Has booths where it is possible to buy fresh fish, cheese, fruits and vegetables from local farmers and fishermen. It also plays host to the Annual Christmas Fair running from late November until just before Christmas Eve. From its 30 little quaint booths, it has become a popular place to buy homemade Christmas ornaments, quilts, birdhouses, jewellery, clothing, candles & lanterns as well as sausages, cheeses, specialty mustards, fresh fruits, nuts, cakes, pastries, pancakes, waffles with ice cream and marmalade and coffee, just to name a few. The Christmas Fair also has an ice rink, pony (and camel) rides, and a nostalgic Parisian Ferris Wheel dating all the way back to 1912.


For a regional centre and a large tourist destination the culinary landscape of Elsinore is surprisingly bland, and to make matters worse a couple of the city's best restaurants went bust during the 2008 financial crisis. That being said there are still some atmospheric eateries in the old part of town, and day-trippers are well catered for when it comes to grabbing a bite at lunch in the many cafés, so skim the drink section as well for a selection of those. You are also well catered for with cheap Shawarma and Pizza joints, well, cheap for Denmark anyways.


The Axel torv square

If you want to meet the Swedes over some drinks, but are afraid to step through the time-pocket back into the 1920s prohibition era that still reigns across the sound, Helsingør is the place to do it. Well, exaggeration promotes understanding, but still Swedes have been plowing the dedicated alcohol shops and bars in town since the dawn of man, to escape the high prices stamped on the daemon drink over in Sweden, and enjoy the more liberal attitude towards drinking in Denmark. It's not as bad (or good depending on your point of view) as it used to be, but it still ensures that Helsingør is a fairly lively place to be during the weekend nights. Mind you, many locals still prefer the train ride to Copenhagen for a night out, and trains run all night.

There is a notorious group of trouble makers from the public housing blocks in the "suburbs", so all the clubs apply a general dress code to root them out, avoid street wear (i.e. hip hop outfits - Karl Kani etc.) and trainers if you plan on taking peek at the nightlife here.

Bars, Pubs & Clubs



As mentioned above, it is perfectly feasible to visit Elsinore on a day trip from Copenhagen, but if you have ample time its a good base to explore North Zealand and Northern Scania with the perfectly located hostel and camping site, or if you just want to escape the big city bustle of Copenhagen. Visitors may also prefer staying in Helsingborg on the Swedish side of the strait, as it has several larger chain hotels and is only 20 minutes away by ferry.




Elsinore with Kronborg to the right seen from Landsborgen in Helsingborg across the sound

Go next

Routes through Elsinore

END  N  S  Humlebæk Copenhagen
Helsingborg Changes into  N  S  Humlebæk Copenhagen

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