Queens and Kings and Palaces, Oh My!
FIND YOUR WAY TO FREDENSBORG PALACE FOR A DELIGHTFUL DAY OUT
With one of the oldest monarchies in the world, Denmark has its fair share of palaces and castles. The Danish crown can trace its roots back to Gorm the Old who unified the Vikings and ruled from 931 AD – 958 AD. As an American living in Denmark, I still find the idea of Royals amusing and a bit confusing. But they are beloved here and unlike the British monarchy, the Danes seem pretty down to earth despite all the fancy digs that litter the Danish landscape. Here in Denmark, you might even get to see the Queen herself if you time it right! Queen Margrethe II was crowned in 1972 and was the first female monarch in Denmark since Queen Margrethe I who ruled from 1375-1412.
The Danish Monarchy has existed for over 1000 years and is among the oldest in the world.” – Kongehuset.dk
Now there are plenty of palaces to explore right here in Copenhagen if this the only Danish stop on your Scandinavian tour. You can see the Crown Jewels at the Rosenborg Slot and get great views from the tower at the Christiansborg Palace. But if you have a little more time or are lucky enough to live here, then you should set out to see the Fredensborg Slot. A little further afield, you’ll find it in – you guessed it – Fredensborg, Denmark.
Slot = Palace in Danish
HOW TO GET TO FREDENSBORG
A quick 30-minute drive north of the city drops you right at the gates to the Fredensborg Palace. Don’t have a car? Committed to your car-free lifestyle choice living in the city, but secretly wish you could pop in your own car parked in your own driveway and escape the city every now and again? Oh. Sorry. Just me? Well. Don’t worry. You too can get to the Fredensborg Slot. By train and by bus. It’s not an either or. You have to use both. It took us a little over an hour from Copenhagen central station on the Øresundstag to Humlebæk, where we caught the 370 bus to Fredensborg Station and walked to the palace from there. You can also take the Øresundtag to Kokkedal and take the 365R bus to Fredensborg. Both take about the same amount of time but check schedules before you leave to minimize your transfer times.
Fredensborg Slot is Still an Active Palace
The Fredensborg Palace is still an actively used domicile for the current Royal Family. When the Queen is not living in the city at Amalienborg, chances are – she’s here. I’d pick here too. It’s beautiful. And when you see the gardens that stretch down to nearby Esrum Sø (lake), you might too. Fredensborg has been used by the family since 1722, originally designed as King Fredrik IV as a hunting lodge. As the site for many modern royal celebrations, my Australian friends will love to know that this is where Princess Mary (of Tasmania) and Crown Prince Frederik were married in 2004. And Queen Margrethe celebrated her golden wedding anniversary to the late Prince Henrik last June 2017. Prince Henrik passed away this February 2018 surrounded by his family here at Fredensborg Palace.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ROYAL TO ENJOY THE PALACE GARDENS
While this house holds special importance to the current Danish Royal Family, it can still be enjoyed by you. Average Joe. Or here in Denmark average Jonas. Actually in Denmark, unless you’re royal, we’re all supposed to be average. Or equal rather. And we all have equal access to the beautiful palace gardens that surrounded the Fredensborg Slot. All year round. That doesn’t feel so average now does it?
I have been twice now to visit the Fredensborg Slotshave, or Palace Gardens, in the middle of winter. Yes. Winter. To a garden. And while they are probably magnificent in spring when the little white snowdrops start peeking up through the forest undergrowth or fall when the leaves start turning and the light hasn’t taken a turn towards the dark yet, I believe there is much beauty here in the winter. It still definitely feels like winter in Denmark this year. But bundle up and get outside. This is a beautiful place to do so. Walk along the wooded paths that wend along the lake. Perfect for a run if you are a runner. Also perfect for perambulating with your partner or your people.
Nordmandsdalen | The Valley of the Norsemen
It’s not all woods to wander in Fredensborg Slotsparken. There are also some beautiful baroque gardens to peruse. My favorite is Nordmandsdalen. The Valley of the Norsemen. Sounds epic doesn’t it? Here in a round amphitheater of terraced paths, sit 70 sandstone sculptures in three concentric rings. The figures were commissioned by King Frederik V in 1764 and feature 60 Norwegian and 10 Faroese working class people. Fishermen, bakers, teachers, mothers, shopkeepers, farmers and the like. These were commoners. Not mythical, idealized, royal or biblical figures. Everyday people representing everyday jobs. This was a first for a royal garden and part of why I’m so smitten with Nordmandsdalen.
These are common Norwegian men AND WOMEN. Not just a few women either. Every other sculpture was a woman. And with child some. Very progressive. And no nudes. This wasn’t idealizing beautiful female figures with art. This was real and valid appreciation of their roles in daily life at that time. I appreciate that. I appreciate that now. In my everyday.
Inspiration for the depiction of the figures themselves is given to a Norwegian postal worker who mailed a collection of small wooden and ivory carved figures to the Royal Cabinet of Curiosities in Copenhagen.¹ The figures became quite popular and were produced as ceramic figurines until 1814. Sets of the porcelain figures from Nordmandsdalen were sent as gifts to King Gustav III of Sweden and Katarina the Great of Russia.²
HISTORY NOTE: When these statues were commissioned, Norway was still under the Kingdom of Denmark as it had been since the 12th century. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna punished Denmark for its support of Napoleon and gave Norway to the Swedish Crown. Norway declared itself independent on May 17, 1814, but didn’t actually become fully independent until 1905.
THE VALLEY OF THE NORSEMEN TODAY
After losing Norway (and all those stunning fjords and mountains and cod and later OIL) the Norsemen sculptures didn’t weather well. Lack of state funds and general public interest plus a sustained exposure to the elements deteriorated many of the pieces. In 1976, after a disturbing assessment as to the state of the sculptures, it was decided to remove the original sandstone figures and remake each one in a stronger material that could withstand the Danish winters. In 2002, Queen Margrethe herself opened the Nordmandsdalen as you see it today. I for one am grateful for the efforts. They are beautiful and interesting and chock full of charming details. And you should go see them!
ESRUM SØ | Esrum Lake
Fredensborg Palace abuts the lovely Esrum lake. Stroll along the waterfront in milder months. In summer, you can rent kayaks and canoes and go for a paddle. Follow the Skipperalle path straight down to the lake to find. From the front entrance of the palace, take the path to the left.
Need some refreshments? Try the Restaurant Skipperhuset right on the lakefront. Closed over winter, they reopen for the season on March 29th, 2018.
From May 1st to September 30th, you can take a boat tour on one of the traditional Danish lake “ferries.” During daylight hours, make your way to the Bådfarten Esrum Sø (try not to snicker, it means boat trip in Danish). There are no set sailing times, but will sail on demand. Cost is 100 DKK for adults and 60 DKK for children and lasts about an hour, depending on where you want to go. The boats are named Viking and Rolf, which I couldn’t love more. I’m sure it is an adorable way to get out on the water. For more information, check their website. (In Danish.)
Bådfarten Esrum Sø
Boat tours on Esrum Lake
May 1st – September 30th
100 DKK adults, 60 DKK for children up to 15
Hours: sunrise to sunset
GOOD TO KNOW ABOUT VISITING THE GARDEN:
- Open – The Palace Gardens, The Baroque Gardens and The Valley of the Norsemen are open all year around.
- Private Gardens – The private gardens are open to the public only in July and August. In 2018 all days from 9-17.
- Fredensborg Palace Tours – Guided tours of the Palace, the Orangery, the herb garden and church: July and August 2018 at 13:45 and 14:45.
Tickets can be bought at the entrance.
- Entrance Fee – Free for gardens, a fee is required for guided tours of Palace in summer.
- Car parking – Yes
- Toilets – Yes
- Handicap toilets – Yes
- Café / restaurant – Restaurant Skipperhuset, Café
- Picnic sites – No designated picnic sites, but you can use the public garden’s lawns and grassy areas.
- Shop – Yes, in the summer season, July to mid-August
- Benches in the garden – Yes
- Dogs welcome – Yes, on a lead
Save it for it later!