Day Out in Denmark | Explore the Fredensborg Palace Gardens

Queens and Kings and Palaces, Oh My!


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.

Dronning Margrethe’s annual visit to the Danish Parliament and ride through Copenhagen – January 2018

The Danish Monarchy has existed for over 1000 years and is among the oldest in the world.” –


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

Fredensborg Palace, Fredensborg Denmark

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.


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.

Dresses with pockets never go out of style.

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. 


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

Skipperalle path down to Esrum Sø (Lake)
Esrum Sø is serene in Winter
  • 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!


Oregon Girl Around the World

55 thoughts on “Day Out in Denmark | Explore the Fredensborg Palace Gardens

  1. Denmark, like The Netherlands, still has a lot of castles around, doesn’t it? This one looks beautiful, I love wandering around castle grounds.

  2. Great post and thanks for all the awesome tips, definitely pinning for later this year. I am a sucker for palaces & castles. #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      I’m amazed how many castles in Denmark are still in use! There are a TON of castles and palaces around here.

  3. It looks SO beautiful. My first thought was, how do they keep it looking so clean? I love the statues too. What a fantastic place. #farawayfiles

  4. Trish @ Mum's Gone To

    Great to read about the Norsemen sculptures. I’m pleased these figures of ordinary men and women have been spruced up and will last for future generations.

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      The lake was very peaceful and serene that day – I’m sure it’s quite busy with boaters and swimmers come summer!

  5. Beth

    In love with these photos AND THAT GARDEN WITH THE COMMON FOLK! That is really fascinating to read about the statuary. What a fab place for you and the family to explore further out. I will def keep this in mind for when we return to Copenhagen. And it can be a challenge to see the value of gardens in winter. You did it justice.

    Happy Easter! #farawayfiles

  6. I feel like someone should say that in Denmark it’s probably too cold for even the statues to be nude. Actually I see they are very well dressed. We have dressed statues in Harrogate town centre and they look ridiculous in their dated 80s clothes. Bill Bryson even ridicules them in one of his bestselling books! #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Haha! Now I have to go look them up to see! The styles on these statues is more like 1780’s! Cheers from Denmark, Erin

  7. Clare Thomson

    Aren’t those statues marvellous? My kids and I are always drawn to castles and palaces so I can really see us heading out here even if we have to catch a train AND a bus. And I’m afraid I did snigger when I read about the boat trip – childish sense of humour! We’d love to take kayaks out on that lake too. #FarawayFiles

  8. I’ve been wanting to go to denmark for so long since one of my friends lives in Copengahen. Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out so far but your post definitely makes me want to go even more. Love the palace and parks!!! #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Oh you should! You should! Especially if you could stay with a local! Copenhagen can be expensive, but when there are definitely ways to make it less so and so much to see and explore. Cheers!

  9. I do love those statues, quite unusual.

    I must admit I do enjoy a boat trip, so I think I would need to head there during the Summer months. #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Can’t you just picture what Gorm the Old might look like? Ha! Probably not as elegant or refined as the current Royal Family!

  10. As you may remember I only discovered Denmark 2 years ago and we returned quickly with famliy in tow to show off this glorious country – 2 years on and I’m pining for another visit. In the meantime I will have to make do with your regular posts. Love ’em! I also love that photo of the the 2 red buildings/trees – it’s fab how it draws your eyes in. This place was right near our rented house, but sadly we didn’t have time to visit. (I’m glad we aren’t the only ones jeuveniley laughing at words like badfarten) #farawayflies

  11. The only thing I know about the Danish monarchy is that Margarethe’s heir apparent is married to an Australian woman 🙂 Which gives us all hope that there’s a prince for us right? I love visiting castles, and I can see why the Queen stays at Fredensborg Slot (I’m totally Danish now). It’s such a gorgeous place! #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Yes! Margrethe’s son Crown Prince Frederik is married to Crown Princess Mary of Hobart, Tasmania! She has fully embraced the Danish lifestyle and has been seen cycling her kids around in a cargo bike! They got married here at Fredensborg Slot!

  12. Ruth

    I do not know a lot about Denmark so, as you can imagine, this is the first time I hear about this place. I think it is a bit hard for this side of the world (the Americas) to understand monarchies and themes related to them. I have heard very strong opinions about it. However, it is a different topic in Europe. I personally find the history behind monarchies and countries very interesting. That is why I would love to visit a palace like this (and many others). #FarawayFiles

  13. Wow, the palace grounds are beautiful – what a lovely place to go for walks – yeah even for those who are not into royalty! 🙂 Princess Mary – she’s gorgeous – and I find their love story quite amazing, how they met at the Olympics in Sydney at a pub, lol! #FarawayFiles

  14. Loving all the tall tree lined paths! Those trees are magnificent! As are all the wonderful sculptures. I love exploring gardens, royal or not, and to see beautiful architecture set against such serene surroundings. (On a side note, so funny…our Faraway Files posts start out the exact same way, that spring is definitely not in the air and the snow won’t leave us alone! Hope you have better luck in the upcoming weeks!) #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Haha! Oh the irony. We have had back to back to back to back days of brilliant blue sunny skies, then wake to snow again. It’s crazy!

  15. that looks stunning & any member of the royal family who cycles around with her child in a cargo bike has my respect! The statues are incredible and the detail in each of them is amazing. I hope one day we may get up to Denmark & take a look #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Right? She’s pretty down to earth for marrying into one of the oldest monarchies in the world!

  16. annette @afrenchcollection

    Ooh, I love the sculptures in the Valley of the Norsemen – such detail and lovingly everyday people like you said. #FarawayFiles

  17. Lovely details of Fredensborg slot and beautiful photos, Erin! Especially liked normansdalen and the sculptures. Lovely to catch up with faraway files after several months.

  18. Erin, these photos are just gorgeous! I do love a visit to a castle or palace, and the gardens look magnificent, even in winter. Might you go back for a summer visit? #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Definitely planning a way to get inside this summer and take a spin on the bådfarten! 😉

  19. Sculptures of everyday people – how wonderfully Scandinavian! And isn’t it amazing to think that these were commissioned back in the 18th Century. I adore the photo of the path disappearing over the horizon between the two red houses – beautiful!

    Great post, as always. And yet another reason to revisit Denmark. Tak!

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      I know! I do love that part of Scandinavian life – the egalitarian nature of it! Cheers and thanks kindly Jonny!

  20. I’ve been reading a lot about castles lately, it seems. As an American, I find the idea of castles and royalty so fascinating. I try and visit castles every time I travel anywhere in Europe. Which has been far too long. I can’t wait to go back later this month. #culturedkids

  21. What a brilliant post, love the history, love the photos, love the running commentary! You know I am a sucker for all the background stuff. Also it fills in some details from my post about the Lapidarium of Kings. Some of the original statues have been saved and are outside on public display at Christian IV’s brewery. Now I know where they come from. Will be linking your very excellent post to mine if that is okay?.
    The day we went to the palace it was raining so hard. We only saw the formal gardens. Also the journey was terrible so we did not venture any further afield, whose idea was it not to have a car?. Despite the weather and the journey I loved the palace and gardens, probably one of my favourite days out in Copenhagen.

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      I definitely need a summer visit to the Fredensborg Palace to see inside and the private gardens! Link away – will go re-read your Lapidarium post pronto. Cheers!

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