You Can See Inside Where the Danish Royalty Reside For One Month Each Summer
Take a guided tour of the Peace Palace north of Copenhagen
As an American, I will admit that I still find the idea of a real Royal Family reigning over a country or commonwealth difficult to understand. But living in Denmark, I have come to accept the fairy-tale charm of this little country full of castles, home to Princes and Princesses. And I have happily attended more than one procession to get a chance to wave at the Danish Queen. Elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist. But what if you could see inside the rooms where they live? Last summer, we took a guided tour of one the Royal residences. Read on and see why you might want to too.
DENMARK HAS ONE OF THE OLDEST MONARCHIES IN THE WORLD
Here in Denmark, the Danes adore their Royal Family. And there is good reason for it. As the longest reigning monarchy in Europe, they carry a lot of history. Queen Margrethe II, who has presided over the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands since January 14, 1972, can trace her roots back to Viking times over a thousand years ago. Some of those battle-ready responsibilities from her Viking predecessors are still relegated to the current monarch. Queen Margrethe is Commander in Chief of the Danish Defense. And while her Royal Life Guard is always at the ready, her real role is as a diplomat at home and abroad.
What I can appreciate about the Royal Family here in Denmark is how very normal they appear. As normal as royals can be. Could be? Should be? But normal is Princess Mary seen carting her children around Copenhagen in a cargo bike. A friend’s son has taught the Royal littles to swim. Did you know that the Queen herself is a notorious chain smoker? In Denmark, this is normal. A little healthier perhaps, you can run alongside Crown Prince Frederik, the Queen’s son and heir apparent each year at the Royal Run happening now all over the country. On New Year’s Eve, all televisions are tuned in to hear the Queen’s speech. Crowds gather at Amalienborg Palace, the family’s residence in the capital, to wish Queen Margrethe well when she emerges from her balcony and speaks to the people. Look for the special flags flying with the crown that denote when she’s home.
ROYAL RESIDENCE IN FREDENSBORG
The Queen lives at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen over the winter. But each spring and fall, she moves a little further afield to Fredensborg, north of the city. Directly translated, Fredensborg means “peace’s castle” in Danish and was so named to mark a peace treaty signed between Norway, Sweden and Denmark on July 3, 1720. Originally built for King Frederik IV as a pleasure palace, Fredensborg is the most used royal residence for the current monarchy. Many important royal events and diplomatic meetings take place here, including the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik and his Aussie bride, Princess Mary. You can see the very ballroom where they took their first dance as husband and wife on a guided tour of the palace.
PALACE TOURS ONLY AVAILABLE ONE MONTH IN SUMMER
Since the Queen and crew do truly live here, you are only allowed inside during specific weeks during the summer. Dates change annually but are usually open during the month of July. This year, the Fredensborg Palace and private gardens are open to the public for guided tours from July 1 to August 4, 2019. It is a unique and intimate glimpse into the personal lives of the Danish Royal Family.
→ GUIDED TOURS AVAILABLE 1 JULY – 4 AUGUST, 2019 ←
No photos are allowed inside the castle, so you won’t see any here on the blog. You’ll just have to go see the late Crown Prince Henrik’s stuffed unicorn for yourself. Don’t believe me? Take the tour. Guides will help point out special details like the signatures of celebrity guests etched into the palace windows themselves. I loved the framed family photos just where you’d expect them to be in your house. And I’m not talking about the official Royal portraits, although you’ll see those too. Just regular family photos in frames atop the piano or on side tables near the couch. It was endearing and human. Watch a little of the Queen herself in her home as she welcomes the Argentinian press to Fredensborg this past February 2019. (Note the Royal dog allowed on the couch!)
PRIVATE GARDENS PART OF THE TOUR
The guided tour inside the Palace takes forty-five minutes, after which the tour continues outside to the private gardens and Orangerie for an additional forty-five minutes. At every other time of year, the public is allowed to wander the beautiful Baroque gardens and walking paths of the Fredensborg property. But only in summer are you permitted inside the private Royal gardens. They are definitely delightful and worth a wander. Divided into several sections, you’ll see the Queen’s private terrace which overlooks the rose garden. Then step inside the Royal kitchen garden and modern Orangerie. And finally, enjoy the colors and art in Margrethe’s mother Queen Ingrid’s perennial beds.
From the palace, you can look down into the private garden sanctuary that sits safely away from any spying eyes in other months. Our guide points out the indoor pool allegedly covered to allow Princess Mary to swim more months than average Danish weather allows. Step across the little bridge and go smell the roses. The statue sitting mid-octagon is of Flora standing watch over this garden since the late 1700s.
⇒ INSIDER TIP ⇐ Visitors are welcome to wander around the Queen’s rose garden, lawn and seasonal perennial garden without a ticket during the opening weeks. You will still need a ticket to enter the Kitchen Garden and Orangerie.
THE KITCHEN GARDEN
The walled kitchen garden was my favorite part. Living in Copenhagen, I left behind my own raised garden beds in Oregon and was deeply envious of all the delicious vegetables and herbs growing in here. Banked by bed after bed after bed of pretty flowers buzzing with bees to make the Queen’s honey and pollinate the plants, it was a dreamy place to snap away. I could have spent hours in here. And the peaches? Yes, please.
DON’T MISS THE MODERN ORANGERIE
Stylish and modern, the Orangerie at the end of the Kitchen Garden was a beautiful space. Designed to keep the more tropical trees and plants temperate come winter, the Orangerie has hosted events and offers a garden shop come summer for the public to buy cuttings and seeds and pots from the Royal reserve. You can also pick up a bottle of the late Crown Prince Henrik’s own wine, made from grapes grown at the Royal Family’s Residence in France, Chateau de Cayx, where Henrik (or Henri) hailed from. Pots outside are said to be a gift from the former French court at Versailles.
QUEEN INGRID’S PERENNIAL BEDS
Escorted out of the Orangerie, we were allowed a little more time to soak in the herbs, flowers and vegetables before moving on. Our formal tour ended here. Exiting the gate of the Kitchen Garden we crossed a large lawn with two towering old trees, growing here on this spot for centuries. Across the yard, a beautiful perennial garden was blooming to perfection. Planted in the 1930s at Margrethe’s mother, Swedish Queen Ingrid’s request, a British style flower garden rolls through a rainbow of blooms every spring through autumn. Now under the direction of Queen Margrethe, the seasonal garden is seriously covetable.
CROWN PRINCE HENRIK’S GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY SCULPTURE
Queen Margrethe’s husband, the late Crown Prince Henrik, passed away in February of 2019 here in the private halls of Fredensborg. You can feel his influence in several places throughout the palace. An avid collector, cook and poet, Henrik was also an accomplished sculptor. An ever controversial character in Denmark, even in death, here in the gardens sits his personal piece made to celebrate the Royal couple’s golden wedding anniversary in June 2017. “Miss Fredensborg” was a gift for his wife and you can see it when the private gardens are open come summer.
THE ROYAL PLAYHOUSE
Nestled near the pretty perennial beds is the most adorable playhouse for the Royal littles. Unfortunately, not open for play, we peeked inside and loved what we saw. Normal things for Royal kids. And I honestly loved that it wasn’t so prim and proper, but a real space to play. Royals are just like us. Maybe?
EXPLORE MORE NEARBY:
Done with your guided tour, don’t miss the rest of the Palace grounds open to the public year round. An excellent sculpture garden and miles (or kilometers) of walking paths to stroll along the lovely local Esrum Lake. Read more about the public park and Valley of the Norsemen sculptures in my previous post here.
STROLL DOWN SKIPPERALLE TO THE WATER
On the southern border of the Palace grounds, you can walk a lovely tree lined path down to the lake where you’ll find a charming little restaurant café called Skipperhuset, or Skipper’s House. We stopped for a piece of cake and glass of wine after our tour and loved the lakeside views. The food here looks amazing and I’m definitely interested in coming back for dinner. Serving creative but traditional Danish food from local and organic sources since 1994.
Skipperalle 6, 3480 Fredensborg
Open seasonally from 1 April to 1 October
Reservations available online through link above.
BOAT TOURS OF ESRUM LAKE | BÅDFARTEN PÅ ESRUM SØ
Make a real day of it and spend some time out cruising on a lovely Danish lake after your Royal tour. You can take a tour of Esrum Lake in an authentic wooden Danish boat right from the Skipperhuset.
Boats sail sunrise to sunset in the summer season, which runs from 1 May to 30 September. There is no fixed set sailing schedule, but tours are available on demand. Call ahead to ensure availability. Plan about an hour for a complete tour of the lake.
Adults | DKK 100
Kids under 15 | DKK 60
GOOD TO KNOW:
Private tours of the Fredensborg Palace and Gardens happen every day from:
1 July – 4 August | 2019
12.30 to 16.00 daily
You can buy tickets on the spot, but only for next available open tour. Book tickets in advance online here.
Ticket prices :
Adults | DKK 90
Children | DKK 40
Private groups can be booked for earlier tours from 10.00 – 12.30. Price is DKK 2500- for up to 25 people per group.
Fredensborg Palace | Fredensborg Slot
Slottet 1B, 3480 Fredensborg DK
HOW TO GET HERE:
By public transportation:
It is definitely possible to reach the palace by public transport. You can take the A-line S-tog to Hillerød and then catch the local train 930R to Fredensborg Station. These little local trains, familiarly called “grisen,” or the pig, by Danes for their short stubby shape and formerly squeaky stops are an experience in and of themselves. Check in with your rejsekort (travel card) or buy a ticket at Copenhagen Central Station.
Take E47 to Fredensborg Kongevej in Kokkedal. Take exit 7 Kokkedal from E47 and follow signs to castle. Public parking and street parking available nearby.
While the Queen can’t invite us all in for a cuppa tea, she does allow us into her life. I like this. Know someone coming to Denmark? Feel free to share. Or pin for later. Cheers from here. Come to Denmark, she said.