The Coast News Group
Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen was built in the early 17th century by Denmark’s monarch Christian IV. The popular attraction holds the jewels and precious treasures that once belonged to Denmark’s royalty. Photo by Jerry Ondash
Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen was built in the early 17th century by Denmark’s monarch Christian IV. The popular attraction holds the jewels and precious treasures that once belonged to Denmark’s royalty. Photo by Jerry Ondash
Columns Hit the Road World

A wealth of history at royal summer house in Copenhagen

We are standing in one of the cavernous rooms of Rosenborg Castle in Denmark’s capital city Copenhagen.

Our guide, Una Stewart, an ex-pat from Seattle, gives us a lesson in the country’s history, which includes a long line of kings. Though Denmark’s monarchs go back centuries beyond the mid-1500s, her narration starts there.

Rosenborg Castle was built between 1606 and 1624 as a summer house by Christian IV (1577-1648), who ruled for nearly 60 years. He gets a fairly favorable rating from historians because of his initiation of reforms and the construction of things like the castle.

This over-the-top ornate ceiling is found in Copenhagen’s Rosenborg Castle, built in the Dutch Renaissance style. The castle first opened to the public in 1838 and now belongs to the state. Visitors can see the Coronation Chair, which according to legend, is made from the horn of unicorns. It is used only when a monarch is crowned. Photo by Jerry Ondash
This over-the-top ornate ceiling is found in Copenhagen’s Rosenborg Castle, built in the Dutch Renaissance style. The castle first opened to the public in 1838 and now belongs to the state. Visitors can see the Coronation Chair, which according to legend, is made from the horn of unicorns. It is used only when a monarch is crowned. Photo by Jerry Ondash

But the monarch also waged numerous wars (a way of life in the 16th century), and the conflicts were hard on the economy. Christian IV also lost territories that previously belonged to Denmark.

Stewart is with us during most of our nearly four days in Denmark, part of a 15-day tour with Odysseys Unlimited, a small-group tour company based in Newton, Mass. Her command of the country’s royal lineage (and the language) is impressive, but she tells us her secret.

“It’s really easy to remember,” she says. “Start with Frederik II (who came to power in 1559), then his son was Christian IV. After that, the names alternate — Frederik, Christian, Frederik, Christian — until 1863.”

And to keep the numbers in proper sequence, the Frederiks are always two numbers less than the Christians.

Easy for her to say, but with some practice, this trick probably helps Danish schoolchildren with their history exams.

Grundtvig’s Church, built in Copenhagen between 1921 and 1940, was named after the Danish philosopher, hymn composer and pastor. More than five million bricks were used in what is said to be a melding of Brick Expressionism and classical Gothic architecture. The interior holds 1,440. Photo by Jerry Ondash
Grundtvig’s Church, built in Copenhagen between 1921 and 1940, was named after the Danish philosopher, hymn composer and pastor. More than five million bricks were used in what is said to be a melding of Brick Expressionism and classical Gothic architecture. The interior holds 1,440. Photo by Jerry Ondash

Christian IV’s castle is formidable — room after sumptuous room filled with jewels, ivory, amber and gold artifacts; embroidered wedding garments heavy with gold and pearls; portraits of royal progeny; heavy furniture with substantial upholstery; centuries-old weapons, crowns, scepters and orbs; and Christian IV’s heavily tiled bathroom with “the lowest of three (castle) toilets, each with its own chute to the moat.”

Could this be one reason the moat was an effective enemy deterrent?

Dirty water aside, the visuals at Rosenborg are astonishing; at the same time, I’m grateful that our post-Revolution leaders nixed all that resource-sucking regalia.

Sidenote: Denmark’s current monarch, Margrethe II, is quite popular. The 82-year-old, third cousin of Britain’s late Queen Elizabeth II, is Europe’s longest-serving current head of state. Margrethe attended Cambridge and the London School of Economics, and speaks five languages fluently.

Rosenborg Castle sees 2.5 million people annually, but is not the only attraction on Denmark’s must-see list: Copenhagen offers many other not-to-miss attractions.

  • Nyhavn, the iconic, 17th- and early-18th-century neighborhood with multi-colored townhomes lining one of the many the canals. The neighborhood serves as a social hub for tourists and locals who frequent the cafes, restaurants and bars. It’s an ideal place to people-watch, take in the waterfront and enjoy an ice cream, coffee or a beer from one of Copenhagen’s 100 microbreweries. Sidenote: Nyhavn has immaculate, free public restrooms, despite being under an urban bridge.
  • Tivoli Gardens, the 179-year-old amusement park that has more than white-knuckle thrill rides. There are gardens, color-rich architecture and more than 30 restaurants. We’re not talking corndog stands; we had one of the best meals of our trip in Tivoli Gardens. And when the sun goes down, the lights go up, and Tivoli takes on a magical quality. Only drawback: You’ll have to look closely to see the hanging orchids that create a tunneled arbor near the entrance.
    The residents of Dragør, a historic fishing town seven miles south of central Copenhagen, know that if they choose to live there, they’ll have to put up with tourists. Many of the homes’ windows have become exhibit spaces for curious collections, as if the residents are saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”  Photo by E’Louise Ondash
    The residents of Dragør, a historic fishing town seven miles south of central Copenhagen, know that if they choose to live there, they’ll have to put up with tourists. Many of the homes’ windows have become exhibit spaces for curious collections, as if the residents are saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Photo by E’Louise Ondash

    This fishman on the dock at Dragør, cleans his catch of eel, a popular delicacy in Denmark. The town, founded in the 12th century, is only about seven miles south of central Copenhagen but seems a world away. The historic town consists of cobblestone streets, narrow alleys, and yellow homes with roofs. Dragør once was home to one of the largest fishing fleets in Denmark. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
    This fishman on the dock at Dragør, cleans his catch of eel, a popular delicacy in Denmark. The town, founded in the 12th century, is only about seven miles south of central Copenhagen but seems a world away. Dragør once was home to one of the largest fishing fleets in Denmark. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
  • Karen Blixen Museum, the home, gardens and personal effects of the well-to-do Danish author, poet and artist about a half-hour north of Copenhagen. Blixen wrote about her experiences in Kenya in “Out of Africa,” which was made into the 1985 film of the same name starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

It’s impossible to write about every facet of our 15 days in Norway and Denmark. The two countries offer a plethora of activities, natural and historical sights, museums, vibrant urban scenes and breathtaking vistas.

Our expert, well-versed guides made the adventure even better. We’d return in a minute.

For more photos and discussion, visit www.facebook.com/elouise.ondash or Instagram at elouiseondash.

Do you want to buy a house?

Leave a Comment