The tourist cards most larger cities offer end up being a bad value for us. To “break even” you usually need to spend a couple of days running through museums to feel you got your money’s worth. Not so with the “Copenhagen Card” – for us, the attraction was that full transit and regional train access was included. That made our day trip north of the city on a series of trains painless. Our plans for the day are a visit to Hillerød to see Frederiksborg Castle, a quick trip to Helsingør to wander around and find some lunch, and then on to Humlebæk to visit the highly renowned Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.
About 50 minutes after leaving Copenhagen’s central train station, we arrive in the tranquil surroundings of Hillerød as the castle opens for visitors:
The oldest parts of the castle date to 1560 with others dating to the early to mid 1600s. We are literally the first people in to explore which makes for a great uncrowded tour. The first of a few jaw dropping moments occurs at a stop inside the castle’s church built in the 1680s:
With the light coming in at an angle and with no one else present, we’re privileged to be able to take in this magnificent cathedral in a way most won’t be able to. Turning around to look at the back of the church, there’s a particularly ornate pipe organ:
Moving on from the church, we arrive in one of the oldest rooms dating to the original construction of the castle. You can feel the history here and the air is dense with a haze of the early morning light:
We’ve had great luck with visits to some of Europe’s greatest palaces and castles and have been fortunate to be the lone visitor in some of the most breathtaking rooms. In France, we managed to be the only people in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles (and when you start with that, it kind of spoils you for every other castle/palace you’ll visit) for about ten minutes. Here, we climbed the steps to the Great Hall and were awed by the stature and design of this room. I spend minutes just staring upward at the ceiling:
I enjoyed the rest of the castle, but once you start with the Great Hall and the church, it’s hard for anything else to leave a similar imprint on your emotional memory. We poked around the rest of the castle, had a wonderful chat with one of the guards who pointed out a few paintings and artifacts of interest, then ventured out into the gardens to get some perspective on Frederiksborg Castle:
Helsingør and some lunch were next up. About another 40 minutes on the train and we pull into the centre of town. It’s a quaint coastal town that attracts a range of visitors by boat on European cruises or popping over from Sweden. It’s really quite a cute place and I’m glad we made the stop here to explore:
We stumble upon a great deli, grab some items to go, find a place to pick up a Carlsberg, and we’re soon by the water for our picnic. Our view is of Kronborg Slot – a Renaissance castle and UNESCO heritage site – it’s a great backdrop to my outstanding sandwich, potato salad, and Denmark’s flagship beer:
We head back to the train station for the very quick trip to Humlebæk. After last year’s visit to New York’s MoMA, we’re really excited to visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It’s the most visited art museum in Denmark for very good reason. The permanent collections are housed in a contemporary setting, and you’re never very far from the outstanding natural beauty just outside the galleries. One of our favourite installations was an immersive room entitled “Gleaming Lights of the Souls” by Yayoi Kusama (the photo doesn’t do it justice – the darker blobs at the bottom are us and our reflections in the series of mirrors):
The exterior sculpture garden was another favourite of mine. In particular, I loved the Alexander Calder sculptures and mobile. I have a very early childhood memory of seeing his sculpture “L’Homme” in Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal, and was excited to stumble upon some more of his work in Seattle last year (read more about that experience part way through this post). To again view more of his work in Humlebæk in this stunning setting was a great surprise:
That was the end of the day trip, save for the train journey back into Copenhagen. By the end of this day, I think we’ve hit our European stride – we’ve picked up some of the language and have figured out the train system. Back in Copenhagen, there’s a great food market and beer experience awaiting in the evening. More on that to come.