Helsingør and Helsingborg are cities in Denmark and Sweden, respectively. They are a short ferry ride away from each other across the Øresund, a strait that connects the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
My friend, Lexi, and I decided to make a day trip to visit both of them during my stay in Denmark. Lexi had already been to both places, but was nice enough to accompany me on my visit to them.
Helsingør is about an hour away from Copenhagen by train–we just hopped on an early train in Copenhagen and were in Helsingør before we knew it.
About Helsingør–it’s adorable. Almost disgustingly adorable. While in Denmark, I found that most towns and hamlets relied heavily on quaint, rustic architecture and aesthetics. Perhaps I was easily swayed because I’m the type of person who values aesthetically pleasing areas and perhaps it’s because I had just come from Thailand, which isn’t exactly a country of highly aesthetically pleasing towns (streets and sidewalks in Thailand are generally unkempt and dirty, at least by Western standards, and often times buildings appear to be quickly put up simply to serve a function). That said, I very quickly fell in love with the kitschy, cute nature of Danish towns and cities. Helsingør certainly was at the top of the list of cutsey, adorable towns. It is also on the water and is home to a famous literary castle, which probably helped the ambiance of the place.
Helsingør is the last stop for the train from Copenhagen, so you can’t miss it. When we exited the train, we stopped by a grocery store at the train station for some snacks to keep us going throughout the day and then headed to town. When arriving in Helsingør and walking towards town from the train station, it is impossible to not see the large, medieval looking castle looming to the right of the rest of the town. This is Kronborg Castle, built in the sixteenth century and originally home to Danish royalty. While the history of this castle is fascinating–and can be understood more in detail by touring the structure–Kronborg is more famously known as the “Home of Hamlet.” William Shakespeare based Hamlet’s Elsinore Castle on Kronborg Castle and its location on the Øresund. Although Shakespeare himself had never been to Kronborg, it is said that he had heard many stories of its existence and chose to use it as the setting of his now-famous tale of literature’s most conflicted prince. Basically, this place is my dream location as the history and literature lover that I am.
It was a bit of a chilly morning and Lexi and I were cold, so we decided to head for an indoor location to warm up. We came across the Elsinore Culture Yard, home to a library, a restaurant, and cultural and tourist information about Helsingør. There was a Hamlet exhibit happening at differing points in the library, too. I enjoyed wandering around the library (I’m always a fan of books, even if I can’t understand them because they’re in Danish) and checking out the different points of the exhibit.
We soon decided to head over to the castle itself. After wandering around the grounds a little bit, I decided I wanted to tour around the castle; Lexi opted out of this as she wasn’t interested–she is not the history nerd that I am–and went back to the cultural center to get some work done. I paid the entry fee of 90 Danish Kronor ($13.43 USD) and had a wonderful time on my solo journey of the castle.
Once done with my castle tour, I headed back to the cultural center to meet Lexi so we could continue our day trip to Sweden! We took the ferry over to Helsingborg for 57 DKK ($8.50 USD) for a round trip. The trip takes about a half an hour and is really easy and relaxed. We didn’t even have to show our passports–which isn’t surprising given how easy it is to travel within EU countries. Still, we thought we might given we entered Sweden via water.
Our agenda for Helsingborg was to explore a little bit and find a place to have a late lunch (we were both starving). We only planned to be there for a few hours before heading back to Denmark. Lexi and I found a fun little place to eat and then made a visit to the Kärnan, a really neat and old medieval fortress centrally located above the old town.
We walked around a little beyond the fortress to see a little bit of the new area of town and then headed back down to the see more of the old town. I definitely noticed a visible difference between Denmark and Sweden. For one, though people spoke English, it seemed less common than in Denmark (most Danish people are fluent in English). Also, the cutsey, kitscshy nature of Danish towns and cities was definitely not present in Sweden. I often felt like I was traveling through a fairy tale in Denmark, just because of how quaint everything is there. I did not get that same feeling during my short time in Sweden
As we were walking a bit around the old town, it very quickly became much colder and much foggier. We decided to head for a coffee shop to grab some drinks to warm ourselves up and then headed for the pier area to check out the water. The pier was completely covered in fog. It was really neat to see the weather change in such a short amount of time, since it had been bright and sunny when we arrived in Helsingborg.
By this time, it was pretty late afternoon and we decided to head back to Denmark. Lexi had to work the next day at her au pair job and we still had to go back to our current host’s home and get my stuff to move it to my next accommodation (Lexi’s au pair family only allowed me to stay with her a few days, so I jumped around between a couple of Lexi’s friends’ homes for the rest of my stay in Denmark). The ferry ride back to Denmark was equally as smooth and relaxed and the train ride back to Copenhagen was a breeze.
Overall, the day was a wild success. I got to see some really amazing historical structure, explored two different towns, and got to visit a completely new country!
I highly recommend visiting Helsingør while in Denmark–especially if you’re a history and/or literature buff. Helsingborg is a great stop to make, too–whether you’re making a brief jaunt over there from Denmark, or you decide to make a visit there while traveling around Sweden.