Out and about in Denmark by train
We have done many fun day trips from Copenhagen by train and car and bike. I have already posted about day trips from Copenhagen by bike.
This post is about day trips from Copenhagen by train. Some places we have liked enough to return to again and again, in that ‘wishing we had bought a season’s ticket’ sort of way.
To be honest, you can reach most places in Denmark using public transport. The Danish train system is truly excellent. The trains are inexpensive, frequent, fast and run late into the night. We live less than ten minutes from the main station so all our train adventures start from there.
Day Trips by Train
On the day we went to Fredenborg, a replacement bus service was running. We must have done something wrong because, for some reason, we ended up in the middle of nowhere with a forty-five minute wait for a connecting bus.
Desperate for something to pass the time we wandered the only shop and were delighted to find bottles of Brewdog beer for sale. Brewdog is a Scottish beer company. It started in my husband’s home town of Fraserburgh, in the North East of Scotland. That kept us amused for at least five minutes.
It was also raining heavily, so not a promising start to a day out.
Despite that, I loved Fredensborg.
Fredensborg, which translates to Peace Palace, was named to celebrate one of the many truces with Denmark’s sibling rival, Sweden. It is the main residence of the Danish Royal family in Spring and Autumn. When they are not at Amelianborg in Copenhagen. For this reason you can only visit inside the palace and the royal gardens at certain times of the year, basically July. Luckily, when we finally arrived, the palace and grounds were open.
I suspect the reason we enjoyed our visit so much was due in large part to the two excellent tour guides who accompanied us around the royal apartments and the inner park. They told great stories and were very funny, despite challenging conditions.
Family Ties and Traditions
As a tour guide in Copenhagen I have become a bit of a bore on the Danish royal family. One of the kings, Christian IX, I now know as the ‘Father-in-Law of Europe’. Many of his sons and daughters went on to become Kings and Queens of other countries. Fredensborg was where they grew up and played as children. They also returned to spend many family summers at Fredensborg after they married.
The children started a tradition of leaving their initials or signatures on panes of glass. They used a diamond ring as a pen. It is a tradition which continues to this day. Every guest to Fredensborg can leave a permanent reminder of their stay. As we passed through the palace we saw the signatures of Heads of States, from Winston Churchill to Barrack Obama, scratched on window panes. Our very own Queen Elizabeth, or ‘Lillibet’, has left her signature as has the Duke of Edinburgh . Of course, they are really just family, as both are descendants of Christian IX.
I loved the gardens as well. There were fabulous herbaceous borders in full bloom. Being British and a keen gardener, I honestly do not really mind rain. It does make everything so green and lush.
In addition to the formal gardens, there is a large vegetable garden which provides all the produce for the palace.
Finally at the back, we saw a gorgeous Orangery which has a darling
gift shop, which is where the tour ends.
Valley of the Norsemen
As it was raining we did not investigate the rest of the grounds. We chose to eat cake in a lovely little cafe just outside the palace. However I have just read a post by my lovely friend Erin of ‘Oregon Girl Around the World’, about the ‘Valley of the Norsemen’. Seems we missed checking out seventy cool statues of Norse men, woman and children which are standing in an ampitheater just a little further out from the main gardens. The original statues have been replaced by copies, they were not faring too well in the somewhat unforgiving Danish climate. I was super excited to realise that some the originals are now in one of my favourite buildings in Copenhagen, Christian IV’s Brewery. Also known as The Lapidarian Of Kings. I had been passing them every day and wondering what they were.
Check out opening times here
When I moved to Copenhagen my first visitor was Vivien, a dear friend from Aberdeen University. I persuaded Vivien to buy a Copenhagen Card, and we spent the next two days, desperately trying to get our money’s worth. I think you have to spend less time drinking coffee and talking to justify buying the card. Possibly be leaving the house a little earlier than midday?
We decided to visit Frederiksborg and had planned to nip in past the Louisiana (see below) on the way back. Best laid schemes and all that, the palace and grounds really are a full day out especially if you leave late and have to stop for a long lunch!
The train takes you into Hillerød, and from there it is a ten minute walk to the cute centre of town. As you turn into the square leading up to the entrance to the castle, you have the most fabulous views. Here is a photo from earlier this year when we were having loads of snow, and the lake was frozen.
Entrance to the Castle
You can take a little boat across the lake to the castle or you can choose to walk around to reach the main entrance.
Our good friend Christian IV built Frederiksborg Castle at the beginning of the seventeenth century. You can see still his C4 motif everywhere, he was big on branding.
The style is what I call ‘crinkly with lots of green bits’, very characteristic of the time and much in evidence elsewhere in Copenhagen. I think the technical term is Flemish and Dutch Renaissance. I like it.
Now, it the home of The Museum of National History, established by the brewer J.C. Jacobsen, the founder of Carlsberg.
The castle is stunning but the what really impressed me were the baroque style gardens. Cue terrible joke from Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Sadly the old gardens were ‘baroque’. They were completely replanted and the present garden dates from 1996.
The scale and detail of the planting and pruning is incredible. Rows of closely clipped hedges and trees radiate out in all direction. Can you imagine how many gardeners it takes to achieve such perfection? It was like being in the illustrations of one of C.S. Lewis’s ‘Alice’ books. If the Queen had appeared shouting ‘off with his head’ I would not have been in the least surprised.
If you continue up past the formal gardens you will be rewarded with a little cafe which sells cake and ice-cream. Looking for lunch? Vivien and I were. There are many places in Hillerød itself, but we found a lovely restaurant offering traditional smørrebrod just inside the castle grounds.
Check out opening times here.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
The Louisiana is a world-class art museum. It is an easy train journey from Copenhagen. From the train station at Humlebæk, you walk a short distance along a well sign posted road. The museum is on the coast and there are views across to Sweden. It also has a sculpture park, an accessible beach and a rather lovely restaurant with outdoor seating for when the weather behaves. We have been many times. I cannot say that I have enjoyed everything I have seen there.
Thoroughly Modern Art
Modern artists seem to like to provoke and disturb, and with me they have succeeded. My first visit was to see an exhibition by Louise Bourgeois. See the spider above. It was truly disturbing, and she obviously had some serious father issues. However, now I walk into museums in the UK and America and can easily spot one of her spiders.
I am also a little unsure about some things that pass as art.
But what do I know?
In addition to changing special exhibitions the Louisiana has a large permanent collection including works by American artists Warhol and Lichtenstein and European artists Picasso and Kandinsky. In the sculpture park you can see works by Miro, Moore and, from my neck of the woods in the States, Calder.
When I was in Manhattan Beach visiting my daughter last year, she was very keen I saw this ‘life changing’ exhibition at the Broad in L.A. We could not get tickets and I was a little disappointed. I finally discovered it was an installation by the Japanese artist Yakoi Kusama. Ha! I had seen her light installation already. The Louisiana has had a permanent exhibition by Kusama since 2008. At most a queue of two people.
The Louisiana is a little bit like Denmark. Understated, casual and super cool. In London, New York and other major cities exhibition tickets for famous artists are like gold dust. If you do score a ticket, odds are you will be shuffling around, getting claustrophobic because of the huge press of people. In Denmark you can see world-class art in a relaxed environment.
Saying that, is it the last few weeks of the Picasso Ceramics exhibition which probably means that the Louisiana will be extra busy. A very polite and Danish busy.
For Opening Times click here
I have already written full posts about my last two suggestions for days out by train so I am only going to give you links. Thank goodness as this post is already far too long!
Wherever you go, have fun!