A castle and fortress in North Zealand, Denmark, once contributed two thirds of the Danish state income from a toll applied to foreign cargo. Even when the toll was abolished after being in force for more than 400 years, Kronborg Castle had been immortalised in a Shakespeare’s play and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city of Helsingør is about 45 minutes by train from central Copenhagen. The train trip took me along the east coast of Zealand, passing through the woods from time to time before reaching the terminus at Helsingør.

A scale model of the castle and fortress was displayed not far from one of the outermost gates. The castle itself was clearly visible from this point. In fact, I immediately noticed it as soon as I exited the station building.

The Crownwork Gate is the main entrance to the star-shaped fortress. The original fortress was first built in the 1420s by Eric of Pomerania.

Kronborg Castle seen beyond the Crownwork Gate. It was still a long way to go before I finally reached the castle since it was surrounded by protective moats, gates, high walls and dark passages.

The Swedish city of Helsingborg was just “over there”, a mere four kilometres away across the Øresund, that my home network recognised my location as “Sweden” even though my feet were standing on Danish soil.

King Frederik II rebuilt the medieval gothic fortress into a Dutch renaissance castle in 1574. He also renamed the Krogen (fortress) to Kronborg Castle.

Sound Dues, a toll for foreign ship passing through the Øresund, was applied since the early days of Krogen for more than 400 years. Cannons were ready to open fire at any ship that refused to stop and pay the toll. Today the cannons in the flag bastion fire salutes to mark special occasions in the royal family and when the royal yacht passes by.

A portrait relief of William Shakespeare on the wall just outside the castle’s inner courtyard. A pre-viking legend of Prince Amleth was told by Saxo in the Middle Ages and then by Shakespeare in the Renaissance. It was Shakespeare who immortalised Kronborg Castle as Elsinore in his Hamlet tragedy.

The Trumpeter’s Tower on the inner courtyard. It had been a long walk but I was finally here. A mission accomplished!

The ballroom, where Hamlet‘s bloody finale took place. At 62 x 12 metres wide, it was the largest royal hall in Northern Europe.

A walk through the corridors in the royal apartments.

A bed chamber in the royal apartments.

A sample of a royal meal. What do you think? I wondered where the cutlery was.

The castle’s chapel, located right below the ballroom, was the only survivor of the 1629 great fire. King Christian IV made a great effort in rebuilding the castle but Kronborg never regained its former glory.

Through the ornate orgel and other colourful and intricate carvings in the chapel I could somehow picture Kronborg in its glorious days.

“Krogen. Wall from the first fortress on the site, 1420.”

Exploring the casemates. Not for the claustrophobic. Musty and very dimly lit (some spots were almost in total darkness.) with low ceilings, rough stone floor and narrow passages.

Imagine being forced to stay here for days, even weeks, when the castle was under siege.

Holger the Dane sat asleep, a shield on his side, a sword held tightly in his hand. Legend says Holger will wake up to defend his country when the Kingdom of Denmark is threatened.