Denmark’s Museet for Søfart, the Maritime Museum of Denmark, sits in the shadow of historic Kronborg Castle—the home of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, in Shakespeare’s brilliant tragedy—and is a must-see attraction for visitors to the country. Between the mid-15th and 19th centuries, Kronborg’s guns commanded the Øresund, the narrow shipping channel between Denmark and Sweden that connects the Baltic and North seas. The tolls collected for unmolested passages through the Sund explain the small kingdom’s wealth and enduring role as a great maritime power. That role continues to this day: Danish-flagged ships currently carry one-tenth of all oceangoing commerce, and a quarter of all trade with China is carried in Danish vessels.
Located in Helsingør, a distant suburb of Copenhagen, the century-old museum was rehoused in 2013 entirely below ground, around the margins of a handsomely repurposed and rebuilt ship-shaped dry dock just outside of the walls of this great Renaissance castle. The museum’s architects, Denmark’s Bjarke Ingels Group, have been widely praised for their bold design.
Both castle and museum are easily reached by frequent trains from the capital city’s center. A day spent visiting both is a European vacation highlight, as Kronborg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Museet for Søfart is rightly admired for its stunning architecture, but seven galleries of superb exhibits containing artifacts and art focused on the history of seafaring and maritime trade, and another that describes the world wars at sea as merchant mariners saw them, are equal to their setting.
The galleries are organized thematically rather than chronologically. The first, “Our Sailors,” describing the lure of the sea, is followed by galleries on life in port and afloat, on navigation and safety, showing beautiful ship models and nautical art (my favorite), on warfare, and finally on global trade in the 18th and 19th centuries and today. Danish- and English-language placards make understanding what you’re seeing easy. The Museet for Søfart boasts an archive and library for scholars and the usual gift shop, café, and facilities for all visitors.
Maritime Museum of Denmark
Ny Kronborgvej 1
(45) 4921 0685
January through June, open from 1100 to 1700. Closed Mondays.
July through August: 1000 to 1800.
September: Daily 1100 to 1700.
October through December: 1100 to 1700. Closed Mondays. Admission:
Find a 25 percent discount to the museum with your ticket to Kronborg Castle. Discounts also are applied when you show your ferry ticket from the Scandlines, Mols-Linien, or øresund runt lines.
$16.60 USD for adults; $13.60 for seniors and students. Children under 18 are free.
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