Posted in Travel

The Castle that Burned Down Twice – Copenhagen Day 8

Denmark is truly a castle lover’s dream. From Frederiksborg to Rosenborg to our castle of the day: Christiansborg Palace. Gotta catch ’em all, but castle edition! So what’s so special about Christiansborg compared to all the others? Why don’t we find out.

Check out Day 7 as we visit Denmark through the ages at the Open Air Museum.

We got a sneak peak of Christiansborg at the start of our trip when we visited the Court Theatre Museum that’s attached to the palace but as of yet still had not gone into the palace itself — until today.

Although Christiansborg was once used as the official royal residence, it now houses the Danish Parliament (Amalienborg now holds the title of official royal residence, which we’ll get to later in the trip). As an actively used palace still, only certain places are open to the public, but there’s still plenty to explore, including the Royal Reception rooms, the kitchen, the stables, the chapel, and, perhaps most excitingly, the ruins beneath the palace.

Christiansborg Palace is situated within Copenhagen on Slotsholmen, otherwise known as Castle Island, an area surrounded by the various canals that cut through the city. There’s been a castle on these grounds since the Middle Ages, however, the current palace has only been around since the 1920s. Including the Christiansborg we see today, there have been seven — count ’em, seven! — iterations of a castle built here. I’ll go into more details about the earlier versions below.

Our first stop was to tour the Royal Reception rooms, which are still used today to hold banquets and other official state affairs. We got to see the throne room, what’s known as the Velvet Room (modelled after Louis XIV’s bedroom in Versailles), and of course the Great Hall, home to the Queen’s tapestries depicting over 1000 years of Danish history. I particularly liked the Queen’s Library, which had enough shelves to measure three kilometers (no joke!) and is still only 10 percent of the entire collection (the rest of which is in Amalienborg). Dream library much? Yes please!

The Royal Reception rooms tour also includes the Alexander room, the dining hall, and the Fredensborg room. The entire time I was walking around Christiansborg, Sia’s “Chandelier” was stuck in my head from all the glittering chandeliers and boy, did I ever want to go for a swing.

But I restrained myself, and instead, we headed underground to explore the ruins beneath Christiansborg.

As I mentioned above, there have been several different versions of a castle built here over the years. The ruins will teach you about the earlier versions.

Starting in the 12th century, the first iteration was Absalon Castle, built for the Bishop Absalon. This was then torn down during a war and later replaced with the first version of Copenhagen Castle, around the mid-14th century. Copenhagen Castle version 1 was partially torn down during a revolt and then resurrected as Copenhagen Castle version 2. Version 2 was then partially torn down for renovations, which leads us into Copenhagen Castle version 3. In the 18th century, Copenhagen Castle version 3 was demolished completely to make way for a brand new, better, nicer (faster, stronger) castle and this brings us into the era of the Christiansborgs. (Got all that so far? Four castles down, three to go.)

The first iteration of Christiansborg Palace, built by Christian VI in 1740, burned down in 1794. The only place to survive was the stable complex (yay for the horsies!), which included the theatre built above it. So began construction on the second iteration of Christiansborg Palace, which was around from 1828-1884, when yet another fire raged and burned the place to the ground. Once again, the stable survived (seriously, talk about some lucky horses), as did the chapel this time around. I heard that it took so long to refurnish the new palace after the first fire that they weren’t even done by the time the second fire occurred, but I’m not sure if this is true or not. Anyway, with the palace once again burned to the ground, construction began for the third and final iteration of Christiansborg Palace, and that is the one we see today, completed in 1928 and designed based on the first two versions of Christiansborg. Whew!

Beneath the current Christiansborg, you can see the ruins of two of the earlier castles that once called Slotsholmen home. Of the very first castle, Absalon Castle, survives the curtain wall, which would have been one of the outer protective walls of the castle. The other ruin is the foundations of what was known as the Blue Tower, the largest tower of Copenhagen Castle (I’m not sure which version).

The ruins are a really cool place (literally and figuratively) to explore, so definitely check it out if you ever visit Christiansborg. Much like at Kronborg, this was probably one of my favourite parts of our day.

After we were finished with the ruins, we checked out the kitchens, which are decked out the way they would have been during Christian X’s reign (1912-1947). Then we visited the fabled stables, survivor of both fires that destroyed Christiansborg and home to the sweetest horsies ever. The stables also hold a large number of carriages, the oldest dating back to 1778.

And that was the end of our visit to Christiansborg Palace. It was a great day and definitely a castle worth checking out.

Join me next Friday as we take a wee break from history and instead become one with nature at the National Aquarium of Denmark.

In the meantime, check out my other travel blogs!

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