What’s more special than visiting a Royal Palace? Visiting one that only opens to the public one month of the year! And this year was the year I finally made it to Fredensborg, the spring and autumn residence of Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II and her family.
Copenhagen and its surrounding areas has no shortage of castles and palaces to explore, but Fredensborg is unique. This charming palace in the Danish countryside, just over an hour by train outside the city, is the place the Queen spends the most time – about six months of the year. It’s a very private place, an escape from the bustling Amalienborg in the centre of Copenhagen. The palace gardens can be visited year-round, and just once a year – in July and early August – the public can get a glimpse inside this beautiful residence.
Arriving at Fredensborg, we admired the charming palace set at the end of a long cobblestone drive, before taking a stroll through the public areas of the gardens, which cover 300 acres. We visited the Valley of the Norsemen, an impressive circular structure of 70 sculptures of Norwegian and Faroese farmers and fishermen, before heading to the palace itself. The palace interior can only be accessed by taking a private tour, which is available in Danish or English. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed within the palace.
Our small group was met by our local guide who told us not only about the history of the palace but some entertaining stories as well. Fredensborg means ‘The Peace Palace’ – it was built as a hunting lodge by King Frederik IV in 1722 following years of war with Sweden and was expanded over the course of the 18th century. As well as being a Royal residence, it has been the site of many State Visits and Royal gatherings such as the wedding reception of Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary in 2004. In the 19th century, ‘Father-in-law of Europe’ King Christian IX whose children married into the British, Swedish, Greek, and Russian Royal families, used Fredensborg to host annual family reunions.
The tour includes the Garden Hall with its enormous painted ceiling, the elegant Prince’s Salon, and the airy Chapel (which holds public services every Sunday). The impressive Dome Hall ballroom features 27-metre high ceilings and dramatically tiled floors, and has been the site of Royal weddings and banquets for the past 300 years. The floors were created with a deliberate imperfection by Frederik IV to illustrate that no one is perfect but the divine. An intriguing highlight of Fredensborg are the window panes that bear the names of Heads of State, from Tsar Alexander III of Russia to Bill Clinton – it’s a tradition to scratch their signatures in the glass when visiting the palace. Over 200 signatures have been added since the tradition began in 1841.
The tour continues in the private gardens of Queen Margrethe, including an island rose garden created by the Queen’s mother, which was once home to a private zoo so that the King could show off his exotic collection! There is a seasonal garden which always has something in bloom, and nearby you can find and sculpture created by the Margrethe’s late husband Prince Consort Henrik for his wife. Henrik, who passed away in February, 2018 loved the Fredensborg Gardens, and had his ashes scattered here. Within the gardens is the fragrant Orangerie, which was modernized in 1995. Here, produce and flowers are grown for the Royal table.
Visiting Fredensborg Palace is a very special opportunity, so if you’re in Copenhagen in summer, jump on the train and experience it for yourself!