The legend of Holger Danske, or Holger the Dane, is nearly a millennium old. The legend tells of a Danish prince accomplishing great feats after being sent to Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne as a hostage.
The legend actually originated in France, but its has been adopted by the Danes with gusto. He has become a national hero, turning up everywhere from the inspiration for World War II resistance to cultural references to modern commercial branding.
Holger's connection to Kronborg is rather tenuous. The link is actually one of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales (1846) that placed Holger in the casemates (or tunnels) under Kronborg.
The statue you see is also relatively new. Danish sculptor Hans Peder Pedersen-Dan cast the original in bronze in 1907. The one on display now is a cast of that original.
As you can see, it doesn't have the typical dynamism of a statue of a hero. Instead, Holger is sleeping, his arms resting on his sword. Legend has it that he will awake if Denmark is ever again threatened.
Photos of Holger the Dane at Kronborg Castle
Finding the Statue of Holger the Dane
It's one of the main attractions of Kronborg Castle, a former royal palace on a peninsular jutting out into a narrow channel of the Sound between Denmark and Sweden. The castle is in the town of Helsingør, about half an hour north of Copenhagen.
I initially had to go looking for the statue. While it's a famous draw, it's not signed as prominently as it could be.
The statue is in the tunnels, or casemates, below the castle. You can find the entrance from one of the wings of the castle, entering from the main courtyard.
The casemates were used for storage, and the ground can be uneven and slippery. A flashlight (or light from your phone) can come in handy if you decide to explore them. And mind your step.
How to Get to Kronborg Castle
Helsingør is the name of the town you're aiming for. It sometimes appears Anglicized as Elsinore.
Car. The quicker and simpler route is along the inland north-south highway, the E47. The more scenic route follows the coast and goes through the towns on the way. Either way is roughly 50 kms.
Train. It’s the end of its particular line, and there are trains leaving Copenhagen Central Station (Københavns Hovedbanegård) running every 20 minutes or so.
When the train is running normally, the journey takes about 30-40 minutes. But there has recently been track work that requires a transfer to a shuttle bus for a good chunk of the journey, so you might need to factor in longer if that’s still going on when you go. But even with those bus transfers during track work, the entire journey took me about 1 hour 20 minutes each way. Transferring to the shuttle bus was simple, clearly signed, and there was staff on hand to help with directions (all of them with impeccable English, as is typical with Danes.)
Once you arrive in Helsingør, the castle is immediately adjacent to the small town of Helsingør and is an easy, short walk from the train station. You can’t miss it—you can see the castle from the train station. Just follow the waterline around. It’s a charming but rather sleepy little town, so there’s no real chance of getting lost.
Bus. You can also get there by bus, but given that bus routes, numbers, and schedules change, the best bet is to use this journey planner for up-to-date information.
What to Know Before You Go to Kronborg Castle
Helsingør vs Elsinore. It’s the same place. “Elsinore” is how it has often been rendered in English and the version Shakespeare used. But it's not to be confused with Helsingborg, which is directly across the Sound in Sweden.
Maritime Museum of Denmark. As you head into the castle gates, you'll also walk by the Maritime Museum of Denmark, which is immediately adjacent to the castle in a repurposed drydock.
Food & Drink. There are some cafes inside the castle defenses, outside the moat. There are many more options a short stroll away in the town.