The palace, the prince, his wife and their gardens

If you’re looking to have afternoon tea with the queen, this may be the place to hang

Fredensborg Palace may just be the world’s classiest hunting lodge. 


Located in northern Zealand between the towns of Hillerød and Helsingør, the smallish baroque palace on the eastern shore of Esrum Sø, the country’s third largest lake, started out as a hunting lodge and getaway for King Frederik IV in 1721. 


The castle’s name translates as “peace castle”, and is so named because while still under construction, Denmark and Sweden signed a peace treaty ending the Great Northern War.


The king himself was actively involved in the plans drawn up by the architect Johan Cornelius Kreiger. Construction was completed in 1726, and the palace remains in use today. It is the spring and summer residence of the royal family, and many state visits and events like weddings and baptisms are held there. In fact, Fredensborg is the most used of the royal family’s many residences. During state visits, there is a tradition of having the visiting head of state scratch his or her name on a pane of window glass with a diamond.


But more than just a place where foreign dignitaries are greeted, the palace is also the home of the heir apparent.  

Crown Prince Frederik, his wife Mary and their four children make the Chancellery building at Fredensborg their home for much of the year, especially during the summer. Even following a 200 million kroner renovation of their digs at the royal family’s main residence at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, the palace’s twenty bathrooms and priceless artwork were no match for the quiet charm of northern Zealand. Perhaps they preferred the space of the Chancellery’s 700 square metres.


Outside, the family also has plenty of room to spread out. Fredensborg is surrounded by one of Denmark’s largest historical gardens, and a classic example of a baroque garden. Long, straight paths extend from the castle in a star-shaped pattern known as a hunting star. Between these are large wooded areas with winding paths. 


The simple yet picturesque palace and its surroundings have seen some changes over the years, but the main building has remained unchanged since its inauguration on 11 October 1722. A two-storey, domed, almost square pile, the main building is part of a complex of structures that also includes the imaginatively named Red Wing (guess why), which once served as servants’ quarters.


Other buildings, like the greenhouse (known in royal-speak as an ‘orangery’) to the east and the chapel are connected to the main lodge by secret passages so the royals and their pals don’t get their feet wet on the way to church. The chapel is open for public church services on Sunday.


Of special interest is the Valley of the Norsemen (Nordmandsdalen) with approximately 70 sculptures of Norwegian and Faroese farmers and fishermen, originally carved by JG Grund. The garden is open 24 hours a day, year-round, and there is no admission fee.


If you just gotta have a glimpse of a prince or princess, keep in mind that the gardens closest to the palace are reserved for the royal family, but usually open to the public in July.


Guided tours of the palace and chapel are available for a small admission fee.




Swim! Fredensborg council has nine kilometres of coastline along the Øresund and another seven along Esrum Sø. There are any number of excellent beaches with facilities ranging from all-inclusive to all-natural. But the beach is always there, the water’s fine and when the sun is out in Denmark, pretty much everyone has pulled up a piece of waterside property and is soaking it in.




There is a pretty good kiosk and hot dog joint just outside the gates of the palace. The pedestrian street has the requisite cafés and pizza joints. For something a bit more special, the Restaurant Under Kronen, located in the heart of town, is a fine choice. A good brunch, nice lunch and dinner menu featuring combo meals and à la carte, Restaurant Under Kronen prides itself on using local and organic ingredients and being family-friendly. They have one of the few playrooms for kids in a restaurant that doesn’t feature a clown on its logo in all of Denmark.




Søåsegård sits in a wooded area close to the Fredensborg Golf Club and about two kilometres from the castle. Full holiday flats have wireless internet and fully outfitted kitchens to whip up whatever grub you purchased from the nearby market. The lake is two minutes away and there are flat-screens and DVD players for those rainy days. Grills are available and there is a nice garden area to just kick back in and let the world pass by. But, and here’s the thing, there are only five flats and they fill up fast, so jump in early!