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How to holiday in the footsteps of the Danish royals

As Denmark welcomes a new king and queen, we reveal the city palaces, grand castles and island retreats they love most

Denmark’s royal family return to Marselisborg Castle in Aarhus every Easter and Christmas
Denmark’s royal family return to Marselisborg Castle in Aarhus every Easter and Christmas
The Times

Denmark, that most modish of European nations, is committed to its monarchy, albeit in an undemonstrative way. When Crown Prince Frederik becomes king it will signal a new era. He will be a sporty new king — Frederik X — with tasteful body art, an Australian wife and four photogenic children.

Crown Prince Frederik with his family
Crown Prince Frederik with his family

Queen Margrethe — known as Daisy — is stepping aside after 52 years of mixing monarchy with a career of illustration and design, including creating the costumes for the Netflix drama Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction. Even by the tradition of Scandinavian monarchs, the Danish royal family likes to keep a low profile, but they do have a delightful collection of palaces and castles, which allow the rest of us to follow in their footsteps.


1. Marselisborg Palace, Aarhus

At Easter and Christmas the royal family head to Jutland and their palace at Aarhus (kongehuset.dk/en/palaces-and-the-royal-yacht/marselisborg-palace). It’s their favourite home and Frederik and his family also use it as a base when they go to the Smukfest music festival, held in a forest each August (smukfest.dk). On the outskirts of the city, Marselisborg is surrounded by parkland. When the family isn’t there, the gardens are open to the public and they are beautiful, designed to look like English gardens. In recent times Queen Margrethe has added sculptures by Danish artists. The Helnan Marselis Hotel is along the shoreline from Marselisborg, with 163 rooms and a tactfully updated 1960s Scandi sense of design.
Details B&B doubles from £176 (helnan.dk/marselis). Fly to Aarhus

2. Amalienborg, Copenhagen


When in Copenhagen the Danish royal family live in what is probably the world’s poshest cul-de-sac. Mill around the courtyard of the 18th-century Amalienborg for a bit (it’s open to everyone) and you may see Frederik or Mary heading out on a morning run, the midday changing of the guard, or Tillia, Queen Margrethe’s beloved dachshund, being walked. There are four royal homes here. Margrethe has Christian IX’s (her great-great-grandfather), Frederik and Mary live in Frederik VIII’s with a third being used for other members of the family and visiting dignitaries. The fourth, Christian VIII’s palace, is the Amalienborg museum (adults £14; kongernessamling.dk/en/amalienborg/) and is pretty cosy. There’s only one hotel in Copenhagen that rivals Amalienborg for old-world grandeur and that’s the d’Angleterre on Kongens Nytorv, a short stroll away.
Details B&B doubles from £377 (dangleterre.com). Fly to Copenhagen

Best hotels in Copenhagen


3. Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen


The coronation on January 14 will be casual compared with that of King Charles. It will involve an announcement and maybe a wave from a balcony of the Amalienborg palace, the family’s city base. The crown and the other crown jewels will stay at Rosenborg, Copenhagen’s prettiest castle. It’s been a museum since 1830 and has all the moats, turrets and green copper roofs you could wish for. Inside there are walls with secret peep holes in Christian IV’s winter room and trick chairs that soaked 17th-century guests in water in the dark room (adults £14; kongernessamling.dk/en/rosenborg). Two streets away, the Christian IV hotel (fun fact: since 1513 all Danish kings are called either Frederik or Christian) may not have these dubious style additions but is a simple, good-value Copenhagen hotel in the leafy, central Parkmuseerne area.
Details B&B doubles from £80 (hotelchristianiv.dk). Fly to Copenhagen

Best things to do in Copenhagen

4. Frederiksborg Castle, Hillerod


This former royal palace shrieked kingly excess when Christian IV built it in the early 17th century. The original highly ornate chapel, gardens and fountains are on display while the main castle has been repurposed as a museum of Danish art and design, just 90 minutes from Copenhagen by train (£10; dnm.dk/en/frederiksborg-castle). Today’s royals like to spend their downtime at the much simpler Fredensborg, a 20-minute drive away. Their 17th-century stucco mansion isn’t open to the public, but the grounds are, including the kitchen gardens and orangery. When they visit the royals are welcomed by locals carrying lanterns (kongehuset.dk The nicest way for commoners to experience this very rural part of Denmark is by camping on the shores of Lake Esrum, which has both tent pitches and cabin rentals.
Details One night’s cabin rental from £30 (fredensborgcamping.dk). Fly to Copenhagen

5. Grasten Palace, Jutland


Past Danish monarchs loved building summer houses, so the present royal family have plenty to choose from. On the island of Jutland by the Flensburg fjord, this low-key refuge may well become Queen Margrethe’s home after she abdicates (kongeligeslotte.dk).The gardens are usually open to the public and offer a romantic profusion of roses and wildflowers, plus vegetable beds. Staying at Den Gamle Radhus allows you to see soldiers march past for the changing of the guard when the royal family is in residence.
Details B&B doubles from £138 (graastenraadhus.dk). Fly to Billund

6. Skagen, Jutland


There isn’t a royal palace here, but Fred, Mary and the family have been coming to Skagen for years. At the northernmost tip of Denmark — think of the poshest part of Cornwall and add dunes, miles of uncrowded beaches, plus woodland bicycle tracks between a collection of former fishing villages with adorable thatched houses — and you have Skagen’s appeal. The royals stay in a villa belonging to their old friends Malou and Jorgen Skeel, but there are plenty of hotels and cottages available to rent. Color Hotel Skagen has bike rental as well as an outdoor swimming pool.
Details B&B doubles from £138 (skagenhotel.com). Fly to Aalborg or Gothenburg (the latter involves taking a car ferry to Skagen)

Further afield

7. Château de Cayx, Cahors, France


Queen Margrethe’s husband, Prince Henrik, was French and in 1974 she bought a château close to his family home, visiting each summer, even after he died in 2018. She will have more time to visit the estate after her abdication as well as continuing to oversee wine produced from its 24 hectares of vines (chateau-de-cayx.com). The château is private but there’s a shop on the estate with wine tastings. Also on the banks of the Lot River in Cahors is the Divona hotel, nicely placed for the Cahors market, where Margrethe likes to shop for fruit, flowers and vegetables.
Details Room-only doubles from £129 (divona-hotel-cahors.com). Fly to Toulouse

8. Byron Bay, Australia


Denmark’s new queen comes from Tasmania and the royal family head there regularly. Mary met Fred for the first time in Sydney’s Slip Inn, during the 2000 Olympics (merivale.com/venues/slipinn). In December 2023 she and her two youngest children, Princess Josephine and Prince Vincent (both 12), climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. With a close-knit group of friends, the family have also stayed on Palm Beach near Sydney (where the TV series Home & Away is filmed), Bondi and have been on a surfing holiday at Byron Bay, which has transformed from backpacker hangout to a holiday destination filled with boutique hotels, including the cool but unfussy Atlantic Byron Bay, close to the beach.
Details Room-only doubles from £200 (atlanticbyronbay.com.au). Fly to Sydney

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