Denmark’s second-largest lake, Lake Esrum, is the country’s largest in terms of water volume, measuring up to 22 meters at its deepest point. A walk along its banks leaves no doubt about the diversity of its birdlife. Previously a rare breeding bird in Denmark, the common goldeneye now rears its chicks in hollow trees or nesting boxes by the lake. White-tailed eagles and ospreys, both of which breed in Gribskov, are often seen circling over the lake. As a neighbour to Fredensborg Palace, Lake Esrum is steeped in history, its water exceptionally clean compared with that of other Danish lakes. This was therefore where the royal family’s laundry was washed back in the 18th century, but today the waters give simple pleasure to ordinary bathers.
Together with Melby Overdrev, Tisvilde Hegn is home to the largest number of natural species in Denmark. It includes Zealand’s biggest expanses of heath and dunes as well as a fascinating variety of woodlands. In addition to its unique natural gems, Tisvilde Hegn also boasts some interesting cultural treasures, such as a forgotten village deep in the woods and an old castle ruin. The landscape and harsh elements of the past have also left their mark, which manifestly appear as you wander among the gnarled trees of Troldeskoven (the Troll Forest), originally planted to prevent sand-drifting.
The largest Renaissance edifice in the Nordic region, Frederiksborg Castle was built by King Christian IV at the start of the 17th century to accentuate and strengthen his position as a powerful European monarch. The castle is named after King Christian IV’s father, King Frederik II, who built the first Frederiksborg Castle. His hugely ambitious son tore down the castle, replacing it with the richly ornamented and decorative Renaissance castle we know today. The castle has survived some turbulent events, including a major fire in 1859 that razed large parts of the interior, leaving only the thick walls standing in some places. Since the fire, the royal family has not used the castle as a residence, which is now a museum of national history.
The grassland at Melby Overdrev is the largest heath landscape on Zealand. For more than a century, the area served as a target range, but it is now a protected site with free access for all. The heath at Melby Overdrev is a fascinating natural area, as it provides habitats for a large number of animals and plants, who are attracted to the dry and sandy life on the heath, e.g. adder, African stonechat and rare species of butterfly. Heather blooms in July, August and September, turning the entire area purple.
Gribskov is one of Denmark’s largest continous forest areas with a wealth of different species of plants, fungi, and rare insects. The forest is managed to establish more and more wild nature. The original forest image is restored with grazing animals, several lakes and bogs and natural processes with both living and dead trees, so that, e.g., the forest marten has more habitat areas. The same applies to all the small forests around Gribskov, which all have the surname “hegn”. This alludes to the fact that the forests were fenced off in the 19th century to prevent grazing livestock from eating the plants.
Hellebæk Kohave and Teglstrup Hegn
Together, the forests Teglstrup Hegn, Hellebæk Skov and Hellebæk Kohave form a natural area of approximately 1,000 hectares, with 500-year-old oak trees, an intact raised bog, a grassland with grazing cows, and lovely forest lakes. There are plenty of opportunities to experience the beauty and diversity of nature. Hellebæk Kohave is managed with aims to develop it into a pasture, which is a nutrient-poor nature on dry soil with many different plants. When the cows graze, nutrients are removed, which gives flowering plants a greater chance of gaining ground for the benefit of butterflies and other insects. Especially in the spring, Hellebæk is one of Eastern Denmark’s best places for birds of prey.
Hornbæk Plantation is located in a landscape characterised by the glacial period and the effects of harsh weather. At the top of the slope, you can see traces from prehistoric times, for example the sacrificial stone; a round dolmen dating back approx. 5,500 years. 25 burial mounds from the Bronze Age have been found in Hornbæk Plantation. They served to display the power and wealth of the area to anyone sailing along the coast before forests were planted. The plantation was established to stop the drifting sand that devastated the area in the 1600s. Due to the very diverse soil, the plantation has a rich flora, and many insects can be seen in the open areas.
Arresø is the largest lake in Denmark, and it offers lots of different outdoor activities.East of Frederiksværk, the peninsula Arrenæs stretches out into Arresø. A place nature and history lovers alike will find fascinating to visit. The area enjoys special bird protection and offers exceptionally beautiful and varied natural countryside. The two bird observation towers on the headland afford views of the rich bird life, and you may also be fortunate enough to spot some of Arrenæs’s newest residents – beavers. You can admire their dam from a beaver hide or discover the old Bronze Age burial mounds with magnificent views of fields, woods and lakeland.
Rusland is a wide-reaching heath and a protected site. The sand drift that devastated the Northern coast in the 16-1700s covered the area in sand, and this has left its mark on the vegetation in the area. A hilly landscape was formed with heather, juniper shrubs and scattered pines characterise the area today. Place names such as Rusland (Russia) and Sibirien (Siberia) can be found in several places in Denmark. They were originally used for remote and deserted places. Rusland in North Zealand lives up to its name, as to this day, it is a secluded natural area in an otherwise densely developed and cultivated region. In the midst of the heather-covered hills lies Rudolph Tegner’s Museum and Statue Park. The museum was built in 1938 by sculptor Rudolph Tegner to house his almost 200 statues and 214 paintings.
Krogerup is a beautiful and well-preserved manorial landscape with fields, open plains, and an avenue leading to the church, the inn, and the fishing village of Gl. Humlebæk by the Sound. The fishing village consists of a row of charming and well-preserved fisherman’s cottages. In 1661, the King donated the area to Hans Rostgaard in acknowledgement of his efforts in battles against the Swedes. For five generations, the area was owned by the Rostgaard family, who lived in the Krogerup manor house. Today, Krogerup accommodates a folk high school. The park around Krogerup, with its many old trees, is well worth a visit. At dusk, you can look for bats in the open park landscape.
Holløse Bredning is a large wetland area, which has been restored after many years of draining and cultivation as farmland. Holløse Bredning, as well as the bog area of Ellemose to the south-west, constitute important breeding sites and resting places for many birds. The wetlands attract large numbers of ducks, geese and wading birds. The white-tailed eagle and the great egret are some of the characteristic birds permanently residing at the lake. There is a bird hide in the reed bed at the lake, and a platform for bird watchers provides good and handicap-friendly access to look over the area.
Esrum Abbey & Millyard
Esrum Abbey is an old Cistercian Abbey located in a landscape of forests and meadows. The abbey was consecrated to the Virgin Mary in 1151. Esrum Abbey became the mother house for a number of other Cistercian foundations in Northern Europe. After the Reformation, King Frederik II took possession of the abbey. Among other things, he established Denmark’s first royal stud farm on the site. Around 1600, King Christian IV built a water mill south of the abbey. The present mill was built in the mid-1800s. From the Millyard there are several beautiful routes heading down towards Esrum Lake and into Gribskov.
Kronborg was built as a fortification to control the Sound tolls. However, Kronborg is not only an imposing fortress, but also a spectacular Renaissance castle. Its walls have witnessed myriad historic events – it was here, for example, that Queen Caroline Mathilde was imprisoned after her affair with Struensee, the king’s physician. Kronborg is undeniably a site of immense cultural value, so much so that it was added to UNESCO’s world heritage list in 2000. Kronborg is also renowned worldwide as the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Par force hunting landscape: Kongestjernen (The King's Star)
One form of hunting in particular has left its stamp on the Store Dyrehave deer park: par force hunting. Originating in France, this form of hunting was introduced to Denmark by King Christian V towards the end of the 17th century. The eight straight paths that met here imposed structure on the hunt and the terrain. While the king and his company waited at a central location in the hunting landscape, 20-30 horsemen with hounds drove a deer to exhaustion through the forest. When the deer no longer had the energy to run, it was held down by the hounds, after which the king killed it with his ‘hirschfänger’ – a short sword.
Fredensborg Palace Gardens
Fredensborg Palace Gardens are some of Denmark’s most grandiose gardens. Avenues extend from the palace in a star formation, with the palace at the centre, symbolising the power of the King as the absolute monarch. The gardens are characteristic of the pompous baroque style known from Versailles outside Paris. The romantic style that inspired the partial conversion of the palace gardens in 1833-1850 is clearly visible in the forested areas, giving the gardens a more natural feeling. Most of the avenues were removed during that renovation, but they have since been recreated so you can again enjoy the view all the way to Esrum Lake.
Gurre Castle Ruin
At the south-west end of Lake Gurre lie the ruins of the once so impressive Gurre Castle. Maybe you will sense the presence of King Valdemar IV Atterdag. Legend has it that every night, he haunts the forest of Gurre Vang on his black horse – as a punishment for favouring Gurre to the Kingdom of God.
Hammermøllen (The Hammer Mill)
In the 1800s, Hellebæk was an industrial town, and the hammer mill (Hammermøllen) was part of Kronborg gun factory (Kronborg Geværfabrik), a large industrial complex. The factory consisted of eight water mills, all powered by water from Hellebækken. Among other things, the hammer mill was used to manufacture guns for the Battle of Dybbøl in 1864. When Kronborg gun factory closed in 1870, the hammer mill was converted into housing. Today, the hammer mill accommodates the local history archives and a café. From the hammer mill, you can hike or cycle along the marked trail through Hellebæk Kohave and Teglstrup Hegn to Flynderupgård.
Asserbo Castle Ruin
Today, the ruins of Asserbo Castle nestle romantically in Asserbo plantation, surrounded by moats. The ruins have a long history. Around 1163, Bishop Absalon donated Asserbo as a monastery for monks of the Carthusian Order. Later, it passed on to the Cistercian Order and various noble families. In the early 1600s, Asserbo as well as the surrounding villages were deserted because of sand drift in the area, and the castle was left to stone quarriers. Asserbo was slowly covered in sand and forgotten, until King Frederik VII, who had a passion for archaeology, excavated the ruins in the mid-1800s. In total, more than 10,000 m3 of sand was removed by soldiers at the orders of the King.