Built on the island of Slotsholmen in Copenhagen harbour, the neo-Baroque Christiansborg Palace is one of the city’s most important landmarks. Completed in 1928, it is the fifth palace to stand on this spot and was once the residence of the Royal Family. Today it is the powerhouse of Danish politics and home to the Parliament and Supreme Court.
Much of the palace, including the Throne Room, Banqueting Hall and Royal Stables, can be viewed by guided tour. But Christiansborg also hides a secret, for it is constructed over the ruins of two of the earlier castles, the eldest being 800 years old. Deep below the palace lies a maze of atmospheric ruins that transport visitors right back to medieval Copenhagen.
The earliest ruins are of a stronghold constructed in 1167 by Bishop Absalon; he was the founder of Copenhagen and his medieval fortress had a fortified wall to keep out marauders. Still evident among the ruins today are its protective wall, pillars in the chapel and the remains of a medieval ‘rest room’.
After this first fortification burnt down in 1367, it was replaced by another, grander castle, from which the foundations of the mighty Blue Tower are still visible. This is where King Christian IV incarcerated his political enemies in the 17th century and where he imprisoned his daughter Leonora Christina for 22 years in retaliation for her husband’s treason.
A short video and information boards explain the history of these dark, meandering passageways, and detail the turbulent backstory of Christiansborg Palace, which features on many shore excursions and walking tours of Copenhagen.
The ruins are open May–Sept daily 10am–5pm; Oct–Apr Tue–Sun 10am–5pm. Admission for adults is 50 DKK; students are 40 DKK; young than 18 go free. Admission is also free with the Copenhagen Card. English-language guided tours of the ruins take place on Saturday at 12pm. Be forewarned, there is very limited parking around the palace. If taking public transportation, take the Metro to Kongens Nytorv or buses 1A, 2A, 26, 40 or 66 to Christiansborg.