A couple of months ago the world’s attention was drawn to Hamlet’s city in the shores of Northern Zealand. New York Times has included Elsinore, or if you prefer the prettier Danish equivalent Helsingør, in their 2014 must-visit travel list.
Surprisingly, the famous castle of Kronborg, where the eternal question of “To be or not to be…” is pondered over day in and out, was not what put Helsingør in the spotlight.
It was the town’s newly opened attraction – Maritime Museum of Denmark! A few weeks ago we made a family trip up north to check up the place and experience what all the buzz was about.
Put in a nutshell, it is a fantastic museum, one you will never get bored in. Clever architecture + amazing space + interesting mix of film, exhibits, history. During the 3 hours I spent roaming the various halls I have never experienced the sleepy feeling of boredom.
Firstly, Denmark’s darling, BIG Architects, designed the museum, and that in itself is a reason enough for me to check out the site. The experience was amazing, and a feeling that I was aboard a ship never left me in that huge space.
The museum is located on the former shipbuilding yard right by the foot of Kronborg Castle under the watchful eye of Hamlet’s wandering ghost. Seen from above it resembles a skeleton of a ship.
Kronborg Castle keeps a protective eye over this amazing hole of a museum. What better neighbour to wish for!
Ahoy landlubbers, all aboard! The first steps toward the museum already set you in a dramatic mood.
The museum “sails” you through the Danish maritime history from 1400’s up to now in a very interesting, informative and most importantly interactive manner. There were different artifacts belonging to sailors, letters written to dears left back at home filled with nostalgia and excitement of the adventures, films, audio conversations, ship models and different essentials, goods traded back and forth and extravagant presents brought from exotic lands. Even a possibility to run a shipping empire through a fun game. There was a good deal of text and explanation, but not in a dominating way, rather in a nice harmony with all the surrounding interactivity.
Walking through different halls, passing through many zigzagging corridors it felt like we were uncovering different chapters from the lives of sailors. From more exotic image of sailors back in the old days, the course was then set toward the devastations of the World Wars and the participation of the Danish navy in the war operations.
The Blue Hall – as the introduction to the museum, it has many memorabilia about sailors, their favourite items and short films.
The tattoo parlor – to give a real taste of sailor’s life! In the foreground is a film projected on wooden crates from a ship. A very original movie setup!
Definitely not landlubbers, a prime specimen of baby seals – this jolly bunch very much enjoyed being aboard a ship.
A rare souvenir brought home by a sailor from China some hundred years ago. It is made of ivory, so it surely would not pass through customs today.
A fancy compass that is made especially to hang above the bed of the captain so he can keep a watchful eye over the course.
The view from the café.
Stairway to …
The last deck of the ship introduces Maersk and boldly displays some very curious facts about maritime and sea trade. The peculiar stairs make you feel almost seasick, they are designed especially for that purpose, to bid you a farewell and remind you that a ship does not always sail on calm waters.
The Danes are good at creating experiences, adding nuances and taking a holistic approach to things. In so many ways it makes you feel like you are getting the full experience, the real feel. This museum was no exception.
Even if ships and sailors, history around it and all the exotic adventures are not a bit intriguing for you, this is one museum you will still enjoy visiting.
Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan